Tag Archives: Katherine Applegate

Keys. Journal. Imaginations.

I recently read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved this story of children creating change in their community through innocent acceptance.

At the heart of story lies a mysterious key. What does it belong to? And, once discovered, what secrets would be revealed from its home?

I was looking for my extra set of car keys the other day, and I came upon these.

23 keys.

They’ve all traveled with us as we moved into our new home six months ago, and yet, not one of them serves a purpose here. Except one, which is to my garage door. I guess I’d better figure out which one that is.

But, where do the rest belong? Their secrets remain with their notched blades, their wards a mystery.

Samar and Stephen, the two young protagonists of Wishtree, discover that their key, bestowed upon them by Bongo, an animated crow, opens a journal which holds a wish from the distant past. Their sleuthing changes the fate of Red, the long-standing neighborhood oak.

The keys now sit on my desk, as I’ve resolved to figure out which portals they fit into, or likely not, before repurposing them. They have found a temporary home next to a journal that is significant to my personal storyline.

It is a journal given to me by my friend Michelle Houts, editor of the Biographies for Young Readers series I’ve written for. My first contribution shares the life journey of Mildred “Millie” Benson, the original ghostwriter of Nancy Drew. The cover and contents of my gift are from The Secret of Red Gate Farm, a Nancy Drew Mystery Story written by Millie. There are lined journal pages in between the text. How cool is that?

I’ve got over a dozen journals, filled with reflections from our family adventures to all 50 states, notes from writing workshops, and musings.

Yet, this one was special, and its purpose needed to be just that.

I’ve determined it is to be my story idea journal. I get inspirations for stories, both imagined and real, daily. My challenge is finding that one, perfect idea, sticking to it, and finishing it.

I’m certain that my fellow Mixed-Up blog contributors are the same. Life presents us with story all the time. And, for those of you teachers and librarians whose days are filled with characters and plots, I encourage you to start writing them down too.

Find that one key that fits somewhere, and explore it. Use it to unlock your imagination and share the journey with children. They need our stories of acceptance, kindness and empathy.

This is my wish and goal for 2018, and it will be discovered in my journal. All I need to do is look, unravel that one unique, shiny, mysterious idea, and then help it find its place in the world.

As for those other keys? This may be their perfect ending.

A Valentine to Our Favorite Books

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Mixed-Up Files team shares the middle grade books they love the most. Share your loves in the comments section! 

“As an adult I really enjoyed Larger-Than-Life Lara by Dandi Mackall. Truly heartwarming story about loving yourself, having a positive outlook, and being kind. I cry just thinking about it!”
Amie Borst

 

 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. How can you not love a book about a gorilla who paints?”
—Natalie Rompella 

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages is a perfect blend of emotional journey, immersive history and science on both a large (nuclear physics) and small (inquisitive kid) scale.”
—Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman

 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume sparked my love of reading and writing. It was one of my favorite books as a child, became even more special when I saw it through the eyes of my own children, and will remain one of the most beloved books for the rest of my life.”
—Mindy Alyse Weiss  

“I love Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan for its messages of hope, recovering from a tragedy, and learning to rely on your inner strength.”
Michele Weber Hurwitz  

“I loved Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin for Rose’s indomitable spirit, despite the challenges she faces.”
Beth Von Ancken McMullen

“I love the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott. I have read it several times, and in fact, am now re-reading it again. It is filled with mystery, fantasy, and tons of historical figures. The way he weaves history, science, magic and fantasy together is just stupendous. Makes me lose myself in his world every time I read it.”
Jen Swanson

“Two of my favorite books are perfect for Valentine’s Day because they are both love letters in story form. My childhood favorite, Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl is the world’s best love letter to dads. More recently, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson is a heartfelt love-letter to teachers.”
—Julie Artz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve got to give two as well… one to an old love, and another to a new one! Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising is probably THE book that made me want to become an author. Seeing Will grow and become capable of surviving meant so much to me at the time. And more recently, Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy tugged at my heart in a way few books can. Seeing a kid who thinks he’s broken discover that people can love him for who he is… that’s love.”
—Sean Easley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got to give two too!! Also, like Sean, I’ve got old and new.  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle will always always hold a special place in my heart because tesseracts are fascinating science and Meg Murray. I always want to read about a brave and smart girl. And A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd because magic, mystery, family, and finding your home are themes I will read again and again. Plus the language is so so beautiful!!”
Heather Murphy Capps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To choose just one is hard, but I’ll go with Bridget Hodder’s The Rat Prince. I just adored how she used the rat’s POV to share the familiar tale, and there’s even a teeny bit of romance in there.”
Sheri Larsen

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary! And more recently, Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. Lovable Ramona doesn’t always behave, which is very refreshing in a character. Connor’s character Addie has a way of being upbeat in the face of terrible odds. She’s resourceful in the most heartbreaking way.
Phyllis Shalant

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, a deep and sensitive dive into the heart of a boy. I love everything about this book and the spare language Schmidt uses to communicate so much.”
Amber J. Keyser

“Amber stole mine. But I refuse to change my answer, so put me down for Okay for Now, as well. It made me laugh. It made me cry. And sometimes it did both within the span of a single page.”
TP Jagger

“I have to second Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan.”
Dori Hillestad Butler

“My latest favorite is Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan for its use of POV switches and voice.”
—Jenn Skovira Brisendine

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Now? If I have to choose just one I’d say Crossover, by Kwame Alexander. SO powerful – feelings like a punch to the chest – but real and hopeful and so true to how kids feel things.”
Valerie Stein

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Why? Because it’s a beautifully written, Jungle Book-inspired tale with ghosts and ghouls and creatures of the night fighting the man Jack who means to harm the orphan Bod. All in an ancient burial ground/cemetery. And it starts with the multiple homicide of Bod’s family by Jack. An exceptional book at all turns and it landed perfectly in my literature sweet spot.”
Michael Hays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My favorite that I discovered as an adult is Skellig by David Almond. I really think it’s the perfect book–spare, lovely, magical, and with so much heart. As a kid, my favorite was Anne of Green Gables, which I am loving all over again now that I’m reading it aloud to my 8-year-old redhead.”Kate Manning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“On the fantasy side, I still love the Harry Potter books and on the historical fiction side, Blood on the River James Town, 1607 by Elisa Carbone. It’s a story about the founding of James Town. It kept my 5th grade class riveted in their seats.”
—Robyn Oleson Gioia

 

The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato has stolen hearts in my family. My daughter has read it more times than I can count. And she cries every time.”
Louise Galveston  

 

 

 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is THE book of my tween years–Blume gets kids of a certain age so perfectly right. What a gift!”
—Andrea Pyros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Pyros is the author of My Year of Epic Rock, a middle grade novel about friends, crushes, food allergies, and a rock band named The EpiPens.

A Kit and Caboodle of Middle-Grade Cat Books

I’m sure those of you with cats know all too well that every day is pretty much Respect Your Cat Day. But, believe it or not, today is officially National Respect Your Cat Day.

vintage-cat-clip-art-three-playful-kittens-under-rugSo, in honor of those feline companions who cuddle in your laps while you read, keep you company at your keyboards when you write, and generally ignore you when you’re talking to them, today we celebrate these “purrfectly” (I had to do it) wonderful books starring cats.

If you have any feline favorites you’d like to share, please tell us about them in the comments section.


9780803740563Cat in the City
by Julie Salamon, author, Jill Weber, illustrator

A city savvy stray cat named Pretty Boy has always managed to make it on his own. He’s as vain as they come, and he won’t admit to being dependent on anyone. But as he discovers the pleasures of friendship, he learns that home really is where the heart is. Or, at the very least, home is where his friends are. And with friends all around New York City, Pretty Boy will always have a place to call home. The author and illustrator team who brought us the New York Times bestseller The Christmas Tree introduce an animal adventure in the tradition of A Cricket in Times Square and The One and Only Ivan.


9781492620808Ava and Taco Cat
(Ava and Pip) by Carol Weston

When Ava Wren hears about an injured yellow tabby with mismatched ears, she becomes obsessed and wants to rescue him. She even picks out a perfect palindromic name: T-A-C-O-C-A-T. But when Taco joins the family, he doesn’t snuggle or purr—all he does is hide. Worse, Ava’s best friend starts hanging out with Zara, a new girl in fifth grade. Ava feels alone and writes an acclaimed story, “The Cat Who Wouldn’t Purr.” What begins as exciting news turns into a disaster. How can Ava make things right? And what about sweet, scared little Taco?

9780553535037The Cat Who Came In off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt, author, David Colmer (translator)

In the tradition of The Cricket in Times Square comes this tale of courage, friendship, and what it really means to be human. This classic, which originated in Holland and has withstood the test of time worldwide, will appeal to readers young and old—and dog and cat lovers alike. An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Mr. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Miss Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Mr. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Miss Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease . . . It’s almost as if she’s a cat herself. But how can that be?

9781619638402How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin, author, Thierry Lafontaine, illustrator

Every Friday the Thirteenth, sixth grade genius and inventor extraordinaire Nate Bannister does three not-so-smart things to keep life interesting. This time, he taught a caterpillar math, mailed a love letter, and super-sized his cat Proton before turning him invisible. As Nate and his new (well, only) friend Delphine race to stop Proton from crushing everyone and everything in town, they come face-to-face with Sir Jakob Maculte (the twenty-seventh lord of Mayberry Castle and leader of the nefarious Red Death Tea Society). Known for its criminal activity, killer tactics, and impressive tea brewing skills, the Red Death Tea Society will do anything to get in their way. Nate and Delphine must pull out every mind-blowing gadget, half-perfected invention, and unproven but theoretically sound strategy they’ve got up their sleeves in order to survive to see Saturday the Fourteenth!

9780553511239The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby, author, Gerald Kelley, illustrator

Captain Natick does not want to take a kitten on board his ship when it sets sail in 1837, but his daughter convinces him that the scrawny yellow cat will bring good luck. Onto the ship the kitten goes, and so begins the adventurous, cliff-hanging, lucky life of Jacob Tibbs. At first, Jacob’s entire world is the ship’s hold, where the sailors heave their heavy loads and long-tailed rats scurry in the darkness. But before long, Jacob’s voyage takes him above deck and onward to adventure. Along the way, Jacob will encounter loss and despair, brave thunderous storms at sea, face down a mutiny, survive on a desert island, and above all, navigate the tricky waters of shipboard life and loyalties.

9781596439771Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet by Nick Bruel

When Kitty is happy and healthy, everything is perfect. She jumps around, eats everything in sight, and has the energy to keep slobbering puppies in their place. But when she’s sick, all she can do is lie in her bed. Looks like it’s time for this sick kitty to go…to the vet. When Kitty’s family finally manages to get their clawing, angry pet into the doctor’s office, it’s a wild adventure for Kitty, who has to get the most dreaded thing of all…a shot. Once the shot is administered, Kitty is cast into an ingenious dream within a dream sequence in which she has to make right by Puppy or risk being shut out of PussyCat heaven forever. This ninth installment of the popular Bad Kitty series from Nick Bruel is chock-full of brilliant supporting characters and, of course, the crankiest bad kitty you’ve ever seen.

9780385744515Ninja Timmy by Henrik Tamm

Timmy the cat, his pal Simon the mink, and the pig brothers Jasper and Casper are inventors, and they’re hoping to sell their fabulous new contraption to a local merchant. With high hopes, they haul their machine through the crowded streets of Elyzandrium—and are promptly robbed by a gang of bullies. With the help of two new friends, Alfred, a kindly old toymaker, and Flores, a skilled cat pilot, Timmy and his pals set out to get back what is rightfully theirs. As it turns out, they’re not the only victims of these dastardly criminals. But what can this band of misfits do? In this action-packed adventure, the intrepid Timmy and his wily friends transform themselves into crime-fighting ninjas—and quite possibly heroes!

 9781250043238Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

 In her first novel since The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience. Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

9780062291479Warriors Super Edition: Moth Flight’s Vision by Erin Hunter

Set after the events of the Dawn of the Clans prequel arc, this Super Edition follows WindClan’s first medicine cat, Moth Flight, on a quest that changes the shape of the warrior Clans forever. The five warrior Clans are newly formed, and the forest is at peace—but in WindClan, one young cat is troubled by strange visions that will lead her to a destiny no cat could have predicted. Join the legion of fans who have discovered the epic adventures, fierce warrior cats, and thrilling fantasy world of the mega-bestselling Warriors series. This stand-alone entry is perfect for new readers and dedicated fans alike.

9781619634725Apocalypse Meow Meow by James Proimos III, author, James Proimos Jr., illustrator

Brownie, Apollo, and their ragtag group of strays have raided the grocery store and defeated some very mean mutts—but now they’ve run out of food. So when the crew discovers a nearby Twonkies factory, and all the Twonkies they could ever eat, they think they’ve got it made. The only catch is the cat guarding the factory—and this “cat” is MUCH bigger, and far more sophisticated, than any feline they’ve ever met. Can the dogs and their friends defeat their foe and claim the Twonkies for themselves? The Proimos father-son team returns with another irreverent, dog-filled take on the apocalypse, told in a graphic novel paper-over-board format. The instantly accessible artwork and laughs on each page will charm everyone from the most reluctant reader to the coolest of cats (humans and animals alike)!

9781481424882Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer, author, Jennifer Bell, illustrator

When an indoor calico cat named Patches spots a golden autumn leaf fluttering past her window, she can t help but venture outside to chase it. But soon, Patches feels something tugging at her, telling her to find a special place, one she won t know until she sees it. Why must she go on this search? She doesn t know yet.
Along the way, Patches finds herself in dire circumstances, but with the help of the other neighborhood animals, she faces off against the scariest dog in town and continues on her journey to her special place. Beautifully told in verse and accompanied by adorable illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, this heartwarming novel from Newberry Honor winner, Marion Dane Bauer, is a timeless, touching, and fulfilling story about finding your way home.


5177AGWEbSL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_Upside-Down Magic
#1 by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Technically, only part of this book is about part of a kitten, but I think it counts as a cat book. So here are the details: For Nory, this means that instead of being able to turn into a dragon or a kitten, she turns into both of them at the same time–a dritten. For Elliott, the simple act of conjuring fire from his fingertips turns into a fully frozen failure. For Andres, wonky magic means he’s always floating in the air, bouncing off the walls, or sitting on the ceiling. For Bax, a bad moment of magic will turn him into a . . . actually, he’d rather not talk about that. Nory, Elliott, Andres, and Bax are just four of the students in Dunwiddle Magic School’s Upside-Down Magic class. In their classroom, lessons are unconventional, students are unpredictable, and magic has a tendency to turn wonky at the worst possible moments. Because it’s always amazing, the trouble a little wonky magic can cause . . .

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day ( June 2016, S&S/Aladdin) is available for preorder. 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/