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Indie Spotlight: Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck + Millerton, NY

Here at MUF, we love celebrating great independent bookstores (read our spotlights on Once Upon a Time, Fountainhead Bookstore and more). Continuing the tradition, we turn today to Oblong Books & Music in Upstate New York. Suzanna Hermans, Oblong’s co-owner and manager of the Rhinebeck store, talks to Andrea Pyros about the state of the publishing industry, her favorite new middle grade books and how she sees Oblong’s role in the community.

Mixed-Up Files: Can you tell us the history of Oblong and what led you to launch a second store?
Suzanna Hermans: Our store first opened in Millerton, NY in 1975 in a very tiny storefront. Over the years we expanded into the space we now occupy, in two buildings with three floors of books. In 2001 we were approached by a landlord doing some property development in Rhinebeck, and we were able to design our store from scratch; everything from the carpet to the windows. We opened that second store in September 2001, and expanded it in 2011.

Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, NY

Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, NY

MUF: Can you talk about Oblong’s goals? Introduce people to new books and music? Make a gathering space for book lovers in the community? Support authors?
SH: All of the above! We think of our store as a place where people can discover new ideas and gather to discuss them and meet like-minded folks. All are welcome.

MUF: Do your two stores have different personalities? Do you order different titles for them, or generally you’re carrying the same books and music at both locations?
SH: Though the stores’ stock is almost identical, they have very different personalities. Millerton is sprawling over three floors, with lots of nooks and crannies and crooked wood floors and built-in bookcases. Rhinebeck is all on one level, carpeted, and with matching fixtures. We like to think we have the best of both worlds: a quirky old bookstore and a shiny new one.

Oblong author event with Andrew Keenan-Bolger & Kate Wetherhead of Jack & Louisa

Oblong author event with Andrew Keenan-Bolger & Kate Wetherhead of Jack & Louisa

MUF: You do author events often at Oblong. How do you decide what events to have? Are they an important part of what makes Oblong Oblong?
SH: In 2015 we had over 120 author events, so they are a big part of what we do. We have such a wonderful rich wealth of local authors, and also bring in nationally touring authors, as well as many authors from New York City since we are a reasonably short train ride away. When choosing which events to book, we look mostly at the author’s connections to our local area, as well as the subject matter. Is it something our customers are interested in and a genre that sells well for us?

MUF: How do you feel about the state of the publishing industry and the state of independent booksellers? Or do you feel hopeful about where we’re at and where we’re headed?
SH: This is a very exciting time to be an independent bookseller. We survived Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and ebooks and in recent years sales have been extremely strong. I think there will be a renaissance of more small stores opening as the economy rebounds and more people realize what a bookstore can bring to a community.

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino

MUF: Since we’re a middle grade blog, we’d love to hear what you loved recently for middle grade readers.
SH: Middle-grade was one of our strongest growth categories in 2015! We adore middle grade books. I recently loved The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin and Alex Gino’s George.
The Truth About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Truth About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Andrea Pyros is the author of My Year of Epic Rock, a middle grade novel about friends, crushes, food allergies, and a rock band named The EpiPens.

January New Releases

If your New Year’s resolution had anything to do with reading more middle-grade books, you’re in luck! There’s something for everyone this month, including a fabulous new book by MUF contributor, Rosanne Parry.

Below is a sampling of January’s new books. Click on the title for information on ordering. Happy 2016!

FC9780375869723The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

In Japan, you’re always prepared for an earthquake. That’s why Kai knows just what to do when the first rumbles shake the earth. And then he does the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do: He runs. And then the tsunami hits. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, Kai’s cousin Jet sets sail off the coast of Astoria, Oregon. She knows she should have checked the tide—she always checks the tide. Except this time she didn’t. When the biggest mistakes of their lives bring them together, Jet and Kai spend the summer regretting that one moment when they made the wrong decision. But there’s something about friendship that heals all wounds and, together, Jet and Kai find the one thing they never thought they’d have again—hope.


FC9780545782302Ruby Lee and Me
by Shannon Hitchcock

Everything’s changing for Sarah Beth Willis. After Robin’s tragic accident, everyone seems different somehow. Days on the farm aren’t the same, and the simple fun of riding a bike or playing outside can be scary. And there’s talk in town about the new sixth-grade teacher at Shady Creek. Word is spreading quickly—Mrs. Smyre is like no other teacher anyone has ever seen around these parts. She’s the first African American teacher. It’s 1969, and while black folks and white folks are cordial, having a black teacher at an all-white school is a strange new happening. For Sarah Beth, there are so many unanswered questions. What is all this talk about Freedom Riders and school integration? Why can’t she and Ruby become best friends? And who says school isn’t for anybody who wants to learn—or teach? In a world filled with uncertainty, one very special teacher shows her young students and the adults in their lives that change invites unexpected possibilities.

9780545811903Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel

Welcome to Fortune Falls, a magical town where superstitions are real. Four-leaf clovers really do bring good fortune, and owning a rabbit’s foot is the secret to success. However, there aren’t enough charms in the universe to help Sadie Bleeker. She can’t pass a ladder without walking under it, and black cats won’t leave her alone. That’s because Sadie is an Unlucky. And things will only get worse as she gets older, which is why Unluckies are sent away at age twelve to protect those around them. Sadie can’t stand the thought of leaving home, so she and her friend, Cooper, devise a plan to reverse her bad luck. But when their scheme accidentally results in a broken mirror, the situation turns dire. Because for Sadie, seven years bad luck isn’t an inconvenience—it’s practically a death sentence. Can a girl who’s never so much as found a single lucky penny change her fortune? Or will she be forced to celebrate her twelfth birthday by saying farewell to everyone she loves? 

9780803733053American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

Connor’s grandmother leaves his dad a letter when she dies, and the letter’s confession shakes their tight-knit Italian-American family: The man who raised Dad is not his birth father. But the only clues to this birth father’s identity are a class ring and a pair of pilot’s wings. And so Connor takes it upon himself to investigate—a pursuit that becomes even more pressing when Dad is hospitalized after a stroke. What Connor discovers will lead him and his father to a new, richer understanding of race, identity, and each other. This riveting novel in verse, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Toni Morrison, explores American history and race through the eyes of a teenage boy embracing his newfound identity.

9781481417587Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Nick and Eryn’s mom is getting remarried, and the twelve-year-old twins are skeptical when she tells them their lives won’t change much. Well, yes, they will have to move. And they will have a new stepfather, stepbrother, and stepsister. But Mom tells them not to worry. They won’t ever have to meet their stepsiblings. This news puzzles Nick and Eryn, so the twins set out on a mission to find out who these kids are—and why they’re being kept hidden.

9780399173431 A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout

World War II is coming in Europe. At least that’s what Frankie Baum heard on the radio. But from her small town in Maryland, in the wilting summer heat of 1939, the war is a world away.  Besides, there are too many other things to think about: first that Frankie’s father up and bought a restaurant without telling anyone and now she has to help in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and washing dishes, when she’d rather be racing to Wexler’s Five and Dime on her skates. Plus her favorite sister, Joanie Baloney, is away for the summer and hasn’t been answering any of Frankie’s letters. But when some people in town start accusing her father of being a German spy, all of a sudden the war arrives at Frankie’s feet and she can think of nothing else. Could the rumors be true? Frankie has to do some spying of her own to try to figure out her father’s secrets and clear his good name. What she discovers about him surprises everyone, but is nothing compared to what she discovers about the world. 

9780451470348Soar by Joan Bauer

Jeremiah is the world’s biggest baseball fan. He really loves baseball and he knows just about everything there is to know about his favorite sport. So when he’s told he can’t play baseball following an operation on his heart, Jeremiah decides he’ll do the next best thing and become a coach. Hillcrest, where Jeremiah and his father Walt have just moved, is a town known for its championship baseball team. But Jeremiah finds the town caught up in a scandal and about ready to give up on baseball. It’s up to Jeremiah and his can-do spirit to get the town—and the team—back in the game.

9780553535037The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof  by Annie M.G. Schmidt, illustrated by David Colmer

An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It’s almost as if she’s a cat herself. But how can that be?

9781481445931Bounders by Monica Tesler

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts. Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility—otherwise known as flying with jetpacks—Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world. But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

9780385387965Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Philip Reeve, illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

When True Winter comes, it’s time for the Great Northern Race! The best sled teams in the world must reach a mysterious man called the Snowfather. He will grant one wish to the winners. Young racers Sika and Shen want to win more than anything. But they don’t have big sled dogs—all they have is sixty-six yappy, yippy puppy pugs. Can this unlikely team make their dreams come true? For early chapter book readers who are ready for something longer, the Not-So-Impossible Tales are packed with humor, action, and color illustrations on almost every page.

9780544086968The Last Bogler by Catherine Jinks

With the plague of bogles in Victorian London barely contained, bogle hunter Alfred Bunce needs all the help he can get. So Ned Roach becomes a bogler’s apprentice, luring child-eating monsters from their lairs just like his friends Jem and Birdie. It’s dangerous work that takes Ned into mysterious and hidden parts of the city. Yet times in London are changing; as the machine age emerges, the very existence of bogles is questioned, and the future of bogling is in jeopardy. And the stakes get even higher for the team of boglers when an old enemy appears—a threat that may be deadlier than any bogle.

9780805099065Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb. Edward and his sisters set out on a perilous pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

9780553510409Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein

This time Mr. Lemoncello has invited teams from all across America to compete in the first ever LIBRARY OLYMPICS. Will it be fun? Like the commercials say … HELLO? It’s a Lemoncello! But something suspicious is going on … books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to CENSOR what the kids are reading?! In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery. Now it’s not just a game—can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries? Packed with puzzles, clues, and thrilling surprises, this is a deliciously fun, action-packed sequel to the New York Times bestselling Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Let the games begin!

9780545665773Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her. Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left. Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn’t lost hope. And he hasn’t lost the fire in his belly that says he’s getting his Sarah back—no matter what.

9781419716805The Terrible Two Get Worse by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

On their own, pranksters Miles and Niles were pretty devious. Now that they’ve formed a pranking duo, they’re terrible! But their powers will be tested when their favorite nemesis, Principal Barkin, is replaced by his stern and cunning father, Former Principal Barkin. Now Miles and Niles will do just about anything to get their old antagonist back—including pranking alongside him.

9780062343208Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts by Tom Watson

Stick Dog and his team of strays are off on another outrageous canine caper. To snatch some breakfast treats for his hungry pals, Stick Dog will need to stop a moving truck, outfox a man on a telephone pole, and calm down a very caffeinated Karen. But that’s not all. He’ll also need to manage the greatest confrontation in history when his good friend Poo-Poo comes face-to-face with the ultimate enemy—a squirrel.

9780545767491Mission Hurricane (The 39 Clues: Doublecross, Book 3) by Jenny Goebel

Who is the Outcast and why is he threatening the lives of innocent people? Book 3 reveals a shocking secret that will send Amy and Dan—and the world—reeling.

9780374301811The Rule of Three: Will to Survive by Eric Walters

Here is the gripping conclusion to an acclaimed trilogy about one suburban neighborhood’s existence after a global blackout. Teenager Adam Daley has killed again. It had to be done, part of him knows that, but murder changes a person. It can certainly change a kid who’s already grown up too quickly, too harshly, in the wake of the catastrophic global shutdown four months ago. In the name of safety and survival, Adam and his neighbors have turned their middle American community into a fortress, defending against countless enemies. But what’s lurking in the dark is a greater danger than ever before: somebody who wants to destroy the neighborhood and Adam at any cost. Soon, the hunted will have to become the hunter . . . and Adam hates himself for what he will have to do. Because sometimes even the dark is not cover enough for things that would never happen in the light.

9781481410007The Extra Yard (Home Team) by Mike Lupica

Last spring Teddy’s life changed for the better. He started working out, shaping up, and even earned a spot on the Walton baseball team, and with the team he went all the way to the Little League World Series. But the best things to come out of that season were his friendships with Jack, Cassie, and Gus, and the confidence to finally try out for the sport he really loves—football. So when eighth grade begins, Teddy couldn’t be more psyched. Until his mom drops a bomb: his father—who left them a long time ago—is back in Walton and back in their lives. And Teddy isn’t happy about it. As a former star football player at the school, Teddy’s dad is thrilled to find out his son is going out for the team, but Teddy begins to wonder if his father only cares about him now because he’s putting on the helmet. Can Teddy find a way to go the extra yard for the team and for himself, or is the distance between him and his father too much to overcome? 

9780399257988Spring According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Spring is in the air, and lots of things are growing—including the Room 26 family! Signs of spring are very exciting to everyone at Longfellow School. Mrs. Brisbane’s class has seen flowers poking out of snow and baby birds hatching, and Just-Joey even brought in tadpoles that are growing into frogs. It also means Family Fun Night is coming up, and all of the students’ families are involved in making amazing activities. Humphrey helps in many ways, of course, but he can’t stop wondering about his own family. He doesn’t know anything about his mom or dad. Luckily, all of his wonderful friends help him see that families come in many shapes and sizes, and Humphrey’s might be the biggest (and best!) one of all.

9780545855228My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter

Well-mannered Samuel and his mischievous younger brother Joshua are free black boys living in an orphanage during the end of the Civil War. Samuel takes the blame for Joshua’s latest prank, and the consequence is worse than he could ever imagine. He’s taken from the orphanage to the South, given a new name—Friday—and sold into slavery. What follows is a heartbreaking but hopeful account of Samuel’s journey from freedom, to captivity, and back again.

9780553520705The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny. THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted. PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon. And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped. All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

9780374302160Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Manami is a ten-year-old girl, born on Bainbridge Island in Washington to Japanese parents. In March of 1942, following orders for relocation in Executive Order 9066, Manami and her family and the entire Japanese-American population of Bainbridge Island, are sent to Manzanar, an internment camp in central California. On the day they are to leave their island home, Manami is distressed when she learns that they are leaving her dog behind, too. When no one is watching, she hides her dog inside her coat. She manages to sneak him onto the ferry that takes them to the mainland, but a soldier spots him before she can board the bus that will take them to the train station. What happens next causes Manami to stop speaking. At the camp, it is up to Manami to hold her family together. And she can only do that by learning to speak again.

9780803738836The Crocodile Tomb (Gods and Warriors) by Michelle Paver

Hylas and Pirra finally arrive in Egypt, only to find that the dagger Userref guarded is missing. Even worse, Telamon and the Crows are also in Egypt to hunt for the dagger, and they’ll stop at nothing until they get what they’ve come for. But when Hylas realizes where the dagger is hidden—in Egypt’s ancient tombs, buried with the restless souls of the dead—it’s going to take all of his courage to slip inside. And as his otherworldly visions grow stronger, Hylas isn’t confident that he’ll have the strength to make it out alive. With Havoc the lioness and Echo the falcon at their sides, Hylas and Pirra must rescue the dagger and make a daring escape…before the gods of Egypt consume them all.  

9781481409223The Stolen Chapters (Story Thieves) by James Riley, illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos

Owen Conners would never jump into a mystery. There are too many hidden clues, twists that make no sense, and an ending you never see coming. Mysteries are just not Owen’s thing. So how exactly did he end up in one with his memory erased? And that’s far from the only question. How did Kiel Gnomenfoot, boy magician, lose all of his magic? Where’s Bethany, their half-fictional friend? And who’s the annoying guy wearing the question mark mask and Sherlock Holmes hat, taunting Owen and Kiel that Bethany is in grave danger? Bethany is trapped in a hidden room that’s slowly filling with water, and she can’t escape until her friends find her. But is she imprisoned by more than just chains and a locked door? What’s she hiding from Owen and Kiel? Maybe some mysteries just shouldn’t be solved…

9780062272218The Morrigan’s Curse (Eighth Day) by Dianne K. Salerni

The battle between Kin and Transitioners that’s been brewing for centuries has finally come to a head. The sinister Kin have captured Evangeline’s younger sister, Addie, a descendant of Merlin whose presence will allow them to reverse the Eighth Day Spell and free themselves. Addie doesn’t realize the full consequences of her cooperation. She’s been helping the Kin because they value the strength of her magic—something Evangeline never did. The feeling of power coursing through her veins is impossible to resist. Meanwhile, Riley, Evangeline, and Jax craft a plan to rescue Addie from her captors. But the Kin’s unstoppable magic, and a rebellious Addie, force Riley to reconsider whether saving Addie is worth sacrificing everyone who lives in the seven-day week. Jax won’t let Evangeline’s sister be used as a pawn, so he risks it all in a secret mission of his own. With the Morrigan pushing both sides of the war toward annihilation, Addie must decide where her loyalties lie, while Jax, Riley, and Evangeline confront the possibility of losing Addie to save the world.

9780545683005Wild Blood (Horses of the Dawn #3) by Kathryn Lasky

After adopting an orphan human boy, the First Herd is finally ready to make the treacherous journey across the mountains to find the Sweet Grass that promises survival. But when cruel men capture their leader, Estrella, it delivers a blow to the very heart of the herd. If the horses turn back, they’ll never make it across the mountains before winter. But if they leave Estrella in captivity, the wild-born filly will surely perish. This conclusion to Kathryn Lasky’s Horses of the Dawn trilogy will make your heart beat to the rhythm of thundering hooves, leaving you breathless as you join the herd’s final fight for freedom.

9781484713525The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon’s Return by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, illustrated by Andie Tong

In this second illustrated novel of The Zodiac Legacy series, the dangerous dragon power only grows stronger within Jasmine, and Steven struggles to hold their ragtag team together. But as alliances become strained, the line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” becomes blurrier and blurrier. And it all culminates in a major cliffhanger that readers won’t see coming!

9780061996498Seekers: Return to the Wild #6 The Longest Day by Erin Hunter

Lusa, Toklo, Kallik, and Yakone have returned to Great Bear Lake for the Longest Day Gathering. This means being reunited with the familiar faces of bears they have encountered throughout their travels—but it also means returning to life among their own kind, which may not be as easy as they thought. This is the thrilling finale Seekers fans have been waiting for.

9780062342331Spirit Week Showdown (Magnificent Mya Tibbs) by Crystal Allen, illustrated by Eda Kaban

Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is boot-scootin’ excited for the best week of the whole school year—SPIRIT WEEK! She and her megapopular best friend, Naomi Jackson, even made a pinky promise to be Spirit Week partners so they can win the big prize: special VIP tickets to the Fall Festival! But when the partner picking goes horribly wrong, Mya gets paired with Mean Connie Tate—the biggest bully in school. And she can’t get out of it. Good gravy. Now Naomi is friend-ending mad at Mya for breaking a promise—even though Mya couldn’t help it—and everyone at school is calling Mya names. Can Mya work with Mean Connie to win the VIP tickets and get her best friend back?

9781481432672The Journey Home by Brandon Wallace

At the start of the summer, Jake and Taylor Wilder set out on the adventure of a lifetime. After seeing their mother loaded into an ambulance because of Bull, her terrifying boyfriend, the boys know they are no longer safe. So they go in search of their father, who has been living off the grid in Wyoming. After jumping trains, hitching a ride with a truck driver, and hiding in the luggage compartment of a tour bus, the boys finally find him in Grand Teton National Park. Just as the boys are getting used to their father’s lifestyle—and his “my way is the only way” attitude—they learn that their mother is still alive. But if the brothers don’t give back the money they took from Bull last year, she could be taken away from them…for good. Convinced that their father isn’t going to help, the Wilder boys set out on their own again. It’s a long way from Wyoming to Pittsburgh, and with winter approaching there will be new challenges. But they have to get back. Will the brothers be able to make it back to their mother before it’s too late?

9781481416146Anna, Banana, and the Puppy Parade by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Meg Park

Anna can’t wait for the Puppy Parade. She’s certain Banana will win. Soon Banana will be famous—and that means Anna will be famous, too! But when Sadie and Isabel suggest they all enter the parade together, Anna starts feeling a little unsure about sharing her dog—and the spotlight—with her friends. How can Anna be Best in Show and a good best friend?

9780545813037Secrets of Bearhaven (Bearhaven #1) by K.E. Rocha

It starts with a chase. When Spencer Plain is pulled out of school in the middle of the day, he never expects to be speeding down the highway with his uncle, trying to outpace the car that’s tailing them. And he certainly never thought he’d find himself fleeing from a bear through the woods. And when he hears the bear say “We’ve been expecting you,” Spencer knows he’s just uncovered a whole world he’d never imagined. He’s brought to Bearhaven, a secret oasis his parents created for bears. But there are depths to Bearhaven that Spencer and his new bear cub friend, Kate, start to uncover. Spencer finds out he’s been there before, even if he can’t remember. He also stumbles into a rescue mission being planned, to save a bear in danger. He knows he can help, and he’s desperate to find clues to his parents’ whereabouts, so he and Kate decide to take matters into their own hands—even if they discover a secret that could threaten Bearhaven’s future!

9781626722972Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier

When Friday Barnes, girl genius, solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to Highcrest Academy, the most exclusive boarding school in the country―and discovers it’s a hotbed of crime! Soon she’s investigating everything from disappearing homework to the terrifying Yeti haunting the school swamp. But the biggest mystery yet is Ian Wainscott, the handsomest (and most arrogant) boy in school who inexplicably hates her. Will the homework be found? Can they ever track down the Yeti? And why is Ian out to ruin her?

9780374374303Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key

In this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort’s father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put his all his skills—and bravery—to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it’s up to Cort to win-or lose-the fight for their lives.

9780385733786The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

Less than forty-eight hours after twelve-year-old Chris sets off on a sailing trip down the Alaskan coast with his uncle, their boat sinks. The only survivors are Chris and a boy named Frank, who hates Chris immediately. Chris and Frank have no radio, no flares, no food. Suddenly, they’ve got to forage, fish, and scavenge the shore for supplies. Chris likes the company of a curious, friendly raven more than he likes the prickly Frank. But the boys have to get along if they want to survive. Because as the days get colder and the salmon migration ends, survival will take more than sheer force of will. Eventually, in the wilderness of Alaska, the boys discover an improbable bond—and the compassion that might truly be the path to rescue.

9780062227980The Tiara on the Terrace by Kristen Kittscher

Sophie Young and Grace Yang have been taking it easy ever since they solved the biggest crime Luna Vista had ever seen. But things might get interesting again now that everyone is gearing up for the 125th annual Winter Sun Festival—a town tradition that involves floats, a parade, and a Royal Court made up of local high school girls. When Festival president Jim Steptoe turns up dead on the first day of parade preparations, the police blame a malfunctioning giant s’more feature on the campfire-themed float. But the two sleuths are convinced the mysterious death wasn’t an accident. Young and Yang must trade their high tops for high heels and infiltrate the Royal Court to solve the case. But if they fail, they might just be the next victims.

9780545722391To Catch a Cheat: A Jackson Greene Novel by Varian Johnson

Jackson Greene is riding high. He is officially retired from conning, so Principal Kelsey is (mostly) off his back. His friends have great new projects of their own. And he’s been hanging out a lot with Gaby de la Cruz, so he thinks maybe, just maybe, they’ll soon have their first kiss. Then Jackson receives a link to a faked security video that seems to show him and the rest of Gang Greene flooding the school gym. The jerks behind the video threaten to pass it to the principal—unless Jackson steals an advance copy of the school’s toughest exam. So Gang Greene reunites for their biggest job yet. To get the test and clear their names, they’ll have to outrun the school’s security cameras, outwit a nosy member of the Honor Board, and outmaneuver the blackmailers while setting a trap for them in turn. And as they execute another exciting caper full of twists and turns, they’ll prove that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a cheat.

9780545825016Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics: Secret Hero Society #1) by Derek Fridolfs, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen

Young Bruce Wayne is the new kid at Ducard Academy, a prep school for gifted middle school students. Bruce finds out pretty quickly that he doesn’t fit in: the faculty seems to not just encourage villainous behavior from its students, but reward it. He makes friends with two other outsiders, farm boy Clark Kent and the regal Diana Prince. The three band together to form a detective squad to find out why all of these extraordinary kids have been brought together at Ducard Academy, and to see just what the faculty is plotting.

9780310735571The Dragon’s Descent (An Ether Novel) by Laurice Elehwany Molinari

Everything Vero has trained for in the Ether has led to this. In the third and final book of Laurice E. Molinari’s Ether series, the young guardian angel Vero is given the quest of locating the Book of Raziel—which was lost when Adam was forced to leave the garden of Eden. And not even Raziel himself knows where the book is now. It soon becomes clear, however, that Lucifer is intent on finding the book for his own means. When the C.A.N.D.L.E. library in the Ether is missing the information he needs, Vero, his sister, and his best friend, Tack, discover the clues to the book’s whereabouts may be right in front of them on Earth—and that Vero’s father’s new assignment in Sri Lanka may be no coincidence. As their quest begins in earnest, the lines between good and evil begin to blur. Vero will need to use every ounce of his training to take on not only the Devil and his hordes, but also Lilith, who may be lurking closer than anyone thinks. 

9780545789752The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick

What would you do if every spark of electricity suddenly vanished, as if somebody had flipped a switch on the entire planet? Cars won’t start, the heat shuts off, there’s no water in your faucet, and your radio, TV, and flashlight go dark. Everyone in Charlie’s small town is baffled. But as time passes, lawlessness erupts and takes an ugly turn. When the market and pharmacy are torched by an anti-Semitic arsonist, Charlie realizes his mother will die without her medicine. So he dons skis and heads off alone, seeking the nearest hospital. After traveling 50 miles through brutal ice and snow, Charlie encounters a burned-out, looted city of terrified citizens. Will he be able to save his mom?

Nonfiction

FC9780062387301Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can by Cynthia Levinson

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a true leader. Growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois, Hillary was inspired by the philosophy of John Wesley, who urged his followers to “do all the good you can.” Rising to prominence in 1992 as the First Lady of the United States, Hillary captured the world’s attention with her bold ideas and political forcefulness. From her time at Wellesley to her life at the White House and beyond, Hillary has been at the forefront of huge change—and despite setbacks and political scandals, she has worked for good in the world. Acclaimed author Cynthia Levinson creates a compelling and personal portrait of Hillary’s historic journey from her childhood to her service as secretary of state and beyond. Includes a timeline of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life and an eight-page photo insert.

9780802737397The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston. Then one day she was told she could never come back. She didn’t belong. The Otis School was for white children only. Sarah deserved an equal education, and the Roberts family fought for change. They made history. Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal system to outlaw segregated schools. It was the first time an African American lawyer argued in a supreme court. These first steps set in motion changes that ultimately led to equality under the law in the United States. Sarah’s cause was won when people—black and white—stood together and said, No more. Now, right now, it is time for change. With gorgeous art from award-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis, The First Step is an inspiring look at the first lawsuit to demand desegregation—long before the American Civil Rights movement, even before the Civil War.

9781613731307In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

With World War I as a backdrop, readers will encounter heroes, cowards, comics, and villains—some famous, but most not—who participated in this life-changing event. Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan uses extensive original material, from letters sent from the front to personal journals, to bring these men and women back to life. And though their stories are a century old, they convey modern, universal themes of love, death, power, greed, courage, hate, fear, family, friendship, and sacrifice. Writer J. R. R. Tolkien was a signals officer with the British Expeditionary Force and fought at the Battle of the Somme. Scientist Irène Curie helped her mother Marie run twenty French field hospitals. Actor Buster Keaton left Hollywood after being drafted into the army’s 40th Infantry Division. And all four of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons—Kermit, Archibald, Quentin, and Theodore III—fought in Europe, though one did not return.

9780553498080The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller

In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges.  With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings—and, yes, images from the murder scene—readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction.

9780545804516The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend by Sharon Robinson

Steven Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing-the Dodgers. Steve and his father spend hours reading the sports pages and listening to games on the radio. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve. But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It’s 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before.Then it happens—Steve’s new neighbor is none other than Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. He can’t wait to meet Jackie. This is going to be the best baseball season yet! How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero?

9780448488530Who Was Maya Angelou by Ellen Labrecque, illustrators Dede Putra and Nancy Harrison

Born in Missouri in 1928, Maya Angelou had a difficult childhood. Jim Crow laws segregated blacks and whites in the South. Her family life was unstable at times. But much like her poem, “Still I Rise,” Angelou was able to lift herself out of her situation and flourish. She moved to California and became the first black—and first female—streetcar operator before following her interest in dance. She became a professional performer in her twenties and toured the U.S. and Europe as an opera star and calypso dancer. But Angelou’s writing became her defining talent. Her poems and books, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, brought her international acclaim.

9780448488899Where Is the Parthenon? By Roberta Edwards, illustrated by John Hinderliter and David Groff

Athens, Greece, is best known for the Parthenon, the ruins of an ancient temple completed in 438 BC to honor the goddess Athena. But what many people don’t know is that it only served as a temple for a couple hundred years. It then became a church, then a mosque, and by the end of the 1600s served as a storehouse for munitions. When an enemy army fired hundreds of cannon balls at the Acropolis, one directly hit the Parthenon. Much of the sculpture was destroyed, three hundred people died, and the site fell into ruin. Today, visitors continue to flock to this world famous landmark, which has become a symbol for Ancient Greece, democracy, and modern civilization. Includes black-and-white illustrations and a foldout color map!

9780545160759Who Would Win? Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster

What would happen if a great white shark and a killer whale met each other?  What if they were both hungry?  What if they had a fight?  Who do you think would win?

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day, which takes place on the New Jersey Shore, will be published in June 2016 by S&S/Aladdin. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/

Indie Spotlight: Once Upon A Time Bookstore, Montrose CA

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How  heartening to discover an independent bookstore that has been in existence nearly fifty years and has not only survived the recession, but is thriving!  It’s the award-winning  Once Upon a Time in Montrose CA (www.shopconceuponatime.com). We’re talking today with Maureen Palacios, one of a growing number of bookstore owners who got into the business not because they had experience in the field, but because they thought their town needed to have a bookstore!  Once Upon a Time  has quite an ownership story.
MUF: Is Once Upon A Time truly the oldest children’s bookstore? Maureen: Well, in 2008 Publisher’s Weekly wrote an article about old children’s bookstores and their research indicated we were the oldest, having started in 1966 and still operating. Of course, there have been stores started before 1966 but alas, they have gone out of business.screenshot_05

MUF:What inspired you to buy it from its founder and keep it going?Maureen: Our family had been customers of Once Upon a Time for many years when early in 2003, youngest daughter Amelia, age 8), was picking out books to read at the store. She turned to me and said, “Mama, we have all the books.” I noticed things were very bare on the shelves and inquired about the lack of inventory. A staffer reluctantly said the store was for sale and would probably close if no buyer came through. This infuriated my children, especially my older daughter Jessica, age 9, who took matters into her own hands. A week or so after our last trip to Once Upon a Time, I was surprised to a call from a newspaper reporter asking to speak with Jessica. He had received a fax from one Jessica Palacios who, apparently, wrote a Letter to the Editor of our paper in pencil asking someone to help the nice lady sell her store and lamenting where would she buy her 5th Harry Potter book if Once Upon a Time was not there? This was prepared (in pencil) and faxed off – all without my knowledge! The newspaper not only printed her letter, but also an article about the shop and tough times.
By then, the founder was basically asking anyone who walked into the store if they would like to buy a children’s independent bookstore. We walked in, and she asked me. I said –“I don’t know anything about books – I fire people” (My Human Relations background). She said, “But I’ll train you!”

Tha Palacios family during inventory

Tha Palacios family during inventory

My husband and I agreed we could not let the shop go out of our community, so we submitted a bid to the founder. After a few days, we were informed we had the store! We had no knowledge or experience in bookselling, retail or buying.   I had to quit my successful Human Resources management career of 20 years to learn the trade from the founder. Blessedly, the community responded enthusiastically, my children ages 8 and 9 read ALL the books available ,wrote reviews, and hand sold books to customers. The store has gone on, wea moved down the block after a nasty landlord tripled our rent, forged ahead with ebooks, and weathered the recession of 2008. This will be our best sales year in 49 years. We have significantly expanded our outreach by committing to the large Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and partnering with 4 publishers and manning 3 booths – including the main stage Kids Stage booth – and hosting/selling 40 authors over a 2 day festival.
This year, after 49 years, we won what many in kids’ bookselling consider the pinnacle of success, the 2015 Pannell Award Children’s Specialty Bookstore award, and were presented the award at BEA in New York by the Woman’s National Book Association.

MUF: Describe the atmosphere you have created in your shop.  What do you want your customers, especially young readers, to experience when they visit?screenshot_14
Maureen:
It starts with our front window displays. We have won awards with our creations to draw people into our store and to whet their appetite on what’s inside. Kids love our windows.
Even at 1200 sq. feet we pack great product in. We like to appeal to a more sophisticated child and have blue-hued silhouette murals depicting the sections of our bookstore on the walls and not primary colors. We play classical music as I do not generally enjoy most children’s music (too sappy, too trite) being a former paid musician myself. I don’t think it’s necessary to dumb down our store for kids, as they are always surprising & delighting us. screenshot_13A red barn (which houses the few hardcover adult books we have) has been greeting customers by the door for generations, beckoning the younger set to explore inside the barn and play friends and neighbors with open windows.

MUF: Your collection has been described as “curated.” How do you choose the books to carry in your store?
Maureen: Great design, artfully, whimsically or imaginatively drawn on covers. For most picture books, the cover art MUST convey a sense of style as no one will bother even looking at the text if they don’t care to pick it up. We do not carry self-published titles – oh, maybe only one – because the books must sell their space, and the self-pubbed titles cover art can’t hold a candle to the vast majority of our inventory. Middle grade and YA books also must have appealing covers and the book should have received good strong reviews and/or one of my staff has read the book.   We do not take everything from a publisher – which is much more difficult than it sounds. Being discerning and knowing at least 3 customers for a particular title will help ensure we stock the book.

MUF: Since we are middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what titles new or old, fiction or nonfiction do you find yourself recommending to readers aged eight to twelve these days?
Maureen: Newer releases: Anything by Stuart Gibb, screenshot_31Kate DiCamillo, Cynthia Kadohata, Pam Munoz Ryan, Katherine Applegate,screenshot_28 Brandon Mull, Lisa McMann, Margaret Haddix, Gary Schmidt, Tom Angleberger, Raina Telgemeir, Kazu Kibuishi.  Misty of Chincoteague is still recommended, as is The Phantom Tollbooth. Cynthia Kadohata’s stories are so thoughtful and beautifully written, as well as Thanhha Lai’s. Gary Schmidt’s writing is always welcome and any book by Kate DiCamillo. Tracy Holczer is our local favorite with her “Secret Hum of a Daisy.” screenshot_32And we can’t wait to sell Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell and Blackthorn Key by newbie Kevin Sands.

Nonfiction is usually the Who is ..series, or the fantastic picture book biographies – my personal favorite: GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY by Mara Rockliff screenshot_30and delightfully illustrated by Vincent X Kirsch. Of course, we LOVE Jon Scieszka’s science series as well as Ken Jennings books.

MUF: Many of the most successful independent bookstores maintain close connections to their communities, is this also true of Once Upon a Time?
Maureen:
Being a customer first, I understood that just having longer hours in the day and opening seven days a week was important to our community. We host AYSO teams, donate books, ARCs and gift cards to almost every school in the Crescenta Valley area and beyond, and hire high school students for their first job and give them scholarships to go to college. We place hundreds of authors in  schools as well as partner with our local and main library for events and programming. We donate and provide speakers to PTAs, new parent groups, non-profit organizations and hospitals.
I have recently been  honored by the Children’s Literacy Council of Southern California with the Dorothy C McKenzie Award. This award, named for the organization’s founder, is given periodically in recognition of an individual’s distinguished service to the field of children’s literatur.

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Katherine Applegate & Fans

MUF: Have well-known middle grade authors appeared at your store? Do you have events or programs coming up that would be of interest to middle-graders?
Maureen: We have had the privilege of hosting many well-known authors such as Katherine Applegate, Jon Scieszka, Pseudonymous Bosch, Lisa McMann, Richard Peck, Margaret Haddix, Brandon Mull, Cornelia Funke, Mac Barnett, Raina Telgemier, and many more. We also love to discover & present to our community a new talent, who writes exciting and engaging books for middle grade.
screenshot_38We are thrilled to be hosting on Jan. 3rd   KRISTEN KITTSCHER for her book launch party of her Rose Parade-themed middle grade mystery TIARA ON THE TERRACE.  At the end of January on the 30th, we will celebrate COMICS SQUAD DAY!  with Jenni Holm and Cecil Castelucci.

MUF: If a family came from out of town to visit your shop. Would there be family-friendly places nearby where they could get a snack or meal after shopping? Are there other unique sights or activities nearby that they shouldn’t miss?
Maureen:
Anyone coming to our shop is in for a treat, as we are a part of Montrose Shopping Park, a 3-block long outside, tree-shaded shopping & dining area that has been dubbed “Old Town Montrose” for its quaint, mid-western architecture. Dozens of movies, TV series and commercials are shot here in the park. We have had NCIS – Los Angeles, NCIS, Sons of Anarchy, House, a film directed by Clint Eastwood, most of Will Ferrell movies and many more shoot here. Most of the stores are independently owned and no big box stores at all. Right next to us, there is a fabulous BBQ joint – Zeke’s – and the next 2 storefronts are terrific restaurants. There’s Italian, Armenian, Mexican, Japanese, Sushi and more restaurants. We are located about 1 mile from a beautiful botanical garden destination – DESCANSO GARDENS – that offers families a respite from the hustle and bustle of LA with themed gardens, world-famous Camellia forest and acres of gorgeous plants. Many times I give a visiting author a day pass to the Gardens between school visits and an evening event so they can rest.

Thanks, Maureen for introducing us to your shop and neighborhood.  It all sounds so inviting!  Readers, have you visited Once Upon a Tome or do you think you would like to?  Please comment here.

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