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May 01, 2017

Keep cool this summer with these hot YA novels!

Whether you’re in a car, on a plane, at the beach, or on a staycation, these YA titles are sure to be the hit of your summer!

The Game of Lives
By James Dashner

Ages 12 & Up

Michael used to live to game, but the games he was playing have become all too real. Only weeks ago, sinking into the Sleep was fun. The VirtNet combined the most cutting-edge technology and the most sophisticated gaming for a full mind-body experience. And it was Michael’s passion. But now every time Michael sinks, he risks his life. The games are over. The VirtNet has become a world of deadly consequences, and Kaine grows stronger by the day. The Mortality Doctrine—Kaine’s master plan—has nearly been realized, and little by little the line separating the virtual from the real is blurring. If Kaine succeeds, it will mean worldwide cyber domination. And it looks like Michael and his friends are the only ones who can put the monster back in the box—if Michael can figure out who his friends really are.


By Jennifer E. Smith

Ages 12 & Up

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for the last few years, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. She and he are alike: both are outsiders, and both know tragedy. Alice lost both her parents when she was nine and now lives with her cousin. Teddy’s father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to grapple with the weight of his gambling debts and barely able to hold it all together.

Then on Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket. To their astonishment, he wins 145 million dollars. In an instant, their lives are completely upended. But what first seemed to be a blessing soon starts to feel like a curse. As Alice and Teddy deal with the ripple effects caused by that one little ticket, they learn more than they ever could have imagined about themselves and about the unexpected ways that luck and love sometimes intersect . . . if only Teddy can see through his windfall and back to the ones who love him.


One of Us Is Lying
By Karen M. McManus

Ages 14 & Up

The Brain, the Beauty, the Criminal, the Athlete, and the Omniscient Narrator.

This is the story of what happens when five teens walk into detention and one drops dead.

Someone in the room is the killer—everyone has a motive, and everyone has something to hide.



Now I Rise
By Kiersten White

Ages 12 & Up

She has no allies and no throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, or even loves her. What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill, but Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence, but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself. But if he fails in Constantinople, would Mehmed ever forgive him? As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: What will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Now I Rise is the riveting second book, in which empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.


Rickety Stitch
By James Parks and Ben Costa

Ages 12 & Up

Rickety Stitch is a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel, the only animated skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul. He has no idea who he used to be when he was a living, breathing sack of meat and skin. His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale that could also explain the fog covering the comical fantasy land of Eem. . . .

Oh, and his sidekick and only friend is a cube of sentient goo.

In this rollicking first volume, Rickety encounters imps, gnomes, giants, unicorns, a mysterious lady knight, and other fantasy dwellers on his quest to uncover his identity and spread his (painfully bad) music far and wide.

Trusting You and Other Lies
By Nicole Williams

Ages 12 & Up

Phoenix is not happy to be working at summer camp. Family summer camp at that. Her parents have been fighting for two years—do they seriously think being locked up in a cabin with Phoenix and her younger brother, Harry, is a good idea? Then there’s Callum, Phoenix’s training counselor who might be cute, but who is also an insufferable know-it-all about wilderness skills. But there’s no avoiding Callum. And now Phoenix isn’t sure she wants to. A pitch-perfect story about late nights, love, and learning to trust again.

New York Times bestselling new-adult author Nicole Williams delivers her YA debut in this sexy and sincere romance that’s perfect for reading beachside.

May 01, 2017

Go on an adventure with these middle-grade reads!

School is letting out, and your students are ready to dive into their summer reading! There’s humor, adventure, friendship, and self-discovery in these new titles—something for every reader!

By Melissa Savage

Ages: 8–12 years

This charming, voice-driven novel filled with adventure is about a girl who needs to rebuild her life with her estranged grandfather, and the quirky neighbor she befriends as they go on a search for Bigfoot.

Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mother always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But now her mom is dead, and those lemons have grown so big that she’s forgotten her recipe. How do you make lemonade out of losing your only parent? Out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California? Out of having to live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? Especially when it’s in a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. Not to mention the woolly beasts lurking in the woods. That’s right, Bigfoot. A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town. Some people in Willow Creek believe Bigfoot is real, hiding in the pine-filled forests. Everything is different there, and Lem just wants to go back home.

And then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc. and Bigfoot investigator for the town. Tobin invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, and she reluctantly agrees. At least it will help pass the time until she can figure out her escape plan. Together, they try to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film and end up discovering more than they could have even imagined.

5 Worlds Books 1: The Sand Warrior
By Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel; illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

Ages: 8–12 years

Discover new worlds, new friends, and a new favorite series in this middle-grade graphic novel from bestselling, highly acclaimed author Mark Siegel. Think Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender!

Oona is the clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy. It’s her older sister—the one who ran away—who’s supposed to light the beacons and save the worlds. So why can Oona create a Sand Warrior? An Tzu is an orphaned boy from the slums. He has lots of street smarts but no idea how to stop the illness that’s turning him invisible! And why do plants react to his music? Jax Amboy is THE star athlete of the 5 Worlds. If only he were human! A robot in disguise, he may hold the secret to why the Toki are invading.

Time is running out in the 5 Worlds. Can this unlikely trio rise to the challenge and face down the forces of evil in time to light the five beacons and save the worlds?

Beach Party Surf Monkey by Chris Grabenstein
Ages: 8–12 years

The second OUTRAGEOUS, fun-in-the-sun adventure in the hilarious, highly illustrated series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Chris Grabenstein, author of the Lemoncello series! There’s always something wacky happening when you live at a motel, and P.T. (named after P. T. Barnum, of course) has grown up at the world’s wackiest motel! When word gets out that the hottest teen idols in Hollywood (plus current YouTube sensation Kevin the Monkey) will be filming their next movie—Beach Party Surf Monkey—right in St. Pete Beach, P.T. and Gloria know that the Wonderland would be the PERFECT location. Now they just have to convince the producers! But when things start to go wrong (Crazed fans? Missing stars?!), it will take all of Gloria’s business genius and P.T.’s wild stories to save the day before the movie AND the Wonderland are both all washed up!

Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath
By Jacob Sager Weinstein

Ages: 8–12 years

Magic is real. History is a big, fat lie. Introducing a middle-grade fantasy trilogy about the magical rivers that run through the sewers of London and shape our world in ways the history books won’t tell you about.

You’ve heard of the Great Fire of London? A baker left his oven burning and . . . wrong. The baker mixed hot and cold water. When Hyacinth Hayward mixes hot and cold water in her aunt’s London sink, she creates a fiery, magically charged drop of water that wiggles away into the sewers. That’s right before monsters in Royal Mail uniforms kidnap her mom. They tell her if she turns in the magical drop by midnight, she can get her mom back. Soon she learns that London was built on magical rivers that are now the city’s sewers—and somehow her family is connected to the magic. In the chase to recover the drop, Hyacinth encounters an intelligent giant pig in a bathing suit, a boy with amnesia, an adorable tosher (whatever that is), a sarcastic old lady, and a very sketchy unicorn. Hyacinth has to figure out who to trust so she can save her mom and, oh yeah, not cause another Great Fire.

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright
By Christopher Edge

Ages: 8–12 years

Fun science meets humor and heart in this adventure about a boy who is searching for his mother . . . in a parallel universe.

How far would you go to change your world? Stephen Albie Bright is named after his astrophysicist parents’ favorite scientists: Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. When Albie’s mother dies of cancer, his father mentions that she might be alive in a parallel universe. So, armed with a box, a laptop, and a banana, Albie sets out to find his mother. What he discovers may or may not be what he’s looking for, but he does learn the answers to some pretty big questions. A poignant story with lots of humor and adventure, this extraordinary novel is for anyone who has ever been curious.

This Would Make a Good Story Someday
By Dana Alison Levy

Ages: 9–12 years

Pack up your suitcase and climb on board with the Johnston-Fischer family as they embark on a cross-country train trip that will be nothing short of epic!

In this journal-structured narrative, twelve-year old Sara Johnston-Fischer chronicles her cross-country train trip with her two mothers; her high-energy six-year-old sister, who carries around a Spartan gladiator figure as her stuffed animal; her rally-obsessed twenty-year-old sister, Laurel; and Laurel’s environmentally friendly boyfriend, Root. Along the way, they encounter a new family of friends and a lot of hilarity, embarrassments, laughs, and heartache.


May 01, 2017

New picture books for summer fun!

Summer means warm weather, ice cream, no school, and hilarious new picture books to read (at the beach with the ice cream)! Don’t miss these bright new titles from our favorite authors and illustrators.

Danny McGee Drinks the Sea
By Andy Stanton; illustrated by Neal Layton

Ages: 4–8 years

Here’s an utterly hilarious picture book—with a surprise ending—about a mischievous little boy who gobbles up the entire world, except for one thing. . . .

When Danny McGee, much to his big sister Frannie’s surprise, drinks the sea with a giant straw, it turns out he’s just getting started. Soon nothing is safe from getting swallowed whole by Danny McGee—not the mountains, not the trees, not even the weather girl on TV! He eats up America and all the people in the world, including the author, who is writing this book from inside Danny McGee! Danny swallows the alphabet and all the numbers, until there is absolutely nothing left . . . except, of course, his big sister, Frannie McGee. Absurdist humor throughout, along with a delicious twist at the end, will have kids laughing uncontrollably at this one-of-a-kind picture book.


This Book Will Not Be Fun
By Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Olivier Tallec

Ages: 3–7 years

As careful custodian of his book, a mouse tries to guarantee his reader some peace and order in spite of escalating chaos.

A book is no place for tomfoolery, and this mouse assures us that his book is to be no exception. Just please ignore that Word-Eating Flying Whale, and—oh no, the lights have gone out. Wait, what is THAT?! Nothing to fear . . . everything is under control. Readers will delight as this charming yet uptight mouse is challenged and subverted by Olivier Tallec’s gloriously imaginative creatures that are like nothing you’ve ever seen. Will our little mouse succumb to their overwhelming exuberance?

By Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Ages: 3–7 years

From the creator of Punk Farm and Lunch Lady comes a hilarious romp about one little girl’s insistence that she does NOT need a nap today.

It’s a tale as old as time—naptime, that is. Lucy insists she isn’t tired. She stays awake the whole time she’s in bed. See! She’s not tired. Then it’s time to help her dad with his errands. She can help. She’s not tired! But at the supermarket Lucy starts to falter. The lights get bright. It’s too loud. She can’t take it. It’s . . . a naptastrophe!


Where Are You?
By Sarah Williamson

Ages: 0–3

Hervé Tullet meets Leo Lionni in this simple and lively exploration of colors, shapes, and friendship.

A little green snake follows a little pink snake through the park, introducing readers to shapes, colors, and landscapes along the way. With a spare, playful text (“Where are you? Through the grass! Under the lily pad. In the sandbox!”) and fresh, energetic illustrations, this is the perfect book to inspire young readers, artists, and explorers.

May 01, 2017

Graduation gifts and inspiration

It’s that time of the year—cue the music. From preschool to college and beyond, mark this graduation season with these inspiring children’s books. Perfect as gifts or as the inspiration for party decorations and keepsakes.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
By Dr. Seuss

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” ­—Dr. Seuss

With his trademark use of humorous verse and illustrations, Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within them. Wonderfully wise, it is a graduation speech that will inspire readers of all ages.




The Wonderful Things You Will Be
By Emily Winfield Martin

“When I look at you
And you look at me
I wonder what wonderful
Things you will be.”
—Emily Winfield Martin

From brave and bold to creative and clever, Emily Winfield Martin celebrates all personalities and their potential. With a beautiful gatefold, gorgeous and moving illustrations, and a rhyming text, this is a book that parents will love reading over and over to their kids. With its loving and inspiring message, The Wonderful Things You Will Be is a great gift for grads of all ages.

365 Days of Wonder
By R. J. Palacio

In the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them–one for each day of the year–drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. The perfect inspiration for graduates to take on the world with kindness.

For pin-spiring crafts and ideas to bring these books to life, check out our graduation Pinterest board.

May 01, 2017

Taking a Cue From Scooby-Doo

I’ve always been an avid series reader. Growing up, I was obsessed with Baby-sitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, Ramona, Judy Blume’s Fudge books, and Frog & Toad. As an adult, I’ve expanded to The Penderwicks, Junie B., Wimpy Kid…and Kristan Higgins’ adult romantic comedies. Every time I open up a book in one of my favorite series, it feels like opening the door to find a house full of friends.

There is something comforting about the predictability of series books; a sense of security knowing what you can expect before reading the first page. I love that I can always count on my favorite series to follow a certain formula and end the way they’re supposed to end—with a few twists-and-turns and surprising character evolutions along the way. So when I set out to write the first Puppy Pirates book, I knew there were some “rules” I needed to follow if I wanted to earn kids’ trust.

In my opinion, the three most important aspects of early chapter books are: humor, accessible characters, and a consistent structure. Luckily, I love writing silly scenes and have a two nine-year-olds and an eleven-year-old at home who are huge goofballs…so that part comes easily and naturally. As for characters: before I figured out what should happen in the Puppy Pirates stories, I thought about who my crew would be. As I developed each character, I created a detailed character bible that I refer to constantly when I’m writing these books. Character consistency is key and kids are very careful readers, so I keep notes of my pups’ favorite nap spots, fur color, hobbies, and favorite phrases, among other things.

For me, the hardest part of writing is plot and structure. Before I started writing the first Puppy Pirates adventure, I knew I wanted to build a series—so I had to come up with a solid structure that would hold up for many adventures.

Enter: Scooby-Doo.

Years ago, I was given the opportunity to write a series of Scooby-Doo chapter book mysteries (FYI: I write books about other people’s characters using a pseudonym!). To prepare, I binge-watched a bunch of Scooby TV episodes and paid close attention to the structure of the show. I realized that part of Scooby Doo’s appeal is the predictability…you know that in every episode, Shaggy and Scooby will eat a snack, there will always be a chase scene, and every mystery has a masked bad guy (or girl).

When I set out to write Puppy Pirates, I decided to take a cue from Scooby and develop a clear structure for the series that kids can count on from book to book. I don’t always follow it exactly, but most books go something like this:

  • Chapter 1-2: Intro with a pug prank/practical joke that becomes crucial for solving the climactic problem
  • Chapter 3: Henry/Wally (my main characters) are put in peril
  • Chapter 4: Chase scene that leads to a bigger problem
  • Chapter 5: Resolve original conflict…but now they’re in even more trouble!
  • Chapters 6-8: Main conflict—chases, battles, challenges
  • Chapter 9: Wally faces a fear and overcomes it
  • Chapter 10: Wally/Henry friendship moment/resolution

So far, I’ve written eight books in this series (with two more on the horizon), and having a road map to guide me on each adventure has been a big help. I always start with this basic structure, and then figure out what twists and turns and character developments will get kids excited about reading the next book. I love writing this series just as much as I enjoy reading series. Luckily, it’s just about time for me to start writing the next Puppy Pirates adventure—all my mates are waiting for me aboard the Salty Bone, so let the outlining begin!

Erin Soderberg is the author of the Puppy Pirates chapter book series. Visit her at www.erinsoderberg.com or at www.facebook.com/PuppyPiratesBooks.