Friday, July 23, 2021

5 Middle Grade Summer Reads You Don't Want to Miss!

Summer is in full swing, with afternoons spent in backyard hammocks or whiled away on road trips. Whatever the choice of your summer time, be sure to tuck a few of these great middle grade reads into your kid's backpack - or even your own!

Protagonist Kiki Kallira is sure to thrill fans of adventure, art, and mythology in this action-packed novel. Readers will be drawn into this entertaining story within moments...and may even find themselves reaching for their own sketchbooks. This book is a great springboard for imagination! Buy Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna here!

Tae Keller weaves an enchanting story in When You Trap a Tiger, incorporating the wonder of Korean folk tales. When a tiger from one of the tales comes to life, her main character, Lily must unravel a secret family history and discover if she has the courage to face the tiger. Winner of the 2021 Newbery Medal. Available here!

Looking for a complex, riveting tale? The Kate in Between by Claire Swinarski may just fit the bill. Kate finds herself torn between her best friend, Haddie, and her newfound acceptance in the popular group. This book tackles issues of friendship, bullying, honesty, and guilt. Available here!

In this heartwarming novel, an unlikely friendship is forged when Ro and Benji become science partners in school. They unite to seek his missing comic-book-writing Dad and to finish the rocket her Dad was building when he died. Together, they deal with grief and tackle some of the deepest questions of the cosmos. Find Clues to the Universe by Christina Li at amazon!

Barclay the mushroom apprentice accidentally bonds with a magical beast, setting off a rollicking adventure sure to keep readers turning pages. Buy Wilderlore: The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody here!

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 5, 2021

An Interview with Author Alyson Gerber

I'm a HUGE Alyson Gerber fan, so I knew that when TAKING UP SPACE was recently released, I definitely wanted to talk to her about this stunning novel that is going to speak to so many kids!


About the Book:

Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it's the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her.

But lately Sarah can't even play basketball right. She's slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn't feel like it's her own anymore. She's worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can take control over what's happening.

When Sarah's crush asks her to be partners in a cooking competition, she feels pulled in a million directions. She'll have to dig deep to stand up for what she needs at home, be honest with her best friends, and accept that she doesn't need to change to feel good about herself.

The Interview:

Hi Aly!

Thanks so much for answering some questions!

Thank you so much for having me! 

Q1: You're so open in your books about issues you've had in your life. Do you find it cathartic or is it still uncomfortable at times?

It’s definitely uncomfortable to confront what I’ve been through in my writing, but I’ve found that digging into my experience and facing my feelings is the only way I know how to heal and move forward. In the process of publishing BRACED, FOCUSED, and TAKING UP SPACE, I've also had the chance to help a lot of kids and adults, and I'm really grateful for that opportunity. It's changed me for the better.

Q2: One of the things I love so much about this book is that it deals with the onset of puberty head on and how hard that can be for girls, not just psychologically, but physically, and yet we so rarely see it discussed in books. Can you talk about your conscious decision to talk about the feeling young girls have that their body is somehow betraying them specifically, and not solely related to disordered eating?

Absolutely. I wanted TAKING UP SPACE to address puberty in an honest way. Puberty is the first time kids experience their body changing. The way they look and feel and appear to other people is new and completely out of their control. It's confusing and weird and also really lonely, because this monumental thing is happening (or not happening), and yet no one is talking about it. Everyone is just pretending that things are the same, when everything is different. I really hope TAKING UP SPACE helps readers to feel less alone in this experience.

Q3: Sarah and her mother have a very strained relationship, one that in many ways isn’t helped at all by her father. There is so much shame ricocheting in that house, in addition to love. Was it difficult to find the balance between these characters?

When I started writing TAKING UP SPACE, I knew that to some readers Sarah's family would feel unfamiliar. This type of dynamic where the culture of dieting has trickled down through generations is actually very common, but it's rarely shown or discussed, because there is so much shame. I stayed focused on making sure that Sarah's parents felt like real people. I wanted readers to feel how much Sarah's parents love her, even as they struggle to provide her with a sense of security and enough food. The balance was definitely tricky, but I'm really proud of how these characters turned out in the story. And I'm so excited by the reviews from readers who can relate to what Sarah is going through and also encouraged by the incredible response from readers who have never been inside this type of dynamic.

Q4: Sarah’s best friend, Ryan, is steadfast, but she doesn’t sugarcoat things for Sarah, which makes me really love her! How important is it to you to accurately portray young girls’ friendships?

I feel very obligated to show my readers honest versions of what friendship really looks like, not what I wish it looked like. The truth is that friendships are special and also complicated. There isn’t a right or wrong way to be a friend. There is only what's right and wrong for you. This is particularly hard when you're young, because most people are trying to figure out who they are and what they need. And just when they have some sense of that, everything about their body and brain changes, so what they need from friends changes too. 

Q5: The most moving part of the book, and most important in my opinion, is when Sarah tells her truth and asks for help. So many kids are afraid to do this and the way it goes down is SO well done. How hard was that to write?

Thank you. That means a lot to me. Writing the build up to that moment when Sarah is finally able to see what's really happening and ask for help was the hardest part of writing this book. It had to ring true and feel earned. And it didn't work, until it did.

Q6: Finally, for all the Alyson Gerber fans out there, what’s next?

I love this question so much! And I hate to be mysterious, but I can't say what's coming next just yet. I promise it will be worth the wait. It's going to be amazing!

And how do you like this adorable picture of Alyson on her first day of middle school? SO cute!

Want to know about Alyson and find out more about her other amazing novels? 

Visit her website!