Tag Archives: Michele Weber Hurwitz

Happy Book Birthday Michele Weber Hurwitz

The Mixed Up Files’ own Michele Weber Hurwitz has a book birthday! Her newest MG novel Ethan Marcus Stands Up comes out this week from Simon and Schuster/Aladdin.

Here’s the gist of the story.

Perennial good kid Ethan Marcus has just done the unthinkable: refuse to stay seated during class. He’s not causing a riot; he’s not wandering around; he’s just super fidgety and sick of sitting. But the rules aren’t designed for Ethan, so he is given two afternoons of Reflection—McNutt Junior High’s answer to detention. The science teacher who oversees Reflection suggests that Ethan channel his energy into the school’s Invention Day event. Ethan doubts his ability to make anything competition-worthy; that’s his sister’ Erin’s department. But then Ethan gets a brilliant idea and recruits his best friend Brian to help.

Enter Romanov, the resident tech whiz, who refuses to give them tips, which causes Erin to be furious at her formally slacker now traitor brother, because Romanov won Invention Day last year. Meanwhile, Erin’s friend Zoe is steering clear of Erin’s drama for the first time ever after realizing that she may be crushing on Ethan. Brian has bigger things to worry about though, and loner kid Wesley may know more than others realize. Narrated by five seventh-graders, discover what really happens after one fidgety kid decides to take a stand against sitting down.

Congratulations Michele! This was such a fun read! It totally reminded me of my middle grade justice warrior self.  MG readers range from 8 to 13 years old, spanning the range of late elementary through middle school. Why choose characters from the upper end of this range, in the 7th grade?

Kids are able to move around more in earlier grades but as they get older, they’re expected to sit for long hours in class. But just because they’re older doesn’t mean they have any more patience for sitting! In fact, in the preteen years, kids may even be more fidgety as their bodies are typically undergoing a big growth spurt. I remember when my son was in eighth grade, he needed to move around while he studied for a test, usually throwing and catching a ball at the same time. This was actually what sparked my initial idea for the story. He once told me that when he’s moving, his brain “works better.” I thought, of course it does, that makes perfect sense! So, seventh grade seemed like a natural fit for this story about literally standing up for a cause you believe in.

I totally relate to Ethan’s need to move. I’m a long way from middle school but I can’t stand to sit still either. One of the things I loved about being a teacher is that you’re always on your feet and on the go. I think if I’d worked in an office all these years I’d have been murdered by my colleagues for spinning in the office chairs! 😀 School science fairs are a staple of the elementary and middle school experience. Why did you decide to branch out into the Invention Day?

There were several middle grade books with science fair themes, and the growing popularity of maker fairs and the whole maker movement, where kids can create anything, not just work on a science experiment, felt like an exciting, fresher backdrop for the story.

One thing I’ve noticed working at Annie Bloom’s in Portland this year is a proliferation of non-fiction maker books for kids. I’d totally pair your story with this one from the Smithsonian! Of course I have to ask, did you really make a prototype of a clip-on standing desk like Ethan does? And what is your workspace like? Do you stand? Walking desk? Combo?

I didn’t make a standing desk prototype like Ethan does in the book although that would’ve been fun. And my model would’ve turned out worse than what Ethan cobbles together because I have a very challenged mechanical aptitude. As for my workspace, I generally write on a desktop and those long hours of sitting really get to me. I take frequent standing breaks and I have this sort of makeshift platform for my keyboard so I can stand and type when I want to. I remember when I was a kid, getting that sort of brain soup dazed feeling in school – Ethan calls it “scomas” (school comas). I never did stand up to protest, though!

I have a standing desk too, a former woodworking bench, it even has a vice on the end should I need to get a grip! I’ve written one novel in two points of view and found it really tricky. Why five POV characters? And how did you keep track of them all?  How did you choose which character was perfect for that particular scene?

I’m so excited about this book because it’s different than my two previous middle grade novels which both had one girl narrator. This is my first book in multiple points of view but it felt natural and necessary for the telling of this story. I wrote several drafts where Ethan was the only narrator and it didn’t feel like it was working. When I added the other POVs, it clicked. The back-and-forth narration between the kids feels almost like comments on social media posts – everyone has an opinion and their own version of what “really happened.” I chose to have the five characters all narrate because they were so interconnected – Ethan, his sister Erin, their best friends Brian and Zoe, plus the outcast kid, Wesley, who knows more than everyone realizes and is an integral part of the plot. As I wrote, it seemed like each character popped up exactly when it was their time to talk.

It was satisfying to see Ethan and Erin’s combative sibling relationship evolve through the story. Not to give away the ending, but I love how they realize their differences can work for them, not against them. Did you draw on your relationship with your own siblings, or your kids?

I have two younger brothers who are insanely competitive with each other but mostly, I drew from my two older kids’ relationship. They have similar personalities to laid back, easy going Ethan and organized, perfectionist Erin. There are times (in real life and in the book) they can’t deal with each other, and other times they realize how much more they can accomplish as a team if they put aside their differences.

I love the message of empowerment in Ethan Marcus Stands Up because it’s subtle. Yes, you should stand up for things you believe in. Yes, anybody can do it. But real change is hard and not especially linear. And often requires collaboration with others. Did you have a particularly empowering experience as a young person in advocating for a cause?

I love how Ethan changes things (or tries to) in a roundabout way. All he wants to do in the beginning of the story is be able to stand up in class when he’s fidgety, but that goes against his language arts teacher’s class rules. It takes a kind-hearted science teacher to suggest that he can solve his problem through inventing his own solution. The story becomes much more than just about standing and sitting as Ethan digs deep and finds a resolve within himself. I was a quiet, shy kid so I didn’t really stand up and advocate for a cause but I do remember going “on strike” one day and not doing my household chores. That did not go over well with my parents.

What do you think kids will love most about this book?

It’s an easy to read story, and the characters are very relatable. I think it’s interesting and eye-opening to hear each character’s perspective because we all see the world from our own lenses and can interpret a situation so differently than someone else.

You mention on your website that there will be a follow up book in 2018. Are you finished writing that one? Can you give us a preview?

In the sequel, which will be out in September 2018, Ethan and Erin are nominated by the science teacher to attend a prestigious invention camp with brilliant kids from around their state. They feel intimidated and aren’t sure if they’ll be able to measure up. But when they meet two new kids and form a team, they dream up something that just might rise to the top. Not without a lot of drama mixed in, of course.

How exciting to have a sequel already on the way! Congratulations. Can’t wait to share this book with our patrons at Annie Bloom’s bookstore. I hope you have a very happy book birthday!

September New Releases!

Summer is winding down. Fall is teasing a new start. And school is in! What better way to welcome the new school year than with a list of new middle grade releases?

Multiple points-of-view lead to multiple theories about what really happened after one kid turns a punishment into a protest in this hilarious new novel from Michele Weber Hurwitz.
Perennial good kid Ethan Marcus has just done the unthinkable: refuse to stay seated during class. He’s not causing a riot; he’s not wandering around; he’s just sick of sitting. But the rules aren’t designed for Ethan, and so he is sent to the principal’s office.
When Ethan’s sentence results in a Reflection Day–McNutt Middle School’s answer to detention–his faculty advisor suggests that Ethan channel the energy that caused his “transgression” by entering the school’s Invention Day Competition. Ethan is not exactly Mark Zuckerberg, so he doubts his ability to make anything competition-worthy. That’s the department of his slightly older sister Erin. But as Ethan and his buddy Brian get into the assignment, they realize they might actually have something.
Enter Romanov, the resident tech whiz, refuses to give them tips, which causes Erin to be furious at her formally slacker now traitor brother. Meanwhile, Erin’s friend Zoe is steering clear of Erin’s drama for the first time ever after realizing that she may be crushing on Ethan. Then there’s Brian who has bigger things to worry about, and finally loner kid Wesley, who may know more than others realize…
Told in the perspectives of multiple students, discover what really happened on the day that one kid decided to take a stand against sitting down.

Perfect for fans of Tim Federle and Gary Schmidt, this is a hilarious and poignant tale about the trials of middle school when you’re coming of age—and coming out.

Alan Cole can’t stand up to his cruel brother, Nathan. He can’t escape the wrath of his demanding father, who thinks he’s about as exceptional as a goldfish. And—scariest of all—he can’t let the cute boy across the cafeteria know he has a crush on him.

But when Nathan discovers Alan’s secret, his older brother announces a high-stakes round of Cole vs. Cole. Each brother must complete seven nearly impossible tasks; whoever finishes the most wins the game. If Alan doesn’t want to be outed to all of Evergreen Middle School, he’s got to become the most well-known kid in school, get his first kiss, and stand up to Dad. Alan’s determined to prove—to Nathan, to the world, to himself—that this goldfish can learn to swim.

May the best Cole win.

Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven’t exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.

To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D’Leau’s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D’Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne’s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home.

With its action-packed storytelling, diverse characters, and inventive twists on Caribbean and West African mythology and fairy tales, Rise of the Jumbies will appeal to readers of A Snicker of Magic, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

In the twelfth fantastical book from The Kingdom of Wrenly series, Prince Lucas and Clara go on an adventure in the forest realm of Trellis
All is not right in the forest realm of Trellis. Birds have left their nests and bears have abandoned their dens, as a mysterious magic threatens the natural order of the deep, dark woods. Together with a band of knights, Prince Lucas and Clara set out on an adventure that pits them against a dreaded sorcerer’s shadow. There’s only one problem: How can a shadow be defeated?
With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, The Kingdom of Wrenly chapter books are perfect for beginning readers.

The New York Times bestselling Frazzled series continues

Things are looking up for Abbie Wu: this year she’ll run for class president and get a brand-new shiny locker. Until–she doesn’t…

In her second tumultuous misadventure, Abbie Wu tackles more unbelievably unfair and calamitous middle school days. From facing locker thieves and battling diabolical cats to having absolutely no idea what to build for her science project, Abbie Wu is still in perpetual crisis.

From author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, this second story follows Abbie Wu, your favorite hilariously neurotic middle school girl, as she tries to come up with solutions to what seems to be a series of inevitable catastrophes. Akin to Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes is heavily illustrated, embarrassingly honest, and sure to appeal to anyone hoping to figuring out how to survive the ordinary mishaps of middle school.

A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. She knows it’ll be tricky–but like the Greek mythological characters she read about while she was sick, Norah’s up for any challenge.But seventh grade turns out to be trickier than she thought. Norah’s classmates don’t know what to make of her. Her best friend, Harper, tries to be there for her, but she doesn’t get it, really–and is hanging out with a new group of girls. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of Greek mythology and art. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret–that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story.But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? Can Nora take her cue from her favorite Greek myth? And then, once she finds the words, can she move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?

Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List–things her mom wants her to do during the holiday seasonOn the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…

Auma loves to run. In her small Kenyan village, she’s a track star with big dreams. A track scholarship could allow her to attend high school and maybe even become a doctor. But a strange new sickness called AIDS is ravaging the village, and when her father becomes ill, Auma’s family needs her help at home. Now Auma faces a difficult choice. Should she stay to support her family or leave to pursue her own future? Auma knows her family depends on her, but leaving might be the only way to find the answers to questions about this new disease.

“The Mola Lisa is missing!

Someone sneaky has stolen the world’s most famous painting. Good thing Q and Ray are on the case! These second-grade critters are Elm Tree Elementary’s best crime solvers. Ray loves magic and stinky cheese. Q loves disguises and surprises. But can the super sleuths outwit an art thief?”

African penguins waddle around nesting colonies in lower numbers than ever before. Despite South African government efforts to protect the penguin colonies and their ocean fish supply, young penguins still struggle to survive. Fuzzy chicks waiting for food in open nests may overheat in the sun or become prey. Others simply may not get enough food to survive on their own once their parents leave. But new conservation methods, including rescuing and hand-feeding vulnerable chicks, are giving experts hope. Can volunteers and scientists help save Africa’s only penguins before it’s too late?

During World War I, British and American ships were painted with bold colors and crazy patterns from bow to stern. Why would anyone put such eye-catching designs on ships?

 

 

When twelve year-old misfit Midnight Reynolds takes a job helping out eccentric Miss Appleby in the mansion down the street, she never imagined her work would involve battling ghosts. But as it turns out, Midnight and her new employer have quite a bit in common—they were both born on Halloween and have the power to see spirits of the dead. But when Midnight learns more about the history of her town, she starts to wonder if she’s fighting on the right side.

Women have been doing amazing, daring, and dangerous things for years, but they’re rarely mentioned in our history books as adventurers, daredevils, or rebels. This new compilation of brief biographies features women throughout history who have risked their lives for adventure—many of whom you may not know, but all of whom you’ll WANT to know, such as:

• Annie Edson Taylor, the first person who dared to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel
• Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who dared to fly in space
• Helen Gibson, the first woman who dared to be a professional stunt person
• And many more!

This is the perfect read for anyone who wants to know what it means to explore, discover, play, climb, and fight like a girl!

Well, there you have’em! A great collection of new books for you to explore. And don’t forget that there are many more amazing reads out there, too.

Have a wonderful September,

Sheri~

Summer Reads = Summer Fun!

Summer is a time when I feel energized and creative, basking in the longer daylight hours and a different kind of vibe, even though I work at home and the actual calendar doesn’t change that much around here.

If your kid is the kind who likes to make and do in summer, as mine was (she’s grown now, but this is how I remember her middle grade summers, and my own), here is a post to scratch your kiddos’ summer activity itch. Of course, you might like to join in the fun, too.

I have to say right up front that this was not my (fantastic!) idea – here’s a big shout out to our own Annabelle Fisher for the inspiration, and to many of our members for chiming in with great ideas to share with you.

Like to cook? These reads might also make you hungry to make food.

Lisa Schroeder’s cupcake books, including It’s Raining Cupcakes, might inspire you to make some…

The Truth About Twinkie Pie, by Kat Yeh, is full of recipes.

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff, is also filled with things I want to cook. 

Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, by our own Annabelle Fisher (including a recipe for magical “reversing cake” and other fun things!).

How about writing to authors?

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary gave adult me the push to write a favorite author, actually.

Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech is another that inspires action in the form of writing.

Want to play with paper engineering?

Origami Yoda and Tom Angleberger’s other Origami books result in lots of paper play.

Richard Merrill’s Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds  is a blast (I’m giving this one an extra shout-out – this fellow SCBWI member and Dover Publications author is also my big brother!).

Books about science and nature and those that get us out of doors can also spark inspiration for projects and action.

Mixed Up Files member Jacqueline Houtman pointed me to Elaine Vickers’ blog, which features a ton of great activities for middle graders. Jacqueline’s own book, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas was featured there, and reading this book about a science geek might prompt a visit to find something to do, too.

Nature sketching and birdwatching are featured in The Someday Birds, by Sally Pia.

One Mixed Up Files member described Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island as being ”sort of about a group of kids camping on their very own island.”

The Phineas MacGuire books by Francis O’Roark Dowell feature science activities in the back matter, and a website to visit for more at: http://gophineas.com/. My students loved our read aloud of Phineas in the library.

Roseanne Parry, still another Mixed Up Files member, wrote Turn of the Tide, which features geocaching.

And Explore Forces and Motion, by Jen Swanson (still another Mixed Up Filer), includes 25 fun activities for kids to do with science.

Community service as summertime action?

Our own Michele Weber Hurwitz says, “My book, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, doesn’t exactly feature a craft project, but the main character, Nina, does a project involving 65 good things she does for her neighbors and family, one for each day of her summer vacation. It’s been a popular summer read for students who then do a community service project when they return to school.

Lisa Graff’s The Great Treehouse War Is about a bunch of kids who stage a sit-in, and then some…

Plus, there are always mysteries to solve and other fun things to do!

I’m intrigued by Annabelle Fisher’s recommendation of The Puzzler’s Mansion, by Eric Berlin, which she describes as having brainteasers and interactive puzzles in it.

Chasing Vermeer and the others in Blue Balliet’s architectural mystery series feature tangrams and puzzles to solve. I had several students who made their own tangrams after reading these books.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, by Chris Grabenstein, is another that is jam-packed with stuff to do and try.

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd is filled with oodles of stuff to do, too…

What books inspire you to dive in and then get out to have some fun in summer?