Tag Archives: New Releases

A Chat With Author Kelly Barnhill

Book jacket for The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Some books grab you from the first moment you see their gorgeous cover. Such was the case the first time I saw Kelly Barnhill’s beautiful middle-grade fantasy, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Anticipation grew even more when Barnhill and her publisher released two prequels to the story last month on Entertainment Weekly (read Part 1 and Part 2 for a taste of Barnhill’s storytelling). So I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Kelly and to help her celebrate the release of The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Hello Kelly, welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files! Which middle-grade books did you love when you were younger?

A: I wasn’t much of a reader before fifth grade. Like at all. I knew that one should read, and I was very good at pretending to read, but the ability to sink into a page just wasn’t there for me. What I did love was listening. My parents read to us all the time, and I can remember listening to Grimm’s fairy tales, and later C.S. Lewis, and later Tolkien, and later Dickens. I also —thanks to a garage sale purchase of a Fisher Price orange plastic record player — loved checking out books on records from the library. Because, once upon a time, that was a thing. I listened to Treasure Island and Kidnapped and Just So Stories and both Jungle Books. Later, when I started seeking books out on my own, I loved weird things. L. Frank Baum, particularly. And Roald Dahl. And Daniel Pinkwater. And Diana Wynne Jones. And Ursula K. LeGuin. And Andre Norton. You don’t have to scratch my skin very deeply to find the undercurrent of those writers, pulsing in my veins.

Q: Which came first, the story itself or the prequel?

A: Oh, the story. For sure. But one thing that I didn’t realize when I started writing the story was how much Xan’s unremembered history would come to play in the way the action unfolded. There is much that I couldn’t include in the story itself, simply because Xan had chosen not to remember it — because memory is dangerous, as is sorrow. Or so Xan thinks. Anyway, the idea of her as a child in the company of a bunch of irascible magicians and scholars — many of whom do not have her best interests at heart — intrigued me. And so some of the cut pages and a bunch of the notes started swirling around until a story emerged.

Q: Last year, you wrote a novella for adults called The Unlicensed Magician. Can you talk a little bit about the differences between writing for adults and for children? Which do you prefer? Should we expect more adult stories from you in the future?

Writing a novella, I feel, is a bit like the Spanish Inquisition — no one expects it. I have written and published quite a few short stories for grown-ups that have appeared in a variety of journals. I like writing short stories; I like the muscle of it and the precision needed. It’s an entirely different skill set from what is required for a novel. And while I’ve written a few short stories for kids, the vast majority of them have been for adults. I’m not entirely sure why this is. Maybe my “adult fiction voice” is just more narrow than my “children’s fiction voice.” Or something.

When I started “The Unlicensed Magician,” I assumed I was writing a short story. And then 30,000 words poured out over the course of a couple days — just like that. This was a muscle that I didn’t know I had, and when I finished, I was tired and sore and had no idea what to do with the thing. I’m glad it’s found an audience, and that people seem to like it. As far as the intended audience goes — man. I don’t know. I will think and think and think about a story — just the story — and have no idea if it is a kid’s story or an adult’s story or just a weird story that only I would like. I don’t really know that until I’m done. Really, all I think about is the story itself — what the experience is, what the language feels like, what the big ideas are underpinning the whole thing. I don’t think about audience until the very end.

Author Kelly Barnhill

Author Kelly Barnhill

Q: Like you, I attended my first nErDcamp this year. Can you talk a little bit about the experience and what it meant to you as a writer and former teacher?

A: nErDcamp is magic, plain and simple. I have been fighting for so long — first as a teacher and then as a parent — for reading instruction in schools that is humane and empathetic and inspiring and challenging and ultimately joyful. Reading instruction and encouragement that helps young minds to be more than they are through the power of radical empathy in books. And I have found myself thwarted and frustrated at every turn. Coming to nErDcamp felt like coming home. So many joyful teachers! So many joyful book pushers! So many joyful writers and readers and kids! It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Q: You teach writing to adults and children and you mentioned on your web site that a big part of that involves “un-teach(ing) what they have already learned.” Can you elaborate on that?

A: When we learn to write, we learn there are rules, and when we actually write, we throw those rules away. So often, my students come to me already stuck in particular boxes of what they think “good” writing is, and is not, and what kind of writer they think they are, and are not. And primarily, I think a lot of kids and adults have learned over the years that their ideas just aren’t good enough. That they don’t have a story to tell. That an idea for a story is something that happens to other people — special people. This is balderdash. All of us are built out of stories. I have to un-teach them the lie in order to teach them the truth.

Q: What books are on your nightstand right now?
A: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, by V E Schwab. And after that, I have some marvelous Murakami waiting for me. There is something about summer that simply begs for Murakami. After that, I plan to read MR. FOX, by Helen Oyeyemi and a few Diana Wynne Jones books that are due for a re-read.

***

Oh, how I loved A Darker Shade of Magic and so did both of my children (readers, please note that it is technically adult, although I let my 10 & 11 year old read it!). Thanks so much for your time, Kelly, and best of luck with your new book.

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON releases today from Algonquin Young Readers.

July New Releases

Happy Summer!! Whether you are lounging by the pool, taking a break from playing in the waves, or just sitting in your backyard getting some sun, you can read a book. Take a look at some of the great new ones hitting the stores this month!

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production  by J.K. Rowling ( Arthur A. Levine Books)

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne,Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

 

 

The World of Norm: Norm 10 Paperback by Jonathan Meres (Orchard Books)

Norm knew it was going to be one of those days when he lost his house…But even when he finds it, things don’t get much better. What could be worse than imagining your parents at a salsa dancing event – with your best friend?! Norm’s not sure what’s got into Mikey, but he suspects hormones may be involved. Flipping typical!

 

Michelangelo for Kids: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
by Simonetta Carr (Chicago Review Press)

Michelangelo Buonarroti—known simply as Michelangelo—has been called the greatest artist who has ever lived. His impressive masterpieces astonished his contemporaries and remain some of today’s most famous artworks. Young readers will come to know Michelangelo the man as well as the artistic giant, following his life from his childhood in rural Italy to his emergence as a rather egotistical teenager to a humble and caring old man. They’ll learn that he did exhausting, back-breaking labor to create his art yet worked well, even with humor, with others in the stone quarry and in his workshop. Michelangelo for Kids offers an in-depth look at his life, ideas, and accomplishments, while providing a fascinating view of the Italian Renaissance and how it shaped and affected his work.

The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud (Chronicle Books)

What really happened over the summer break? A curious teacher wants to know. The epic explanation? What started out as a day at the beach turned into a globe-spanning treasure hunt with high-flying hijinks, exotic detours, an outrageous cast of characters, and one very mischievous bird! Is this yet another tall tale, or is the truth just waiting to be revealed? From the team behind I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School . . . comes a fantastical fast-paced, detail-rich illustrated summer adventure that’s so unbelievable, it just might be true!

 

The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers (Henry Holt & Co.)


Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.
When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she’ll find her place in the world. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

 

Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux)

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

 

 


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.