Tag Archives: contemporary realistic middle-grade fiction

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/

You’ve Got Mail!

One of the biggest highlights of being a writer is getting Fan Mail from kids. They are adorable, smart, enthusiastic, honest – and they LOVE BOOKS with deep, hard feelings.

Book Love

When I read these letters I can remember so vividly all the feelings and love for a particular book when I was that age. The emotional power a story gave me. The knowledge that someone out there knew my heart and mind. The feeling that I wasn’t alone in my weirdness.

I never got to meet a real, honest-to-goodness published author until I was almost thirty—and it was the amazing Newbery Winner Richard Peck—pretty darn cool for my first author in Real Life, eh?! Back when I was a kid I was waaaay too shy to ever think about writing to an author. This is also back in the days of snail mail and Authors were definitely up there on a pedestal. They weren’t ordinary people. They were Gods.

Receiving Fan Mail by email, my website, or through the post office brings home the impact books can have on kids all over again. It’s an honor to write for them as well as the child still inside me.

So here’s a smattering of fan mail I’ve received lately. Some funny, some heart-warming and one that kicked me in the teeth and made me bawl.

*******

Hi my name is Elyssa, and I’m a big fan of your book The Time of the Fireflies. I’m 10 years old. You are like my favorite author of all time. If you’re wondering I’m using my dad’s phone. I was going to send you a letter, but I didn’t know what address to send it to. How did you become an author? Please write back.

(I wrote her back and then received this):

It’s like I’m talking to a Super Hero! I still can’t believe that I’m talking to Kimberley Little!

(Wow, I just achieved Super Hero Status!)Time of the Fireflies_Cover

*******

I didn’t get any homework done because I spent 4 hours and 30 minutes reading The Healing Spell. It was so awesome. I love how you write the romance part where there’s only a little bit of it but it’s the best romance ever. I cried so much when T-Baby died.
Sincerely,
A huge fan impatiently waiting for a new book

*******

Dear Ms. Little,

I wanted to write to you to say that your book, When the Butterflies Came, is amazing. I have currently just finished reading it for the 4th time. Please don’t feel like you need to answer. I just wanted to tell you how great of an author you are.

(Of course I answer every single letter.)

When the Butterflies Came Cover Art from Erin*******

The Healing Spell is such a beautiful, book. I’ve read it 4 times now, and it’s always so beautiful and uplifting each time. I first bought this book when I was 10, now I’m 15. Thank you for this work of art! It never fails to bring tears to my eyes, it’s so hard to believe that it’s about an 11-year-old. Better than most books I’ve read, even as a teenager. One of my top 10, for sure :)

(It surprised me to hear this from a teenager about one of my MG books. I’m so glad she wrote, it truly made my whole day.)

*******

Dear Kimberley Little,
I have just finished your book Forbidden and I must tell you I was moved greatly. I loved your book so much. I felt everything with your main character Jayden. I cried and it is rare that a book can get to me in such a way. I’m a senior in high school, I am also a writer. I would like to know how you are able to express such emotion in your writing? How do you get your reads to feel that emotion? Please write back I understand you’re most likely busy. But it would mean the world to me.
Thank you, Cassie

(Emotion is definitely one of the hardest things to incorporate effectively as writers.)

*******

(The following letter came in 4 different emails, one right after the other. It made me laugh.)

Hi, my name is Deena and I read all 3 of your divine awesome books

I’m 9 years old and I’m in 4th grade

Please contact me back I have been trying for 2 months to get a Gmail and contact you I’m so happy I found how to contact you

I will go on my knees to beg you to message me back

(No begging needed!)

*******

Dear Ms. Little (what should I call you?),

I absolutely just love your books. I literally idolize you. I especially love Forbidden. I own both Forbidden and The Time of the Fireflies.

(Just call me American Idol)

*******

(This was an email exchange from a fan who wanted to know when Banished, Book 2 of my Harper trilogy was coming out.)

Hi I am a fan of your books I have read When the Butterflies Came { by the way amazing book super good!}

The Time of the Fireflies { also really good book!}

And I want to read Circle of Secrets.

And I have read Forbidden – amazing and this is why I am Emailing you because you should write another book continuing Forbidden because I need and want to know what happens next. Like what really happened to Kadesh and is Jayden really going to marry evil Horeb so I think you should write another book. Thank you sooo much. Your BIG fan Katie

BanishedHC_KGL (530x800)Me: After responding to her lovely words I told her that Banished would publish February 2, 2106.

Katie: Did you mean to say that it will get published in 2016 and not 2106?

Me: Yes, I’m going to let your great-grandchildren read my next book, Katie. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 😉 Yep, you’re right 2016!! I was typing too fast!

Katie: Haha, really funny, you’ve a great sense of humor!

(Typos: All in a day’s work)

*******

(Final letter for today, the one that still pricks at my emotions.)

Dear Kimberley Griffiths Little,

Around two years ago my family experienced a traumatic occurrence. My half sister Sara was kicked by a horse and she was in a serious condition. When I first saw Sara while she was in the hospital, I felt as if I had been stabbed in the heart. It was extremely difficult for many reasons. When I read your book, The Healing Spell, it reminded me of Sara’s incident, and changed my perspective completely.

I many not have physically hurt Sara myself as Livie did to her mother, but I felt a similar feeling whenever I thought about her injury. Being her big sister, I always felt that it was my obligation to take care of her and keep her protected. I believed the only reason Sara was harmed was because I didn’t take the responsibility to watch her, to make she she did not get herself into trouble. I felt that the entire incident was my fault, just as Livie had blamed herself.

The Healing Spell paperback coverSara’s injury made me much more quiet, before I read your book that is. Livie kept her feelings to herself, knowing that . . . “deep down in the blackest part of my heart that I’d cause Mamma’s sleeping sickness.” I don’t have a “secret” like her, but I was still able to deeply connect with Livie, I didn’t want to share my true feelings about the event with anyone because I was afraid they would react negatively. I kept my emotions to myself, thinking that I was the guilty one, that I should be convicted. Then, I read The Healing Spell. The further I read the more my connections to Livie increased and I began to realize new things about my thoughts and actions from Sara’s accident. In the last section of the book, Livie comes to realize that accidents happen, and once I reached this segment, I, too, realized the same thing.

Your story caused me to comprehend the fact that the accident wasn’t my fault. The whole scenario was a complete accident, and no one meant for it to occur. I can now revisit the past and learn from the incident, and I never again need to think about how I am the one to blame. This has all come to be only because of your story, Ms. Little. The Healing Spell pulled me out of the dark, empty void I constantly felt I was floating through. I feel as if I can share my feelings any time now. I know that my family will not get upset, they will understand. Because of your book, I can maintain a higher self-confidence level, leaving behind the guilt that kept dragging me down.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Alayna

Alayna says that my book changed her life. Well, her letter definitely changed my life.

That’s the power of books.

 

Kimberley Griffiths Little has published 10 award-winning novels with Knopf, Scholastic, and Harpercollins. Her most recent MG, The Time of the Fireflies, was named a Bank Street College Best Books of 2015, a Whitney Award Finalist, a Letters of Mormon Arts Award Finalist, and was recently chosen for the William Allan White Kansas State Children’s Choice List for 2016-2017. 

Find Kimberley on Facebook. and Twitter @KimberleyGLittl. Teacher’s Guides, Mother/Daughter Book Club Guides, and fabulous book trailers filmed on location adorn Kimberley’s website.

 

Interview–and Giveaway–with Shelley Tougas

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Shelley Tougas writes fiction and nonfiction for tweens and teens. Shelley is a former journalist who also worked in public relations. Her award-winning book, Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration, landed on the top ten lists of Booklist and School Library Journal. Shelley lives near the Twin Cities.

little rock girl

Today, Shelley has joined us to talk about her new book, Finders Keepers (Roaring Brook Press 2015).

Christa spends every summer at the most awesome place in the whole world: her family’s cabin on Whitefish Lake in Wisconsin. Only her dad recently lost his job and her parents have decided to sell the cabin. But not if Christa can help it. Everyone knows Al Capone’s loot is hidden somewhere near Whitefish Lake, and her friend Alex’s cranky grandpa might have the key to finding it. Grandpa says the loot is gone, or worse -cursed – but Christa knows better. If she finds it, she can keep it and save her family and their beloved cabin.

Booklist gave it a starred review “A charming story of family history and personal connections (both lost and found) that is reminiscent of Blue Balliett and the Penderwicks‘ adventures.”

FindersKeepers_Cover1

Finders Keepers is your second novel, but you have ten published nonfiction books as well. How does your nonfiction inform your fiction writing?

I was a journalist for seven years, so my background is nonfiction. Working at a daily newspaper is a writer’s boot camp. Deadlines range from a week to a frantic thirty minutes. When you have limited space, you learn to treat every word like gold. Clarity and economy are essential. There’s only room for the most telling details and the best quotes. I learned about everything from police investigations to murder trials to elections to sewer systems. I met fascinating people, including a man who walked around the world, a barbed-wire collector, young men who canoed from Canada to the Amazon, a family who raised wolves, an anti-government militant who barricaded herself from the FBI for three months, and so much more.

I did a little Internet research on gangsters in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and was surprised at how many Chicago criminals spent time there. How much of the Al Capone content is fact and how much is legend? How much of it did you make up?

I invented the characters and their adventure, but everything about Capone is based on facts and legends. Capone didn’t use banks or accountants, so even historians and journalists believe he hid money or gave it to colleagues for safe keeping. His illness caused him to be delusional, so he wasn’t making rational decisions. In 1986, journalist and entertainer Geraldo Rivera had a live television special during which his crew used dynamite to blast open a vault of Capone’s. He thought he’d find Capone’s loot and maybe even human remains. IRS agents were there to collect Capone’s estimated $800,000 in unpaid taxes. Thirty million people watched him enter the vault where he discovered … nothing.

The setting in Finders Keepers felt very real to me, even though I’ve never been there. How did you do that?

Christa’s beloved cabin on Whitefish Lake is actually my parents’ real cabin on Whitefish Lake. The difference is my parents’ cabin is part of a group of cabins near a lakeside restaurant. Christa’s cabin is a standalone place near the Clarks’ home, which is also invented. The town of Hayward does have a popular candy store with a fudge lady, an ice cream store, and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in the shape of a huge muskie. I think it’s safe to say there aren’t underground tunnels in town!

800px-HaywardMuskie-061-050507Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri

If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from Finders Keepers, what would it be?

Put down your electronics, unleash your imagination, and play outside. That’s a message for adults, too.

What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed Finders Keepers?

It’s a bit self-serving to suggest my debut novel The Graham Cracker Plot [recently released in paperback], but it’s also a funny adventure story. Two novels I always recommend: Savvy by Ingrid Law and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. I recently read Lisa Lewis Tyre’s novel Last in a Long Line of Rebels, which is also about kids seeking a hidden treasure, and I loved it.

GrahamPaperCover

What’s your favorite thing about middle-grade fiction (as a reader or a writer)?

Kids are hilarious, often without meaning to be funny. I’ve had more laugh-out-loud moments reading kid lit than adult work.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle-grade fiction?

Spend a lot of time with kids. Listen to the way they talk and observe how they handle conflict and problems. Read your work out loud to kids and pay attention to their body language. If they’re staring out the window, you know you’ve got work to do. My daughter is my first editor. My early draft of The Graham Cracker Plot  opened with backstory. When I read it to my daughter, she said, “Mom, it’s really good. But when is the story going to start?” And she was right. In middle-grade novels, you need to invite the readers immediately. Most are impatient and won’t wade through a sluggish beginning.

Shelley has kindly offered to give away a copy of Finders Keepers. Leave a comment below by midnight on Monday, November 30 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 1.

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).