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National Poetry Month: Making Poetry WOW!

April is National Poetry Month, and today’s post is all about poetry!

There are many perceptions of poetry these days, and one of them is that it’s boring.

As a young child, I listened to my parents read poetry by Carl Sandberg and James Whitcomb Riley. As a young adult, I found Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and read them to myself. The classical poetry canon many of us grew up with is lovely, but there are so many different kinds of learners and we need to try to reach more of them. Wouldn’t it be great to help them find the wow of poetry? One way to do that is to explore a varied collection of poetry forms for the varied collection of readers we all want to ignite.

Here are just a few ways you can help kids explore poetry. You might even make poets of some of them!

Novels in verse can be particularly interesting for Middle Grade readers (I have found them to be fearless about trying something new, myself), but also for those readers who are developing their stamina and excitement about reading in general. Synopses are from IndieBound unless otherwise noted.

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, 2015 Newbery Medal, 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor

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‘With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering, ‘ announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (“He Said, She Said” 2013).

Diamond Willow, 2009 Bank Street Children’s Best Book of the Year and Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013 , both by Helen Frost

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Twelve-year-old Willow would rather blend in than stick out. But she still wants to be seen for who she is. She wants her parents to notice that she is growing up. She wants her best friend to like her better than she likes a certain boy. She wants, more than anything, to mush the dogs out to her grandparents’house, by herself, with Roxy in the lead. But sometimes when it’s just you, one mistake can have frightening consequences . . . And when Willow stumbles, it takes a surprising group of friends to help her make things right again.

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Anikwa and James, twelve years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping, and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James’s family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are rising—the British and American armies prepare to meet at Fort Wayne for a crucial battle, and Native Americans from surrounding tribes gather in Kekionga to protect their homeland. After trading stops and precious commodities, like salt, are withheld, the fort comes under siege, and war ravages the land. James and Anikwa, like everyone around them, must decide where their deepest loyalties lie. Can their families—and their friendship—survive?

May B and Blue Birds, both by Carolyn Starr Rose

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May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

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It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award, 2015 Newbery Honor, 2015 Coretta Scott King Award, 2015 Sibert Honor, 2015 Claudia Lewis Award for Older Readers

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Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Picture books of science-themed poetry are another wonderful way to connect with readers. Picture book treatments may seem simplistic but they are one of the best ways to grab a reader of any age in the shortest possible time. There are many new ones being released all the time, but here are just a few. I wish there had been books like these when I was a budding science enthusiast!

Step Gently Out and Sweep Up the Sun, both by Helen Frost with photographs by Rick Lieder

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What would happen if you walked very, very quietly and looked ever so carefully at the natural world outside? You might see a cricket leap, a moth spread her wings, or a spider step across a silken web. In simple, evocative language, Helen Frost offers a hint at the many tiny creatures around us. And in astonishing close-up photographs, Rick Lieder captures the glint of a katydid’s eye, the glow of a firefly, and many more living wonders just awaiting discovery. Fascinating facts about all the creatures pictured may be found at the end.

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Baby robins, pen-beaked in their nest. Mallards winging to a new clime. Whether chickadees or cardinals, sparrows or starlings, here are commonly seen birds in their natural settings, captured in photographs of rare beauty and grace. In perfect synchrony, a lyrical narrative evokes images of play and flight, perseverance and trust.At the end, readers will find profiles of the featured species. 

An Egret’s Day, by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple
National Outdoor Book Awards Honor book

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Poems and photographs take readers up close to observe the daily life of the extraordinary Great Egret. A Great Egret rarely rests. This majestic bird, with its big feet, even bigger beak, and breathtaking lacy wings, is a treat to watch. With his camera, photographer Jason Stemple takes us close to these magnificent creatures to witness their physical–and quirky–beauty as well as their daily habits and behavior–soaring, hunting, preening, nesting–which most of us never get a chance to see. Meanwhile, celebrated poet Jane Yolen offers her keen observations in carefully-crafted poetry that is at once whimsical, thoughtful, and thought provoking. Interesting facts about the bird accompany each poem.

Insectlopedia, by Douglas Florian

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The windows are open and bugs are everywhere!

Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems, by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Virginia Halstead

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Showing that science is not a dry subject at all–rather it’s a way of looking at the world–these poems, by poets both beloved and new, cover a wide array of topics, including tools of science, weather, seeds, animals, and the processes of freezing. Full-color illustrations.

The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom, edited by Jack Preultsky, illustrated by Meilo So

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Culled by Jack Prelutsky from the works of more than 100 highly acclaimed poets of the twentieth century, here is a poetic parade of the animal kingdom that ranges from the lowly earthworm to the majestic whale and just about every creature in between. Some of the poems are playful and funny; others are insightful and thoughtful–but all are brief and fun to read aloud. Whether by Ogden Nash or Seamus Heaney, William Carlos Williams or Marianne Moore, the striking images of each poem are captured in the deft brushstrokes, sure sense of color, and lyrical compositions of Meilo So, a brilliant young watercolorist.

Fanciful and funny poems are the ones we turn to most often to capture kids’ imaginations, and they exist in abundance. Here are just a few which have delighted the Middle Grade students I’ve taught.

Once I Ate a Pie, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider (this is one of a series featuring animal images and poetry)

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It’s a dog’s life!  Every dog has a tail to wag . . . and a tale to tell. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest asked a collection of canines to speak up—and so they do, in words, barks, and yips. Captured here are accounts of happy days filled with squeaky toys, good smells, plenty of naps, and the very important jobs they do for the people they love to love.

The Dragons are Singing Tonight, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Peter Sis

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Prelutsky and Sis…bring to life so many sorts of dragons: the large, the small, the ferocious, the technological, the gentle, the ominous, and the disconsolate.(from Booklist)

Don’t Bump the Glump and Runny Babbitt, both by Shel Silverstein

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It’s a zoo in here!

Have you ever . . .

Seen a Gritchen in your kitchen?
Dared to dance with the One-Legged Zantz?
Declined to dine with the Glub-Toothed Sline?

You haven’t? Well then, step inside—but only if you are ready to be amazed, tickled, astonished and entertained by this most unusual bestiary of silly and scary creatures.

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Welcome to the world of Runny Babbit and his friends Toe Jurtle, Skertie Gunk, Rirty Dat, Dungry Hog, Snerry Jake, and many others who speak a topsy-turvy language all their own.

Oh, Theodore! Guinea Pig Poems, by Susan Katz, illustrated by Stacey Schuett

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Come meet Theodore: a plump, fuzzy guinea pig with a big appetite, a lot to say, and a personality all his own. As you, and his new owner, get to know him, you’ll find out what he eats and how he speaks. You’ll also discover the work involved in caring for a pet: feeding, cleaning, and taking him out for exercise. But it hardly seems like work once your pet becomes your best friend.
With the popularity of guinea pigs as family and classroom pets, Theodore’s antics are sure to ring true to many readers. And for those who haven’t had a guinea pig of their own, these short, funny, and accessible poems will create a vivid first impression.

In addition to reading poetry, one way to understand it is to dig into its different forms for yourself by writing some! Here are a few books to get you started exploring different styles of poetry with students.

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

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In this splendid and playful volume — second of a trilogy — an acclaimed creative team presents examples of twenty-nine poetic forms, demonstrating not only the (sometimes bendable) rules of poetry, but also the spirit that brings these forms to life. Featuring poems from the likes of Eleanor Farjeon (aubade), X. J. Kennedy (elegy), Ogden Nash (couplet), Liz Rosenberg (pantoum), and William Shakespeare, the sonnet king himself, A Kick in the Head perfectly illustrates Robert Frost’s maxim that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net.

R is for Rhyme : A Poetry Alphabet, by Judy Young, illustrated by Victor Juhasz

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From acrostics to ballads to meter and metaphor, enjoy this collection of poems that illustrate poetic tools, terms, and techniques. Each term and technique is demonstrated.

Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So

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Prelutsky has invented a method he calls ‘poemstarts’ to help children get started in writing poetry. He provides several introductory lines of a simple poem and then offers some open-ended suggestions for its completion. In this thematically organized collection, Prelutsky offers ten poemstarts on different popular themes, complemented by three short poems on the same subject by different authors.

Need more help with ideas to share the wow of poetry with students? Here are some resources for teachers.

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/april-national-poetry-month-20478.html

http://teacher.scholastic.com/poetry/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/national-poetry-month-activities

http://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/poetry

http://ettcweb.lr.k12.nj.us/forms/newpoem.htm

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy National Poetry Month!

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009. Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is proprietor of Homeostasis Press and blogs at the Best of It.

April New Releases!

Spring has sprung!   Time to get out your lawn chairs and go soak up some sun. Don’t forget to take along a good book. If you need some recommendations, check out these shiny news ones here:

(including one from our very own MUF-er  Tricia Springstubb!)
 Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb (Candlewick)

For whimsical Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, and Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job as Head of Shoes, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer. What to do? Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.

 

The 39-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths (Fiewel & Friends)

Andy and Terry are once again inviting readers to come hang out with them in their astonishing 39-story treehouse (it used to be 13 stories, then 26 stories, but they keep expanding). And this year they will have even more time to jump on the world’s highest trampoline, toast marshmallows in an active volcano, swim in the chocolate waterfall, pet baby dinosaurs, and go head-to-trunk with the Trunkinator, since Terry has created the greatest invention that he–or anyone else–has ever invented . . . a Once-upon-a-time machine that will write and illustrate their entire book for them!
What are you waiting for? Come on up!

 

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission  by  Judith Viorst (Atheneum BFYR)

Lulu has put her tantrum-throwing days behind her. That is, until her parents announce that they are going on vacation–WITHOUT LULU. Not only that, but they are leaving her with the formidable Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, who says hello by bellowing, “The Eagle has landed,” and smiles at you with the kind of smile that an alligator might give you before eating you for dinner.
The second her parents are out of the house, Lulu tries out several elaborate schemes to bring them straight back. But just when she seems to finally be making some headway, her babysitter reveals an astonishing secret…one that has Lulu crossing her fingers that her parents will go on vacation “all the time”–without her.

 

The Black Reckoning by John Stephens  (Knopf BFYR) 
The final book in the bestselling Books of Beginning trilogy that began with The Emerald Atlas, which theNew York Times called “a new Narnia for the tween set.”

The adventures of siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma come to a stunning conclusion when they must find the last Book of Beginning—the Book of Death—before the Dire Magnus does, for when all three books are united, their combined power will be unstoppable.

 

 

Ever After High: Kiss and Spell by Suzanne Selfors (Little, Brown BFYR)

What’s a girl to do when she accidentally turns her crush into a frog? Ginger Breadhouse had a hard time growing up with the Candy Witch for a mom. It’s not easy making friends if everyone believes your mom tried to cook Hansel and Gretel! But now that Ginger’s attending Ever After High, she has a chance to forge her own path, and she’s trying to make a name for herself as the host of the MirrorCast show Spells Kitchen. The problem is, she needs viewers!

 

Ellie’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron (Starscape)
Ellie is a very special dog with a very important purpose. From puppyhood, Ellie has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog. She can track down a lost child in a forest or an injured victim under a fallen building. She finds people. She saves them. It’s what she was meant to do.But Ellie must do more. Her handlers–widowed Jakob, lonely Maya–need her too. People can be lost in many ways, and to do the job she was born to do, Ellie needs to find a way to save the people she loves best.

My Life as a Gamer by Janet Tashjian  (Henry Holt BFYR)

Derek Fallon gets the chance of a lifetime–to participate in a gaming company focus group and to test out a new video game called “Arctic Ninja.” Together with his friends Carly, Matt, and Umberto, Derek thinks his gaming talents will be showcased. But he soon realizes that everyone has got him beat, including whiz kid El Cid. On top of that, school reading tests have begun and Derek feels doubly off his game. Isn’t there anything he’s good at?

 

 

Miss Mayhem by  Rachel Hawkins (G.P. Putnam’s BFYR)

Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.

 

The Loch Nest Punster by Kate Klise (Harcourt Brace & Co.)

In the seventh and final installment of the popular 43 Old Cemetery Road series, twelve-year-old Seymour Hope has inherited a castle in Loch Ness, Scotland. It could be the perfect summer vacation spot for Seymour and his parents, Olive C. Spence and Ignatius B. Grumply. But Iggy wants nothing to do with the castle. Why? Because it was owned by his uncle Ian, a world-famous psychiatrist and the world’s worst punster. So Iggy stays home to write, and Seymour and Olive set off for Scotland–each with a secret.

 

 

Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster BFYR)

When Ben gets kicked out of the CIA’s spy school, he enrolls with the enemy. This companion to Spy School and Spy Camp is rife with action, adventure, and espionage.
During a spy school game of Capture the Flag, twelve-year-old Ben Ripley somehow accidentally shoots a live mortar into the principal’s office—and immediately gets himself expelled. Not long after going back to the boring old real world, Ben gets recruited by evil crime organization SPYDER. And he accepts

 

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant (Random House BFYR)

Anastasia is a completely average almost-eleven-year-old. That is, UNTIL her parents die in a tragic vacuum-cleaner accident. UNTIL she’s rescued by two long-lost great-aunties. And UNTIL she’s taken to their delightful and, er, “authentic” Victorian home, St. Agony’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
But something strange is going on at the asylum. Anastasia soon begins to suspect that her aunties are not who they say they are. So when she meets Ollie and Quentin, two mysterious brothers, the three join together to plot their great escape!

 

Woof by Spencer Quinn (Scholastic Press)

Spencer Quinn speaks two languages — suspense and dog — fluently.” — Stephen King
There is trouble brewing in the Louisiana swamp — Bowser can smell it. Bowser is a very handsome and only slightly slobbery dog, and he can smell lots of things. Like bacon. And rawhide chews And the sweat on humans when they’re lying.
Birdie Gaux, the girl Bowser lives with, also knows something is wrong. It’s not just that her grammy’s stuffed prize marlin has been stolen. It’s the weird rumor that the marlin is linked to a missing treasure. It’s the truck that seems to be following Birdie and the bad feeling on the back of her neck.
When Birdie and Bowser start digging into the mystery, not even Bowser’s powerful sniffer can smell just how menacing the threat is. And when the danger comes straight for Birdie, Bowser knows it up to him to sic ‘em.

 

The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each other)

by Geoff Rodkey  (Little, Brown BFYR)

This brand-new series by a popular screenwriter is a pitch-perfect, contemporary comedy featuring twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, who couldn’t be more different…except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that’s fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.

 

The Year of Three Sisters by  Andrea Cheng (HMH BFYR)

Astute Anna discovers that sisterhood really can cross continents and cultures in this heartwarming fourth book in the Anna Wang series. Patrice Barton’s lively and warm illustrations bring Anna’s story to life.

 

Graceful by Wendy Mass (Scholastic Press)

An exciting new story in the bestselling Willow Falls series from Wendy Mass
Angelina D’Angelo has left town to see the world. It’s now Grace’s turn to use her magic to protect the people of Willow Falls, and she is up to the challenge. This is her destiny, after all. But destiny is a funny thing-it doesn’t always behave the way you’d expect it to.
Mysterious postcards from Angelina begin showing up in the mail, Grace’s parents are freaking out with worry, and something BIG is coming to town that will affect everybody who lives there. But all Grace is powerful enough to do is turn leftover meatloaf into pizza.
Fortunately, she’s not alone. She has Team Grace on her side Amanda, Leo, Rory, Tara, David, and Connor know a thing or two about magic and how it works. But none of them are prepared for what’s coming, and none of them know how to stop it. Life in Willow Falls is about to change forever.

 

The Adventures of Tabitha and Sparky by R.W. Deane (Yellow Iris Press)

This is a delightful story of the unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. A story comprised of poems and adventures. Tabitha is a very curious cat, always eager to find out about things that are often none of her business, which continually gets her into trouble. Sparky, on the other hand, is more sensible and reliable, and between the two of them they share many adventures which teach life long lessons.

March New Releases

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to SPRING into March! There are so many wonderful books releasing this month, and I’m honored to have one of my own  among them!

(Listed In Order of Release Date)

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold; illustrated by Emily Gravett (March 3) 

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger-until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger.

Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him-and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?

Flunked by Jen Calonita (March 3)

RlunkedFull of regret, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she’s not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its sweet mission. There’s a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villian really change?

The Box and the Dragonfly (The Keepers #1) by Ted Sanders (March 3)

KeepersArtifacts. Miseries. Mysteries . . .
From the moment Horace F. Andrews sees the sign from the bus–a sign with his own name on it–everything changes. The sighting leads him underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse brimming with peculiar devices. But there he finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it?

 

Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera (March 10)

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Fans of Mary Poppins will love this whimsical tale of a boarding school for children of very busy parents, where an extraordinary headmistress teaches them life lessons about courage, adventure, friendship . . . and the importance of birthday cake.
Nestled inside a lighthouse, Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents takes its motto from Amelia Earhart: Adventure is worthwhile in itself. Headmistress Ms. Rapscott couldn’t agree more, but her students, who are shipped to the school in boxes, could use a little convincing. Still, despite their initial reluctance, the students are soon soaring through the sky and getting lost on purpose. In addition to learning what birthday cakes are and how best to approach a bumbershoot tree, the students also manage to learn a little something about strength and bravery.

Little Miss Evil by Bryce Leung, Kristy Shen (March 10) LittleMissEvil

When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption “EVIL GENIUS” underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you. Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting. And that’s why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who’d mess with a girl who can throw fireballs? Apparently, these guys. Big mistake.

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi (March 10) CatchYouLater,Traitor

Brooklyn, New York, 1951.
Twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? At the same time, Pete’s class turns against him, thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher; even Kat, Pete’s best friend, feels the pressure to ditch him. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood–and even their freedom–at risk.

Roller Girl (A Graphic Novel) by Victoria Jamieson (March 10) RollerGirl

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman (March 10) Nightbird

Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

Molly Pepper and the Night Train by Courtney King Walker (March 13) ???????????????????

Hidden somewhere in the fog of the San Francisco bay lies Blue Rock Island, home to the bay area’s two best-kept secrets: Bell’s Bluff, the old, abandoned prison on one side of the island, and the Night Train, a mysterious train ride on the other. When twelve-year-old Molly Pepper receives a secret invitation promising a night of magic and adventure aboard the Night Train, she is skeptical. In her experience, most promises prove too good to be true. The fact that she lost her mom is proof enough.

Still, Molly gives hope another chance. Together with her loyal friend, Noah Wonderly, they sneak out of the house and follow a string of clues leading to the Night Train. But when the train stops at Bell’s Bluff, Molly discovers the real reason she was invited. There, she starts to wonder if hope and magic not only fix broken promises; but make you believe in them again.

The Luck Uglies, Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham (March 17) TheLuckUglies

It’s not easy being the daughter of the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies. Now an insidious new lawman in Drowning has declared Rye an outlaw, and she’s stuck on the strange and remote Isle of Pest. But the island quickly feels much less remote when the battle to control the future of the Luck Uglies moves to its shores. To defeat the Luck Uglies’ bitterest rivals, Rye must defy a deranged earl, survive a test meant to judge the grit of the fiercest men—and uncover some long-buried family secrets. And when Rye leads the charge to defend the island, she and her friends will meet an eerily familiar enemy. . .

In Todd We Trust by Louise GalvesInToddWeTrustton (March 17)

In the sequel to By the Grace of Todd, the Toddlians believe Todd has forgotten all about them. There’s only one solution to their problems: to find a new god! And so they decide to build a raft à la Noah’s ark in order to search for a more thoughtful deity. But who can the Toddlians turn to in their time of despair? And does Todd really not remember the miniature race generated by the dirt on his smelly sock? It will take more than divine intervention to save the Toddlians and mend their relationship with their neglectful creator.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (March 24)

BlackbirdFly

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. Her mother still cooks Filipino foods, speaks a mix of English and Cebuano, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.

The Penderwicks In Spring by Jeanne Birdsall (March 24) ThePenderwicks2

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.

The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein (March 24) TheIslandofDr.Libris

What if your favorite characters came to life? Billy’s spending the summer in a lakeside cabin that belongs to the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is going on. Besides the security cameras everywhere, there’s Dr. Libris’s private bookcase. Whenever Billy opens the books inside, he can hear sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. The clash of swords. The twang of arrows. Sometimes he can even feel the ground shaking. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life! But that’s impossible . . . isn’t it?

What books are you excited about SPRINGing into this month? Tell us about them in the comments!

LouGbiopicLouise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd and its sequel, In Todd We Trust (Razorbill) www.bythegraceoftodd.com When she’s not shuffling through the mixed-up files on her messy writing desk, you’ll find Louise directing children’s theater, playing games with her big family, or up to her eyeballs in laundry.