Tag Archives: fairy tales

An interview with author Delia Sherman on her latest middle grade fantasy

imgres-1Congratulations to Delia Sherman on the recently published The Evil Wizard Smallbone, and thanks for joining us here at the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?
It began with a short story I wrote for an anthology called Troll’s Eye View, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. The theme of the anthology was to retell a classic fairy tale — from the point of view of the villain. As I always do when I want to build a good, juicy fairy tale retelling, I went to Fairy Tales From Many Lands, a book I’ve had ever since I can remember. I’ve long wanted to retell the story of “The Wizard Outwitted,” a Russian fairy tale full of shapeshifting and trickery and wizard’s duels (because, I ask you, who doesn’t love a good wizard’s duel?), so I did that. In 3500 words. Which didn’t actually leave me room for the wizard’s duel. Or, indeed, many of the things I wanted to say. So I thought some more about Nick’s training and development and went to the Blue Hill Fair (the very same fair Wilbur attended with Fern in Charlotte’s Web), where I talked to a trapper about gray wolves and coyotes in Maine and to a pig-farmer about pigs, and it all came together somehow.

There’s quite a bit of shape-shifting in this novel, and the descriptions are so vivid. Did you research wolves and coyotes, for example, to capture them so well or perhaps you have observed or spent time with these animals?
It was all research. My terrible secret is that I’m horribly allergic to all animals, and can’t have one and breathe at the same time. Which is why I suppose I almost always end up putting animals in my books—they’re guaranteed to be hypoallergenic. But I digress. I read a lot about wolves and spiders and rats and coyotes (and some other animals that I ended up cutting out because the book was getting too long. Nick turned into a crow once. I was sorry to see that go.) But I think my best source ended up being nature video on You Tube, where I learned what a rat sees and what the fox says, pretty much first hand.

What was the hardest thing about writing about wizards?
Figuring out the magic. I didn’t want it to be “Alakazam, wave my hand, you’re a frog”-type magic. And I didn’t want it to be too formulaic and scientific. I wanted it to seem as if it could really work and still be mysterious and wonderful. So I read about folk magic (think horseshoes for luck and salt to keep evil away) and formal magic (pentagrams and chants) and mixed them with things I personally think are cool (books that talk back to you and magical snow-blowing).

What was the easiest thing writing about wizards?
Stuff that is magic as well as used to do magic, like Smallbone’s coat and hat, Fidelou’s pelt-cape, enchanted bookstores and talking books. I’m sure I borrowed many of them from folk lore, from old fairytales, from books I read as a kid and don’t even remember reading, but they all felt as if they just showed up when they were needed, demanding to be added. So I did.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A little bit of both. When pantsing leaves me without anywhere to go, I plot for awhile until I can see my way forward, and then I go back to making it up as I go along. That’s the first draft, though. For all other drafts (Evil Wizard took seven), I have to make a plan, or I just make things worse.


There are so many surprises and unexpected reveals. How did these plot twists come about?

Now that I come to think about it, it has to be fairytales again. You read enough of them, you realize that one of the patterns is this: The hero has an adventure, which leads to another adventure, which develops a side-quest, which gets him embroiled in another adventure altogether. I guess I’ve read so many fairy tales over the years that that kind of thinking is just part of the way my mind works.

How much were you aware of both following the wizard apprentice tale type and how much did you consciously deviate from it?
Well, I was working off a fairy tale, and I have seen Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and read The Sword in the Stone, although the Wart is not really Merlin’s apprentice. Setting the story in modern (more or less) Maine was a big deviation, as was Nick’s original complete lack of interest in being a wizard—or even believing that magic exists. I think what really happens when I retell a fairy story is that at some point the story I’m writing takes off from its roots and grows into something slightly different. Except for the wizard, the shape-changing, and the wizard’s duel, there are not really a lot of similarities between Nick’s story and the original.

This is set during a hardscrabble winter in New England, and it’s very cold and described so well. Is this a climate/area you know first-hand?
I began to write this story when I started staying at my friend’s house on the coast of Maine. I’ve never been there in winter, mind, but I’ve read books set there (also in Finland, which is very like Maine in many ways). I spent one of the coldest, darkest, and most uncomfortable years of my life in an inland town a long time ago, and I lived in Massachusetts for a long time, some of it in a house heated by a wood stove. So I do know plenty about snow, wind, cold, and even chopping wood.

Why did you write this book?
I haven’t the foggiest notion. All the time I was writing it, I kept thinking maybe I should be working on something else, that it wasn’t really the kind of book I write, that Nick was difficult and I don’t know anything about motorcycles or small towns (I grew up in New York City, after all). And yet, I kept working at it. I guess the real answer is that I’m a lot more like Nick than I thought.

The wizards in this novel are quite idiosyncratic. How did you come up with the idea for such a grumpy wizard (SmallBone) as well as his nemesis (Fidelou, the wolf wizard).
There are lots of grumpy wizards in literature. Even good wizards like Gandalf and Merlin and Dumbledore and Chrestomanci can be plenty crabby and short-tempered. Another thing wizards have in common is that they tend to be loners. You don’t read much about wizards with lots of friends and family (except in Harry Potter). So I just took that crabbiness to its logical extreme. Fidelou, on the other hand, is only interested in power. He wants it all, no matter what he has to do or who he has to hurt to get it. That, in my opinion, is what real evil is.

The main character, 12 year-old Nick Reynaud, can’t really read at the beginning of the novel. One of the main changes is that he learns to read and grow in confidence as well as security. How did the choice for Nick to be such a struggling reader come about?
Well, he says he can’t read; he can actually read perfectly well, and has a taste for science fiction and fantasy, just like his Mom. Still, I suspect he hasn’t read much until he gets to Evil Wizard books, partly because Uncle Gabe doesn’t have any books in the house and partly because he can’t see the point of the books he’s expected to read in school. He’s indignant when the bookshop gives him E-Z Spelz For Little Wizardz, but he reads it because he really, really wants to learn magic. I guess I believe that having a reason to read something is more motivating than just being told that it’s good for you.
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Hillary Homzie is the author of the Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page.

New Middle-Grade Releases: October 2016

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


Snow Fright
9781631630903
(Scarily Ever Laughter) by Amie Borst and Bethanie Borst

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

9780316125925When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

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

9781629797403Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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

9780374302825Cinnamon Moon by Tess Hilmo

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

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

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

9780062574329Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM

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

9780399551499Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9780062343222Stick Dog Slurps Spaghetti by Tom Watson

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

9781626723368Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

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

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

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

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

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

9780062427731Foxheart by Claire Legrand, illus. Jaime Zollars

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

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

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

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

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

9780803739857Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

9780545928892Hot Cocoa Hearts: A Wish Novel by Suzanne Nelson

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

9780062392053Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

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

9781101939758The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

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

9781481440424MINRS 2 by Kevin Sylvester

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

NONFICTION

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

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

9780544824386The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay

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

9780399541582What Was the Great Chicago Fire? by Janet Pascal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literary Descendants of Classic Characters + Giveaway

Throughout history, there have always been characters, fictional or otherwise, who capture our collective imaginations. Usually these characters possess supernatural powers of some sort, but sometimes they’re mere mortals, who have somehow fascinated us. In recent years, several middle-grade authors have been inspired by the gene pools of cultural icons. The most recent of these is Annabelle Fisher, whose novel The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, is out now from Greenwillow Books.

9780062393777Annabelle has generously donated an autographed copy of her book. Keep reading to learn how to win it and to read about other fabulous middle-grade novels about fictional descendants.

In  The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piperan ordinary fifth grader with a talent for coming up with rhymes and poems without even trying discovers she is a direct descendant of Mother Goose. Pixie’s flair for poetry sometimes leads to unexpected challenges. But, eventually, she comes to accept and appreciate her uniqueness. The novel mixes charming literary allusions with magic, humor, and issues about family and friendship.

 

9781484720974Melissa de la Cruz’s well-known Descendants Series about the offspring of Disney villains is a favorite of many middle-grade readers. The Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost follow the adventures of Mal, whose mother is the evil fairy, Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty. Mal is accompanied by Evie, Jay, and Carlos, who are descended from Jafar, Cruella De Vil, and The Evil Queen. These descendants of villainous characters are coming of age on the Isle of the Lost, where their parents have been banished.

 

9780062004963It’s not just the villains who fascinate us in fairy tales. In Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters, Diane Zahler takes readers to a time where Sleeping Beauty is married with two daughters, one of whom has been cursed similarly to her mother. When Aurora begins to struggle not slip into an enchanted sleep, the sisters accept the help of a young fisherman and embark on an ocean voyage to find their good fairy aunt who might be able to reverse the magic. They encounter beasts, storms, and  other dangers, but they can’t give up. If they do, Aurora could end up taking a one-hundred-year nap.

 

9780786856299Another series based on descendants of the famous and powerful is the well-known Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan. These mega-popular books follow the exploits of Percy, who finds himself at a camp for demigods and learns he is the son of Poseidon the Greek god of the sea. His companions include Anabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, and Luke Castellan, the son of Hermes. The series includes The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian.

 

9780312602123A certain famous fictional detective has inspired a few series about his descendants. One of which is Tracy Barrett’s The Sherlock Files, which follows the adventures of Xena and Xander Holmes, who think living in London will be boring until they’re handed a cryptic note that leads them to a hidden room and a secret society. When they discover they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and inherit his unsolved casebook, life becomes more exciting. In the first installment, The 100-Year-Old Secret, the siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Other titles in the series include: The Missing Heir, The Beast of Blackslope, and The Case That Time Forgot.

 

9780810993228Real-life brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, who collected and published folklore in the nineteenth century, have inspired a series called The Sisters Grimm, written by Michael Buckley. In these books, orphaned siblings Sabrina and Daphne Grimm learn they are descended from the Brothers Grimm. The sisters soon find out it’s their legacy to keep a group known as the Everafters, a parallel race of magical beings, in line. Books in the series include The Fairy-Tale Detectives, The Unusual Suspects, The Problem Child, and more.

If you have any favorite novels about the descendants of famous fictional or historical characters, please tell us about them. And for a chance to win the autographed copy of Annabelle Fisher’s The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, share this post and let us know where you shared in the comments section. The deadline is Wednesday midnight. We’ll announce the winner on Thursday.

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