Book Deals Made April, 2016

Oni Press has acquired world rights to the YA graphic novel IWant You by Madeleine Flores. The story follows a girl working in her brother’s cat cafe who has a secret magical ability that allows her to get whatever she wishes for whenever she says “I want.” Publication is slated for 2018.

Candlewick Press will publish 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Laureate Cao Wenxuan‘s novel Bronze and Sunflower, which tells the story of the friendship between Bronze, a mute village boy, and Sunflower, a girl sent from the city with her father to a rural re-educational “cadre school,” during the Cultural Revolution. Emma Lidbury at Walker Books bought world English rights for the Walker Books Group from Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Agency. The book was published in the U.K. in April 2015, and has been released in France, Germany, Italy, and Korea. Hilary Van Dusen will edit the U.S. edition, which will be published in early 2017.

HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press has acquired Anna Meriano‘s middle grade debut, Love Sugar Magic on behalf of CAKE Literary. The novel follows a girl who discovers that she comes from a long and distinguished line of brujas – witches of Mexican ancestry. But when she bungles a spell, she must race to fix it before her mother and sisters find out she’s been practicing magic in secret. Publication is set for late 2017.

Flatiron Books has preempted Somaiya Daud‘s debut Mirage, a YA fantasy/SF trilogy inspired by the author’s Moroccan background, in which a poor girl from an isolated moon must become the body double to the cruel imperial princess, and learns that life in the royal palace is far more dangerous and complicated than she imagined. Publication of the first book is planned for fall 2017.

First Second Books has acquired world rights to a YA graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki (l.) and illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell, called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. In the book, teenaged Freddy is going through what might possibly be the most epically complicated breakup in lesbian history – or at least it feels that way to Freddy and her long-suffering friends. It’s planned for 2018.

Dial has pre-empted Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary, a middle grade novel about shy 12-year-old Nisha, who is forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India. She finds a way to heal her broken world by writing raw and honest letters to her deceased Muslim mother. Publication is slated for spring 2018.

Scholastic Press has bought world rights toMadelyn Rosenberg (l.) and Wendy Wan-Long Shang‘s middle-grade novel This Is Just a Test. David Da-Wei Horowitz should be preparing for his bar mitzvah, but instead, he’s busy trying to figure out how to survive the Cold War, which is hard when he can’t even make peace between friends and his dueling Chinese and Jewish grandmothers. Publication is planned for 2017.

May 2016 Releases

Perfert Liars by Kimberly Reid; Tu Books. Ages 12 and up.
Andrea Faraday is junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life and her Perfect Girl charade begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail and the first stop on the way out.

If she were telling it straight, friendship might not be the right word to describe their alliance, since Drea and her new associates could not be more different. She’s rich and privileged; they re broke and, well, criminal. But Drea’s got a secret: she has more in common with the juvie kids than they d ever suspect. When it turns out they share a common enemy, Drea suggests they join forces to set things right. Sometimes, to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad.

OMG…issues OMG…I Did it Again?! by Talia Aikens-Nuñez; Central Avenue. ages 9-12
April Appleton wakes up to quite the sight: a herd of elephants marching down her street! She realizes that her powers of witchcraft have done it again. With her friends, Grace and Eve, April must figure out how the elephants got to her town in the first place and then how to get them back home. But with elephants playing in the neighbor’s pool, sitting on cars and eating everyone’s trees, how will they do it? Early readers will delight in the misadventures of this reluctant witch and her plucky friends as they try to figure out how to use April’s powers to do good in the world.

Even if the Stars Fall by Mia GarciaKatherine Tegen Books. ages 14 and up. Debut author.
One midsummer night. Two strangers. Three rules: No real names. No baggage. No phones. A whirlwind twenty-four-hour romance about discovering what it means to feel alive in the face of one of life’s greatest dangers: love. Who would you be if you had one night to be anyone you want?

Incriminated (Emancipated series) by M. G. Reyes. Katherine Tegen Books. ages 14 and up
There’s trouble in paradise. Six teens legally liberated from parental control the bad boy, the good girl, the diva, the hustler, the rocker, and the nerd all share a house in Venice Beach, and they all have one thing in common: murder.After a streak of hookups, heartbreaks, and bad decisions, the housemates once perfect life is falling apart. One is caught in a forbidden romance with a Hollywood heartthrob, while another puts her dreams on the line for one little kiss. One harbors a dark truth that could save a life, while another’s risky business puts all their lives in danger. And before they know it, the friends are fighting like family.But when an uninvited houseguest and a deadly accident entangle them in a conspiracy none of them saw coming, pulling together is the only way out. Alone, none of them can cover up the lies. Together, none of them can be trusted.Packed with conspiracies, intrigue, and scandalous romance, this gripping sequel told from multiple perspectives will have readers suspecting them all.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe, Book Two) by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Ages 12 and up
In this fast-paced sequel to “The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, ” Ashala and her friends face a new danger from the least expected source one of their own.
After a daring raid on Detention Center 3 to rescue their trapped peers, Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals children with powerful and inexplicable abilities are once again entrenched in their safe haven, the Firstwood. Existing in alliance with the ancient trees and the giant intelligent lizards known as saurs, the young people of the Tribe do their best to survive and hide. But the new peace is fractured when Ashala’s friend Ember Crow goes missing, leaving only a cryptic message behind. Ember claims to be harboring terrible secrets about her past that could be a threat to the Tribe and all Illegals. Ashala and her boyfriend, Connor, spring into action, but with Ashala’s Sleepwalking ability functioning erratically and unknown enemies lying in wait, leaving the Firstwood is a dangerous proposition. Can Ashala and Connor protect the Tribe and bring Ember home, or must they abandon one to save the other?

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. HMH Clarion. Ages 10-12
Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut.

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks. Lee and Low. Ages 7-12.
Vivien Thomas’s greatest dream was to attend college to study medicine. But after the stock market crashed in 1929, Vivien lost all his savings. Then he heard about a job opening at the Vanderbilt University medical school under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien knew that the all-white school would never admit him as a student, but he hoped working there meant he was getting closer to his dream.

As Dr. Blalock s research assistant, Vivien learned surgical techniques. In 1943, Vivien was asked to help Dr. Helen Taussig find a cure for children with a specific heart defect. After months of experimenting, Vivien developed a procedure that was used for the first successful open-heart surgery on a child. Afterward, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig announced their innovative new surgical technique, the Blalock-Taussig shunt. Vivien s name did not appear in the report. Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine children s heart surgery. Tiny Stitches is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.”

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee; Penguin. Ages 12 and up
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare sSchool for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance througha mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch ofspoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong until disaster strikes.
On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the ‘bossy’ cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Breakout author Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; G.P.Putnam. ages 12 and up
Renee Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renee enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. She is the author ofThe Wrath and the Dawn.

The Case of the Three Kings: The Flaca files/El Cso de lost reyes Magos: Los expedientes de Flaca by Alidis Vicente; Piñata Books. ages 8-12
Flaca, or Detective Flaca as she prefers to be called, is pleased with her Christmas gifts. Finally, she has the tools needed to do her job: a fingerprint-taking kit, a police-quality mini flashlight, and most exciting of all, police tape to block off crime scenes! However, she is not at all pleased with the airline tickets to Puerto Rico she and her sister La Bruja are given. She has case deadlines to meet! La Bruja isn’t very happy either since their grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, cable TV or Wi-Fi.

Their parents are sure the girls will enjoy celebrating Three Kings Day, a huge holiday in Latin America that takes place on January 6 and involves putting grass in a box under the bed for the wise men’s camels. Three men on flying camels sounds very suspicious to Detective Flaca, who once again is faced with a case begging to be solved. Where do the Three Kings get the gifts to put in the boxes? Do they steal presents from Santa Claus? Or do they take them from under Christmas trees around the world?

A Mystery Bigger Than Big/Un misterio mas grande que grandisimo by Rene Saldana Jr; Pinata Press. ages 8-12
In this fourth installment of the bilingual Mickey Rangel Mystery series, acclaimed author and educator Rene Saldana, Jr. writes a thought-provoking novel for intermediate readers that explores the contemporary issue of immigration from the perspective of young people. And in this case, Mickey learns some hard truths about being a detective and a good person, ultimately realizing that some mysteries are best left unsolved.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan; Scholastic. ages 9-12
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.
Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.
Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.
Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford; Atheneum. ages 9-12
“I WANT YOU ” says the poster of Uncle Sam. But if you re a young black man in 1940, he doesn t want you in the cockpit of a war plane. Yet you are determined not to let that stop your dream of flying.
So when you hear of a civilian pilot training program at Tuskegee Institute, you leap at the chance. Soon you are learning engineering and mechanics, how to communicate in code, how to read a map. At last the day you ve longed for is here: you are flying
From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the groundbreaking African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems, Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Weatherford, in a powerful and inspiring book that allows readers to fly, too.

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Balzer+Bray. ages 13 and up Debut author 
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters the only two in Russia and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with beautiful, whip smart, imaginative and he can t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself. As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Summer of Sloan by Erin L. Schneider. Disney-Hyperion. ages 12 and up. Debut author
Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.
These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.
Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.
But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to come by as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

book review: Dorothy Must Die


title: Dorothy Must Die
author: Danielle Paige
date: Harper, 2014
main character: Amy Gumm
young adult fiction


We all cheered for Dorothy to find the Wizard and make her way back home to Kansas. We loved Glinda’s sparkle and the shine of the yellow brick road, but sometimes too much ‘good’ just isn’t all that good. Sometimes, it’s quite wicked.

Another tornado in Kansas, another girl misplaced in Oz and we revisit the place only to wonder what in the world has happened. The munchkins, flying monkey and people of Oz were all once very happy with their lives but now, they’ve lost they joy and their freedoms. Can Amy figure this mess out? Which side does she choose when the only good advice she gets is to trust no one?

Dorothy Must Die is the first book in the series by Danielle Paige, an African American young adult author as well as a writer for television.

I like the steady pace Paige establishes in Dorothy Must Die. I like the time spent developing characters and their backstory, giving them important roles to play as the story unfolds. This first person narrative makes world building an integral part of the story with readers discovering how this new Oz works right along with main character, Amy Gumm. Her own backstory gives evidence to her poverty. Amy lacks most of the resources that would provide her access to success. She has no friends, her clothing is tattered and her single mother has a chemical dependency problem. Amy is empowered through her tenacity, intelligence, reliability and her magic. We’re going to be cheering for this underdog who is out to conquer Oz along with her mom’s pet rat, Star.

While Paige challenges many sources of power in this fantasy world, she leaves women as the source of magic and magic is the one true power in Oz. Many deep and penetrating questions arise in the book and I’m sure most young readers will want to follow Amy to find answers for her as well as for themselves. This girl is on a hero’s journey.

This is essentially a good vs. wicked story except that we really don’t know which side or which characters are good and which are evil. Amy struggles with decisions she has to make, important consequential decisions that tear at her sense of moral justice. She’s a strong girl this Amy who doesn’t act solely on her own self interest. The title makes it clear that Dorothy must die, but Amy really struggles with her part in this murderous act because she honors and values life. But, yeah. Dorothy must die.




“Lesson Learned: Catching Up With ‘Large Fears’ Author, Myles E. Johnson”

Some of the things I’ve been involved with probably stand out in your memory more than others. One of those things worth remembering has to be the Large Fears controversy. I was involved in it,  but it wasn’t about me. While we remember it as being about Meg Rosoff, it qQnFIiKe.jpgreally wasn’t. It was about the need for queer black boys in children’s literature  and it was about Myles Johnson and Kendrick Daye. As all too often happens with marginalized people, the real story was derailed and Myles’ and Kendrick’s  voices were lost in the fray.

I’ve kept in touch with Myles and I am beaming when tell you that he has not been, cannot be and will not be derailed. Myles is amazing. He is truly a creative talent with a voice that belongs in children’s literature. I recently asked him if he’d like to catch everyone up on what he’s been up to and he agreed to tell this part of his  developing story.

What I learned is that nothing can save you from the lesson. Recently, Edi Campbell asked me to write a type of summary of what I’ve been through since our first


photo by Eric Cash

interaction with each other in October. Admittedly, I have had a hard time my whole life with looking back which is one of the reasons why I began writing. Writing has been a tool that I’ve always used to reflect and learn. No matter what I am writing, the purpose is consistent. I am looking for the purpose. In fantasy or essays, I am looking for the design in the chaos. 

For those not so aware of whom I am or why it would be necessary for me to write an update on my status, allow me to give you a brief overview of my life in the past year. One day, I was wildly inspired. I was inspired by the cosmos, my identity, and my childhood. This inspiration resulted in a children’s book called Large Fears that centered a character I created named Jeremiah Nebula, who was a black boy that loved pink things. I wanted to create a cosmic story that centered a black boy with a queer identity, so I did just that. The response was beautiful. 

The press and professional opportunities I received are those things of a young writer’s dreams. NPR, NBC, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and the list goes on. I was invited to talk on panels and was pursued by literary agents. Part of me as a young black queer writer was grateful and excited about the possibilities. Another part of me was thinking ‘it’s about damn time’ and I was excited to move on with this project, and to showcase other ideas that have been swimming in my mind for such a long time.  

This lands us into a pretty warm October where accomplished author, Meg Rosoff said some alarming things about my project and questioned the need for queer blac+-+560850631_140.jpgk representation in children’s literature. This comment by Ms. Rosoff spawned outrage amongst readers, librarians, and other writers alike.  The controversy was spearheaded by Edi Campbell and landed us both in “The Guardian” where I was discovered by literary agent, Bethany Buck (representative of Cheryl Kilodavis who wrote, My Princess Boy).  The negativity served my intention with creating the book by creating dialogue, creating opportunity, and making the project that much more visible. I was taught when the intention is pure, even something perceived as bad can still do good. Lesson learned.  

The relationship between Ms. Buck and myself was growing and flourishing as the relationship between myself and my illustrator Kendrick Daye, was deteriorating for both personal and professional reasons. It was becoming obvious that Mr. Daye and myself had to part, but I was passionate about little Jeremiah Nebula and this project that I knew I had no choice, but to keep going. It felt bigger than myself and my career, it felt like a service I had to do for my community. After a couple of months of talking with some of the biggest publishing houses in the world, Ms. Buck revealed to me her professional passion had never left editing and she was going back to that field and would no longer be representing. Seeing someone stay true to their passion and dedicated to take risk for their happiness, even if it stung me a little, was still quite inspiring. Lesson learned.  

We arrive at the present day, and although filled with changes and lessons, I am just as filled with hope. I’m a free agent currently working on releasing a literary project called “Fairytales for Giovanni” that is a digital visual and literary project with fairytales for adults that center queer people of color. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had in the past year, and I’m feeling renewed and ready for new adventures. Most importantly, I am ready for new lessons. I believe that the key to true evolution is inside of yourself; to be ready and open to absorb what life offers you at all times. Lesson learned.  

 ~Myles E. Johnson 





I’ve been at conferences for the past two weekends. I’d hoped to blog a little about the first one before going to the second one, but that just didn’t happen. A combined post may lead me to better thoughts and insights.

The weekend of 1 & 2 April I was at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference in Champaign, Illinois. I needed this conference. I’m 4 years into the tenure process and finally focusing on projects that will build my career. But, I am more than my career.

Dr. Sonia Nieto opened the conference stating “I am my culture.” This sentiment contracted and expanded with me throughout the day as we recounted the ups and downs of being intersectional marginalized individuals who don’t necessarily know the academy’s code, speak its language and belong to the right clubs. But, while there we had access to each other.

Most of us came from campuses or departments where we are one a few Latino, Asian American or African American women, if not the only and we aspire to positions that are difficult for any women to attain even in the 21st century. I can wallow in the mud only so long before I’m ready for a visionary and uplifting message and that message for me came from Dr. Juliane Malveaux who spoke about resisting the nonsense we’re exposed to because if we become part of that then how are we creating space for our daughters? Or we could ask, do we want a piece of the pie or do we want to change the recipe? And how then, will we, will I, change it? They say we bring our experiences, our culture to all of our encounters and in that moment, I heard her speak of our need to reach out beyond these safe spaces if we really want to make change. If we/I want to be heard, then show up and in the showing up, look beyond my corner to understand the political in higher ed that will trickle down to my corner. Build allies and be an ally. I heard her reminding me to quite focusing on tenure and focus on authentically being me. Speak my voice. Now.

Being at the Virginia Hamilton Multicultural Conference is being in a space where I could authentically be me. This was my third visit to the conference, the other two visits about 10 years ago. Muscle memory kicked in and I could remember moving into these same spaces. What is it about this conference? It’s well done. The committee that puts it together is intent on honoring Virginia Hamilton, multiculturalism and children’s literature. The atmosphere is collegial and inviting. There are more people in attendance than past years I’ve attended, but not very many. The conference is 32 years old but not on the radar of teachers, librarians and scholars who are Native American or of color. The conference presented the Rudini (honoring Rudine Sims Bishop) to Angela Johnson, Jacqueline Woodson, Margarita Engle and Melanie Crowder. Authors Helen Frost and Mariko Nagai were present as was illustrator Christian Robinson.

I’ve spoken with so many people about the need for a sustainable diversity conference and here one is. I can’t really complain about what was lacking her because the conference can’t control who attends and it can only accept from presenters who submit proposals. I do know that on this same weekend other conferences that were held included the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival (Hattiesburg, MS) Kweli (New York City), Augusta Baker’s Dozen: A Celebration of Stories (Columbia SC) and the Public Library Association Annual Conference (Denver, CO). As Nancy Tolson says ‘Events are like cowards. They never come alone.”

If I want to be heard, then show up and in the showing up, look beyond my corner to understand the political in children’s literature will trickle down to your corner. Build allies and be an ally.

review: Booked by Kwame Alexander


title: Booked
author: Kwame Alexander
date: HMH; April 2016
main character: Nicholas (Nick) Hall
Middle Grade Fiction

Eighth grade is a grade filled with growing up and this is especially true if your name is Nick Hall. Nick and his mother are quite close but he has a strained relationship with his father. Poor relationships with dad seems to be a constant source of problems for young men in books and movies and Booked is no exception to this observation. Nick particularly doesn’t like that his father forces him to read the dictionary to improve his vocabulary. Despite how much energy Nick uses to resist his father, even the least observant reader will see how much Nick takes after him.

Nick feigns a disinterest in school but offers no pretense in his love of soccer. While Nick’s dad thinks grades are the key to college, Nick thinks his will be soccer. He shares this passion with his best friend Coby. While they’re both agile on the field, only Coby has what it takes to talk to girls. Even with his growing vocabulary, Nick has no words for April. The cast of characters is rounded out with Dean and Don Eggleston, twins who terrorize Nick and even more so his bff Coby who they attack with racial slurs. Alexander deftly handles these scenes, writing the reality of these verbal assaults while giving readers no reason to tolerate them. These scenes are the only time race is mentioned, making Coby’s mixed heritage more of a burden than a blessing. These supporting characters lack development, leaving Nick to carry the story himself. Will he find himself? Will he find and use his words? Will he grow up?

From the title of the book (a triple entendre) and even the very first page with ‘soccer’ embedded into its text, we are alerted to the fact that this book will be all about word play and hidden meanings and for the most part we’re not let down. I understand the contextual meaning of footnoting in the book, but accompanying Nick’s growing vocabulary with footnoted definitions makes me question for whom this book is written. Readers have to be trusted enough to know the words or to know how to figure them out. Just like with translating Spanish words in English books, this practice can annoy readers on a couple of levels levels.

Few people like reading dictionaries but many students are friends with the school librarian and will relate to Skip MacDonald aka The Mac aka the librarian.

He sounds
like he’s on the mike,
His flow is sick.

He pops his shoulders.
Bobs his head.
All while reading.

You listen.
You laugh.
You follow along.

Never through
you’d like
a book

of poems.
Two hours later,
when The Mac lands

on the final page,
the doctors and nurses
who’ve lingered
and listened, and who
crowd your room,
give The Mac

a standing ovation.

I have to wonder how well it works to write a book that goes on about how great books and reading are. I imagine Alexander visiting a school, delivering one of his highly engage sessions and every young person there will want to read his book if they haven’t already. They’ll come across titles of other wonderful middle grade books and they may go on to read them. Wordsmith, poet and storyteller that he is, I’d bet the name of this blog that he can get them to read. I reluctant readers will just want a good story and the same may be true for those who already enjoy reading.

Despite all that I mention, Alexander writes a cohesive story. That may sound like a trite compliment, but he builds upon several complex story lines and they all come together quite well, and he does that in narrative poetry, a structure with few if any safety nets. Alexander explores ways of adding textured meaning to his story, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The book I reviewed was an advanced copy and changes may have been made in the final copy. I do have two ARCs of this book and will be glad to send one copy to each of the first two teachers who emails me their school mailing address. I’ll remove this offer once I’ve received two requests.

crazyquilts at hotmail dot com

April Releases (middle grade and YA)

Meet Marly: Marly Book 1 by Alice Pung; Penguin Books Australia. Ages 8-12.
It’s 1983 and Marly is just trying to fit in at Sunshine Primary School. But being a refugee from Vietnam doesn’t make things easy, and when Marly’s cousins come to stay and end up at the same school, her friends make fun of them. How can Marly stay loyal to her cousins and keep her school friends as well?

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan and illustrated by Ben Hibon; Disney-Hyperion. Ages 8-12.
Thorn, a boy sold into slavery who must serve the royalty of Castle Gloom for a year and a day to earn his freedom, and Lilith Shadow, the 13-year-old ruler of Gehenna, who is forbidden to practice the magic that is her heritage, join forces to solve the murders taking place in Gehenna.

Prodigy: The Graphic Novel by Marie Lu; G. P. Putnam. Ages 12 and up.
The second book in the best-selling “Legend “trilogy comes to life in this vibrant graphic novel adaptation.
After escaping from the Republic’s stronghold, Day and June are on the run in Vegas when the country learns that their Elector Primo has died and his son has stepped in to take his place. They meet up with the rebel stronghold of the Patriots a large organization straddling the line between the Republic and its warring neighbor, the Colonies and learn about an assassination plot against the Elector. Using threats and blackmail to get what he wants, the Patriots’ leader, Razor, convinces June to let herself be captured by Republic soldiers so she can win over the Elector and feed him a decoy assassination plan. But when June realizes that the new Elector is nothing like his father, she must work with Day to try to stop the Patriots’ plot before Razor can fulfill his own devastating plans.

Golden (Heart of Dread) by Melissa de la Cruz; G.P. Putnam. Ages 13-17.
With the ruins of New Kandy still smoldering around them and Nat’s bond to her beloved drakon quickly fraying, Nat and Wes are lost amid a sea of destruction with Wes at death’s door. Wes tried to save his sister, Eliza, and protect them from her cruelty, only to see firsthand just how dark her power had become.
Desperate to escape the dangers lurking in New Kandy, Wes accepts help from a mysterious voice calling out to him from the Blue, leading Nat and his crew into even more perilous surroundings. They quickly realize that their only chance for survival lies with Nat and the quest for a new world to replace their broken one but at what cost?
In this epic conclusion to the Heart of Dread trilogy, Nat and Wes must put their love to the ultimate test in hopes of seeing their world reborn.

Fire and Glass (Keepers of the Vault #1) by Marty Chan. Clockwise Press. ages 8-12
A fourth floor that is only pretending to be a storage room, stairs that lead to an abyss, and a goth djinn with an attitude who likes to play with fire: Krystina finds more than she bargained for when she moves to a new school. The adventures of the Keepers of the Vault are just beginning. Written in dyslexia-friendly font High interest – low reading level.

Soldier (Talon Series) by Julie Kagawa; Harlequeen; Teen. ages 14 and up.
When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragon-slayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.

Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana López; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Ages 9-12
Sixth graders Dominic, Loop, and Z stumble upon a new magic shop in town and can’t wait to spend their summer mastering cool tricks to gain access to the Vault, a key holders-only back room bound to hold all kinds of secrets. And once they get in, they set their sights even higher: a huge competition at the end of the summer. They work on their card tricks, sleights, and vanishing acts, trying to come up with the most awesome
routines possible….Problem is, the trip is expensive, and it’s money that each guy’s family just doesn’t have.

To make things worse, the shop-owners’ daughter, Ariel (who just so happens to be last year’s competition winner), will do anything to make sure the boys don’t come out on top. Even pit them against one another. Will they make it to the competition? And if so, at what cost?

The Return: Fall of the Beasts Book 3 by Varian Johnson; Scholastic. ages 8-12
Split between two worlds, Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan are four young heroes who are racing to stop an ancient evil. Even the spirit animal bond, the sacred link between humans and animals, is on the brink of destruction.
The friends face an enemy with the power to enslave others to its will-and to steal spirit animals away from their rightful partners. With their own allies falling to this darkness, the four must look to their bonds to light the way forward.
But one of those lights is about to go out. Briggan, Uraza, Jhi, and Essix. Before their journey is over, one of these legends will be lost.

Unidentified Suburban Objects by Mike Jung; Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. ages 8-12
The next person who compares Chloe Cho with famous violinist Abigail Yang is going to HEAR it. Chloe has just about had it with people not knowing the difference between someone who’s Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. She’s had it with people thinking that everything she does well — getting good grades, winning first chair in the orchestra, et CETera — are because she’s ASIAN.
Of course, her own parents don’t want to have anything to DO with their Korean background. Any time Chloe asks them a question they change the subject. They seem perfectly happy to be the only Asian family in town. It’s only when Chloe’s with her best friend, Shelly, that she doesn’t feel like a total alien.
Then a new teacher comes to town: Ms. Lee. She’s Korean American, and for the first time Chloe has a person to talk to who seems to understand completely. For Ms. Lee’s class, Chloe finally gets to explore her family history. But what she unearths is light-years away from what she expected.

Keep Me in Mind by Jaime Reed; Scholastic Point. Ages 12 and up
Ellia Dawson doesn’t recognize the handsome boy who sits in tears by her hospital bed. He claims he’s her boyfriend, Liam. But to Ellia, he’s a stranger. She remembers her name. Her parents. Her best friend, Stacey. But Liam is a total blank in her life.
Liam McPherson is devastated. His girlfriend, Ellia, suffered a terrible accident–maybe because of him–and now she’s lost her memory. But the harder Liam tries to reach Ellia, and remind her of what they had, the more she pulls away. As Ellia begins on the slow road to recovery, Liam begins work on a secret project that he hopes will bring back the girl he loved. But can there ever be a future when the past is in pieces?

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly #1: Locker Hero by Rachel Renee Russell; Aladdin. ages 9-12
Max is about to face the scariest place he’s ever been South Ridge Middle School He has been home-schooled by his grandmother until now, and he’s begged his parents to finally let him start attending public middle school. He’s starting to question that choice, though, with the Thomas Silver Problem. As in, Thomas Silver keeps stuffing Max in his locker.
If only Max could be like the hero in all the comics he likes to read or the ones he draws and magically escape the locker and defeat Tommy. Unfortunately, Max’s uncanny, almost superhuman ability to smell pizza from a block away won t exactly save any lives or foil bad guys. But that doesn t mean Max won t do his best to be the hero his school needs.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi; St. Martins Griffin. ages 8-12 Debut Author
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself. A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry; Algonquin. Ages 12-18.
In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison. Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill. Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

Booked by Kwame Alexander; HMH. Ages 10-13.
“Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/””on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can t nobody stop you/””can t nobody cop you ” In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read. This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match.

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki; Roaring Book Press. Ages 13-17
A beautiful and offbeat novel from Mariko Tamaki, co-creator of the bestselling Printz Honor and Caldecott Honor Book “This One Summer.”

Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects. Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you’ll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.