My Desert Island Top Five at From the Mixed-Up Files

Summer is finally here. School is out, and everyone is ready for a long, relaxing summer.

This past year has got me thinking about summers when I was kid. Back then, summer vacation consisted of baseball games in the pasture, slip and slides, camping out in the back yard, and traveling only as far as your bike could take you in the hours between breakfast and dinner. A slow and easy summer like that meant two things – you hung out with the same small group of people day in and day out and you spent a lot of time making up games to keep you entertained. One of the games we played when the days got too long and we got too bored was Desert Island. Desert Island consisted of naming your Top Five – the five songs, albums, movies, tv shows, and books (of course) that you’d want to have if you were stranded on a desert island.

Our Top Five lists shifted and changed week to week and year to year. Sometimes we’d steal from each other. Occasionally, an out of town relative would come for a visit and completely upend our idea of what was worthy. But mostly, every time we played, we got to think about what we loved and why we loved it – which isn’t a bad thing to do.

This past year, I’ve spent some time thinking about what I love and why. I reread old books (like Beverly Cleary’s Henry and the Clubhouse which still holds up and has a Ramona and her mom scene that completely cracked me up). I rewatched old movies (like Legally Blonde and Sense and Sensibility – both of which always make me smile), and revisited old tv shows (Parks and Recreation of course). And, I read a lot of books and thought about which ones stuck with me past the last page and why. It was thinking about what stuck that got me to write this post.

Enough talk. Let’s get to it. Here are my Desert Island Top Five Middle Grade reads this past year (in no particular order):

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

A lightning strike gave her a super power…but even a super genius can’t solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.

Lucy Callahan’s life was changed forever when she was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but the zap gave her genius-level math skills, and she’s been homeschooled ever since. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook ). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

 

Check out the rest of My Desert Island Top Five over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors.

 

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June New Releases at From the Mixed-Up Files

Summer is here! Finally. And so is a bookshelf full of new middle grade books to fill up your time. Kick back and enjoy this month’s new reads. There’s something for everyone.

Trillium Sisters 1: The Triplets Get Charmed by Laura Brown and Elly Kramer (Authors) Sarah Mensinga (Illustrator)

Three sisters discover that they and their pets have superpowers they can use to protect the world around them in the first book in a fantastical new chapter book series about family, friendship, and environmental responsibility perfect for fans of Mia Mayhem and The Wish Fairy.

Nothing can stop this triple team!

Eight-year-old triplets Emmy, Clare, and Giselle are excited to celebrate Founding Day, the day their dad found them and they became a family. The girls want this year’s celebration to be extra special. And Dad has a big surprise–trillium petal charms that he found with the girls..

But when the girls’ little brother, Zee, slips into the river while helping them plan a special surprise, something magical happens: The charms are drawn together, forming a glowing flower, and the girls suddenly have super¬powers! Channeling their new abilities, they work together to try to save Zee, but will they be able to figure out how to help in time?

 

TRILLIUM SISTERS 2:  BESTIE DAY by Laura Brown and Elly Kramer (Authors) Sarah Mensinga (Illustrator)

When the ecosystem of their mountain home is threatened, the triplets join forces and channel their super powers into saving the day in the second book in the Trillium Sisters chapter book series, perfect for fans of Mia Mayhem and The Wish Fairy.

The Trillium Triplets are flying into action!

Wondering if their powers will return, Clare, Emmy, and Giselle throw themselves into preparations for Bestie Day, when everyone in Trillsville celebrates the special people in their lives. The girls are planning to make presents for one another from fallen flower petals. That way, they can enjoy the beauty around them without causing harm.

But at the flower field, instead of finding beautiful blooms, the Trills find a big problem. Two girls from town are cutting so many flowers for their Bestie Day bouquets that the bees can’t get enough nectar. And without the bees, the entire mountain ecosystem could fall apart! When their Trillium powers activate, will the sisters be able to buzz to the rescue?

 

An original middle-grade graphic novel from Graphix starring Brooklyn’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales, by bestselling author Justin A. Reynolds and Eisner nominee Pablo Leon

Miles Morales is a normal kid who happens to juggle school at Brooklyn Visions Academy while swinging through the streets of Brooklyn as Spider-Man. After a disastrous earthquake strikes his mother’s birthplace of Puerto Rico, Miles springs into action to help set up a fundraiser for the devastated island. But when a new student’s father goes missing, Miles begins to make connections between the disappearance and a giant corporation sponsoring Miles’ fundraiser. Who is behind the disappearance, and how does that relate to Spider-Man?

A true middle grade graphic novel starring one of Marvel’s most popular characters, bestselling author Justin A. Reynolds (Opposite of Always) and Eisner award-nominated artist Pablo Leon (Refugees) create a riveting story that will connect with new and well-versed comics readers alike.

Head over to From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors to see more June New Releases and start adding to your summer reading list!

 

February New Releases at From the Mixed-Up Files

Happy February and Happy Book Birthday to the following authors who have book releasing this month!

 

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

For fans of The War That Saved My Life and other World War II fiction, A Place to Hang the Moon is the tale of three orphaned siblings who are evacuated from London to live in the countryside with the secret hope of finding a permanent family.

It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer?

It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go– keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable.

A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the dire importance of family: the one you’re given, and the one you choose.

 

Girl Stuff. by Lisi Harrison

Bestselling author of The Clique returns with a funny, heartfelt series where girls help each other tackle issues of friendship, crushes, and new experiences. Perfect for fans of The Baby-Sitters Club, Real Friends, and Invisible Emmie–it’s all about being true to yourself

Fonda, Drew, and Ruthie have been besties forever, but seventh grade is going to be their year Look out, Poplar Middle School (yup, that’s PMS), here comes the coolest clique around. The three girls can’t wait to do everything together and have an amazing time doing it. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

On day one:
Ruthie realizes that being in Talented and Gifted means being in a different part of the school. There go their stuck-together-like-glue dreams.
Drew’s crush–who seemed so into her like a week ago–suddenly acts like he doesn’t know her. And now he’s all she can think about.
Fonda’s finally being noticed by The Avas (aka the popular girls, all named, you guessed it: Ava), but can she really hang out with them if Ruthie and Drew aren’t invited?

There’s nothing like seventh grade to test the bonds of friendship. Fonda, Drew, and Ruthie are about to find out how much it stinks to be lied to, to be left out, and to feel like you’re the only one who cares. But they’ll also find out how meaningful female friendships are, and how great it feels to be yourself.

Get ready for the most meaningful, most fun stuff of all: girl stuff.

 

My Ex-Imaginary Friend by Jimmy Matejek-Morris

Eleven-year-old Jack thought he had outgrown his imaginary friend, George–until his dad also disappears from his life. His mom’s bipolar disorder isn’t being properly treated, so while in the throes of a manic episode, she ditches Jack with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Jack decides that only George can help him figure out where people go when others stop believing in them–and how Jack can put his family back together.

Meanwhile, the imaginary George–half-walrus, half-human, all magic–has a problem of his own: with nobody to believe in him, he is slowly disappearing. Rejoining Jack is his only hope for survival. Or is it?

Discover more February New Releases over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. And, happy reading!!

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Author Interview at From the Mixed-Up Files

I was lucky enough to interview the multi-talented writer and artist Kirk Scroggs about his newest graphic novel, WE FOUND A MONSTER over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors last week.

Please tell us about your just-released book WE FOUND A MONSTER.

We Found a Monster is the story of a kid named Casey who has a few skeletons in his closet . . . and a She-Bat, and a zombie, some gremlins, a squid monster, and, oh yeah, Frankenstein’s in there too! Casey’s a loner who loves to draw monsters. About a year ago, shortly after his mom passed away, real monsters started showing up on his doorstep. Now he’s got a house full of them that he somehow has to keep hidden from his dad and the neighbors. He’s at his breaking point. He can’t possibly harbor one more critter. But there’s a new girl in town. Her name is Zandra and she needs Casey’s help. She’s found a monster too. A giant, furry, loveable behemoth named Spot. Spot needs a home but there are dangerous secrets lurking beneath his rainbow-colored fur. A dark past that has followed him to Casey’s sleepy little town. Someone, or some Thing, is after Spot. Casey will need Zandra’s help to protect Spot, but she is a bit of a mystery herself. Can she be trusted?

Casey’s Creature Exhibit showcases his monsters. Do you have a favorite?

 

Head over to From the Mixed-Up Files to find out Kirk’s favorite monster and to learn more about WE FOUND A MONSTER.

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STELLA!! A Mixed-Up Files Interview with McCall Hoyle

I’m over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors talking with McCall Hoyle about National Epilepsy Awareness Month, writing, and her upcoming Middle Grade book, Stella!

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and one of the Epilepsy Foundation’s goals for this month is to get more people talking about epilepsy. So, with that goal in mind, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to talk with award-winning author McCall Hoyle about her upcoming book STELLA and her writing process.

Please tell us a little bit about STELLA.

STELLA is a hopeful story about a retired working beagle who must find the courage to overcome her fears and use her special nose to save a girl’s life.

The story is told from the beagle, Stella’s, point of view. I love stories like A DOG’S PURPOSE and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN that are told from an animal’s point of view.

I can’t wait for readers to experience life through a Stella’s eyes, ears, and, especially, her nose.

Head on over to From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors and read the rest of the interview, sign up to win a copy of STELLA at McCall’s Goodreads Giveaway, and be sure to pre-order a copy of this amazing book – which will be released in March 2021.

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October New Releases at From the Mixed-Up Files

The leaves are crunchy and the air is filled with the scent of pumpkin spiced lattes and wood smoke. That very specific combination means only one thing:  It’s October. Time for crisp days, cool nights, and cabinets full of mini candy bars. Sounds like a perfect time curl up with a sweet snack and one of these October New Releases.

And a special shout-out to From the Mixed-Up Files’ own Rosanne Parry. Congratulations on the release of A Whale of the Wild <3

 

A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry
Lindsay Moore (Illustrator)

In the stand-alone companion to the New York Times–bestselling A Wolf Called Wander, a young orca whale must lead her brother on a tumultuous journey to be reunited with their pod. This gorgeously illustrated animal adventure novel explores family bonds, survival, global warming, and a changing seascape. Includes information about orcas and their habitats.

For Vega and her family, salmon is life. And Vega is learning to be a salmon finder, preparing for the day when she will be her family’s matriarch. But then she and her brother Deneb are separated from their pod when a devastating earthquake and tsunami render the seascape unrecognizable. Vega must use every skill she has to lead her brother back to their family. The young orcas face a shark attack, hunger, the deep ocean, and polluted waters on their journey. Will Vega become the leader she’s destined to be?

A Whale of the Wild weaves a heart-stopping tale of survival with impeccable research on a delicate ecosystem and threats to marine life. New York Times-bestselling author Rosanne Parry’s fluid writing and Lindsay Moore’s stunning artwork bring the Salish Sea and its inhabitants to vivid life. An excellent read-aloud and read-alone, this companion to A Wolf Called Wander will captivate fans of The One and Only Ivan and Pax.

Includes black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map, and extensive backmatter about orcas and their habitats.

 

Field Trip (Mr. Wolf’s Class #4) by Aron Nels Steinke

Mr. Wolf’s class ventures out on an exciting field trip to the forest!
Mr. Wolf’s students are going on a field trip! Everyone gets to sleep in log cabins, come up with fun camp names, and journey through the great woods. They’ll be learning about the oldest and largest trees in the forest, exploring an abandoned ghost town, and toasting s’mores over a campfire. On top of all that, there are kids from a different school to meet!

Meanwhile, Aziza and Randy must learn how to work through an argument, and Abdi is worried that he can’t keep up with Henry and his new friends.

There’s much to do, see, and learn in the outdoors!

Discover more October New Releases over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. And, happy reading!!

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June New Releases at From the Mixed-Up Files

It’s finally June, and I’m sure a lot of us are looking forward to some sunny days and some new books! Lucky for us writers, publishers, bookstores, and libraries have our backs. Check out my list of June New Releases over at the From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog. June is looking good with a fun nonfiction release from the MUF’s own Jennifer Swanson. (Congratulations, Jennifer!!) and a contemporary novel from my friend Supriya Kelkar (Yay, Supriya!). there’s sure to be a lot of a great books to help you ease into summer.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBeastly Bionics:  Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature by Jennifer Swanson

Discover how the natural world inspires innovation in science and technology to create the latest and greatest breakthroughs and discoveries in this exciting book.

Did you know that scientists have developed a bionic tool shaped like an elephant’s trunk that helps lift heavy objects? Or that the needle-like pointed beak of the kingfisher bird encouraged engineers in Japan to change the design of the Shinkansen “bullet trains” to reduce noise? Across multiple fields of study and methods of problem-solving, scientists are turning to biomimicry, or engineering inspired by biology or nature, to make all kinds of cool technological advancements. From robots that protect people and gather information to everyday inventions, like reflectors on the roads and ice-proof coatings for airplanes, to new sources of renewable energy, this book dives into the ways that nature can give us ideas on how to improve our world. Discover more than 40 examples of technology influenced by animals, learn about some of the incredible creatures who have inspired multiple creations, and meet some of the scientists and the stories behind their inventions.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgCurse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster

A fast-paced series starter perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and filled with adventure, mythology, and an unforgettable trio of friends.

On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.

Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.

The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a new marking on his skin…the symbol of a curse that has shortened his lifeline, giving him only a week before an untimely death. There is only one way to break the curse, and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.

With only his village’s terrifying, ancient stories as a guide, and his two friends Engle and Melda by his side, Tor must travel across unpredictable Emblem Island, filled with wicked creatures he only knows through myths, in a race against his dwindling lifeline.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAmerican as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

Discover more June New Releases over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. And, happy reading!!

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Mixed-Up Files Interview with Janet Sumner Johnson

Interview with Janet Sumner Johnson | Janet S. Johnson | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comOne of my favorite things about writing for From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors is that I get to talk to so many great writers.

The following post is especially fun for me because I got to do an interview with Janet Sumner Johnson, who successfully writes both Middle Grade and Picture Books.

 

You started your career as an author writing Middle Grade (THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURES OF THE PB&J SOCIETY). What got you interested in writing Picture Books? And, how long did it take you to write a manuscript you were happy with?

I have always loved picture books. The idea of telling a story in so few words fascinated me! When I had three young kids at home, we had just moved to a new city, and we spent a lot of time at the library and reading picture books. Kids can be pretty inspiring (lol!), and that’s when I first attempted to write a picture book.

Granted, I was busy writing middle grade during this time, but it took eight years from the moment I wrote that first picture book, to when I finally dared show a manuscript to my agent.

Where do you get your ideas? And, once you have an idea, how do you know if it is best suited for a Picture Book or a Middle Grade book? Do  you start out with the form specifically in mind or does it sometimes take you by surprise?

Read the rest of the interview over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors and be sure to check out Janet’s books at your favorite bookstore.

Interview with Janet Sumner Johnson | Help Wanted | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com  Interview with Janet Sumner Johnson | PB and J Society | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Suggestions (+ 1) For Suddenly Homeschooling Your Kid(s)

Hi everyone. I shared this post about homeschooling in the time of Covid-19 over at the From the Mixed-Up Files blog, but thought I’d post it here in its entirety for anyone who missed it.

For more resources and lesson plans to assist you as you navigate homeschooling amid Covid-19, please visit From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors.

10 Suggestions (+ 1) For Suddenly Homeschooling Your Kid(s) | www.patriciabaileuauthor.comBefore I became an author, I was a teacher, and I spent the last years of my career creating and facilitating a program that worked with homeschooling parents. So, I figured I’d brush off some that experience and share some simple strategies to help those of you who have suddenly found yourself not only trying to work at home but trying to homeschool your kids as well. I hope some of these suggestions prove helpful to you in the weeks (and months) to come.

 10 SUGGESTIONS (+ 1)
FOR SUDDENLY HOMESCHOOLING YOUR KID(S)

1. Breathe. This is a strange and stressful time for everyone. It’s okay to not be sure how to navigate all the things being thrown at you. Take time to decompress, get extra sleep, and go easy – on yourself, first. Then you can go easy on the rest of the family.

2. Take a break from the academic pressures – theirs and yours. Focus on creating a calm home environment. Take some time to find your family’s rhythm in all of this. Help your kids adjust to being home and help them understand your needs, too.

3. Set up some soothing and fun family-time activities. Play games. Work on a puzzle. Watch a movie. Do some reading aloud. Anything that brings you together in a non stressful, non productive way.

4. Figure out a reasonable chore structure. Give every family member a job that helps keep the family healthy and organized. A sense of control is important for people of all ages. Help everyone feel they are doing their part and that they are assisting in maintaining the well being of your family.

5. Do a good thing for someone else. Maybe someone at home with you. Maybe a neighbor or family member who lives elsewhere. Set up a video chat, a phone call, drop a note or picture into email or text, help someone order grocery delivery. Send someone who is isolated a fun gift from an online store if you can afford it.

6. Do the parts of school your kids like. Read. Draw. Play trivia games. Solve fun and silly math problems. Do a science experiment. Build something. Plan the family meals. Cook. Play an instrument if you have one. Make an instrument if you don’t. Learn a new language. Explore a topic your child has a deep interest in. (Now is the time to do that deep dive into dinosaurs or movie making or the physics of flight). Take pictures. Read a whole book series or everything by a particular author. Create a home art gallery. Write and perform a play. Start a blog/vlog/YouTube channel. Write a story. Write a book. (Camp Nanowrimo starts April 1). Make some art. Learn to knit or crochet or whatever other craft sounds like fun. Grow something: Flowers, vegetables, sprouts, it doesn’t matter. Just grow something you all can care for and watch thrive.

7. Move your bodies. Incorporate dance breaks, room run-arounds, scavenger hunts, and exercise of any kind into your day. Try to get some sun and fresh air if you can do it safely.

8. Once you’ve sorted out the family’s rhythms, gradually set up a schedule for your day. Be prepared to be flexible. News, stress, etc. is going to take a toll. There’s no use forcing anyone to study if they’re not going to retain any of it. Sometimes the best thing at the moment is to watch a movie; sometimes the best thing is to take a nap; and, yes, sometimes the best thing is for everyone is to stare at their screens and zone out. It’s okay.

Just be sure to break up your schedule with fun and rest and movement, and set up some rewards for completing your task/job. Even small rewards can make a big difference.

9. If your kid’s school sent work home, you’ll need to figure out how your child works best. Some kids adjust readily to moving from traditional school to online. They simply work through the subjects with breaks in between just like a normal (but often shorter) school day. Other kids struggle. Again, flexibility is key. See what works for your kids and start moving them in that direction incrementally if at all. You don’t have to do it all in one day (or one week).

Another option is to treat work sent home like you do homework at first. Your family probably already has a system in place for that. Just break up the work and time the way you do with regular homework (especially weekend homework). If you’re overwhelmed by all of it, setting it aside is okay, too. This is new to everyone. Teachers will understand. If you’re overwhelmed by all of it but really want some structure, try to stick with the reading and the math. Math tends to be the place kids fall behind, so if you can keep up the math facts/problem solving skills you’ll be ahead of the game.

10. Don’t try to fill the teacher role. Be the parent. That’s more than enough work for anyone. Trust me. The last thing you need is to add a teacher/student struggle to your relationship right now.

+1. Finally, hang in there. There will be bumps and tears along the way as everyone tries to sort this out, but there will also be a whole lot of connection and a whole lot of love. Embrace those parts. In the long run, those moments are what truly matter – not the lesson plans.

As always, feel free to comment below with questions or with ideas and resources that have been working for you. We’re all in this together, so let’s share what we can. <3

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