Books for Your Summer Shelf

Whether you’re looking for bookshelf beautification or a story to read while lying in the sun, these books are perfect for your summer shelf!

 

Beautiful Classics

This gorgeous Penguin edition of The Secret Garden. The sunny yellow and bright turquoise practically begs to be read on a float in your swimming pool or a bench in your garden.

 
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….and their edition of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Just looking at this cover makes me feel like I’m building a fort in the woods! (Er, I mean, that my kids are? Yeah, that.)

 
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…AND their edition of The Wind in the Willows. The cover itself will cool you off on a hot day. This whole series is full of bright, colorful classics, and we just can’t get over how beautiful they are!

 
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One more Penguin edition for you, this time from their clothbound series: Alice in Wonderland. The crisp white and vibrant flamingos remind us of lemonade stands and lawn games!

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Picture Books

(Hover over the covers for the summary!)

Run Wild by David Covell

"Hey, you! Sky's blue!" a girl shouts as she runs by the window of a boy bent over his digital device. Intrigued, the boy runs out after her, leaving his shoes (and phone) behind, and into a world of sunshine, dewey grass, and warm sand. Filled with the pleasures of being alive in the natural world,  Run Wild  is an exquisite and kid-friendly reminder of how wonderful life can be beyond doors and screens.

"Hey, you! Sky's blue!" a girl shouts as she runs by the window of a boy bent over his digital device. Intrigued, the boy runs out after her, leaving his shoes (and phone) behind, and into a world of sunshine, dewey grass, and warm sand. Filled with the pleasures of being alive in the natural world, Run Wild is an exquisite and kid-friendly reminder of how wonderful life can be beyond doors and screens.

 

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

 
When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make . . .

When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make . . .

 
 

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

It’s a good day for sailing.   Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.  Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself!  And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.

It’s a good day for sailing.

Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.

Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself!

And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.

 

Middle Readers

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

 
Five years.  That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.  It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.  Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.  Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...  Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”

Five years.

That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.

It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.

Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...

Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”

 
 

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway

When Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she isn’t sure what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.  Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs.  Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she's learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

When Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she isn’t sure what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs.

Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she's learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

 

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie

Guinevere St. Clair is going to be a lawyer. She was the fastest girl in New York City. She knows everything there is to know about the brain. And now that she’s living in Crow, Iowa, she wants to ride into her first day of school on a cow named Willowdale Princess Deon Dawn.  But Gwyn isn’t in Crow, Iowa, just for royal cows. Her family has moved there, where her parents grew up, in the hopes of jogging her mother Vienna’s memory. Vienna has been suffering from memory loss since Gwyn was four. She can no longer remember anything past the age of thirteen, not even that she has two young daughters. Gwyn’s father is obsessed with finding out everything he can to help his wife, but Gwyn’s focused on problems that seem a little more within her reach. Like proving that the very strange Gaysie Cutter who lives next door is behind the disappearance of her only friend, Wilbur Truesdale.  Gwyn is sure she can crack the case, but when she does she finds that not all of her investigations lead her to the places she would have expected. In fact they might just lead her to learn about the mother she’s been doing her best to forget.

Guinevere St. Clair is going to be a lawyer. She was the fastest girl in New York City. She knows everything there is to know about the brain. And now that she’s living in Crow, Iowa, she wants to ride into her first day of school on a cow named Willowdale Princess Deon Dawn.

But Gwyn isn’t in Crow, Iowa, just for royal cows. Her family has moved there, where her parents grew up, in the hopes of jogging her mother Vienna’s memory. Vienna has been suffering from memory loss since Gwyn was four. She can no longer remember anything past the age of thirteen, not even that she has two young daughters. Gwyn’s father is obsessed with finding out everything he can to help his wife, but Gwyn’s focused on problems that seem a little more within her reach. Like proving that the very strange Gaysie Cutter who lives next door is behind the disappearance of her only friend, Wilbur Truesdale.

Gwyn is sure she can crack the case, but when she does she finds that not all of her investigations lead her to the places she would have expected. In fact they might just lead her to learn about the mother she’s been doing her best to forget.

 

Young Adult

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the  Mors Navis , with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.   But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all…or will he threaten everything the women of the  Mors Navis  have worked for?

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all…or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

 

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

 
Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.  With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

 
 

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.  Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne.

Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne.

 

Chalice by Robin McKinley

As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

 

We hope you find something new to love in our summer recommendations. And as always, happy reading!

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How Children's Literature Makes Us Better Americans

Sometimes we feel as though we can match a person to a book at first glance. But people are endlessly surprising, especially in the books that they read. (Check anyone’s Goodreads.) I imagine this is true everywhere, but it feels especially true as a children’s bookseller in small-town America. 

 
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KidLit and Americans

I want to talk about the importance of children’s literature in America today, and to give you some recommendations for books I think make us all better Americans.

In a way, the element of surprise I experience daily as a bookseller feels like a microcosm of the American experience: someone somewhere is always surprising you, in part because of the diversity inherent in our national makeup.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence, then, that this experience is especially vivid in a children’s bookstore. 

In so many ways, children’s literature is vital to us as citizens. Learning to read and love books at a young age encourages a hunger for knowledge in a climate that is often hostile to such things.

Children’s literature also teaches and fosters empathy, which is a necessary skill if we want to fill our country with kind and thoughtful citizens who are concerned, as Americans have always claimed to be, with the good of the people.

When a child reaches for a book, it is these things they are reaching for - empathy, knowledge, and thoughtfulness. 

Children’s literature, perhaps most of all, is a place where voices that have historically been silenced, overlooked, or forgotten find their way into the light. This is not because children’s literature is less sophisticated than adult literature, but just the opposite.

Children’s books provide a unique and sophisticated storytelling medium that is often lacking in grown-up books. Here, stories can be brought to life in playful ways via interactive books, or in multiple ways via illustrations and picture book design. Authors can convey different parts of their story they couldn’t in other forms of media.

Maybe the most important part of children’s literature as a unique storytelling medium is that it brings stories to those who would rarely hear them otherwise - at least, not for many years. As adults, we often take for granted our exposure to different people and places without realizing that children don’t often have access to these experiences. They can, however, get a good start through books.

Recommended Reading

In a time where isolation and fear are constantly present in the American consciousness, the mixture of stories and young minds is a recipe for hope. Children’s literature can show us how to resist these hard things, and in turn, how to be better Americans. 

Here are a few books that do just that, all available in The Story Shop’s online store.

Click the titles for a link to order.

Picture Books

Beginning Readers & Middle Grade

Young Adult

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

  • Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

    Note: Fly by Night is based on 18th century England, but it’s smart and thoughtful and the ideas are quite fitting.

Classics

  • To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

    Note: These are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only American classics that fit this list. However, I do want to make a case for including both of these titles and not just To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus’s characterization in Go Set a Watchman, especially when contrasted with Scout’s, is a crucial reminder of our tendency to idealize parts of our history. In Watchman, Lee casts American history in a revealing light rather than black-and-white shadow, and this context is, I think, an important companion to To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of my very favorites.

I hope this list inspires you this Independence Day. Happy Fourth, and as always, happy reading!

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If You Liked . . . CLASSICS Edition!

In which we continue our If You Liked… series with some modern recommendations for classics lovers!

Hover over the book covers to see the publisher’s descriptions.

If You Liked . . .

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

We Recommend . . .

 
The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas   MIDDLE GRADES - Buddy Pennington is headed to river country, hoping his luck might change. He’ll be better off with his daddy, a wandering soul and a local legend for his skills at Parsnit, a mysterious card game of magic, chance, and storytelling. But no sooner are Buddy and his pop reunited than some of Pop’s old enemies arrive to take him away. Boss Authority, the magical crime lord who has held the rivers in his grasp for years, is ready to collect on an old debt Buddy’s father owes.  Now Buddy must set out on a dangerous rescue mission, learning to play Parsnit with the best of them as he goes. Because the stars are aligning for one last epic duel—one that will require a sticky-fingered ally, a lucky twist of fate, and the hand of a lifetime. And in this game, you’re only as strong as the story you tell.

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas

MIDDLE GRADES - Buddy Pennington is headed to river country, hoping his luck might change. He’ll be better off with his daddy, a wandering soul and a local legend for his skills at Parsnit, a mysterious card game of magic, chance, and storytelling. But no sooner are Buddy and his pop reunited than some of Pop’s old enemies arrive to take him away. Boss Authority, the magical crime lord who has held the rivers in his grasp for years, is ready to collect on an old debt Buddy’s father owes.

Now Buddy must set out on a dangerous rescue mission, learning to play Parsnit with the best of them as he goes. Because the stars are aligning for one last epic duel—one that will require a sticky-fingered ally, a lucky twist of fate, and the hand of a lifetime. And in this game, you’re only as strong as the story you tell.

 
 

If You Liked . . .

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

We Recommend . . .

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White   YOUNG ADULT - They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.    Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when the people of Merybourne Manor scrape together the funds to hire a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her sister will soon be avenged.    Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t anticipate is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.    It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

YOUNG ADULT - They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when the people of Merybourne Manor scrape together the funds to hire a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her sister will soon be avenged.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t anticipate is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

 

If You Liked . . .

 
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

 

We Recommend . . .

The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods   MIDDLE GRADES - Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people.  Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto’s kitchen, a door in the old man’s heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too–but he’s also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?

The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

MIDDLE GRADES - Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people.

Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto’s kitchen, a door in the old man’s heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too–but he’s also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?

 

If You Liked . . .

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

We Recommend . . .

The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson   MIDDLE GRADES - Ever since his brother Luc's disappearance and his father's tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael's gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.  He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed and built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color and light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael and Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family and his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, and when to believe in himself.

The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

MIDDLE GRADES - Ever since his brother Luc's disappearance and his father's tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael's gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.

He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed and built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color and light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael and Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family and his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, and when to believe in himself.

 

If You Liked . . .

The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey by Homer

We Recommend . . .

The  Rick Riordan Presents  series  MIDDLE GRADES - Here is Riordan’s summary:  Rick Riordan Presents is one small branch of the Disney-Hyperion Publishing family. We aim to publish about four books a year. All these will be books that my editor Stephanie Lurie and I feel will appeal to kids who like my books. In other words, they will probably be some type of middle grade adventure, with lots of humor and action, and probably draw on myth or folklore in some way.  Our goal is to publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. Over the years, I’ve gotten many questions from my fans about whether I might write about various world mythologies, but in most cases I knew I wasn’t the best person to write those books. Much better, I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually  from  those cultures and know the mythologies* better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience!

The Rick Riordan Presents series

MIDDLE GRADES - Here is Riordan’s summary:

Rick Riordan Presents is one small branch of the Disney-Hyperion Publishing family. We aim to publish about four books a year. All these will be books that my editor Stephanie Lurie and I feel will appeal to kids who like my books. In other words, they will probably be some type of middle grade adventure, with lots of humor and action, and probably draw on myth or folklore in some way.

Our goal is to publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. Over the years, I’ve gotten many questions from my fans about whether I might write about various world mythologies, but in most cases I knew I wasn’t the best person to write those books. Much better, I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies* better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience!

As always, happy reading!

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Festival Visiting Middle Grade Authors

MIDDLE GRADE AUTHOR REVIEW

The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.
At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, & since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them.
Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability & steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.
Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, & one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, & her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had?

Why pick it up: Braden has written a tender & honest book that vividly captures childhood poverty. Readers will appreciate her characters’ strong perspectives & the hope that runs throughout the story.

First line: I settle onto the couch with the chocolate pudding I saved from Friday’s school lunch.

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Just South Of Home: Twelve-year-old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books & bossing around her younger brother, Ellis, instead of being worked to the bone by their overly strict grandmother, Mrs. Greene. But when their cousin, Janie arrives for a visit, Sarah’s plans are completely squashed.
Janie has a knack for getting into trouble & asks Sarah to take her to Creek Church: a landmark of their small town that she heard was haunted. It’s also off-limits. Janie’s sticky fingers lead Sarah, Ellis & his best friend, Jasper, to uncover a deep-seated part of the town’s past. With a bit of luck, this foursome will heal the place they call home & the people within it they call family.

Why pick it up: Karen Strong has created a playful-yet-gripping story about the ghosts that haunt the South. Her characters encounter traditional spirits, but also the echoes of a dark past that can still be felt today. This is a story of place & of heart.

First line: It wasn’t a mirage but a miracle.

Hope in the Holler: The poignant—and funny— story of a girl trying to be brave & find her place in the world after she’s sent to live with scheming relatives.
Right before Wavie’s mother died, she gave Wavie a list of instructions to help her find her way in life, including this one: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie’s mom know that events would conspire to bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother tried to leave behind. Now Wavie’s back in the Holler—& in the clutches of her Aunt Samantha Rose. Life with the devilish Samantha Rose & her revolting cousin Hoyt is no picnic, but there’s real pleasure in sleeping in her own mother’s old bed, & making friends with the funny, easygoing kids her aunt calls the “neighborhood-no-accounts.” With their help, Wavie just might be able to prevent her aunt from becoming her legal guardian, & find her courage & place in the world.

Why pick it up: This book is nothing short of glowing. Wavie’s story immerses the reader in Appalachia—both its magic & its poverty. Fans of precise & powerful writing & captivating storytelling will fall hard for this one.

First line: An actual clown conducted my mama’s funeral.

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The Splintered Light: Ever since his brother Luc's disappearance & his father's tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael's gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.

He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed & built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color & light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael & Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family & his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, & when to believe in himself.

Why pick it up: This book is perfect for those who love unique world building. Johnson’s characters are full of intriguing & deliberate conflict & readers will appreciate her ability to craft powerful images.

First line: Ishmael’s first memory was rolling down Commons Hill, its massive stone wall behind him and the open market square before him.

Join Us for the First Annual Monroe Children's Book Festival

The Monroe Children’s Book Festival is a city-wide celebration of stories, imagination, and the community that blooms out of both.

 
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This FREE EVENT will take place on Saturday, May 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. We’ll have family-friendly activities and events for bookworms of all ages.

The Lineup

 
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Authors and Illustrators Ann Braden, Bo Burnette, Gabrielle Balkan, Jessie Sima, Joanna Ruth Meyer, Jonathan D. Voss, Karen Strong, Laura Weymouth, LK James, Lisa Lewis Tyre, Rebecca Ross, Shanda McCloskey, Ginger Johnson, Crystal Swain-Bates, Bart King, Jacob Wenzka, and Shelli R. Johannes will be joining us for this year’s festival.

Authors and Illustrators Ann Braden, Bo Burnette, Gabrielle Balkan, Jessie Sima, Joanna Ruth Meyer, Jonathan D. Voss, Karen Strong, Laura Weymouth, LK James, Lisa Lewis Tyre, Rebecca Ross, Shanda McCloskey, Ginger Johnson, Crystal Swain-Bates, Bart King, Jacob Wenzka, and Shelli R. Johannes will be joining us for this year’s festival.

 

Events

BOOK SIGNINGS:

  • Guests will get the opportunity to meet the authors in the Celebration Room or the Wardrobe at The Story Shop.

  • We will have the authors’ books on sale in the room at the time of the signing, as well as in our online shop.

  • In order to reserve a space in the signing line, guests must purchase the author’s book(s) from The Story Shop.

  • Pre-orders encouraged to guarantee a spot in the signing line. Pre-orders also get a privileged spot in line.

PRESENTATIONS & PANELS:

  • Many of our authors will give fun, interactive presentations at the Wayfarer Music Hall.

  • Author panels will be in the Wayfarer Sunroom, where authors will discuss their books and their writing process.

  • We will have two additional community panels involving the students of the Georgia Writer’s Project, as well as local teachers and librarians!

  • Story times will be in the Wardrobe at The Story Shop,

Don’t miss Indie Author Alley near the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts. Many great indie authors will be set up there - stop by and meet them!

At noon, the Storybook 5K & fun run will begin at Childers Park followed by a costume contest at 2pm at the Historic Courthouse.

There will be plenty more fun events, such as puppet story time at the library at 11am, the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts writing contest participants on display, photo ops with On Stage’s Peter Pan characters at the MWCA from 10am-12pm, opening day for the farmer’s market, the cow train, food trucks, bouncy houses, and more!

We can’t wait to see you there!

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Book Review: Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s newest release is a masterpiece that offers a glimpse of the world from a perspective we hope to see more of in kid lit!

 
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Here’s the publisher’s summary:

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Adventure, loneliness, discovery, friendship: Song for a Whale holds so much between its pages.

Iris is an amazing protagonist. I love seeing the world through her eyes and seeing how she solves the problems she faces in ways that would never occur to me as a hearing person. The way that Iris’ empathy for Blue 55 moves her to action is an excellent display of her ingenuity. Sound is something many of us hear, but for Iris, it’s something she feels. She shows the reader how we, too, can feel sound, and all that is communicated through it, on a whole new level.

Her experiences of being deaf at a hearing school open the reader to a different perspective. How do we show respect to those we communicate with? Kelly shows the difficulties in communication barriers though conflicts with Nina, who is sure she has mastered sign language, and with one of Iris’ teachers, who refuses to see past Iris’ difference. How often do we think we’ve mastered a complex topic, like a language and a culture, from reading a single book instead of learning from those embedded in them, as Nina does? Or how often do we limit our view of another and belittle their abilities, like Iris’ teacher?

Iris’ family dynamics are another intriguing element. Kelly links Iris’ relationship with her grandparents to poetry. The sign poems, poems rhyming not with words but with sign shapes, that Iris and her grandfather create are beautiful and a realm of poetry that I’d not experienced before. And the shared but distancing gulf of grief between her and her grandmother after the death of her grandfather draws the reader into the narrative in relatable ways.

Song for a Whale is excellent for those who love fixing things, for those who love adventure, for those who feel they are often misunderstood, for those who long for that special connection between kindred spirits.