Tag Archives: New Releases

A Mixed Up Files Book Birthday for Jennifer Swanson

Jennifer Swanson Author Photo We love book launches here at the Mixed Up Files and especially when it is one of our own bloggers. It was my great pleasure to read Jen Swanson’s new book Brain Games this weekend. It’s colorful and packed with great information in an accessible format. I have a confession to make, I’m a total brain anatomy nerd. So right off the bat I have to know which is your favorite lobe? Mine is the temporal lobe, always has been. I’m a musician.
HumanBrainI have to say that mine is probably the frontal lobe. I’m a scientist which makes me think and approach life logically all the time — sometimes whether I want to or not! Ha.
This book is so visually dynamic. National Geographic does a great job of making books that really jump off the shelf and into kids hearts. We sell lots of them at the bookstore because they are so vivid. So which comes first in the book making process, words? Images? A little bit of both?Brain Games_Cvr_FINAL (1)-small
Let me start by saying that this book was a huge undertaking. I was tasked with taking a very popular, heavily video-enhanced TV show and turning it into a 2-dimensional book, but without losing any of the excitement and interactiveness of the show. My first task was to watch all of the episodes of the TV show, Brain Games. Yep, all about 24 hours of them. Then, I had to figure out which challenges from the show would translate easily into a book. I did that by searching for images on the internet. When I submitted my first draft, it was full of images of the brain, images of challenges, and of course, all of the words to explain everything. I guess you could say that I worked with images and words simultaneously. That is not always how it happens with an NGKids book, but in this case, it was the only way to handle this one. 
One of the things I really appreciated about the book is that it wasn’t just an ad for the tv show. Which is great because lots of kids who will love this book may not have access to the show.
How did you got into the field of writing science for kids. Were you a total science nerd as a kid? Did you study science in college?
I have been a science geek since birth, I think. I started a science club in my garage when I was about 7. My mom gave me a microscope which was my prized possesion. We used to look at flowers, grass, trees, even water samples from our creek under it. I have carried my love of science with me ever since. I studied chemistry in college at the U.S. Naval Academy, and went on to earn my M.S. Ed in K-8 science from Walden University. My “day” job is as a middle school science instructor for John’s Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, where I get to work with gifted students from all around the world. Yep, I’m a science geek extraordinare!!  
Did you have a science teacher that really inspired you?
UnknownAs for a teacher that inspired me, the one that comes to mind is my 7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Roth. You see, back when I was in school there weren’t many female science teachers. And she was the BEST!  It showed me that women could do science, too. Couple that with very supportive parents and I was destined to love science my whole life. After all, SCIENCE ROCKS! 
Speaking of science nerds, Hank Green did the forward for this book. How did that come about? Did you get a chance to talk to him? 
No, I actually didn’t get to meet Hank Green. My NGKids editor knows him. Although I do love the Crash Course videos. My daughter who is in high school has to watch some of them for her classes, which is very cool.
What’s up next for you?
SUPER GEAR FC_finalI have a book coming out with Charlesbridge in June 2016 titled SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up!  It is an exciting look into the world of sports and how the microscopic of science is helping athletes to perform better than ever before. Want to hit a golf ball farther, swing a tennis racket with more oomph, or even swim faster? Nanotechnology can help with that!
51DbfLkvsRL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_Plus, I have two more books releasing next year. NGKids Everything Robotics takes the reader on a peek inside the world of robotics and how it is changing our world as we know it. Forces and Motion by Nomad Press comes out in 2016 as well. It’s an interactive book full of experiments and activities to help kids learn more about the basics of physics.
Robotics book
Sounds like you’ve got no end of fascinating projects to work on. Blog readers if you’d like to win a copy of Jennifer’s newest title Brain Games, please leave us a comment below and we’ll pick a winner in one week. Jennifer will be glad to answer your questions in the comments section all day today. Thanks Jennifer for sharing this really fun book.

October New Releases

Did you happen to see recent headlines about how independent book stores aren’t just surviving, they’re actually thriving? The Week magazine summarizes findings and offers its own spin on why book stores are vital, including the fact that they “curate and recommend in a human way.” That point is crucial for middle grade readers who depend (often unknowingly) on parents, librarians, teachers, and booksellers to help them find the right book at the right time. We here at the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors take the privilege of being able to curate and recommend quite seriously — and joyfully. And with that, we happily present you with fifteen choice middle grade books heading to book store and library shelves this month:

house arrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt (Oct. 6)
Probation is a strange word, something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like Timothy. And yet that’s exactly where he is: under house arrest, checking in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, forced to keep a journal AND keep out of trouble for an  entire year.  When he needs to take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be. Touching and funny, this is a novel in verse about a boy navigating his world with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.

the restThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel,  illustrations by Jon Klassen (Oct. 6)
For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered. This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

highly unusual magicA Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou (Oct. 6)
Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined. From the author of Confectionately Yours. 

dream on amberDream On, Amber by Emma Shevah (Oct. 6)
As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl who thinks her name is ridiculously long, Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto is not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school. But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn’t coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own..


tournament of gorlanThe Tournament at Gorlan by John A. Flanagan (Oct. 6)
The first in a prequel to the Ranger’s Apprentice series, this one features one ofour favorite Rangers, Halt.  When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge, Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

bubble wrap boyThe Bubble Wrap Boy
by Phil Earle (Oct. 13)
Charlie Han’s troubles are much bigger than he is. At school he’s branded an outsider, a loser … the tiny kid from the Chinese takeout. His only ally is Sinus Sedgely, a kid with a lower-level reputation than Charlie himself. Life at home isn’t much better. His dad is more skilled with a wok than he is with words, and his mom is suffocating the life out of Charlie, worried about his every move. But when a new passion leads Charlie to the mother of all confrontations, he finds his real mom has been hiding a massive secret. A secret that might actually lead Charlie to feeling ten feet tall. From a Kirkus review: “In the fast-growing bullying genre, Charlie’s story stands out. This isn’t a kid who will do anything to join the cool clique. This is a story about staying true to yourself and following your passion.”

big gameBig Game by Stuart Gibbs (Oct. 13)
Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident zoo sleuth when a rhinoceros is at risk in this companion to Belly Up and Poached. When someone takes aim at Rhonda Rhino, FunJungle’s pregnant (and endangered) Asian greater one-horned rhinoceros, the zoo steps up security measures in order to protect this rare animal and her baby. But the extra security isn’t enough–someone is still getting too close for comfort. Teddy and company start to suspect that whoever is after Rhonda is really after her horn, which is worth a lot of money on the black market.

red shoesThe Red Shoes and Other Tales by Metaphrog  (Oct. 13)
A collection of tales in a graphic novel format that also includes The Little Match Girl. In the title story, Karen, the child of peasants, grew up with a pair of red shoes. Then, when her parents died, Karen was adopted by a rich old woman who gave Karen a new pair of red shoes that would make princesses green with envy. This newfound wealth causes Karen to forget her humble origins and grow up to become a cruel and vain adult. Then, one day, the red shoes that sparked her greed come to life and steer Karen down a path she never would have imagined in her wildest dreams.

sandriderSandRider by Angie Sage (Oct. 13)
Book Two in the TodHunter Moon trilogy, a spinoff of the popular Septimus Heap series. Taking place seven years after the events of the original Septimus Heap series, TodHunter Moon tells the story of Alice TodHunter Moon, a young PathFinder who comes to the Castle with a Magyk all her own. In this second book, Tod sets out for the Desert of the Singing Sands to retrieve the Egg of the Orm—a journey that will test not only her Magykal and PathFinding skills but her friendships, too.

blind guide to stinkville A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel (Oct. 13)
Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville. Now she finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

sliver of stardustA Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt (Oct. 20)
Wren Matthews thought she’d outgrown nursery rhymes a long time ago. But that was before she knew that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds were the key to an ancient, hidden magic. Wren’s discovery catapults her into a world of buried secrets, strange dreams, and a mountain fortress under an aurora-filled sky. But just as she starts to master her unique abilities, her new world begins to crumble around her . . . and only she can save it.

The Secrets of the Pied Piper 1: The Peddler’s peddler's roadRoad by Matthew Cody (Oct. 27)
It is said that in the thirteenth century, in a village called Hamelin, a piper lured all of the children away with his magical flute, and none of them were ever seen again. Today, pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father . . . until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven’t aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land. No one knows why the Piper stole them, but Max and Carter’s appearance may be the key to returning the lost children of Hamelin and to going home themselves. But to discover the secrets of the Piper, Max and Carter will have to set out on a mysterious quest down the dangerous Peddler’s Road.

league of unexeptional childrenThe League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari (Oct. 20)
Just what is The League of Unexceptional Children? You may not have heard of the actual organization (it’s undercover) but this is a series you’ll remember. This covert network uses the nation’s most average, normal, and utterly unexceptional children as spies. Why the average kids? Why not the brainiacs? Or over achievers? Or the jocks?  It’s simple: People remember them. But not the unexceptionals. They are the forgotten ones. Until now. A humorous start to a new mystery series.

odds of getting evenThe Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage (Oct. 6)
The trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, North Carolina.  Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale’s daddy–confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale’s nerves are jangled, but Mo, who doesn’t mind getting even with Mr. Macon for hurting her loved ones, looks forward to a slam dunk conviction–if everything goes as expected. Of course nothing goes as expected. Macon Johnson sees to that. In no time flat, Macon’s on the run, Tupelo Landing’s in lockdown, and Dale’s brother’s life hangs in the balance. With Harm Crenshaw, newly appointed intern, Desperado Detectives are on the case. But it means they have to take on a tough client–one they’d never want in a million years. This is the second follow up to the Newbery honor book Three Times Lucky. 

lightning queenThe Lightning Queen by Laura Resau (Oct 27)
Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There’s no electricity, no plumbing, no cars — just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, eleven-year-old Teo’s life feels even more barren. And then one day, the mysterious young Esma, who calls herself the Gypsy Queen of Lightning, rolls into town like a fresh burst of color. Against all odds, her caravan’s Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be longtime friends. Suddenly, life brims with possibility. With the help of a rescued duck, a three-legged skunk, a blind goat, and other allies, Teo and Esma must overcome obstacles to fulfill their impossible destiny. Inspired by true stories derived from rural Mexico, The Lightning Queen offers a glimpse of the encounter between two fascinating but marginalized cultures–the Rom and the Mixtec Indians.

class dismissedClass Dismissed by Allan Woodrow (Oc.t 27)
What could possibly go wrong in a teacher-free classroom? Class 507 is the worst class Ms. Bryce has ever taught. And she would know — she’s been teaching forever. They are so terrible that when a science experiment goes disastrously wrong (again), Ms. Bryce has had it and quits in the middle of the lesson. But through a mix-up, the school office never finds out. Which means … Class 507 is teacher-free! The students figure that if they don’t tell anyone, it’ll be one big holiday. Will it?

(Note: Book descriptions here are modified from summaries provided by publishers.)

Interview with Jonathan Bernstein, author of Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training

We’re excited to feature an interview with Jonathan Bernstein, author of Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training. In Bridget Wilder, middle school meets Mission Impossible in this hilarious spy series for fans of Chris Rylander, Stuart Gibbs, and Ally Carter about a girl whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her father is a superspy.

Mixed-Up Files: How did you come up with the idea for Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training?
Jonathan Bernstein: The teen/ tween spy genre is fairly crowded, but the story most commonly told is about the kid with incredible skills who lacks direction in life, and the mysterious spy academy that recruits him/ her and trains him/ her to become an international super spy. I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. Bridget Wilder has no particular skills, and she’s practically invisible both at home and at school, but she’s recruited by a covert department of the CIA because it turns out her biological father is a legendary spy who wants to get to know her better. What happens when someone no one notices becomes a spy and also—no spoilers!— are all these unexpected things that are suddenly happening to Bridget REALLY happening to her? Or is something else going on?

MUF: Are you a fan of spy novels and films? Which ones?
JB: No surprises here: I’m a loyal patron of the Bond and Bourne movies. Mission Impossible is one of the few franchises that actually improves with each passing film. The first two seasons of Alias were a big influence on Bridget Wilder. I heard there were vague plans to reboot that show, which I’d be all in favor of. Also, someone should look into finding a way to bring Chuck back in some capacity. There was an incredibly dark British spy show called Callan which should also be revived. You know what else I like, the post-Bond semi-parody movies from the mid-sixties: the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin and the Derek Flint series with James Coburn. Both very big with middle-grade audiences.

Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training

MUF: Are there books for middle schoolers that inspired you when you were writing this?
JB: I’d read a couple of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls books— do they qualify as middle grade?— but, for me, it’s best to stay away from anything that could be construed as comparable subject matter because i find I’m very easily influenced, even if it’s in a subliminal way.

MUF: What were you hoping readers would take away from the experience of reading this book?
JB: That they found Bridget Wilder relatable and human, even though she was involved in heightened, fantastical situations. That they might want to spend more time in her world.

MUF: Is this your first MG novel? Was it hard after so many years of doing non-fiction reporting to jump into the mind of a 13 year old girl?
JB: I’ve written two YA superhero novels, Hottie, and it’s sequel Burning Ambition—never heard of them? You’re not alone— plus another couple of books that may/may not see the light of day at some point. I don’t know what it says about me, but no, it didn’t seem to be that difficult to assume the identity of a 13 year-old girl. But real middle-graders will be the ultimate judge of whether I actually succeeded or not.

MUF: You’re not a spy, are you? What do you do with your time when you’re not writing MG fiction?
JB: Apart from spying, you mean? Which I don’t do, obviously, because I’m not a spy. But then, that’s the sort of thing a spy would say. In non-spying mode, I write reviews and interviews for two British newspapers, the Telegraph and the Guardian. I once had a screenwriting career of no great distinction, and am currently making attempts to revive it. I am a prodigious podcast listener, and pop culture consumer. And, um, I like to take long walks on the beach?

MUF: What’s next for Bridget? Can you tell us anything without ruining the ending of book one? How many more books are currently planned?
JB: There will definitely be two more. Bridget Wilder: Spy To The Rescue—I wanted to call it Spy 2 The Rescue, because more sequally— comes out next spring and, if you liked the first one, you will REALLY like this one. The trilogy concludes in 2017 with Bridget Wilder: Live Free, Spy Hard which, if you liked the first two, you will REALLY REALLY like (and which features a boy band from my home town of Glasgow). What’s next is bigger action, higher stakes, different locations, scarier viliains, more shocking twists, and at least one love triangle.

Photo credit: Jonathan Bernstein

Photo credit: Jonathan Bernstein

MUF: If there’s anything you would like to add here, feel free to do so!
JB: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to your audience. Check out my website www.jonathanbernsteinwrites.com. Follow me on Twitter @jbpeevish, and Instagram at Peevishjb



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