Tag Archives: independent bookstores

New releases for perfect Valentine’s gifts for children!

Here are some great ideas for Valentine’s gifts for middle-grade children. Hot off the press and ready for the special readers in your life!

The first two were actually released in January, and since ghost-written by one of our contributing members, we wanted to highlight them!

Taking Chances by Kelsey Abrams, illustrated by Jomike Tejido, (Jolly Fish Press)

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Grace has always rushed headlong into things often landing her in trouble. Her elderly neighbor (and close friend), Miz Ida, reminds her to think before she acts. Grace tries to be thoughtful and responsible when helping with Miz Ida s prize-winning cat, Chances, but it isn’t easy. Can Grace slow down enough to keep the people (and animals) she cares for safe? Or are there times when taking chances can be a good thing? At Second Chance Ranch, the Ramirez family cares and works to find homes for all kinds of animals on their 200-acre ranch in Texas. Sisters Natalie (12), Abby (10), and twins Emily and Grace (9) all do their part to help out and give each animal the second chance it deserves.

Wild Midnight by Kelsey Abrams, illustrated by Jomike Tejido

(Jolly Fish Press)

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Emily has her heart set on rescuing a wild mustang, but her family gets outbid at an auction. Instead she settles for helping a nearby ranch muck out stalls where some of the mustangs now reside. She quickly earns a reputation as a horse whisperer for her ability to calm Midnight, a horse that others cannot control. But even Emily cant help when a tornado blows through the area and Midnight gets loose. Or can she? At Second Chance Ranch, the Ramirez family cares and works to find homes for all kinds of animals on their 200-acre ranch in Texas. Sisters Natalie (12), Abby (10), and twins Emily and Grace (9) all do their part to help out and give each animal the second chance it deserves.

Lucy’s Lab: The Colossal Fossil Fiasco by Michelle Houts, illustrated by Elizebeth Zechel, (Sky Pony Press)

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In this third book in the series, Lucy accidentally overhears her parents talking about the family getting a second pet. But what pet should they get?

At school, Lucy’s class is learning about fossils and the plants and animals that left them behind.

One afternoon, Lucy finds a special rock, and Miss Flippo gets very excited! But when Lucy’s precious fossil goes missing, everyone in Room 2C is a suspect. . . .

My Hero Academia, by Kohei Horikoshi, (Viz Media)

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Midoriya inherits the superpower of the world’s greatest hero, but greatness won’t come easy.

What would the world be like if 80 percent of the population manifested superpowers called “Quirks”? Heroes and villains would be battling it out everywhere! Being a hero would mean learning to use your power, but where would you go to study? The Hero Academy of course! But what would you do if you were one of the 20 percent who were born Quirkless?

I Survived the Children’s Blizzard, 1888, by Lauren Tarshis, (Scholastic)

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Eleven-year-old John Hale has already survived one brutal Dakota winter, and now he’s about to experience one of the deadliest blizzards in American history. The storm of 1888 was a monster, a frozen hurricane that slammed into America’s midwest without warning. Within hours, America’s prairie would be buried under ten feet of snow. Hundreds would be dead, thousands terrified and lost and freezing.

John never wanted to move to the wide-open prairie. He’s a city kid, not a tough pioneer! But his inner strength is seriously tested when he finds himself trapped in the blinding snow, the wind like a giant crushing hammer, pounding him over and over again. Will John ever find his way home?

Bravelands #2 Code of Honor, by Erin Hunter, (HarperCollins)

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Set in the African savannah and told from three different animals’ points of view, Bravelands will thrill readers who love Spirit Animals and Wings of Fire, as well as the legion of dedicated fans who’ve made Erin Hunter a bestselling phenomenon.

A baboon who has uncovered an act of treachery.

An elephant uncertain of her fate.

A lion poised to strike.

The code of the wild has been broken. The elephant leader known as Great Mother has been murdered. And Bravelands is on the edge of chaos. Now a young baboon, elephant, and lion must come together to discover the truth—before the fragile balance of Bravelands is destroyed forever.

Dragon Bones (The Unwanted Quests) by Lisa McMann, (Aladdin)

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Ten years after Alex and Aaron Stowe brought peace to Quill and Artimé, their younger twin sisters journey beyond Artimé in the second novel in the New York Times bestselling sequel series to The Unwanteds, which Kirkus Reviews called “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.”

The Artiméans have suffered some devastating blows.

After years of peace, the recent daring adventure of twins Thisbe and Fifer Stowe have brought about dire consequences. Thisbe has been captured, Fifer is injured, and Sky is lost at sea. The twins’ older brother Alex, head mage of Artimé, is paralyzed with fear of losing anyone else he loves. Fifer must convince him to finally trust her to help in the battle ahead now that their true enemy has been revealed.

Meanwhile Thisbe is trapped underground in the catacombs, where the ancient dragon rulers are buried. Along with fellow prisoners, Thisbe’s job is to transport dragon bones from her crypt to the extracting room, where others extract the magical properties dormant in the bones. When it appears no one is coming back to rescue her, Thisbe must train in secret, trying to learn how to control her fiery magic and use it to escape. As her situation becomes more grave, she might even have to align herself with the ultimate evil.

Unfortunately it’s a risk she has to take.

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August, (Roaring Book Press)
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Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire is the first book in a spellbinding fantasy adventure series by screenwriter John August.

Some trails lead to magic. Some lead to danger.

As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves. 
She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: “If I can see you, they can see you . . . Be careful, Arlo Finch.

Arlo Finch is a newcomer to Pine Mountain, Colorado, a tiny town of mystery and magic, but he’s already attracted the attention of dark and ancient forces. At first he thinks these increasingly strange and frightening occurrences are just part of being in Rangers, the mountain scouting troop where he learns how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods.

But he soon Arlo finds himself at the center of a dangerous adventure, where he faces obstacles that test the foundations of the Ranger’s Vow: Loyalty, Bravery, Kindness, and Truth.

Adventure, Intrigue, and Korea, OH MY!

One of the perks of being a teacher is the authors who grace our school halls, no matter where in the world those halls stand. Korea is such a place, currently front and center in recent events.

First, let me say, as a teacher and author, I appreciate the process: long hours, extensive research, pondering, the wrestling and wavering of ideas, bits of your heart and soul on paper. I value how one’s experiences provide rich content for the stories we create and how those events can touch the lives of students in the classroom. I especially love when students are able to connect to the person behind those words.

Meet author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, and her middle grade novel, In the Shadow of the Sun, an adventure story set in North Korea.

When our school librarian announced an upcoming author visit, I was intrigued to learn that the author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, had grown up in South Korea as a daughter of medical missionaries. A prolific picture book author, Ms. O’Brien’s first novel for middle school kids, In the Shadow of the Sun, unfolds in North Korea, a country currently in the midst of rising tensions around the world.

When my class and I pick up an author’s work, I remind them we are looking inside the mind of another person. We are immersing ourselves into a world that has been created from nothing. If someone else was to tell the same story, it would be voiced from a totally different perspective. In Ms. Obrien’s case, we are not only privilege to her writing acumen, but also bicultural experiences that provide sustenance in the backdrop of a foreign land.

Book Synopsis: North Korea is known as one of the most oppressed countries on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet, that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious (would irritable be better here?) older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she feels she really belongs. Her dad is then arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus, Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

 Author Interview

In the Shadow of the Sun, Anne Sibley O’Brien

Please tell us about In the Shadow of the Sun and how you came to write it.

Our family arrived in Korea in March 1960, when my parents were hired by the Presbyterian Church to do medical missionary work. I was seven. We lived in Seoul and Daegu and on the island of Geoje, and I attended Ewha Women’s University for my junior year of college. Along the way I became bilingual and bicultural, and that background has influenced the content of some of my books, including the folktale 바보 온달, published as The Princess and the Beggar (now out of print) and my graphic novel of the Korean hero tale, The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea. 

Those books were both inspired by retellings of traditional Korean stories. In the Shadow of the Sun, however, is a completely original story, and a modern one. The inspiration for the book was a radio interview in which my attention was drawn to the people of North Korea in a way I’d never thought of them before. (More about the story here.) That led to a ten-year process of research and writing, including several remarkable encounters with North Koreans who had defected.

You can find more about my childhood and background, photographs and videos, responses to the novel, and whether I’ve ever visited North Korea, on the novel’s blog, InTheShadowOfTheSunBook.com. There is also an activity guide created by Island Readers and Writers.

How do the events in your book tie into our current events with North Korea?

In the Shadow of the Sun is the first fictional portrayal of contemporary North Korea for young English-speaking readers. When I was writing it, I never anticipated just how much the DPRK would be in the spotlight!

The picture of North Korea that’s presented in the media is such a cartoonish one. I think it’s important to consider not just the government but the people, everyday citizens who have no say in what their leaders do. Of course, my plot is a completely imagined one, but I’ve tried to weave in bits of current North Korean politics and society — and most of all, people — in a way that will give readers a glimpse of what it might be like to live there today. In the Author’s Note, I also recommend other books and films which can add more context. I hope that people might come away from the novel with a sense of the humanity of North Korea’s people.

 

 

Indie Spotlight: Kids Ink Children’s Books, Indianapolis

Always a delight to learn about a thriving independent children’s bookstore! We’re speaking today with Shirley Mullin, owner of Kids Ink Children’s Books in Indianapolis, Indiana
MUF: Kids Ink has been open for over three decades, riding out even the bookstore blues of ten years ago. What’s your survival secret? Have you made adaptions over the year that helped?
Shirley:
We have made constant adaptations to changes in the book industry, the economy, and our customers. We’ve been constant in basic principles ie Kind, Fair, and Honest. We also have always emphasized customer service focusing as much as possible on the children and young adults asking them if they have read a book that they really like. Or, asking what interests them.

Beyond that, however, we have adapted our business to stay viable. We are constantly look for new markets. Several years ago we started supplying books for several title programs which has been successful. We offer not only the books but our expertise in choosing titles. This often involves taking books to the district for a “show and tell, ” helping them decide what works for the curriculum. We are currently beginning to experiment with pop-up stores in some of our larger retirement communities offering holiday shopping and gift wrapping at the facility.
Maintaining our presence at major educational events has also been important either selling books tailored to the event or providing information about the store.Finally, we have expanded our assistance to schools helping them find and book authors…often linking schools together.   We then supply the books for the school to sell.

MUF: Describe the atmosphere you try to create in your shop. What are some special features of Kids Ink?
Shirley:
We have always had a train table and have sold trains.   The past few years we have sold Brio. The train gives children a focus point and something engaging while their adults shop. It is not unusual for us to be called the Train Store.
We do our best to maintain the store as a bright cheerful place. All the fixtures are white so the books and toys stand out. Because we are about 20 percent books, our displays are interesting with perhaps a raccoon puppet and a book with a raccoon title or a Playmobil Knight package with a book about knights.Our front window is large and attracts attention most recently with banned books and now featuring the up-coming John Green book.
But the most important component of atmosphere is the staff. We try to make sure that we are able to greet everyone courteously and respond to their questions. We greet everyone who walks through the door and try to be aware of when they need suggestions.

MUF: Kids Ink is a small shop, so your books must be curated. How do you decide what books and related items to carry?
Shirley:
Terri orders all the sidelines/toys. She has a good eye for what our customers want. We only sell real quality toys with emphasis on “playability,” safety, and good construction. (I am quite able to order toys that never sell!) I personally order all the front list. I read all of the picture books before ordering and many of the novels and non-fiction. For all of them, I think about who might want this book and/or who should need this book. Sometimes there is a book that is about a subject or event that hasn’t been requested but the book is important and needs to be read.
For non-fiction, I look at who wrote the book. Are they qualified to write about this topic? I favor non-fiction that has good elements like Table of Contents, Index, Bibliography and Suggested Reading.
Most important, I watch for books that are inclusive of gender, race, and sexuality. Diversity is very important to me and all of the staff.

MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know what titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourself recommending most often to readers ages 8-12?
Shirley:
Books by Jeanne Birdsall, the Penderwicks, Kimberly Brubacker Bradley’s The War that Saved My Life, Rita Garcia Williams titles, Pam Munoz Ryan titles, Jason Reynolds, Ghost and Patina.Non-Fiction varies a lot depending on what the child finds interesting. We have a lot of requests for biographies, books about animals, and weather.

MUF: Do you have any activities coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?
Shirley:
Sarah Cannon, a debut novelist will be signing on 12/2/17 from eleven to one for Oddity. Her book will be of interest for this level.

MUF: If a family is visiting Indianapolis from out of town, would there be family-friendly places near your shop where they could get a snack or meal after shopping? And if they could stay longer, are there some unique family activities or sights they shouldn’t miss?
Shirley: We are next door to The Flying Cupcake, a marvelous place incredibly popular with all our customers. Then next door to that is Father Bryne’s Pizza with unusual grilled thin crust pizza. Across the street is a long established Illinois Street Food Emporium which is known for chicken salad croissants baked daily in house as well as a Grater’s Ice Cream store. In addition, our corner contains shopping for everyone…a jewelry store, a boutique with unusual home items, an art store, clothing store, and a Starbucks.
Even better, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is twenty blocks from the store. It is the largest children’s museum in the world.

MUF: Thanks, Shirley, for sharing news  about your fine shop.  Readers, have you visited Kids Ink yet?