Cover Reveal: THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS, by Anna Staniszewski

Hello, Anna! Welcome to the MG Book Village, and thank you so much for hosting your cover reveal here. We’re very excited! Before we get to all of that, though, would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of over a dozen books for young readers, including the tween novels The Dirt Diary and Secondhand Wishes; the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex; and the forthcoming Once Upon a Fairy Tale chapter book series. I write a lot of different kinds of stories, but I think what they all have in common is a sense of humor and a touch of magic.

Now, can you tell us about the new book — THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS?

10-year-old Mira is an immigrant in a country that’s nearly closed itself off from the rest of the world in order to protect its most precious nature resource: a magical substance called Amber that makes people stronger and healthier and smarter. As Mira struggles to find her place in a community that shuns outsiders, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to fit in.

The book is a bit of a departure from your previous novels, correct? Would you care to talk about that, and what led you to write this particular book?

My family moved from Poland to the US when I was five, so—like many immigrants—I had to quickly learn a new language and figure out how to assimilate into a new culture.  I suspect this is why the thread of not fitting in is a common one in many of my books, but for a long time, I shied away from writing about my own experiences. I thought: “There are so many great immigrant stories out there. What do I have to add?” Then one day, I started to wonder what would happen if I sprinkled a touch of magic into my own story, and that turned out to be my “in” into writing this more personal novel. By setting the book in a slightly fantastical version of our world, I was able to tell a tale inspired by my emotional experiences of being an immigrant but focused on Mira’s unique struggles.

Okay — let’s get to the cover. Were you involved in the process at all?

My editor, Krista Vitola, and I talked about ways to convey a sense of magic through the cover, since that element of the story is only hinted at in the title. In our conversation, I mentioned a couple of book covers that I thought successfully highlighted that kind of magical feeling, including Savvy by Ingrid Law. My editor passed that info along to the art director, Chloe Foglia, and I was so excited to see that she and the illustrator, Julie McLaughlin, really took that inspiration to heart and ran with it.  

What did you think when you first saw the art?

I immediately fell in love with it. It’s so visually stunning and creates such a perfect blend of magic and mystery. I love that one of the Amber wells is front and center on the cover, since that’s such a huge part of the story, and that we get to see a hint of something brewing in the town in the background. The cover illustration exactly captures the feelings I was hoping to convey in the novel!

All right — let’s see it!

WOW! It’s FANTASTIC! I love all the movement of the rounded shapes and curves, and the hint of drama and even menace with the lightning bolts, dark clouds, and shadowy houses. When can readers get their hands on THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS, and where can they learn more about you and your work?

The Wonder of Wildflowers will be releasing in Spring 2020 from Simon & Schuster. In the meantime, I have a few other projects in the works. Readers can check them out at www.annastan.com.

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives south of Boston with her family and teaches courses on writing and children’s literature at Simmons College. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of several tween novels, including The Dirt Diary and Once Upon a Cruise, and the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex.

STEM Tuesday Spin Off: Let it Rain STEM!

StemLogo-SpinOff (1)Welcome to the latest addition of STEM Tuesday Spin Off, the every-other-month post that connects STEM to everyday objects, mundane happenings, and other regular stuff in the lives of middle-grade readers.

(Check out past STEM Tuesday spins on potato chips, school lunch, and social studies. )

Our aim is to provoke a “Huh, who knew?” reaction by revealing the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles behind the under-the-radar objects and events in kids’ lives. The hotlinked books suggested and embedded resource links provided endeavor to build an understanding of the world and its workings.

The STEM-related “spin-off” concepts invite readers to look closer, imagine, and think deeper about all we encounter, experience, and take for granted in our daily lives. Like? 

~ A Rainy Day ~

“It’s just a rainy day,” is what we say to our restless young dog who wants to go outside and play—but not in the rain. What does a rainy day make a kid think about? Cancelled sports practices and games? Wearing new puddle boots? Indoor recess? Getting out of mowing the lawn?

Rain is more than something to avoid when wanting to stay dry or a topic to complain about it. Let’s put a STEM spin on it.

SCIENCE   SCIENCE   SCIENCE   

Rain is precipitation, which means weather! By the middle grades most students have learned about clouds and weather basics. Why not tempt them to dig deeper into the complexities of the atmosphere with books about storms–really bad storms.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown is a great graphic nonfiction book.

Chasing the Storm: Tornadoes, Meteorology, and Weather Watching by Ron Miller is an exciting read, too.

There are a number of Scientist in the Field series books about natural disasters, including Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code by Amy Cherrix and The Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms by Mary Kay Carson (me!)

As far as online sources about weather, precipitation, and storms goes… The National Weather Service: Weather Science content for Kids and Teens links to Jetstream, NWS’s online weather school, the severe storms lab, the young meteorologist’s program, and advice on staying storm safe.

TECHNOLOGY  TECHNOLOGY  TECHNOLOGY

Tracking rain, gathering rain, and keeping rain out has inspired lots of technological breakthrough. Explore some!

  • Gore-tex. For anyone (else) old enough to remember backpacking in the rain before Gore-tex, it’s not an invention to be taken for granted. Find out how Robert Gore did it and the tech behind a breathable waterproof fabric that stops incoming water.
  • Radar. RAdio Detection And Ranging has been around long enough that it’s a single word! Like many technologies, the necessity that mothered this invention was war. The Scottish physicist Robert Alexander Watson-Watt wanted a way to help airmen avoid storms. The Royal Air Force soon realized the blips on the screen showed up for enemy aircraft, too. Today’s weather radar does a lot more. How Does Weather Radar Work?
  • Green screens. What’s a TV weather forecast without a meteorologist pointing at a map that’s not really there!  How does a green screen do that?

ENGINEERING  ENGINEERING  ENGINEERING

Human beings have long attempted to mitigate and control rain at both its extremes–flood and drought. This has become even more urgent as our climate changes, bringing about more of both extremes.

Rising Seas: Flooding, Climate Change and Our New World by Keltie Thomas takes a look at what will happen and the engineering challenges ahead.

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate by Jennifer Swanson presents research into how our planet’s thermostat can be reset. And while hurricanes are “natural” disasters, flooding is very often a result of engineering deficits or the failure of water control (dams, levees, etc.) systems.

An issue dealt with in Hurricane Harvey: Disaster in Texas and Beyond by Rebecca Felix. Houston is prone to floods not just because of geography, but history and the way it’s been developed and built.

MATH  MATH  MATH

If you think about it, knowing whether it’s going to rain (or not!) is all about math. What does a “20% chance of showers” really mean?  According to the National Weather Service, the Probability of Precipitation” (PoP) describes the chance of precipitation (rain, snow, etc.) occurring at any point in the given area. Forecasters calculate this with the equation:  PoP = C x A  with A representing area and C a measure of confidence that precipitation will happen somewhere within the forecast area.

The United States Yearly Average PrecipitationMap Rainfall Color KeyStatistics is another math realm that connects to a rainy day. A region’s average annual precipitation is based on data collected over decades. Statistics are important for tracking weather trends that indicate climatic shifts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. government agency that includes the National Weather Service, has an entire data center of Statistical Weather and Climate Information. Students can look up this month’s average rainfall and compare it to the Average Annual Precipitation in the county they live in.

Who knew how interesting a rainy day could be! Those drops of water falling from the sky are connected to an atmosphere that supports life, including people inventing ways to stay dry, others tracking how much rain fallen, and  some predicting when it will stop. Speaking of which, the dog needs a walk before it starts raining again. Go STEM!

******************************

Mary Kay Carson is a STEM Tuesday blogger, Hands-On Books blogger, and author of more than sixty nonfiction books for young readers, including six in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Scientists in the Field series. @marykaycarson

MG at Heart Book Club’s June Pick: THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING, by Cory Leonardo

This month, the Middle Grade at Heart team is excited to feature Cory Leonardo’s funny, emotional, one-of-a-kind debut, The Simple Art of Flying!

51AJBJgG1cL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s a bit about the book:

Perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan, this irresistible debut novel combines plucky humor and a whole lot of heart in a story about the true meaning of family.

Sometimes flying means keeping your feet on the ground…

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.

In between anxiously plucking his feathers, eating a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to a family reunion. But soon he’s forced to choose between the life he’s always dreamed of and admitting the truth: that sometimes, the bravest adventure is in letting go.

Kirkus Reviews called the novel “delightfully quirky,” and we couldn’t agree more. We hope you’ll join us this month in reading this fabulous book and getting to know Alastair, Fritz, Bertie, and a whole lot of other hilarious pets.

Our newsletter about the book will go out on June 17th and our Twitter chat will be June 25th at 8pm EST, with the hashtag #mgbookclub. And in the meantime, we have a special treat for you: a fun quiz inspired by the lovable animals in the novel.

Take this quiz to find out which kind of pet in The Simple Art of Flying is most like you, and Tweet us @mgatheart to let us know what result you get!

Cover Reveal: PIXIE PUSHES ON, by Tamara Bundy

I am thrilled tell you that I got to work with the legendary Nancy Paulsen again for my next middle grade novel. That novel, Pixie Pushes On, publishes on January 14, 2020, and tells the story of a young girl in the 1940’s and the bittersweet lessons she learns from farm life as well as life without her sister who is hospitalized with polio.

But don’t think for a minute it’s all doom and gloom. I’ll leave that explanation up to these phenomenal authors who were kind enough to read my novel and give me a blurb:

“Pixie is full of heart! A laugh-out-loud book that also wades into poignant life lessons. A must read!” — Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of Fish in a Tree.

“Pixie has bad luck–and is bad luck if you ask her. But she also has grit and gumption, so when her bad luck doesn’t let go, she opens her eyes and her heart wider. Her world changes when she changes how she looks at her world. I loved Pixie and her story — a story filled with humor, hope, and everyday heroes.” — Lynn Plourde, author of Maxi’s Secrets.

My head is still spinning at being on the receiving end of those amazing comments from two writers I respect and adore.

Writing Pixie Pushes On was so special to me. You see, my mom and dad both grew up on farms and would tell me stories about their childhoods. From my perspective as a city-kid, I was amazed at these tales. But it wasn’t until I was writing this story that I sat down and asked them detailed questions I never thought to ask before about the logistics and particulars of their lives during that time. This coincided with my dad being in the hospital and I swear I could see both him and my mom grow visibly younger while recounting the long-lost days of their childhoods. It was such a gift to us all. And now that my dad has since passed away, those days, those memories are more precious than ever.

And today, I am so happy to share with you the beautiful cover for Pixie Pushes On. It warms my heart. The illustrator, Matt Saunders, captured so beautifully the nostalgia of the novel. I hope you agree. Thank you, MG Book Village, for hosting my reveal — and thanks for all you do for the writing/reading community.

I can’t wait for everyone to meet Pixie. I hope she means as much to you as she means to me. In the meanwhile, I’ll tell you what I always tell my students during a school visit — if you are lucky enough to have a grandparent, great-grand parent — or any older person in your life — ask them about their childhood — and listen — really listen, before it’s too late. I promise you won’t regret it.

Pixiepusheson_online.jpg

A young girl learns bittersweet life lessons on the family farm after her sister gets polio, in this poignant and funny novel set in the heartland in the 1940s.

Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

Wading Into Twitterverse

Out of Place Cover.jpg

As a debut author, I have been encouraged to engage on Twitter. And so I’ve tried. Or rather, I’ve thought a great deal about trying.

An example: I recently learned that two advanced reader copies of my debut novel OUT OF PLACE had not reached their intended destinations. This represented almost one quarter of my personal supply of ARCs, books so precious to me that I cried when I first held them. The despair I felt when I imagined those books in a dumpster at some remote UPS facility brought to mind the time I lost months of frozen breast milk due to a freezer that died in the middle of the night. Ha! I thought. That’s rather witty. An appropriate comparison between the angst of a debut author and the angst of a new mother. I could tweet that.

But should I? Who wants to envision months of spoiled breast milk? And isn’t the comparison between birthing a book and birthing a baby rather tired? Then again, why shouldn’t mothers talk about breast milk and how hard we work to produce it? Staying quiet about these struggles just perpetuates a cycle that needs to be broken, right?

At the end of this mental torture, I did not do two things: I did not write the tweet and I did not write a word of my work-in-progress. Zero likes and zero new sentences.

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know that other authors do not share my posting anxiety. I envy their number of followers and the opportunities for engagement that those numbers bring. I will never be one of those people. And here’s why I hope it’s okay: because my particular form of angst makes me a strong middle grade novelist. I am an almost forty-year old woman with three daughters who are the ages of most of my characters, and yet I am also the eleven-year old girl who was barked at in the hallways of a new school because the popular girls thought I looked like a dog. I look in the mirror and critique my reflection. I write a Tweet and I worry that it will be misinterpreted.

The main character in OUT OF PLACE, a twelve-year old girl named Cove, shares my bullying experience and my self-consciousness, but a lot of my characters do not. Many of them are spicier and braver than I could ever be. But they are all written by a woman who obsesses over every sentence she writes. And my characters, and the readers they are meant to reach, are better off because of that.

Bad reviews will come my way. Some of them will likely be Tweeted right at me, probably in the snarky tones of the mean girls that I love to write. My hope is that I’ll lick my wounds and keep on writing. For years, the bullying I endured detracted from my experiences. I never joined a school sports team. I rarely spoke up in class.

Now? Now I see it as a gift. I get to write about it. Just not on Twitter.

Jennifer Blecher Author Photo - Credit Nina Subin.jpg
Photo by Nina Subin.

Jennifer Ende Blecher is the author of OUT OF PLACE, a middle grade novel to be published by Greenwillow/Harper Collins in 2019. She lives outside of Boston and on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, three daughters, and a dog named Winnie.   You can find her online at jenniferblecher.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

Out of Place by Jennifer Blecher

Jennifer Blecher’s debut novel is a voice-driven story about bullying, friendship, and self-reliance that hits the sweet spot for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Erin Entrada Kelly’s You Go First.

Twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein’s year has gone from bad to worse. First, her best friend, Nina, moved from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. Then, without Nina around, Cove became the target of a bullying campaign at school. Escape seems impossible.

But opportunities can appear when you least expect them. Cove’s visit to a secondhand clothing store leads her to a surprising chance to visit Nina, but only if she can win a coveted place in a kids-only design competition. Cove doesn’t know how to sew, but her friend at the retirement home, Anna, has promised to teach her. And things start really looking up when a new kid at school, Jack, begins appearing everywhere Cove goes.

Then Cove makes a big mistake. One that could ruin every good thing that has happened to her this year. One that she doesn’t know how to undo.

Jennifer Blecher’s accessible and beautifully written debut novel explores actions and consequences, loneliness, bullying, and finding your voice. This voice-driven friendship story is for fans of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger and Jodi Kendall’s The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City.

Praise for Out of Place

“A tender-hearted debut that navigates the emotional waters of wanting to stay young and grow up, all at the same time.” – Jodi Kendall, critically-acclaimed author of THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY and DOG DAYS IN THE CITY

“Cove may feel out of place, but she’ll quickly find her place in readers’ hearts. Her voice glows like a Menemsha sunset in Jennifer Blecher’s moving debut.”- Julie Berry, author of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

“OUT OF PLACE is sensitively observed and deeply felt, yet also light on its feet. Some of its components seem, at first, peculiarly shaped, but this I promise you: They are all part of Jennifer Blecher’s grand design. By the end, all the loose pieces come together beautifully, seamlessly, surprisingly, as if threaded with magic.”- Jack Cheng, author of the acclaimed See You in the Cosmos

“Blecher’s debut is a sensitive and compassionate tribute to every child who has ever felt like a misfit. . . .vibrant and memorable. Cove is an emotionally intelligent heroine who successfully names and processes her feelings. A beautiful story about learning to speak up and taking risks.”- School Library Journal

“[A] thought-provoking tale of childhood isolation and powerlessness experienced in a socially networked world . . . this recommended read should spark lively discussion; a good bet for an intergenerational book club. ”- Kirkus Reviews

“Blecher has created a sweet and realistically vulnerable character who longs to feel validated and respected. . . . This is a tender, uncomplicated coming-of-age story that illustrates how hard it can be to fit in at any age.”- Publishers Weekly