Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Marisol Rainey is back!

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey, by Erin Entrada Kelly, (Aug. 2022, Greenwillow Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062970459

Ages 7-10

Marisol Rainey is a middle grader with a little bit of an anxiety issue, introduced in Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey earlier this year. Her dad works on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and she lives at home in Louisiana with her mom, older brother, and cat. This time out, Marisol is nervous when she her gym teacher introduces a unit on kickball: Marisol does NOT like kickball! She works on being brave, but it’s so hard, especially when classmate Evie, who is “an expert at throwing invisible darts at Marisol’s feelings”, is excellent at kickball. Newbery Medalist Kelly creates approachable, likable characters in her stories; Marisol and her best friend, Jada, are characters with depth that readers will see themselves in. Illustrations on almost every page make this a great book to move up from early chapter books and easy readers. Marisol is biracial; her mother is Filipino. Jada is brown-skinned with curly hair.

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey has a starred review from Horn Book. Visit author Erin Entrada Kelly’s webpage for resources on her books.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

HERO FOR THE HUNGRY Blog Tour

Welcome to the Hero for the Hungry Blog Tour!

Follow along all week for exclusive guest posts from author Peggy Thomas, plus 5 chances to win Hero for the Hungry (on shelves 9/1)!

Researching with Primary Documents      
by Peggy Thomas

When I research a biography, I usually like to travel to the person’s hometown, walk the streets, and visit their home. I like to collect sounds and smells that I can weave into the narrative. I like to get the lay of the land — How far did George W. Carver walk to school? What was Lincoln’s view from his White House office?

But Covid hit just as I was starting to research Nobel laureate, Norman Borlaug, an agricultural scientist who saved millions of lives from starvation. I couldn’t get to Mexico where Norm worked for decades, or even Cresco, Iowa where he grew up. Just reading about him did not give me the same kind of connection.

Fortunately, Texas A & M and the University of Minnesota both have huge archives filled with Borlaug memorabilia, articles, and photos. The digitized images that I could access by computer showed me a time and place I could otherwise have never seen.

Dozens of speeches and taped interviews preserved Norm’s voice and mannerisms. From the comfort of my couch, I was transported to a wheat field in Mexico where Norm talked about plant breeding. Then I was whisked off to an auditorium in Oslo, Norway to hear Norm accept his Nobel Peace Prize. It was easy to see that he was the kind of guy that no matter what he was wearing, a tux or dust-covered khakis, he always spoke with the same enthusiasm.

But the material I found most helpful were Norm’s handwritten notebooks. For decades, Norman recorded the look, feel, and characteristics of every single wheat plant as he searched for a better crop for poor farmers. Each page documented his dedication and showed how much he valued his work.

They also revealed Norm’s private thoughts. They directed my eyes so I could see what he saw and understand his feelings. For example, the first time he visited rural India during a famine he simply wrote: Humanity – frightening. 

The more I read, the more I wished I had met Norm. Like me, when Norm rushed to get notes on paper, he didn’t worry about spelling.  It was more important to get his ideas down. In one note he said: To dam much philosophy and not enough action.

That was Norm in a nutshell. Once he figured out what he was supposed to do, he just did it.

And thank goodness he did.


Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

Can a quiet Iowa farm boy grow up to change the world? Norman Ernest Borlaug did. Norman Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, saved millions from starvation, and won the Nobel Prize.

How? Science, true American grit, and a passion for helping those in need.

Born in 1914, raised on a small farm, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Norman Borlaug learned to work hard and excelled in sports. Against odds and adversity, Norm studied forestry and eventually became a plant scientist, dedicating his life’s work to ending world hunger. Working in obscurity in the wheat fields of Mexico, Norm and his team developed disease-resistant plants, and when widespread famine threatened India and Pakistan, Norm worked alongside poor farmers and battled bureaucracy to save millions from mass starvation. Often called the “Father of the Green Revolution,” Norm helped lay the groundwork for agricultural technological advances that alleviated world hunger. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1970. He was a true hero for the hungry.

Can pursuing science help you and your future generation? This book is sure to inspire young learners!

Sidebars include topics such as a deeper dive into the science Norm was using to produce new and better wheat varieties, agronomy, wheat genes, stem rust, nutrients and more. Back matter includes a timeline of events and discoveries and a call to action for readers to use science to solve problems and do small things to help with hunger and food waste.

Hero for the Hungry is excellent for a science class learning about genetics, an agriculture class studying agronomy, or a history or English class looking for a well-written biography on a hero scientist.

About the Author

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Peggy Thomas has always loved true stories, and can’t remember a time when she wasn’t thrilled to find animal bones, musty encyclopaedias, or a history plaque by the side of the road. It’s that same curiosity that has fueled the research and writing of more than twenty nonfiction books for children.

With a master’s degree in anthropology, Peggy explores a wide range of subjects, blending history and science to create award-winning titles. Her most recent books include Lincoln Clears a Path (Calkins Creek, 2021) and Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car (Calkins Creek, 2019), which earned NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, 2020 Best Book from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, and Book of the Year from the Henry Ford Heritage Association.

Peggy is a member of SCBWI, a blogger for Nonfiction Ninjas, and on the creative team behind Nonfiction Fest, a month-long celebration of writing nonfiction for children.

About the Illustrator

Website | Twitter | Instagram

Sam Kalda is an illustrator and artist based in Saint Paul. His commissioned works include editorial, book, advertising and pattern illustration. In 2017, he received a gold medal in book illustration from the Society of Illustrators in New York. He also won a medal from the Cheese Club in college for being able to identify the most amount of, well, cheeses. His first book, Of Cats and Men: History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers and Statesmen, was published by Ten Speed Press in 2017. He recently illustrated his first picture book, When We Walked on the Moon, written by David Long and published by Wide Eyed Press in 2019, as well as the follow-up, When Darwin Sailed the Sea.

He lives in an old house with his husband and two cats, Arthur and Frances. In their role as studio assistants, the cats specialize in houseplant demolition and pencil relocation. He enjoys futzing around in his garden, going to estate sales, and taking long walks. So basically, when he’s not working, he’s retired. He’s taught at CUNY Queens College and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

About the Publisher

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Feeding Minds Press is a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, whose mission is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education. We focus on helping young readers understand where their food comes from, who grows it, and how it gets to them and believe in cultivating curiosity about food and farming and how agriculture plays a role in our daily lives. All books from Feeding Minds Press have accompanying lessons, activities, and videos to further learning available on their website, http://www.feedingmindspress.com.

 


GIVEAWAY

  • One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of Hero for the Hungry
  • US/Can only
  • Ends 9/11 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

 

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Blog Tour Schedule:

August 29th Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
August 30th Mom Read It
August 31st A Dream Within A Dream
September 1st Randomly Reading
September 2nd YA Books Central

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring is sweetly ghoulish

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring, by Matthew Loux, (Oct. 2022, First Second), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250162618

Ages 8-12

A girl discovers a skull-shaped ring that transforms her into a skeleton girl, earning her the ire of her monster-fearing neighbors in this delightfully weird and macabre story by Time Museum creator Matthew Loux. The town turns on her, including her indifferent mother, who mistakes a lushly groomed dog for her daughter, banishing her and setting Prunella off on a journey to find a way to reverse the curse. She meets other monsters on the way, all of whom readily accept her, and realizes that maybe the so-called “monsters” aren’t the villains after all. Befriending Captain Rip Skeleton and a floating skull named Francis, Prunella quickly becomes a story of friendship and adventure, leaving Prunella with decisions to make at the end of her journey. Cartoony artwork makes for a friendly cast of ogres, skeletons, and ghosts. Prunella is a young girl with a head of ample red hair held with a bow that stays intact through her transformation. Give this one to your Margo Maloo fans. A good purchase for graphic novel collections that like a little dark humor.

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A middle grade horror classic gets a graphic novel retelling: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes Graphic Novel, by Mary Downing Hahn/Illustrated by Meredith Laxton, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358536895

Ages 8-12

A classic work of children’s horror gets its day in graphic novel form.  Siblings Molly and Michael have tried time and again to bridge the divide between them and their 7-year-old stepsister, Heather, but Heather only seems to want to make their lives miserable. She lies to get them in trouble, she spurns any overtures from Molly, Michael, and their mother, and wants 100% of her father’s time. When the family relocates to an old church with a graveyard in back and sets up residence, things become even worse: Heather claims to have made a new friend: Helen, the ghost of a girl who died in a fire years ago, and who will make Molly and Michael pay when she comes. Wait Till Helen Comes is a chilling ghost story that receives an equally chilling graphic adaptation, with creepy imagery and a chilling blue and purple palette. Meredith Laxton maintains the spooky atmosphere that Hahn masterfully creates with her words. Characters are realistically human, all presenting as white.

With the current trend of popular novels being adapted into graphic novels, Wait till Helen Comes Home is about to reach even more readers. A great add to graphic novel collections.

Written in 1986, Wait till Helen Comes has won multiple awards and garnered a 2016 film adaptation.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Fenris and Mott – you’ve never read Norse mythology like this!

Fenris and Mott, by Greg van Eekhout, (Aug. 2022, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062970633

Ages 8-12

Greg van Eekhout’s latest novel is an hilariously adorable spin on Norse mythology starring a tween girl in need of a friend and an adorable dog who is much more than he seems. Mott is a 12-year-old root beer enthusiast, transplanted from Pennyslvania to California, and missing her best friend. She discovers an abandoned puppy in a recycling bin and promises to keep him safe, not realizing that she’s just sworn to protect Fenris, the Norse mythological wolf who will devour the moon, eat Asgardian god Odin, and move the events of Ragnarök – Doomsday – into motion. Aided by a Valkyrie in training, with a supporting cast of Norse gods, Fenris & Mott has laugh-out-loud humor, great dialogue and action, and characters readers will cheer for. Fenris is adorable enough to have readers coo every time he “mweeps”, and will stop readers in their tracks when he opens his gaping maw to devour Viking warriors and moving vehicles. Rick Riordan fans will love this new take on Norse mythology, filled with modern takes on ancient stories. Supporting cast is largely white and Nordic, and Mott is Indonesian and Dutch, and is picture on the cover as a brown-skinned girl. Nonstop action, characters with heart and devotion, and unbearably cute moments with a fluffy puppy make this an essential addition to your fiction collections.

Fenris & Mott has a starred review from Booklist. Visit Greg van Eekhout’s author page for more information about his books and appearances.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

New Faith Erin Hicks! Ride On!

Ride On, by Faith Erin Hicks, (Aug. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250772824

Ages 10-14

Eisner Award winner Faith Erin Hicks is back with a new graphic novel! Ride On hits on all the things my middle graders love to read about: horses, friendship, and a challenging situation. Twelve-year-old equestrienne Victoria arrives at Edgewood Stables after a break from riding following a fallout with her former best friend, Victoria. She initially brushes off attempts at friendship from Norrie, one of the other students, but finds common ground in a science fiction TV show fandom and eventually lets her guard down and befriends Norrie and her friends, Hazel and Sam (the only boy at the school). When the Edgewood riders are invited to a competition at Waverly, Victoria realizes that she will have to face her former best friend.

Faith Erin Hicks masterfully creates characters and situations that speak to readers. Whether they’re new students at a boarding school (A Year at Ellesmere), a street urchin living in a city overrun by invaders (The Nameless City), or a homeschooled teen confronting a ghost (Friends with Boys), she has the ability to weave the fantastic with the everyday and create special people. Every character in Ride On is someone worth knowing, including Quinn, the newest horse in the Edgewood stable. From Norrie’s hilariously drama queen personality to Victoria’s initially brusque, withdrawn temperament, and Sam’s “bro-dude” older brothers, readers will see themselves and people they know in Ride On. She understands how fandom breaks through walls and unites people – for good! – and deftly uses that understanding to give us a wonderful subplot. Hicks’s illustration is realistic and soft, approachable. An author’s note provides more context for the story. An absolute must-buy for graphic novel collections.

Ride On has starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal. Visit Faith Erin Hicks’s website for more about her work and to read her webcomics.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Speak Up! channels inner strength and confidence

Speak Up!, by Rebecca Burgess, (Aug. 2022, Quill Tree Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9780063081192

Ages 8-12

Middle schooler Mia is autistic and bullied by other kids at school, but when she and her best friend, Charlie, get together after school, they make musical magic together, posting videos where Mia is singer Elle-Q, accompanied by Charlie’s musical talent. If only Mia’s bullies knew that the singer they’re obsessed with is the same girl they laugh at for being “weird”, maybe they’d be singing a different tune. Mia and Charlie have differences of opinion when he pushes for the duo to appear in the local talent show: Mia is nervous afraid people will laugh at her for “stimming” – the self-stimulating behaviors triggered by stress or anxiety – and Charlie feels that Mia’s reluctance to appear will squash his chance to get notice for his music. Meanwhile, Mia’s mom seems to be completely clueless on how her daughter really feels, pushing her toward ways to “be normal” and “fit in”. Mia learns to advocate for herself in this graphic novel that’s sure to keep tweens and young teens turning pages. Speak Up! is a study in self-advocacy and an inspiring story about being true to onesself, with tween-friendly cartoon-realistic artwork that will draw readers who love Raina Telgemeier, Kayla Miller, and Terri Libenson. An excellent choice for graphic novel collections and a strong addition to the growing canon of books about autistic tweens living and thriving. Mia is white and Charlie is brown-skinned, uses “they/them” pronouns, and presents as nonbinary.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade

Are you ready for the National Menagerie of Art?

The National Menagerie of Art: Masterpieces by Vincent Van Goat and Lionhardo Da Stinki, by Thaïs Vanderheyden, (May 2022, Prestel Junior), $12.95, ISBN: 9783791375090

Ages 5-10

Art fans, animal fans, and folx who just love a good giggle will love this book of animal portraits based on 30 of the most famous and recognizable paintings in the world. Each painting and artist has an animal take, from Lionhardo Da Stinki’s Mona Piglet (La Gioinkonda) to Bunny Hopper’s Nighthares. Many adults will recognize the paintings that inspired these new works of art right off the bat; back matter includes the original works, artists, and a brief blurb. It’s a delightful introduction to art history, and just plain fun. Illustrator Thaïs Vanderheyden captures the spirit of each classic painting in her artwork, including similar colors and textures to the original, while working expressive animals into the reimagined piece. Birds hop along Mondrian’s bold lines and explore the bright primary colors of the work in “Four Birds, with Black, Red, Blue, and Yellow” by Pete Monkeyman; a panda takes on existential dread in Aardvark Mink’s “Pandamonium”, inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Absolute fun for art time storytimes. Pair these with Schiffer Publishing’s First Steps in Art board books.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Pippa Park is back!

Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight, by Erin Yun, (Sept. 2022, Fabled Films Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781944020804

Ages 9-12

In 2019, Pippa Park Raises Her Game hit middle grade shelves and made a splash: a modern-day take on Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, with a Korean-American lead character and a group of mean girls who broke all the stereotypes. I devoured the book and have booktalked this to dozens of my library kids. I’m so happy that we’ve got a follow-up to love now, too: Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight picks up shortly after Pippa Park Raises Her Game. Pippa’s getting into the swing of life at her school, she’s kinda sorta a Royal, even though Caroline seems to be trying her best to get Pippa to throw in the towel, and her best friend, Buddy, is now dating Helen. There’s a new crush on the scene, too: Marvel, an old friend, shows up on the scene when Pippa agrees to help volunteer with a local pastor’s drama club and sends Pippa into a tailspin: sure, Eliot is blonde and handsome, but Marvel is fun, makes her laugh, and likes the same things that she does! The fun begins when Pippa rashly agrees to host the Royals’ Christmas party at her sister’s apartment, just as Pippa’s sister takes in a very talkative neighbor, Ms. Lee, who’s recovering from an injury. Pippa hasn’t learned all of her lessons from the last time: she’s still trying to do it all, and putting off disaster for another day.

Pippa Park is such a great character: she’s got great depth, able to move from being bubbly and fun to stressed the heck out, to conflicted, all at once. She’s the very definition of tween! (Okay, and maybe 50, because honestly, I feel like this at least twice a day every day.) Erin Yun includes cultural references, particularly amazing food, and has a brilliant grasp of complex middle school relationships. Her characters are kids that readers know; that may be the kid reading this book. Kids separated from their parents and being raised by other family members; kids stressed about looking good in their friends’ eyes; kids trying to navigate friendship, growing up, and social status. It’s all real, and it’s all here. Here’s hoping we get more Pippa adventures.

Visit the Pippa Park webpage for downloadable resources, including an AAPI Guide and book club kit.

Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight is another slam dunk for Erin Yun. A great add to your shelves.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Finding comfort in the unthinkable: Morning Sun in Wuhan

Morning Sun in Wuhan, by Yin Chang Compestine, (Nov. 2022, Clarion Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780358572053

Ages 8-12

Award-winning kidlit, YA, and cookbook author Yin Chang Compestine brings readers into the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days in Wuhan, China. Mei is a 13-year-old girl grieving the loss of her mother and spending her days playing Chop Chop, an online cooking game. One of her friends asks for Mei’s help in getting medical attention for her ill grandmother, who can’t get a doctor’s appointment. Mei, whose father is a doctor at the local hospital, heads to the hospital when she can’t get in touch with her father, only to discover that the hospital is overcrowded, its staff stretched to their limits. Mei returns home and discovers, via the news, that a virus is spreading across Wuhan; determined to help her community, Mei turns to her friends to come up with a game plan: to turn her passion for cooking into a way to keep the people in her community fed.

Morning Sun in Wuhan gives readers a glimpse into the fear, uncertainty, and panic that COVID brought to Wuhan, but it’s ultimately an uplifting story of family and community.. Mei, grieving her mother’s death and feeling torn between her maternal aunt and her father, finds purpose in these early days. She uses the tools available to her: food, computer skills, and a talent for organizing, to bring her friends together to cook, pack, and deliver meals to the people in her neighborhood where the local services stumble. She is able to keep an eye and an ear on her neighbors, giving the elderly the comfort of knowing someone is there and cares.

Yin Chang Compestine’s writing brings the sights, scents, and sounds of Wuhan to readers, with rich descriptions of the historic and present-day city. Her cookbook authorship shines through in her mouth-watering descriptions of her food, and her characters come to life in her pages. Originally from Wuhan, Yin Chang Compestine’s Morning Sun in Wuhan is a love letter to the resilience of Wuhan’s people.

An incredible book that should make its way to current events reading lists. Keep your eyes on Yin Chang Compestine’s author webpage; many of her books have free downloadable resources available, and as the pub date for Wuhan gets closer, I expect we will see some good resources available.