Magical Realism in Middle Grade

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Magical realism is a flourishing sub-genre of middle grade literature, but what does it mean, how is it different from standard fantasy and why is it so appealing to young readers and not-so-young authors alike? My first introduction to magical realism came in college when I became enamored with the works of Congolese author Sony Lab’ou Tansi; although, at the time, I wrote a paper outlining how his brand of magical storytelling differed from the classic magical realism tradition of Latin American authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Nowadays, my thoughts on the subject are not quite so lofty.

Middle grade authors have developed their own version of magical realism, which, of course, varies just as much as previous iterations. Today I’m going to share my specific understanding of the sub-genre and how I have used everyday magic as a tool to develop my characters’ emotional journeys.

First, a definition. I like to define magical realism in middle grade as a story that takes place in an everyday setting with just a hint of magic. However, we need to take the definition a few steps farther to really understand magical realism, especially if we want to differentiate it from contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy, which are also fantasy stories that take place in everyday settings. One of the key differences here is that with contemporary or urban fantasy, the fantasy element is generally a force that characters must strive to overcome. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the beasties are primarily there to drive the plot forward and give Buffy landmarks on her hero’s journey.

In magical realism, the fantasy element serves a different purpose. It is generally there in order to spark or highlight an emotional change in the main character. Think of the magic as a spiritual guide, leading the character on a journey of self-discovery. The magical element is often symbolic of a larger idea. For a concrete example, let’s take a look at my first book, Skeleton Tree.

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In Skeleton Tree, the main character, Stanly, discovers a finger bone in his backyard. He hopes to dig up the bones and photograph them in order to win a contest, but the bones have other ideas. They start to grow, first into a bony hand reaching up into the sky, and then into a full-sized skeleton that only children and a few special adults can see. The only person who doesn’t find the skeleton creepy is Stanly’s little sister, Miren. She wants to be best friends with the skeleton, that she names Princy, but when she starts to get sick more often than usual, Stanly worries that maybe the skeleton isn’t as friendly as Miren thinks.

Spoiler alert:  as you probably guessed, Princy represents Death in the story. As Stanly’s relationship with Princy changes and grows throughout the course of the book, so does Stanly’s understanding of Death. By the end, he realizes that, “maybe death [isn’t] all worms and nothingness. Maybe, sometimes, there [is] mystery and whimsy and dancing shadow puppets, too. The kind that [need] both light and dark to be seen” (154-155 Skeleton Tree). The magic serves the purpose of guiding both the character and the reader on an emotional journey that might be more difficult to conceptualize without a physical manifestation of a complex topic, in this case Princy as the physical manifestation of Death.

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This is one of the reasons why I think magical realism works so well in middle grade. Not only can it give young readers a concrete way to visualize and understand fuzzy existential topics, but, using light magic, often with a big dose of whimsy, is also a great way to ease readers into a conversation about dark or difficult topics, like death in Skeleton Tree or homelessness in Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw.

Another characteristic that differentiates magical realism from contemporary or urban fantasy is that authors of magical realism usually make no attempt to explain the magic. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, we learn an entire mythology surrounding slayers and demons that, while still fantastical, explains the world in a way that viewers and characters in the show are willing to accept. On the other hand, in magical realism, the author makes little or no attempt to explain, because it’s not about developing a larger fantasy world or a plausible system of magic, it’s about taking the character on a specific emotional journey. Once the journey is over, the magic often disappears or goes away until it is needed by a future character looking to undertake a similar emotional journey.

Hopefully this article has given you a greater understanding of magical realism in middle grade literature and has inspired you to go out and read, or even write, some magical middle grade in 2019.

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Kim Ventrella is the author of the middle grade novels SKELETON TREE and BONE HOLLOW (coming 2/26/2019). Her short story, ‘Jingle Jangle,’ will appear in the NEW SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK anthology releasing in 2020. Her works tackle tough topics with big doses of whimsy, hope and, of course, magic.

Why Drawing Matters

When I was a kid, I loved drawing. I loved the way it felt to make marks on a page, the sound of the graphite scratching against the paper, the feel of the pencil against my fingers.

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I liked the sensation of moving my hand and arm in swooping or looping gestures. And I liked the marks left by these gestures: lines against a surface, the visual contrast and tension. With a little imagination, I could see characters who’d never existed before come to life. But drawing was also an activity that got me in trouble. At school If I had a sheet of paper in front of me, I doodled on it. I would draw in my notebook instead of work on what I was supposed to be doing. Drawing was often seen as an off-task activity. At home, my artistic endeavors were appreciated, but not regarded as something to aspire to. As the child of immigrants, I was encouraged to focus on more serious, scholarly pursuits. I grew up believing that the thing I loved and cared about didn’t really matter. So eventually, I just stopped doing it.

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Like me, many children use drawing as a primary way of responding to and representing experiences, ideas, and imaginings. Before we can form words, we make marks on a page to tell stories about who we are and what we care about.

We draw what frightens us, perplexes us, and excites us. Our early drawings were opportunities to examine ourselves in the world, to challenge concepts and beliefs, and to imagine who we might be in the future. As an act, drawing is deeply entangled with literacy development, but doesn’t often receive the same attention or regard as language.

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Drawing  helps us discover what we know. It gives shape to our often divergent and nonlinear thoughts. It helps us construct new knowledge, by offering a non-verbal approach to thinking through logic and causality. But drawing is also a deeply embodied act that activates the body by privileging sensation and desire over linearity and discursiveness. Drawing emphasizes our subjective rationality, highlights our material constraints, and creates the conditions for surprise and delight. Drawing allows us to sidestep the structures of language to speak without saying, to know without articulating, and to sense without containing. Drawing cares more about how we feel than what we think.

body tingling.jpgOkay, I never really stopped drawing. I just pushed it to the margins for a long time, and hid it in places other people couldn’t see. I could never really shake it. In fact, there were times when my body seemed to need it. In the darkest of times, I found that drawing in my sketchbook was the only thing that would help me feel better. It didn’t matter how well I drew, and it didn’t matter if anyone even saw it. Drawing helped me be present with my feelings, it helped me endure confounding thoughts, it helped me wait out the darkness for the light. And this is still how it works for me.
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Not everything we feel or everything we know can be articulated through language. As a cultural-historical system, language not only gives shape to our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, it tells us what they’ll be as well. In order to share (or prove) what we know or how we feel, we necessarily have to render it in language, an act we all struggle with from time to time. Think about all those times we resort to metaphor to explain that what we mean is more than the words we’re using to say it. We’ve been moving from thoughts to words for so long, it’s easy to believe that the only way to know something, is to put it into language.  It’s even easy to mistake thought and language as the same thing.

Can we know something if we can’t say it?

Can we think through drawing?

What are feelings before we’ve named them?

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I’m a sucker for cartoon characters. I love how improbable they are. Their impossibility. Their absurdity. As caricatured humans, they also help reveal and uncover the limits of our humanity.

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It makes sense to me that cartoon characters would emerge from drawing. It’s true, of course, that drawing can be used to document and look more closely at the world around us. It can be used to uncover the depth of our thoughts, to reveal the complexity of our world. It can be used inquire. But what excites me most is drawing’s ability—through the ambiguity of line—to render the unimaginable in a visible form, free from the constraints of logic or reason. Drawing offers us an opportunity to imagine new trajectories for ourselves and for the world around us. When I draw, I can act on what I sense—those vibrations and movements in my body—without having to figure out what they are or what they mean.

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 1.09.45 PM.pngIn a few months, my own graphic novel, Red Panda & Moon Bear, comes out. It’s a wish fulfilled for my twelve-year-old self. A book full of monsters and creatures, impossible happenings. It’s also got characters who remind me a lot of myself. They’re silly and irreverent. They care deeply about the people around them. They’re powerful and strong. They know a lot of stuff, but they also make a ton of mistakes. They’re helpful and destructive. Beings of contradiction and ambiguity. Just like all of us. The narrative in this book is itself a kind of line drawing: meandering and diverging. It splits apart, goes in separate directions, rejoins itself later. It moves in odd shapes, full of surprise. It resists logic and reason. It’s motivated not by what should come next, but by what could come next.

 

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Now I’m all grown up—a college professor—and I teach comics and cartooning in a creative writing program. I’ve discovered that people who like to tell stories, often (used to) like drawing as well. I’ve had countless adult students come to my office to confess their desire to go back to drawing. I get to hear stories about drawing with parents as children, making their own comics and zines, and the too-often abandonment of these activities. The older I’ve gotten, the more my actions have been motivated by a desire to retrieve my own past. Like my students, I’m looking for the things I love, and so many of them began in my childhood. Maybe it’s because we’re getting farther and farther away from it. Maybe we’re worried it’ll disappear entirely. Maybe we’re scared to forget. But maybe you still feel that desire to draw, the tingle of excitement in your body. Maybe, when you pick up a comic or watch a cartoon, you get that rushing sensation, that urge to make something. Maybe you left drawing, but drawing never left you.

So, I’ll quote the cartoonist and educator, Lynda Barry: “To all the kids who quit drawing…come back!”drawnig.jpg

Some drawing and art-making resources:

  1. Marjorie & Brent Wilson’s book, Teaching Children to Draw, is not just a resource for working with children, but an exploration of what it means to draw.
  2. Andrea Kantrowitz’s article, Drawn to Discover, details a cognitive approach to drawing. http://www.andreakantrowitz.com/drawn-to-discover.html
  3. Nick Sousanis’s essay in comics form, The Shape of Our Thoughts, explores the way drawing comics approximates human thought. His book, Unflattening, furthers and continues this conversation. http://spinweaveandcut.com/the-shape-of-our-thoughts/
  4. Deanna Petherbridge’s, The Primacy of Drawing, is an theoretical and historical text on the ways drawing helps us construct knowledge and the ways we think through drawing.
  5. Elliot Eisner’s The Arts and the Creation of Mind, is an argument for  art-making in an educational context, and draws from a lifetime of research in art education.  
  6. Dave Eggers’ short short story, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, is a great example of the ways we use metaphor to articulate sensations of the body.
  7. Maxine Greene’s collection of essays, Releasing the Imagination, approaches art-making (including writing and literacy) from a curricular and pedagogical perspective, and situates it as an imaginative endeavor that can be used to construct a more equitable future.
  8. My article/comic, Drawing with Milo, documents the ways drawing is entangled in the life of a ten-year-old boy. https://educate.bankstreet.edu/occasional-paper-series/vol2013/iss30/12/

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Jarod Roselló is a Cuban-American cartoonist, writer, and teacher originally from Miami, Florida. He is the author/artist of the middle grade graphic novel, Red Panda & Moon Bear, and the forthcoming (adult) graphic novel, Those Bears. He teaches fiction and comics in the creative writing program at University of South Florida. You can find him at www.jarodrosello.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @jarodrosello.

MG at Heart Book List: Middle Grade and Picture Books for Grief, Loss, and Funeral Rites

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY is a beautiful, whimsical and fantastical journey through grief. Reynolds’ deftly weaves so many truths and emotions about the grieving and healing process into Cecilia’s journey. The book is truly a healing balm to  children and adults alike who have lost someone near and dear to them.

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If you loved THE LAND OF YESTERDAY and would like to read more children’s books about grief, or if you know a child who is grieving but perhaps is not ready for THE LAND OF YESTERDAY yet, we’ve put together this list of books around death, grieving, and funeral rites. Each one hits on a bit different part of the topic and is aimed at different audiences and age groups. So hopefully, you’ll find just what you’re looking for.

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE by Jennifer Maschari

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The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price asks the question, “Would you be willing to give up memories of a lost loved one in exchange for the illusion of being with them again?” At once a bit dark and scary, like Coraline, but also incredibly heartfelt. It helps the reader to feel gratitude for what they have of the person they lost.

TIM’S GOODBYE by Steve Salerno

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When a young child has to say goodbye to a beloved pet, this may be the picture book for them. Gentle illustrations show a group of kids getting ready for something. It’s only at the end that you realize it is a send off for a dead pet turtle, which they release into the sky with balloons. Comforting without being preachy or instructive.

THE FUNERAL by Matt James

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This picture book shows a funeral for a semi-distant relative from a child’s point of view, which may not always be the most reverent. But it is a good way to open the conversation for any families who will be attending one soon with young kids.

THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin

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This was the book I needed as a child. My closes friend died when I was in 4th grade but my last interaction with her was me declining to go play at her house because I didn’t feel like it. That isn’t nearly so bad as the last interaction that haunts the main character of this book, but it spoke to my heart that still feels the prick of that. In the end, this is a book for anyone trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy, who has to come to the painful realization that sometimes bad things just happen and there’s no good explanation.

SOMETHING VERY SAD HAPPENED by Bonnie Zucker

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This picture book was a turning point in my 4yo son’s therapy after the death of his favorite uncle (the father of his dearest cousin.) About six months after the death, my son started having intense anxiety breakdowns about death and dying. We took him to a therapist who gave us this book. After reading it a few times, and inserting the name of his uncle into the words marked in red (allowing any reader to properly personalize the book) we were able to have a conversation about what happened and how it made us feel, without a breakdown. Very gentle and perfect for the very young.

I am also going to highly recommend all the other books on death and grieving from Magination Press (the children’s publishing arm of the APA). There is a picture book for losing a parent, losing a pet, losing a sibling, losing a friend, and even one for a child who finds out they are going to die. They may not be standard story time fare but are important to have on hand when someone in your community needs it.

https://www.apa.org/pubs/magination/browse.aspx?query=subject:Grief+and+Loss

As luck would have it, Corrina Allen asked for grief and loss recs and gave two of her own earlier this week. So we are also listing a few of those here.Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 3.05.05 PM.png

Princess Wu Yinmei vs Chen Peasprout: Petition to Strip Chen Peasprout of Points

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Sagacious and Venerable Senseis of Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword,

I, Princess Wu Yinmei, as petitioner in this proceeding, demand that you strip respondent Chen Peasprout and her battleband, called by the tragically inauspicious name “Nobody and the Fire-Chickens,” of all points they earned during the First Annexation and that such points be transferred to me.

I restate here all the undisputed facts that the senseis need consider:

  1. I am the great-great-granddaughter of the Empress Dowager of Shin.
  2. I fled here to the city of Pearl seeking sanctuary from the Empress Dowager’s ruthlessness.
  3. The Empress Dowager is preparing to invade Pearl.
  4. Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword has thus been transformed into a military academy.
  5. The academy students are being taught to use their skills in martial skating not just for theatrical performance, but to protect against the invasion.
  6. Chen Peasprout falsely and hatefully accused me of coming to Pearl to spy for the Empress Dowager, which is a vile slur soaked in vicious lies.
  7. The Empress Dowager demands that Chen Peasprout be deported back to Shin to be executed as a traitor.
  8. Chen Peasprout is granted sanctuary to stay here in Pearl only if she takes first ranking at each of this year’s three Annexations.
  9. I foolishly accepted Chen Peasprout’s invitation to join her battleband. During the First Annexation, we performed shamefully and were rescued from defeat only by my seizing prized possessions belonging to our opponents, and threatening to hurl them into the sea if we were not awarded first ranking.
  10. Chen Peasprout then expelled me from her battleband, simply because she had not authorized my stratagem, in a pitiful public tantrum exhibiting an utter absence of shame or dignity that was an embarrassment to witness.

I will not say that Chen Peasprout has trash for leadership skills, for I am a kind person and have a complete lack of opinion about her character or the fact that she was only one of two students that Sensei Madame Liao sentenced to remedial leadership class.

I will say that I tenderly urged Chen Peasprout to learn from me for I was groomed for leadership from birth. I wrote an entreaty in the form of a harrowing opera scene entitled “The Bitter Tea of the Dynasty in the Dynasty.” It recounted how the Empress Dowager threatened to poison me, like she poisoned everyone else in our family, if I proved to be an unsuitable leader to inherit the throne. I include with this petition a letter orb recording the performance of this scene.

Yinmei:

Why have you summoned me, great-great-grandmother?
The invitation called me to a feast.

But if this is a feast why aren’t there any others
To join us but the honorable deceased?

Empress Dowager:

I’ve summoned you to feast, great-great-granddaughter
On something that is precious beyond price.

So what I pour into your cup is more than water,
What I put in your bowl is more than rice.

Will you take the bitter tea
Of the dynasty in the dynasty?

For your sake, commit to me
And the dynasty in the dynasty.

Will you join us, will you Empress Yinmei be?

They talk of vicious things that I have done to
Each person who’s inheriting my throne.

It’s only that I’m searching for the special one to
Convince me with some merit of her own.

A girl who has the courage to put finding
A way to change the law into her plan.

When she is Empress, Shin will have no more foot-binding.
Our girls will walk as far as any man.

Will you take the bitter tea
Of the dynasty in the dynasty?

For your sake, commit to me
And the dynasty in the dynasty.

Will you join us, will you Empress Yinmei be?

Yinmei:

Then she claps and orders me to eat and drink.
I don’t know what to do, don’t know what to think.

But she put our family into their graves,
And that’s where she’ll put me too unless I’m brave.

So for four days and four nights I stay composed,
With my spirit steady for my mouth is closed.

I refuse your poison, I will not comply!
I live unafraid until the day I die!

I won’t take (Why won’t you break) your bitter tea (Come drink my tea)!

Of the dynasty in the dynasty,

I won’t break (I tried to make), so set me free (you into me)

Of the dynasty in the dynasty!

I won’t join you, I won’t Empress Yinmei be!

What I have learned from my experiences is that a leader makes decisions that no one wants to make.

What you will learn, as the waves of war hurl toward our shores, is that Chen Peasprout is not the leader who will save Pearl.

I am.

– Petitioner, Princess Wu Yinmei

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 5.28.27 PMHenry Lien is a 2012 graduate of Clarion West. His short fiction has appeared in publications like Asimov’s, earning multiple Nebula Award nominations. He is the author of the Peasprout Chen series, on which he was mentored by George R.R. Martin, Chuck Palahniuk, and Kelly Link. Born in Taiwan, Henry currently lives in Hollywood. Henry has worked as an attorney, fine art dealer, and college instructor. Hobbies include pets, vegan cooking, writing and performing campy science fiction/fantasy anthems, and losing Nebula awards.

www.henrylien.com/peasproutchen

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250165695

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250165756

www.facebook.com/HenryLienAuthor

www.twitter.com.com/HenryLienAuthor

www.instagram.com/HenryLienAuthor

For more about artist Afu Chan, visit: www.afuchan.com

Cover Reveal: THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE, by Sarah R. Baughman

COVER_REVEAL

I am thrilled to welcome Sarah Baughman to the MG Book Village for the cover reveal of her debut novel, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE.  Many thanks to Sarah for letting us host the reveal and for taking the time to answer a few questions about her novel.

~ Corrina

Corrina: Hi Sarah – welcome to the MGBookVillage! Before we share your cover, can you tell us a bit about The Light in the Lake?

Sarah: I’m thrilled that you’re hosting my cover reveal! Thanks so much. The Light in the Lake follows the journey of Addie, a 12-year-old girl who lost her twin brother when he drowned in a lake near their rural Vermont home. Addie has recently been accepted for a summer position studying water pollution, but she finds her scientific view of the world challenged by a notebook her brother left behind, filled with clues about a magical creature living in Maple Lake. The book is close to my heart, as the setting is strongly inspired by where I used to live in Vermont; I actually got the idea for the story while walking in the woods behind our old house.

Corrina: I’ve always been fascinated by the tension between a scientific view of the world and a magical view of the world.  Do you see them as compatible?

Sarah: This is a great question, and I actually do see them as compatible even though they might seem contradictory! One of my best friends in college was a chemistry major, and I have a distinct memory of walking back from cross-country practice with her on a foggy afternoon. I made some poetic comment about the fog looking otherworldly, and she said, “that’s funny; I was thinking about condensation.” I believe and find value in both perspectives. That said, I’ve always sensed magic in nature, and still do; so although I’m deeply committed to the science of conservation and believe we’re all in debt to scientists who continue to discover new information about how best to protect our environment, I also feel that noticing those touches of magic creates a kind of emotional connection to nature that’s very important.

Corrina: Let’s take a look at the cover!

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Corrina: That is gorgeous! Who is the artist that designed your cover?  And what did you think when you saw the final version?

Sarah: I’m so grateful to the people who created this cover: illustrator Ji-Hyuk Kim and designer Karina Granda. The final version absolutely took my breath away! I was amazed by how beautifully all the elements we’d discussed came together. The colors and light really capture the beauty of the setting, along with Addie’s sense of wonder.

Corrina: Sarah – thank you for letting us take a peek at the cover of The Light in the Lake! When can readers get it, and where is a good place to preorder?

Sarah: The book is scheduled for release on September 3, 2019! In the meantime, you can pre-order it on Amazon, IndieBound, or Barnes & Noble. You can also add it on Goodreads and stay posted for more retailers on the Little, Brown site. Thanks again for hosting this reveal, and for doing such a wonderful job of supporting and promoting middle grade books!

Corrina: Thank you!

srbaughman_authorphotocolorSarah R. Baughman grew up in Michigan, then taught middle and high school English on four continents. After living in rural northeastern Vermont for six years, she recently moved back to Michigan with her husband and two children. She now works as an educational consultant and author, and spends as much time as possible in the woods and water.

You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahrbaughman  , Instagram at @sarahrbaughman, or on her website www.sarahrbaughman.com

 

MG Trends & the Most Anticipated Books of 2019: Books Between, Episode 68

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a teacher, a mom, and battling a cold this afternoon! So if I sound a little…off – that is why!

This is episode #68 and today I’m answering some questions about trends in middle grade and sharing with you some fabulous 2019 titles to look forward to this year!

Q&A – Trends in Middle Grade Fiction

Last month, my husband asked me some questions about trends in middle grade fiction. He teaches a class at Seton Hall all about trends in genre fiction and wanted some input on middle grade. So I thought I would share my responses with you. And I would be very curious about what YOU would answer.

1. What genres or subgenres do you believe are the hottest right now?

Well, it’s a format and not a genre but graphic novel memoirs like Hey Kiddo, Real Friends, and Be Prepared are still really popular. And also graphic novel adaptations of classics (like Anne of Green Gables) and popular novels (like Wings of Fire or Percy Jackson).  And again, not genre, but I see more books that are based on the core experiences of the writer. Those novels that draw on the real-life backgrounds of the authors like Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, Tami Charles’ Like Vanessa, and Supriya Kellar’s Ahimsa.  They’re not memoirs but they are books rooted in a very personal experience. To authors, I’d say – take those things that make you unique, that make you a bit quirky, that set you apart from most other people – and write THAT story. Like Kelly Yang taking the experiences of her family coming from China and running motels to write Front Desk. Jarrett Krosoczka writing the critically acclaimed graphic novel memoir Hey Kiddo about his life living with his grandparents after his mom lost custody of him due to drug addiction. Crack that door open and invite us inside.

2: What genres or subgenres do you believe are passé or overexposed?

I don’t know…. I wonder how long the unicorn and narwhal craze will last but that seems to live more in picture books than middle grade. Magical realism – or rather realistic fiction with a magical twist – doesn’t seem to be slowing down. You know – anything can be new and fresh with the right spin.  And also, authors from marginalized backgrounds are still underrepresented in just about every genre so those are stories that will likely have new points of view. I thought I was totally over zombie stories but Dread Nation popped up and whoa!!  I’ve never read a zombie story like THAT before!

3: If you had to predict, what genre or subgenre do you think is primed to be the next Big Thing in the next year or so?

I would say stories about immigrants, refugees, and the unique experiences of marginalized groups (especially by #ownvoices authors) will continue to be popular. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an explosion of critically acclaimed middle grade stories like Alan Gratz’s Refugee, Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me, and Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai among many more. We also have more and more books coming out that tell stories of police violence in developmentally appropriate ways like Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and Blended by Sharon Draper.  I’m also really excited about a new crop of middle grade #MeToo stories on the horizon like So Done by Paula Chase and the upcoming Barbara Dee novel Maybe He Just Likes You.

4: Any comments about where you see genre fiction heading?

In middle grade, like everywhere else,  #ownvoices books are still underrepresented  – everyone has a unique story to tell or a unique POV to offer.  EVERYONE. So my advice to authors, take the spark of your unique life experiences and let that burn throughout your story.  My advice to educators – scour those shelves to find a wider variety of books. Also – if you write for a YA/MG audience, librarians and educators are more and more eager to the ditch the old canon and form partnerships with authors. Look for opportunities like #KidsNeedMentors or reach out to your local schools and libraries.

Main Topic – Most Anticipated Middle Grade Books of 2019

The last couple of episodes were all about looking back on some of the best that middle grade had to offer in 2018. (If you missed those, go check out episodes #66 and #67.)  But today is all about looking forward into the new year.  Last year, when I did our Most Anticipated MG of 2018, I went chronologically by month. But this year I’m going about it a little differently and discussing the new releases by category.  

First, we’ll chat about the new graphic novels coming up in 2019. And then we’ll talk about new releases from authors who debuted in 2018 and 2017 and see what they’re up to now. After that, I’ll give you a peek at some of the 2019 debut middle grade authors.  Then we’ll see what new books are coming out in favorite series and what sequels we have to look forward to. And finally, we’ll finish up with the 2019 releases from more established authors.

So, buckle up and get ready to add to your wish list. And remember – no need to go hunting for a pen and paper. You can find every book mentioned AND a picture of the available covers AND a link to pre-order them right on the Books Between post for this episode, #69, at MGBookVillage.com.  I’ve got your back, I know you’re busy, so it’s all right there for you. And as I’ve said before, I’ve come to really love pre-ordering – it helps out favorite authors and it’s like a little surprise to your future self.

Before we jump in, just remember that this is just a sampling of all the incredible books coming out this year. I’ll add some links to some other great resources in the show notes and on the website where you can find more complete listings of titles to browse through and the MGBookVillage website has a great release calendar so that’s one to bookmark for sure.

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/111975.Middle_Grade_Novels_of_2019

http://novelnineteens.com/books/middle-grade-books

https://mgbookvillage.org/2018releasedates/

http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2018/12/19-2019-middle-grade-books-to-have-on-your-radar/

https://www.readbrightly.com/middle-grade-books-2019/

https://www.bookish.com/articles/must-read-childrens-books-winter-2019/

http://www.popgoesthereader.com/target-audience-middle-grade/70-middle-grade-novels-i-cant-wait-to-read-in-2019/

Also – publication dates occasionally change, so just be aware of that. Alright, get your Goodreads tab open, or your library website pulled up, or your Amazon/Indiebound shopping cart ready, or ….. print out the show notes and bring it to your favorite local bookstore! Alright – let’s get to it!

2019 Graphic Novels

  • This January, Lincoln Peirce, the author of Big Nate, has a new graphic/illustrated novel series set in the middle ages called Max and the Midknights that looks really, really cute.
  • Also out on January 8th is Click by Kayla Miller – the story of 5th grader Olive who is having some trouble finding where she “clicks” in middle school. The sequel, called Camp, is being released this April so fans won’t have to wait long for the next one.
  • A fantasy graphic novel that Mel Schuit recommended I check out is The Chancellor and the Citadel by Maria Capelle Frantz so that’s on my radar now – and yours! Thank you, Mel!
  • On January 29th another Hilo is coming our way! Hilo 5: Then Everything Went Wrong. And on that same day the 5th Bird & Squirrel is coming out called All Tangled Up.
  • One graphic novel adaptation that has really piqued my interest is Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women by Rey Tercerio and illustrator Bre Indigo. The classic is reimagined as a blended family living in modern-day New York City. I don’t think I’ve ever hit “pre-order” faster and will be eagerly stalking my delivery person on February 5th for that one!
  • My mailbox is going to be brimming on February 5th because I also HAD to preorder New Kid by Jerry Craft!  It’s about seventh grader Jordan Banks who loves drawing cartoons and dreams of going to art school. But his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school instead, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. Looks amazing!! 90-Second Newbery was singing its praises on Twitter last night and said this about it: “The amazing graphic novel New Kid by @JerryCraft should definitely be on everyone’s tbr list and it has a full-cast (and all-star cast) audiobook released at the same time….perfect for rich, nuanced convos abt race, class, identity, school systems, how we share books, code switching, starting new school, just so much!”   So, yeah… I’ll just wait here for a bit while you hit pause and go order that!
  • This August brings us Best Friends, the sequel to Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends –  out on August 27th. And have you seen the cover? It’s Shannon at the top of a rollercoaster with this vibrant purple background. Love it, love it, love it!
  • And Dog Man fans (like my daughter) will be psyched this August because we are getting Dog Man #7: For Whom the Ball Rolls!
  • The seventh graphic novel adaptation of the Baby-sitters Club, Boy Crazy Stacey, illustrated by Gale Carrigan, will be out September 3rd. That’s one of those no-brainer preorders for my classroom library.
  • Also – I was interested to hear that R.J. Palacio is publishing her first graphic novel Wonder story this fall called White Bird. This one is Julian’s grandmother’s story about her life as a young Jewish girl hidden away by a family in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. So be on the lookout for that one September 3rd as well.
  • You want another don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it-just-preorder-it graphic novel? Guts – the long-awaited new Raina Telgemeier graphic memoir is out September 17th!!
  • September also brings the latest from Tillie Walden – Are You Listening.  The peeks I’ve seen of that online look incredible, so that one is definitely on my radar this fall.
  • And then….….. Drumroll please…… Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl!! Ahhhh!!  I knew it! That last page in Mighty Jack and the Goblin King was just too good not to be followed up with a joint adventure. Yay!
  • Jen Wang –  author of last year’s hit, The Prince & the Dressmaker, has a new graphic novel coming out in September called  Stargazing. This one draws on her personal experiences and is the story of two friends – Moon and Christine.
  • And this November we’ll get The Midwinter Witch – the third and final book in the trilogy that includes The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch.
  • And – wow, I’m just going to start saving up now for September because the graphic novel adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover is also coming out on September 24th!  It’s going to be a pancakes and ramen noodles for dinner kind of a month if I want to keep up with all these awesome books coming out!  (And I haven’t even gotten past the graphic novels!)
  • And…. I think, maybe, possibly.. that Amulet #9 (the final one of the series) will be released late this year. But I can’t find much info on it. No title, no date, no synopsis – nada! So, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will arrive in 2019.
  • Finally – another graphic novel to be on the lookout for later in 2019 is Twins by author Varian Johnson who you may know from The Parker Inheritance and illustrator Shannon Wright. The publication date isn’t yet announced, but apparently it’s about twin sisters struggling to figure out individual identities in middle school and it’s based on Johnson’s own childhood experiences as a twin.

New Releases from 2017-2018 Debut Authors

  • Early February brings us the second in Anna Meriano’s Love, Sugar, Magic series called A Sprinkle of Spirits and oh is that cover gorgeous!
  • And definitely snag a copy of the sequel to Jarrett Lerner’s EngiNerdsRevenge of the EngiNerds out on February 19th. It is EVEN FUNNIER than the first one. And that’s saying something!
  • Another book I’m looking forward to is Jen Petro-Roy’s Good Enough – about a young girl with an eating disorder.
  • Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta – the follow up to The Serpent’s Secret is out on February 26th.
  • And the end of February also brings us Bone Hollow  by Skeleton Tree author Kim Ventrella.
  • Also be on the lookout for The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras on March 5th. That sequel is getting rave reviews so it’s definitely one to add to your library.
  • Alyson Gerber, author of Braced, will have a new novel out called Focused. It’s about a middle school girl who loves chess and has been recently diagnosed with ADHD. Definitely a book a lot of my students will be able to connect with!

2019 Debut Authors

So – I’ll just say right now that I could have had an ENTIRE show just dedicated to the amazing middle grade debuts coming our way this year but at some point, I had to cut myself off.  So – I’ll include a link to the Novel19s website where you find many more middle grade debuts and discover some of your new favorite authors.

  • The Whispers is Greg Howard’s middle grade debut and one that has really caught my eye. Just listen to this description: “Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home.” Oooo…. This one is out January 15th.
  • If you are looking for a new book for younger middle grade readers – something along the lines of Ramona Quimby or Stella Diaz – check out Meena Meets Her Match by Karla Manternatch.
  • One book that keeps popping up into my radar is the middle grade debut of Padma Venkatraman called The Bridge Home about four children who discover strength and grit and family while dealing with homelessness. That one comes out Feb 5th so be on the lookout for that one.
  • Another debut that I have been dying to read is The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo!  Let me just read you the teaser: “Born in a dismal room in a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape to bluer skies. He’d like nothing more than to fly away to a palm tree with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by twelve-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by elderly dance-enthusiast and pie-baker Albertina Plopky, the future looks ready to crash-land.”  My step-mother had parrots when I was growing up, so this one in particular I really am interested in reading! So I’ll be checking my mailbox for that one on February 12th.
  • Another debut I am excited to read this year is Joshua Levy’s Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy! Since one of my goals this year is to introduce my students to more science fiction, a story about a school on a spaceship orbiting Jupiter would be perfect!
  • On March 12 we get Lisa Moore Ramée’s debut A Good Kind of Trouble about a girl who just wants to follow the rules. And sometime this spring we get rather the opposite in Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz. This one is about a “bully” who ends up living with her aunt who is a nun and tries to turn over a new leaf.
  • This March is the debut of Julia Nobel with The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane about a girl who gets shipped off to a British boarding school and finds a box of medallions that might just be connected to the disappearance of her father.
  • A graphic novel debut coming in March that looks fabulous is Red Panda & Moon Bear by Jarod Roselló. It’s about two Latinx kids who defend their neighborhood from threats both natural and supernatural.
  • And in late April is the first book in a new MG detective series called Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak and a time-traveling action adventure that will transport readers to ancient Egypt called Jagger Jones & the Mummy’s Ankh by Malayna Evans.
  • Hurricane Season by debut author Nicole Melleby comes out May 7th and oh how do I want to read this novel!  On a recent #MGLitChat focused on the 2019 debut authors, the moderator asked, “What do you hope young readers take away from your book?”  And Nicole Melleby said the following, “ I want them to take away that they’re not alone, that they’re seen, that mental illness is hard but manageable, and that love may have its limits, but help comes in all shapes and sizes. Also that Van Gogh was a brilliant man.”  After reading Vincent & Theo last summer – uhhh…. gimme that book!!
  • Another great middle grade debut to look for on May 7th is Just South of Home by Karen Stong which is described as Blackish meets Goosebumps. The story follows a rule-abiding girl who must team up with her trouble making cousin, goofy younger brother, and his best friend to unravel a mysterious haunting in their tiny Southern town.
  • Also coming this spring is a book that I immediately knew I wanted to read. It’s called Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos. (So, I was pretty much ALREADY sold by the Bowie reference.) The book follows Nova, an autistic, nonverbal, space-obsessed 12-year-old who is awaiting the Challenger shuttle launch and the return of her big sister, Bridget, as she struggles to be understood by her new foster family.  I was a 4th grader when The Challenger Disaster happened and vividly remember watching it happen live on tv, so I am really interested to see how that plays out in this book.
  • Another debut to look for early this summer is All of Me by Chris Baron – a novel in verse about a 13 year old boy who is dealing with a big move, struggles in his parents’ marriage, and his own body image issues.
  • So… if you are a close listener, you have probably figured out that I’m a sucker for books involving baking or cooking.  Maybe that’s why Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca just leapt out at me when I stumbled across it last month. This is a contemporary-fantasy retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream about an 11 year old Indian American girl whose father is a food writer and whose mother is a successful businesswoman. But when she adds some rather…. unusual (and maybe magical?) ingredients to her baking, things get out of hand. So look for that one on June 4th.
  • And if your kids are looking for a fun spooky read this summer, Ollie Oxley and the Ghost comes out on June 18th and looks really cute. It’s about a boy who moves to California and ends up becoming friends with a ghost from the Gold Rush era.
  • Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega is another paranormal middle grade coming this September and it’s described as Coco meets Stranger Things. So, uh… yeah…gimme that for sure!
  • Also coming out this September is The Light in the Lake by Sarah Baughman – a book about a young girl who finds herself caught between her love of science and her late twin brother’s belief in magic.

2019 Sequels and Favorite Series

  • Lion Down by Stuart Gibb is out on February 26th. The second in his FunJungle series and the follow up to Panda-monium.)
  • In March comes book five in The School for Good & Evil series: A Crystal of Time , a new Emily Windsnap novel called Emily Windsnap and The Pirate Prince, and another in the Fairy Tale Reform School series called Wished.
  • In March we also get a seventh Jedi Academy Book called Revenge of the Sis. This one starts a new storyline and is written by Amy Ignatow with Jarret Krosoczka illustrating. And an as yet untitled 8th Jedi Academy novel is scheduled for September 2019.
  • AND I’m really excited for the third BAT book: Bat and the End of Everything by Elana K. Arnold.  My daughter’s 4th grade class read the first book and they – of course! – fell hard for this series!
  • Jeff Kinney fans will be excited about Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid – a book told from Rowley’s point of view that is out this April.
  • And that month also brings us another Unicorn Rescue Society novel – The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande.
  • And my 9 year old is going to be thrilled when I tell her that Katherine Applegate’s sequel to The Endling is coming out May 7th. It’s called Endling: The First and is already in my cart.
  • The second book in Laura Ruby’s York series – The Clockwork Ghost is also headed our way this May and so is Another Fenway & Hattie book – In the Wild!
  • Natalie Lloyd’s sequel to The Problim Children – Carnival Catastrophe is due to be out June 25th.
  • And not quite a sequel but more of a spin-off, is Dough Boys by Paula Chase – author of 2018’s So Done. Characters Simp and Rollie are the leads in this novel told in two voices.
  • Also – Karina Yan Glaser’s third Vanderbeekers novel is coming this September – The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue!
  • And finally – just announced this morning – is Kate DiCamillo’s new novel coming September 24th – Beverly, Right Here. And if you guessed that this is the Beverly from Raymie Nightingale – then you are correct!  So now each of the three girls will have their own novel. By the way – if you haven’t seen it yet, the cover by Amy June Bates is stunning!! Those eyes…..

2019 New Releases from Established Authors

  • First up here is the book I am devouring right now – The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart which just came out on January 8th. And oh…. does this book live up to its hype! Brace yourself to hear lots more about this one later!
  • Also out this January is a book my friend Sandy has been raving about – The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, U.S.A by Coretta Scott King honor nominee Brenda Woods. Definitely need to check that one out!
  • This January readers will get a new Gordon Korman novel – Unteachables AND a new Andrew Clements novel – The Friendship War.
  • January also brings us the first book in the really incredible Rick Riordan Presents ImprintDragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee. This is a space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. (By the way – if you have kids who love Rick Riordan’s novels or who love adventure books with a dash of humor and myth – then check out his Imprint site. I’ll include a link in the show notes so you can check them all out. From those lucky enough to read advanced copies, I haven’t heard anything but praise.)
  • Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas by Andrea Pyros is one to watch out for this February.
  • And another upper middle grade February release that caught my attention is a joint novel told in letters by Counting by 7s author Holly Goldberg Sloan and The Interestings author Meg Wolitzer. It’s called To Night Owl from Dogfish and it’s about two very different 12 year-old girls named Averie and Bett who are sent off to the same sleepaway camp in order to bond after their single dads fall in love with each other.
  • February also bring us another novel by Anne Urso (author of the critically acclaimed The Real Boy) This novel, The Lost Girl, is about identical twins Lark and Iris.  
  • On March 5th we get another Lisa Graff novel called Far Away about a girl, CJ, whose aunt is a psychic medium who claims that she carries messages from the dead.
  • And I’m really psyched for We’re Not From Here by Tapper Twins author Geoff Rodkey. This novel is also out March 5th and is about refugees from planet Earth who need to find a new home on a faraway planet. I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this one and it’s quirky and hilarious… and timely. Definitely add this one to your pre orders.
  • March also brings us another Rick Riordan Present’s book called Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. I’ve been hearing lots of great buzz about this one, so I’ll definitely need to pre-order a copy.
  • On March 19th we get a new Kevin Henkes novel called Sweeping Up the Heart and this one is the story of the spring break that changes seventh-grader Amelia Albright’s life forever.
  • In late March Natalie Lloyd fans will be treated to Over the Moon – a story about twelve-year-old Mallie who lives in a mining town where boys leave school at 12 to work in the mines, and girls leave to work as servants for the wealthy. But of course with that quintessentially Lloyd magic interwoven.
  • And another Cynthia Lord book is coming out this March! She is the author of Rules and A Handful of Stars. This one is titled Because of the Rabbit and is about a young girl who starts public school for the first time after being homeschooled.
  • Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles is coming out April 2nd and a really interesting looking book called Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway will be released April 16th. It’s about a girl who has to save her aunt’s pie shop. I think this one would be  a winner for kids who enjoy shows like The Great British Baking Show.
  • In early May, we get to read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s next novel, Shouting at the Rain about a girl named Delsie who lives with her grandmother, loves tracking weather, and who starts to wish for a more “regular” family and life. You can’t go wrong with the author of Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphys so… just pop this one in your cart now!
  • And another novel that is getting all kinds of early buzz is the latest from K.A. Reynolds called Spinner of Dreams. It’s being called “inventive, empathetic, and strange in all the best ways.”  Plus – it has a really otherworldly cover that I just want to stare at…
  • And finally – I know you all have heard me rave about this one before – but Barbara Dee’s Maybe He Just Likes You is going to be AMAZING!  My students and I got the chance to read the first chapter and we were all already hooked. But let me give you a little taste from the teaser: “For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like? They don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.” I can’t WAIT!!

Phew!!  Alright – I am both energized and – I gotta be honest – a little daunted! But – I am reminding myself and I hope you’ll remember too that it’s not about a mad dash to read all of these books. But to give you a taste of what’s to come so you can match readers with books they might like and get them excited about new releases.

I hope you have a wonderful year reading and I would love to know – what are the books that you and your students are most looking forward to in 2019? You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or jump into the conversation on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.   

Closing

Thank you so much for joining me this week.  You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org.   And, if you have an extra minute this week, reviews on iTunes or Stitcher are much appreciated.

Books Between is a proud member of the Lady Pod Squad and the Education Podcast Network. This network features podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Talk with you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

 

 

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Interview: Kara LaReau

FlightOfBluebird_CV.jpg

Kara LaReau’s The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters is one of my all-time favorite series. The books are sharp, savvy, and seriously funny, and I am seriously upset that the series has come to a close. I will miss Jaundice, Kale, and the cast of one-of-a-kind characters that they met on their adventures. Fortunately for us all, Kara (along with illustrator Jen Hill) has given the girls a glorious sendoff in the form of Flight of the Bluebird — it might just be the best book of them all. I’m delighted that Kara chose to stop by the MG Book Village to chat about the book and what else she’s been working on lately. Check out the interview below — and then, if you haven’t already, fly over to your local bookstore or library to get your hands on Flight of the Bluebird!

~ Jarrett

. . .

Thanks again for stopping by the MG Book Village on your tour, Kara! Let’s get right to it. Flight of the Bluebird is the third book in the Unintentional Adventures trilogy. What are some things readers will learn in this final installment?

Among other things, they’ll learn just who (and where) Jaundice and Kale’s parents are, whether or not the Bland Sisters are twins, and how they got their names. Oh, and they’ll learn that this isn’t exactly their “final” adventure!

In the second book, The Uncanny Express, Jaundice and Kale have a series of mysterious dreams involving their parents and a ringing phone. Will we learn more about this mystery in Flight of the Bluebird?

Jaundice and Kale learn that what seemed like a souvenir paperweight Jaundice pocketed in The Uncanny Express is really one of a pair of magical scarabs that allows them to communicate with anyone in possession of the scarab’s twin — as long as the scarab is placed near one’s head. Jaundice had the scarab in her smock pocket during The Uncanny Express, which is why she kept dreaming of a phone ringing; it was like a “missed call” from their parents. Readers will learn a lot more about these scarabs and their origins in Flight of the Bluebird. And there will be a lot more mysterious dreams!

Dreams figure prominently in this series. Can you talk more about that?

Well, aside from writing, sleeping is one of my favorite things to do (especially now that I have a 5-year-old, and a writing career, and a full-time day job!) and I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, so it’s no surprise that I’ve incorporated both into these stories. Dreams are so powerful; while they often seem random and ridiculous, they can be full of meaning if you break them down. And while Jaundice and Kale seem bland and pretty reserved, there’s a lot of emotion they’ve repressed in their parents’ absence, so it felt right that some of those emotions would manifest in their dreams.

What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

For sure, the hardest thing was saying goodbye to the Bland Sisters. I love them so! But this was also the first story in the series (and in my writing career, to be honest) that takes place in a real location (Luxor, Egypt) and features a real, rich culture, so I really wanted to do it justice. I got very lucky (Jaundice and Kale might even call it “serendipity”) to find a renowned Egyptologist from Brown University, just a few minutes from my house; he and his wife (also a well-traveled archaeologist) were very generous with their time and energy and expertise and helped me to keep the details in this story respectful and authentic — although, of course, I did take a few artistic liberties!

What’s up next for you, now that you’ve said “Bland voyage” to Jaundice and Kale?

I’m still working on the Infamous Ratsos chapter book series; I just saw Matt Myers’ (brilliant!) jacket and interior sketches for Book 4 and delivered the text for Book 5. And I’m working on a new chapter book trilogy about a cat who may or may not be a zombie; the first book, called Rise of Zombert, is being illustrated by Ryan Andrews, and I’m hard at work writing Book 2 right now. And I have a picture book called BABY CLOWN coming out next year, illustrated by Matthew Cordell; I’m just about to see some artwork for it and I couldn’t be more excited!

As bummed as I am about saying bye to Jaundice and Kale, I’m so glad we’ve got so much more to look forward to you from you! Can’t wait!

%j7qk2tkrl21hu0oabod7w_thumb_3f8cKara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and Good Night Little Monsters, illustrated by Brian Won; an award-winning chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers; and a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill.  Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.