Tag Archives: Jennifer Swanson

The Blurred Line Between MG and YA

It’s easy to tell that some books are middle grade novels at first peek—and the same goes for some young adult novels. But a bunch of them feel like they’re somewhere in the middle of MG and YA. With a main character who is 13 or so, the line between MG and YA feels blurred at times, because MG can explore intense topics and some YA are fairly tame.

I asked a bunch of amazing authors who have both middle grade and young adult novels published how they know if their books should be MG or YA, besides the age of their main characters. Here’s what they said:

Debbie Reed Fischer

As “Kidlit” authors, we aren’t just writers; we’re impersonators. Teens and tweens can smell an adult author doing a bad impersonation a mile away (so can editors). One word or phrase off, and you’re sunk. Sometimes we don’t always get it right. I went through an ‘Is this MG or YA?’ identity crisis with my original version of THIS IS NOT THE ABBY SHOW, my first middle grade novel. When my agent first submitted it to publishers, it was a YA manuscript (or so I thought) starring Abby: age 16, impulsive, funny, and ADHD. Editors responded enthusiastically to the premise and humor, but felt Abby’s voice and concerns were middle grade, despite the fact that the book contained profanity and sexuality. There were also other MG aspects, like a character who did magic tricks. You almost never see magicians in YA, but magician kids do appear in MG. Editors wanted to see the book again but as a middle grade. I had never considered writing middle grade, and I had heard from author friends that middle grade humor is difficult to pull off, so I shelved the manuscript for over a year. But eventually, I made the decision to give middle grade a try, because the only difference between me and a rottweiler is that a rottweiler eventually lets go. Also, I really wanted to get published again.

So I read middle grade books and started researching the differences between MG and YA. I learned that middle grade books focus more on family, friendships and the Here and Now. There isn’t a lot of serious long-term planning in their characters’ perspectives, whereas if you’re writing a senior in high school, personal life goals, serious relationships, and the looming future typically factors in. What’s important to a middle grader isn’t the same as what’s important to a high schooler. What’s funny to an eleven-year-old isn’t what’s funny to a seventeen-year-old. What scares a seventh-grader is not the same as what terrifies a high school freshman. Once I understood both the overt and subtle differences, I began again from scratch and completely rewrote the book. I eliminated several characters and added more members of Abby’s family, I toned down the romance aspect to make it more of a friendship story. I focused more on her evolving friendships, her struggle to control her ADHD impulses, her classroom experiences, her relationships with teachers, and the complications of daily life with her quirky family. I made it multi-generational, making her grandparents key characters, which is something you see more of in MG than YA. One to two words can make all the difference in tone and authenticity. Did you know some editors/ gatekeepers consider “crap” a curse word in MG? I didn’t. Word choice was challenging. I made the chapters shorter than the chapter length of my YA novels to reflect the pace of a middle grader’s point of view, and shorter chapters also moved the plot faster to reflect the reactive way a middle grade mind works. Shorter chapters also served to mimic an ADHD mind, which was important to me while writing from Abby’s POV. Ultimately, I learned that middle grade vs. young adult has more to do with voice and mindset than age level.

 

Dorian Cirrone

For me, the issues that the main character deals with in a middle-grade novel seem to have more to do with friendship and family. And while there might be a male-female bond brewing, it’s more of a crush than anything resembling the type of relationship you’d find in a ya novel. If I think of a story where characters are concerned more with the immediate world around them rather than a larger view of society or a relationship involving love and/or sex, I know it will be middle grade. This isn’t to say that middle-grade novels don’t involve heavy themes. They do, but they’re seen through a different lens, sometimes more earnest, less jaded. In addition, while young adult novels often end on a hopeful note, sometimes they don’t. I would say middle-grade novels almost always do in some way–at least the ones I’ve been reading lately. One more practical issue: If the characters can’t get to where they have to go (without adults) by foot, bike, or public transportation, I’ll have to rethink the setting or the age.

 

Sean Easley

The struggle in figuring out whether you’re writing a YA or a MG novel is very real, but I think it comes down to what the reader’s mindset is more than the characters, and what you’re wanting to communicate. MG readers are, mostly, still in a world of dependence, safety, and trust. They need adults, and they have to figure out how to accomplish their goals within a framework of that need. That carries through into their goals, and the way they see the world, too. If you live in a state of having your needs cared for, then your goals are to explore, to connect, to learn, to enjoy.

YA readers are in a different place. Freedom is on the horizon, and there’s a fear that comes with that. They’re butting up against their parents because they want to experience that freedom, to figure out what life is going to look like for them. They live on the edge, testing adult boundaries, figuring out who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. Whereas MG readers live in dependence on the adults in their lives, YA readers are growing cynical of the boundaries placed on them. And while MG stories can be full of peril, at the end of the day their readers still often need the comfort of knowing it’s going to be okay, that there is someone they can trust besides themselves, and that the responsibility isn’t all on them.

Something important to note too is that, in writing for a target demographic, you’re writing for just under that age bracket, too, as well as (and this is important) all the gatekeepers who will decide what is appropriate for that group. This might not matter as much with YA, but in MG you’ll have to walk a very careful line with your content. More mature subject matter—while it might be something you are certain kids need to deal with and understand—will be content filtered by librarians, parents, etc. before it ever gets into the hands of your reader. Those harder topics will have to be handled delicately if you want to find your audience in MG, and if they’re not you’re going to have a rough time. A lot of determining whether your book is MG or YA comes down to when it’s age-appropriate to deal with the content, and the character, you want to share.

 

For all the nonfiction lovers out there, Jennifer Swanson, one of the queens of nonfiction, shared this:

When writing a nonfiction book, tone, language, and content are the things that determine the age range of your reader. The biggest factor is that you need to make sure what you are discussing in your book has already been introduced to your target reader. For example, if you want to talk about how plants grow, in a picture book, you will explain how they need water, sunlight, soil, and nutrients. But, if you are going to discuss photosynthesis, the process by which a plant takes energy from the sun and turns it into food for itself, you are going to be writing a book for say a 3rd to 5th grader. If you want to talk about the genetics of a plant, how they cross-pollinate, and the way you can manipulate their DNA and RNA, you will be speaking to YA reader. The voice of the manuscript will also help you decide the appropriate reader age. Books for middle graders will have a more lively, active tone and should still be fun. There should be lots of explanations and age-appropriate analogies. For instance, when I talk about height, I say it’s “as tall as a 3-story building” or maybe “it’s a long as a football field”.  When you write YA you have longer, more complex words and sentences. You can use bigger words and give more in-depth explanations and more sophisticated examples, such as exact measurements and exact scientific terms. That is because you assume that your reader has a much wider vocabulary. The length of the story also comes into play. Middle grade nonfiction tends to be shorter than YA nonfiction, which can run up to and over 30,000 words. Basically, if you are unsure which level your manuscript is, I highly recommend taking a look at similar books to see where they were placed. That will give you a good idea of what level your own manuscript might be.

 

Here’s the response of author and writing coach, Joyce Sweeney, when I asked how she can tell which genre her client’s books should be besides the age of the main characters:

There are a couple of differences between MG and YA.  The most obvious is romance.  In an MG, there are crushes and romantic feelings but they are pure and innocent, not going any further than maybe a kiss very close to the end of the book, at most.  In YA, main characters are more aware of their sexuality and openly lust after each other, fall in love and can even have sex in some books where it makes sense.  Another difference is that YA readers are aware that at some point in time, they will truly grow up and leave the nest.  MG’s are still ensconced in a world where grownups have the power.  So MG’s may save the world, question the system and fly on dragons, but at the end of the day, they still depend on adults to care for them or lead them in some way.  YA’s have an almost antipathy for adults which is a defense mechanism, because soon they will have to leave their care.  In many YA novels, the main character does end the book outside the care of adults, on their own in some way.  Finally I would close with this — in Picture Books, the reader lives mostly in their body, in Middle Grade, they live mostly in their minds.  In YA they live mostly in their emotions.  So while an MG reader has super patience with complicated world building, for instance, they are most interested in a smart main character who figures things out.  A YA reader identifies with a main character who feels deeply and acts on those feelings.

I’m sending a huge thank you to the awesome authors who took the time to help all of us make the line between MG and YA a lot less blurry than it was. You’re such a wealth of information!

I’d love to see your tips for knowing if a book is better for an MG or YA audience.

New Releases: June 2016

 

Just in time for summer, an excellent selection of new middle grade releases hits bookstore and library shelves this month. We’re especially excited here at the Mixed Up Files because three of our authors have four (FOUR!!) new releases this month. Congratulations to Dorian Cirrone (The First Last Day), Tricia Springstubb (Every Single Second), and Jennifer Swanson (Explore Forces and Motion and Super Gear) on their newest middle grades.
In the 24 new books listed below you’ll also find new novels from Karen Cushman and Kate Messner, mysteries, nonfiction, ninja librarians, a craft book, and a graphic novel. Let the reading begin!

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day ms bixbyby John David Anderson (fiction):
When Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, Topher, Brand, and Steve come up with a risky plan — more of a quest, really — to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them and what the three of them mean to each other.

School of the Deadschool of the dead by Avi (mystery)
In this spine-tingling story, a boy must solve the mystery of the ghost haunting him. When Uncle Charlie dies suddenly, Tony is devastated. Then he starts seeing Uncle Charlie everywhere! It doesn’t help that Tony switched schools—it was Uncle Charlie’s dying wish that Tony attend the Penda School, where Uncle Charlie himself went as a kid. The Penda School is eerie enough without his uncle’s ghost making it worse. On top of that, rumors have been circulating about a student who went missing shortly before Tony arrived. Could that somehow be related to Uncle Charlie’s ghost?

 Nine, Ten: A September 11 Storynine ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin (fiction):
Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day until a plane struck the World Trade Center. But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. They don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. From the author of Anything But Typical.

The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop (fiction)
Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game distance to homewas her best friend and older sister, Haley. This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

The Boy at the Top of the Mountainboys at the top of the mountain by John Boyne (historical fiction):
When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy Austrian household. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Knit, Hook and Spin: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Fiber Arts and Crafts by Laurie Carlson (nonfiction/crafts):
Packeknit hook and spind with over 70 projects across a variety of fiber arts including knitting, felting, knotting and braiding, spinning, weaving, crocheting, and dyeing. Learn to felt a handy bag, braid a small rug, weave a colorful tapestry, knit comfy slippers, crochet a belt, make and use natural dyes, repurpose old clothing, and much more.

The First Last Day by Dorian Cirrone (fiction):
first last dayWhat if you could get a do-over — a chance to relive a day in your life over and over again until you got it right? Would you? After finding a mysterious set of paints in her backpack, eleven-year-old Haleigh Adams paints a picture of her last day at the New Jersey shore. When she wakes up the next morning, Haleigh finds that her wish for an endless summer with her new friend Kevin has come true. At first, she’s thrilled, but Haleigh soon learns that staying in one place and time comes with a price. And when Haleigh realizes her parents have been keeping a secret, she is faced with a choice: do nothing and miss out on the good things that come with growing up or find the secret of the time loop she’s trapped in and face the inevitable realities of moving on.  As she and Kevin set out to find the source of the magic paints, Haleigh worries it might be too late. Will she be able to restart time? Or will it be the biggest mistake of her life? “This will appeal to reluctant readers and those looking for a fun summer read with a twist. A heartfelt novel loaded with wonderful character development.” (School Library Journal)

Grayling’s Song graylings songby Karen Cushman (fiction/fantasy):
It’s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook. A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist.

The Ninja Librarians: Sword in the Stacksninja librarians sword in the stacks by Jen Swann Downey (fiction/fantasy):
After stumbling upon the secret society of time-traveling ninja librarians, Dorrie has finally joined Petrarch’s Library as an apprentice. But on a training mission to 1912 England, Dorrie finds herself dangerously close to a member of the Library’s biggest enemy. This is the second in the Ninja Librarians series.

Five Times Revenge by Lindsay Eland (fiction):
Five unlikely friends. Two bullies. One epic prank. Adam is the prank ma5 times revengestermind. Perk is his best friend and the computer genius. Pearl is the prettiest girl in school and a violin prodigy. Ray looks like a big dumb jock, but he secretly wants to be an engineer. And Dutch is the often-bullied dork who is in tune with everyone’s feelings. The five of them couldn’t be more different. But there’s one thing they have in common: they are fed up with Hill Parmar, the school bully and his dad, their school principal who’s always turning a blind eye. When Hill finally steps over the line, the five unlikely schemers band together for a prank like their middle school has never seen.

The Gallerygallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (mystery):
A riveting historical art mystery, based on true events and set in the Roaring Twenties. It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

When Friendship Followed Me Homewhen friendship followed me home by Paul Griffin (fiction):
A boy’s chance encounter with a scruffy dog leads to an unforgettable friendship in this deeply moving story about life, loss, and the meaning of family. Ben Coffin has never been one for making friends. As a former foster kid, he knows people can up and leave without so much as a goodbye. Ben prefers to spend his time with the characters in his favorite sci-fi books until he rescues an abandoned mutt from the ally next-door to the Coney Island Library.

Princess DisGrace: A Royal Disaster by Lou Kuenzler (fiction):
princess disgraceWhen Grace arrives at Tall Towers Princess Academy, her name isn’t on the Fairy Godmother’s list of students. She isn’t elegant at all—not even her curtsy is graceful. And all the other girls are sure she’s headed straight back to her tiny, messy kingdom. But one unicorn knows better. He’s clumsy and dirty and the perfect match for Grace! And together they have tons of fun. But the other princesses aren’t convinced Grace belongs at the academy. Can she prove that being a princess is about more than just being perfect?

Mischief at Midnightmischief at midnight by Esme Kerr (fiction/mystery):
Anastasia Stolonov and Edie Wilson are back at boarding school after spending the summer apart, and they can’t wait to be dormmates again. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned, and Edie is paired with Janet, the new girl at Knight’s Haddon.  When mysterious things begin to happen, Edie starts to think that Janet may not be all she seems–and suddenly events take a dangerous turn. Will Edie be able to salvage her friendships and uncover what’s going on before the clock runs out?

Poppy and the Lost Lagoonpoppy by Matt Kindt and Brian Hurtt (graphic novel):
Adventure runs in Poppy Pepperton’s family! At the age of ten, Poppy is the greatest explorer since her grandfather Pappy Pepperton, traveling the globe with her trusty sidekick/legal guardian Colt Winchester. When a shrunken mummy head gives a series of clues to discover an exotic fish no one’s seen in years, adventure calls, and Poppy and Colt find themselves in the strange city of Old Macadamia, swimming alongside the gigantipus, trailed by a strange robot, and end up uncovering clues to the greater mystery of what happened to Pappy all those years ago!

The Best Worst Thingbest worst thing by Kathleen Lane (mystery):
The front door is locked, kitchen door locked, living room windows closed, nobody in the closet and nobody under the bed. Still, Maggie is worried. Ever since she started middle school, she sees injustice and danger everywhere–on the news, in her textbooks, in her own neighborhood. Even her best friend seems to be changing. Maggie believes it is up to her, and only her, to make everything all right. Can she come up with a plan to keep everyone safe?

seventh wish

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner (fiction):
Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. Kate Messner weaves fantasy into the ordinary, giving every reader the opportunity to experience a little magic.

Eleven and Holding elvenby Mary Penney (fiction):
Macy Hollinquest’s birthday is just days away, but she has no intention of turning twelve without her dad by her side. He’d promised to be there for her big day, and yet he’s been gone for months after his discharge from the army, doing some kind of top secret, important work. So Macy’s staying eleven, no matter what; that is, until she meets Ginger, a nice older lady who is searching for her missing dog. Ginger’s dog search is the perfect cover for Macy’s attempt to locate her dad. But her hunt puts her on a path to a head-on collision with the truth, where she discovers that knowing can sometimes be a heavy burden.

The Secret Fire secret fireby Whitaker Ringwald (mystery)
The third and final book in the Secret Box trilogy, a series  for fans of humorous mystery capers. Who knew that insisting on opening a strange birthday present would lead to being kidnapped by an evil Greek god determined to conquer the world? Jax Malone certainly didn’t. But now she’s trapped in the back of a limo bound for Epimetheus’s secret lair. He wants to control the three ancient urns that used to belong to Pandora’s daughter. Magical urns that can suck hope, faith, and love out of the world.

The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War IIenemy above by Michael Spradlin (historical fiction):
The Germans are closing in, and twelve-year-old Anton knows his family can’t outrun them. A web of underground caves seems like the perfect place to hide, but danger lurks above the surface. Anton knows if his community is discovered, they will be sent off to work camps…or worse. Spradlin’s newest thriller is the ultimate game of cat and mouse set during one of the darkest moments in history.

How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders (fiction):
Chow to almost ruin your summerhloe McCorkle knew a summer camp where you had to learn a career was a bad idea. She tried to tell her parents, but they just had to go on vacation to Alaska and ship her off for two weeks. It’s not ideal, but she’s going to try to make the best of it. She might even learn some skills that will help her make money for the new bike she’s been eyeing. But Chloe quickly discovers there’s only one area at which she excels; she manages to get more demerits than anyone else in camp…

Every Single Secondevery single second by Tricia Springstubb (fiction):
Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini’s life is changing too soon, too fast. Her best friend, Clem, doesn’t seem concerned; she’s busy figuring out the best way to spend the leap second — an extra second about to be added to the world’s official clock. The only person who might understand how Nella feels is Angela, but the two of them have gone from being secret sisters to not talking at all. Then Angela’s idolized big brother makes a terrible, fatal mistake, one that tears apart their tight-knit community and plunges his family into a whirlwind of harsh publicity and judgment. Nella must choose whether to stand by or stand up. “Springstubb admirably takes on a sensitive and difficult contemporary American issue. Sure to spark discussion in classrooms and book clubs.” (School Library Journal)

Explore Forces and Motionexplore forces by Jennifer Swanson (nonfiction):
Physics becomes accessible and interactive through activities such as a experimenting with a water cup drop, building a bridge, and spotting magnetic field lines. Simple machines such as levers, pulleys, and wedges are used as vehicles for discovery and comprehension of the foundational concepts of physical science. Includes 25 great projects.

Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Upsuper gear by Jennifer Swanson (nonfiction):
How are the sports played by Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Michelle Wie, and Usain Bolt related? Nanotechnology. Take a close-up look at sports and nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science that manipulates objects at the atomic level. Nanotechnology is used to create high-tech swimsuits, tennis rackets, golf clubs, running shoes, and more. It is changing the face of sports as we know it. “A highly engaging introduction to an exciting aspect of cutting-edge, real-world science for STEM collections”School Library Journal.

Linda Johns is the author of the Hannah West middle grade mystery series and is a librarian in Seattle, Washington. She can be found on Twitter @LJBookie and at lindajohns.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March New Releases

Happy March! Here are some of the of the fabulous books hitting the shelves this month, including our own Jen Swanson’s EVERYTHING ROBOTICS: ALL THE PHOTOS, FACTS, AND FUN TO MAKE YOU RACE FOR ROBOTICS which comes out March 8th from National Geographic. Congratulations, Jen!

EverythingRobotics

TheLandOfForgottenGirlsTHE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly releasing March 1st from Greenwillow Books. Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope? Erin Entrada Kelly writes with grace, imagination, and deepest heart about the meaning of family and about finding hope in the hardest circumstances.

DreambenderDREAMBENDER by Ronald Kidd releasing March 1st from Albert Whitman & Company. Everyone in the City is assigned a job by the choosers–keeper, catcher, computer. Callie Crawford is a computer. She works with numbers: putting them together, taking them apart. Her work is important, but sometimes she wants more. Jeremy Finn is a dreambender. His job is to adjust people’s dreams. He and others like him quietly remove thoughts of music and art to keep the people in the City from becoming too focused on themselves and their own feelings rather than on the world. They need to keep the world safe from another Warming. But Jeremy thinks music is beautiful, and when he pops into a dream of Callie singing, he becomes fascinated with her. He begins to wonder if there is more to life than being safe. Defying his community and the role they have established for him, he sets off to find her in the real world. Together, they will challenge their world’s expectations. But how far will they go to achieve their own dreams?

DorotheasEyesDOROTHEA’S EYES: DOROTHEA LANGE PHOTOGRAPHS THE TRUTH by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Gerard Dubois releasing March 1st from Calkins Creek. After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear. But this desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe others acutely. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family’s disapproval, Dorothea pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously unseen victims of the Great Depression. This poetic biography tells the emotional story of Lange’s evolution as one of the founders of documentary photography. It includes a gallery of Lange’s photographs, and an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.

TheMidnightWarOfMateoMartinezTHE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ by Robin Yardi releasing March 1st from Carolrhoda Books. Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. His parents keep telling him to hold his sister’s hand when crossing busy streets, even though she’s the one who always runs ahead.
And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike. Wait—two skunks stole his trike? Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves. A quest that starts in the middle of the night

IsabelFeeney,StarReporterISABEL FEENEY, STAR REPORTER by Beth Fantaskey releasing March 1st from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s 1920s Chicago—the guns-and-gangster era of Al Capone—and it’s unusual for a girl to be selling the Tribune on the street corner. But ten-year-old Isabel Feeney is unusual . . . unusually obsessed with being a news reporter. She can’t believe her luck when she stumbles not only into a real-live murder scene, but also into her hero, the famous journalist Maude Collier. The story of how the smart, curious, loyal Isabel fights to defend the honor of her accused friend and latches on to the murder case like a dog on a pant leg makes for a winning, thoroughly entertaining middle grade mystery.

EgyptworldEGYPTWORLD: DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT LAND OF TUTANKHAMUN AND CLEOPATRA by Stella Caldwell releasing March 1st from Carlton Kids. Unlock the secrets of an ancient and mysterious civilization. Through breathtakingly vivid images—including awe-inspiring CGI scenes—Egyptworld travels down the Nile River, through the land of the pharaohs. Return to a world where the desert sun sparks the gleaming tips of majestic pyramids, treasure-filled tombs hold mummified rulers, and colossal beasts of stone stand guard. This sumptuously illustrated book makes a perfect gift for all budding archaeologists!

HourOfTheBees

HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eagar releasing March 8th from Candlewick Press. While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

MuttsPromiseMUTT’S PROMISE by Julie Salamon and illustrated by Jill Weber releasing March 8th from Dial Books. Luna is a farm puppy who loves to dance, and has only known a happy, serene life surrounded by her mother, Mutt, and her siblings, and cared for by Gilberto, the son of farm workers. But now Gilberto and his parents have moved on, and Mr. Thomas the farmer doesn’t feel he can take care of a whole family of dogs. He finds new homes for the puppies, not realizing that the man who took Luna and her brother does not have their best interests at heart. Luna and Chief, hungry and scared, are trapped in the smelly barn of a puppy mill—until they take matters into their own paws and find a way to escape. But can Luna and Chief find their way home?

TheEyeOfMidnightTHE EYE OF MIDNIGHT by Andrew Brumbach releasing March 8th from Delacorte. On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Whatever the cousins expected, Colonel Battersea isn’t it.
Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace. When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Colonel Battersea. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

EverydayHeroEVERYDAY HERO by Kathleen Cherry releasing March 15th from Orca Books. Alice doesn’t like noise, smells or strangers. She does like rules. Lots of rules. Nobody at her new school knows she has Asperger’s, so it doesn’t take long for her odd behavior to get her into trouble. When she meets Megan in detention, she doesn’t know what to make of her. Megan doesn’t smell, she’s not terribly noisy, and she’s not exactly a stranger, but is she a friend? Megan seems fearless to Alice—but also angry or maybe sad. Alice isn’t sure which. When Megan decides to run away, Alice resolves to help her friend, no matter how many rules she has to break or how bad it makes her feel.

THE EXTRAORDINARY SUZY WRIGHT: A COLONIAL WOMAN ON THE FRONTIER  by Teri Kanefield releasing March 15th from Abrams. Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697–1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier, where she acted as legal counselor to her less literate neighbors, preparing wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. Surviving documents and correspondence between Suzy and a host of her contemporaries—including Benjamin Franklin; James Logan, Pennsylvania’s governor and chief justice; and a few signers of the Declaration of Independence—reveal that Suzy, from her home on the frontier, exerted considerable influence in the highest circles of Pennsylvania government. This fascinating and inspiring story includes an author’s note, bibliography, and index.

TheCharmedChildrenTHE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox releasing March 15th from Viking. Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

Summerlost_BOM.inddSUMMERLOST by Ally Condie releasing March 29th from Dutton Books for Young Readers. It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Which books are you looking forward to reading this month? Are there any that you’re excited about we might have missed? Happy Spring Reading!

Louise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd, In Todd We Trust (Razorbill). She lives in southern Kansas with a passel of kids and a loud-mouthed parrot.