MG at Heart Book Club’s March Pick: SO DONE by Paula Chase

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There’s been a lot of discussion in the middle grade community lately about the need for books that bridge the gap between middle grade and young adult. Here at MG @ Heart, we think that So Done by Paula Chase is exactly that kind of book—so we’re extra glad to have it as our March book club pick! Read on to find more about it…

When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.

Fans of Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together will love this memorable story about a complex friendship between two very different African American girls—and the importance of speaking up.

Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.

Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up. Full of ballet, basketball, family, and daily life in Pirates Cove, this memorable novel is for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Jason Reynolds’s Ghost.

Watch for our newsletter on 3/18 and our Twitter chat on 3/26!

MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani

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Our February book club pick was Veera Hiranandani’s Newbery Honor Book, THE NIGHT DIARY. This heartbreaking historical middle grade tells the story of a family forced to relocate under dangerous conditions during Partition in the 1940s in India and what is now Pakistan. When India secured its independence from Britain, it came with the caveat that all Muslims would move to newly formed Pakistan, while all non-Muslims could live in India.

This puts young Nisha and her family in a difficult position. Her father is Hindu, but her mother, who passed away just after Nisha and her twin brother Amil were born, was Muslim, which leaves Nisha with many thoughtful questions about why they must choose sides in the conflict. Their beloved cook, Kazi, who steps in as a beloved parental figure with the children while their father spends long hours at the hospital where he works, is also Muslim and must stay behind while Nisha and the rest of her family prepare to leave the only home she’s ever known for India.

The novel is made up of a series of journal entries from young Nisha to her mother. The epistolary style really lends itself to listening to the story via audiobook if you’re able! These journal entries describe all the things Nisha loves about her home even as she prepares to leave it. And then it chronicles the conflict that is stirred up between Muslims and Hindus as they prepare to leave. Even as the family faces life and death stakes on their journey to India, they face personal stakes as both Amil and Nisha force their father to face the grief he’s shoved aside since their mother’s death.

A story of love, loss, and redemption in the face of political upheaval and violence, THE NIGHT DIARY is a must-read that deserves every bit of the praise and accolades it’s garnered since its release.

Readers of all ages will learn something from Nisha’s heartwarming journal entries.  To learn more about the author, or for printable drawing pages, activities, recipes, and discussion questions, check out our Middle Grade at Heart newsletter devoted to THE NIGHT DIARY.

The Middle Grade @ Heart book club pick for March is DO DONE by Paula Chase! Stay tuned for more posts about this awesome book and don’t forget to join us for our Twitter chat on THE NIGHT DIARY on March 5!

Converting a Graphic Novel into an Audio Book: Not as Easy as it Sounds

I was thrilled when I heard that Penguin Random House had decided to make an audiobook for Operation Frog Effect. But my first thought was, “What about Blake?” Blake is one of my eight main characters in the book. It’s written from eight POVs, each with his/her unique style. Blake illustrates his entries in graphic novel form. Blake’s sections have minimal words. So . . . I wasn’t sure how an audiobook would work. How could anyone “read” it?

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Art by Gina Perry

Luckily, the audiobook producer (the frog-errific Linda Korn) contacted me on the front end and was ready to help me brainstorm. She suggested we convert all of Blake’s sections into text that could be read out loud. I went back through my illustration notes and fluffed them out into a narrative that described what Blake drew. (To be totally honest, this draft was “meh” at best.) I am so grateful for Linda’s input. She suggested I re-write, not so much describing the illustrations, but as if I were inside Blake’s head in the moment, WHILE he was sketching. I loved this suggestion. Luckily Linda’s office was about an hour away, so we met at a mid-way point, purchased some highly sugared caffeinated beverages, and hashed much of this out together. Working as a team is my favorite. I tend to be the kind of author who gets so caught up in her story that she can’t see the forest for the trees. Having another perspective enriches my work. I’m so grateful that Linda took the time to help me coax Blake’s story from the images into full blown text.

The audiobook producer selected nine different actors to narrate this book. One actor for each character, and one actor to narrate the sections that didn’t fall solidly into a particular character’s voice (like signs, chapter headings, etc.) She selected a diverse cast of actors, which made me oh-so-happy. My characters are equally diverse, so this representation felt authentic to me.

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Art by Gina Perry

The absolute highlight of the audio book experience was being asked to record author commentary for the end of the audio book. Me being me . . .  I prepped. A ton. I brought in my crinkly notepaper, all prepared to read my commentary word for word. Again, I’m grateful for Linda’s guidance and patience. She helped me get comfortable in the recording booth and instructed me to set my papers down and just talk to her. She was aiming for a relaxed commentary that showed my personality, not something prepared ahead of time. I finally relaxed, and once I got on a roll, I almost didn’t want it to end.

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The audio book for Operation Frog Effect releases in late February, 2019. Hope you like it!

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Sarah Scheerger is a school-based counselor in Southern California, helping students figure out who they are, and who they want to be. Her middle grade debut, Operation Frog Effect (Penguin Random House) releases in February but is available for pre-order now. Keep an eye out for her new picture book, “Mitzvah Pizza” (Kar-Ben) which launches in April. In addition to MG and PB’s, Sarah also writes YA. To learn more, visit www.sarahlynnbooks.com.

Cover Reveal: LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT by Kim Long

Welcome, Kim! And thanks so much for choosing the MG Book Village to host your cover reveal. We’re thrilled to have you! Before we get to the book and the big reveal, would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello all! My name is Kim Long and I’m so happy to be here! I’ve followed MG Book Village since the very beginning, and I’m so thrilled to share my cover with you. By day, I work as an attorney, and by night I write MG, mainly contemporary with a magical twist and a dash of science. And baseball! My main character is always a fan of baseball!

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament is your debut. Could you share with our readers a bit about your journey to the printed page?

I think my journey is a good example of the different (and winding!) paths to publication. I wrote my first MG in 2014 after trunking a pretty bad YA that I’d written and queried in 2013. In spring 2014, I entered an on-line querying contest, Query Kombat, where I had some success and, even more important, was introduced to several MG writers that eventually became valuable CPs. I got an agent with that manuscript, and we went on sub in 2015. By the end of 2015, that manuscript had not sold, but I had finished LEXI MAGILL. My agent then put LEXI on sub in 2016, and, although there were some close calls, by the end of 2016 it also had not sold. At that point, I had written another MG, and after amicably parting ways with my agent, queried that new MG, which led to finding my current agent, Natascha Morris at BookEnds. Even though Nat offered on the new manuscript, she was also interested in LEXI and decided it was worth re-subbing. We did some revisions and put it on sub in October 2017. Again, some interest, but no offers. We started round two of submission in April 2018, and I got the offer of publication in June. All total, I’d written four books and LEXI spent 18 months on sub between two agents before I received an offer of publication!

And now for the book. What’s Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament all about?

The book takes place in our world with the exception that teleportation exists, which makes it easy for people to travel from one place to another via teleport stations. Lexi enters a teleportation tournament—essentially an Amazing Race style tournament involving teleporting rather than air travel—to win prize money so she can enroll at a science academy and reunite with her best friend.

Unfortunately for Lexi, her teammates rather explore than focus on the tournament. As the race rages on through castles, museums, a labyrinth, and other locations throughout Europe and the U.S., Lexi has a difficult time keeping up with the competition and controlling her teammates. If she can’t figure out a way to work with her team, she can kiss that prize money good-bye.

In addition to puzzles that the reader can solve alongside Lexi, I really enjoy the friendship dynamic between Lexi, her teammates, and her best friend, and how that dynamic changes throughout the tournament!

Wow — sounds like a BLAST. Now, let’s get to the cover. Who did the art?

Charles Lehman of Shannon Associates did the cover. I can’t find him on Twitter, but you can check out his illustrations and other work here!

Before we let our readers check out the art, can you tell us what you thoughts when you first saw it?

It was funny because when we were brainstorming covers, I told my editor I was a fan of more abstract covers that didn’t necessarily contain depictions of the characters. She told me later on that the publisher decided to do the complete opposite and put Lexi and her teammates on the cover! I admit, I was nervous. Very nervous! But then I opened the graphic and immediately exhaled! I absolutely love how the characters turned out, and the entire cover screams fun and adventure. I love it!

All right — let’s not make them wait any longer. Here it is:

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Brilliant! So when can readers get their hands on the book?

LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT releases on October 1, 2019! It is available for pre-order now at your local bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble!

And where can they find more information about you?

My website is KimLongAuthor.com and I’m on twitter @KimLongMG.

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Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. She wrote her first book at age 10, where she combined the best parts of her favorite Choose Your Own Adventures into a single story. (Cave of Time at Chimney Rock in the Bermuda Triangle.) When not writing, she loves playing board games, watching Star Wars movies, and riding her bike along Illinois’s many trails.