New Fiction from Virginia KidLit Writers

My home state of Virginia has a hard-working, super-talented, kidlit crew and I wanted to show off a few of the picture books, YA and middle-grade novels coming out in 2016.  This isn’t an exhaustive list; it’s a start. And it’s also a way to remind you of the many merits to reading local. (Make sure you say “hi” to these folks when you run into them at the hardware store or Harris Teeter.)

hannahsome cecechuck megburn 614l8MVoMGL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_Picture Books
Chuck and Woodchuck by Cece Bell (El Deafo): The story of a woodchuck who helps two classmates forge a friendship. Cece’s off-beat humor is always in tune! March.

Feathers for Peacock by Jacqueline Jules (Freddie Ramos series): Jacqueline Jules is well-versed in folktales. Here she comes up with her own pourquoi tale, blending bird myths from around the world to explain how the peacock got its trademark tail feathers. April.

My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules: This one is an early reader, the newest book in the series about Sofia Martinez, a spunky 7 year old who is always competing for attention in a large, loving family.

A Tree Grows Up by Marfé Ferguson Delano (Master George’s People) Illustrated with gorgeous photographs, this National Geographic story for the preschool set tells how an acorn grows up to be an oak tree, including the stages of growth of a tree throughout the seasons and the years. July.

Santa’s Underwear by Marty Rhodes Figley (Emily and Carlo): The revealing story of what happens when Santa can’t find his underwear. Historically, reindeer always come to the rescue. Can they help here? August.

The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo by Laura Murray (The Gingerbread Man series): I got to see this one in its beginning stages and can’t wait to see the final copy, about our favorite Gingerbread Man on a class field trip. August.

Pigloo by Anne Marie Pace (Vampirina series): Pigloo is a brave explorer, seeking out new territories on his trusty sled. Not in time for this winter, but we’ll have it for next! October.

Ferocious Fluffity: A Mighty Bite-y Class Pet illustrated by Henry Cole (Virginia) and written by Erica Perl, who is just over the line in DC (they did Chicken Butt together): A story about a hamster who terrorizes a class of second graders. I had a cat like this once, and loved him to pieces. Coming in July.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke (Zita, Spacegirl): Goblin is a cheerful homebody who lives in a cozy dungeon — cozy until a gang of adventurers barge in and steal his treasure and his best friend, Skeleton. June.

A Fairy Friend by Sue Fliess (I’m a Ballerina): I saw a preview of this at a DC Children’s Book Guild Meeting recently and it is super gorgeous and super fun! May.

Still a Gorilla by Kim Norman (Puddle Pug) Willy the Gorilla imitates a lion, a walrus, a billy goat, an alligator, and a kangaroo. But things don’t work out when he’s something he’s not. What if he just tries to be himself? July.

Middle Grade

Booked by Kwame Alexander (The Crossover): A novel in verse that covers everything from soccer to girls to bullying to family, where Alexander always gets it right. April.

The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan: Erin’s debut book (yay, Erin!) about genius-scientist-in-the-making Madeline Little, who is out to discover the cure for her newly messed-up life. November.

Jim the Wonder Dog by Marty Rhodes Figley: A true story of Jim, a hunting dog who has the powers to read minds. I want to believe! May.

Rocket and Groot by Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series): Spun from The Guardians of the Galaxy, Angleberger brings his own trademark humor to this story of Marvel heroes Rocket and Groot, who have crash-landed on a planet made up of strip malls and killer toilets. March.

Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell: Tom & Cece have been BUSY this year, and this is the start of their long-awaited series of chapter books about a mystery-solving Venus flytrap. How could you go wrong? August.

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger (Horton Halfpott — Tom, The Sky Riders, Paul w/ Mike Allen): So I worked with both of these guys at the Roanoke Times, where Paul’s sci-fi pursuits and writings were legend. I know only a little about the plot of this one, but I can tell you these two guys have been plotting this story for years and I have no doubt their joint effort will result in one of  my favorite books ever. August.

Young Adult

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass): A coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1977 in NYC. Meg’s characters always feel deeply and (eventually) see clearly. Great cover. March.

Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby (Wonder Show): This story focuses on Tallie McGovern, who is coping with the death of her older brother. She discovers that her parents donated his organs, and while there’s a part of her that acknowledges that he’s gone, what will happen if she tracks down the recipients? February 16th — right around the corner!

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell (Sweet Unrest): Pirates, fairies, monsters, and a Neverland that’s different than the one you’ve heard about, the story centers around Gwendolyn Allister and a battle between good and evil. February (out now!).

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattemer (The Vigilante Poets Society): As his dying wish, Jesse Serrano sends his cousins, girlfriend and best friend across Europe on a mysterious mission. April.

The Darkest Hour by Caroline T. Richmond (The Only Thing to Fear): Sixteen-year-old Lucie Blaise is working as a covert operator. Her mission? Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out Western Europe. July.

Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Catching Jordan): When she lies to cover for her boyfriend, Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High. July.

Incognita by Kristen Lippert-Martin (Tabula Rasa): The sequel to Tabula Rasa, and there’s a third book to look forward to as well. In this one, Angel is home again in New York City, but new mysteries and old enemies conspire to keep her from claiming the safety and happiness she’s been working toward. Incognita is due out in October.

Illusion by Martina Boone (Compulsion): The last of the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy, in this one, Barrie must rescue her beloved and her family from evil spirits before it’s too late. October.

The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears (Sway): Luke Grayson’s  reputation as a troublemaker follows him to rural Tennessee, where he moves with his Baptist pastor father. He’s an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak. But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. September.

Lead Me to Light by Danielle Ellison (Follow Me Through Darkness): The third book in Danielle’s Boundless Trilogy is due out some time in 2016. Not sure of the exact month, but watch for it!

The Boyfriend Whisperer by Linda Budzinski (Em & Em): As President and CEO of Boyfriend Whisperer Enterprises, Lexi Malloy is her high school’s undercover Cupid. One problem: She’s stuck in the friend zone with her own crush. In time for next Valentine’s Day, this releases in November.

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman (Prisoner of Night and Fog) Romantic and exhilarating historical adventure about a girl who must unlock the secrets within Paradise Lost to save her father. May!

The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows (Incarnate) Princess Wilhelmina is ready for her crown, but declaring herself queen means war. The conclusion to THE ORPHAN QUEEN, which follow’s Wilhelmina’s journey from orphaned criminal on the streets to a magic-wielding queen. April.

Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes) This year is all about endings, I suppose. The conclusion to the Snow Like Ashes series is due out in September.

And just across the state line:

She’s not from Virginia but she’s just spitting distance away and I wanted to give a huge shout-out to PEEP AND EGG.  This picture book by Laura Gehl (One Big Pair of Underwear), due out TODAY, is about an egg that is too shy to hatch. Happy book birthday, Laura!

Want to look up some more Virginia writers and illustrators? Check out my pinterest page here. And here’s a link to the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC’s page of authors and illustrators who do school visits in Virginia, DC and Maryland. Are you a Virginia author or illustrator with a book coming out this year? Please be sure to add to this list in the comments!



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Brother-sister books

When I write, I spend a lot of time exploring brother-sister relationships — perhaps because I couldn’t have gotten through my teen years without my own brother. I love reading about brother-sister relationships, too, even if they’re in the periphery of a book instead of the central focus. Following are six just-or-almost-out, MG and YA books that are sure to hit me where I live.

51cKVE+BemL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ 51gubUXsmpL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_ 51unex9iojL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_61GJ69dZ-sL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 61OpInBzTPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_1. Hannah Barnaby, SOME OF THE PARTS, YA: I’ve been excited about this one since I heard Hannah read a short excerpt at a Highlights retreat a couple of years ago. The brother may have died here, but that doesn’t mean the relationship goes away.  The plot: Tallie McGovern has been pretending to cope with the death of her older brother. She knows he’s gone. But when she finds out that he was an organ donor, she wonders if tracking down the organ recipients might somehow bring him back. February.

2. Jo Knowles, STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS, MG: If you’ve read SEE YOU AT HARRY’S you will clearly want to read anything else that Jo Knowles writes. Told from a boy’s point of view, the main character is overshadowed by his older sister. There are other shadows here, too, of course. An August release date.

3. Karen Rivers, GIRL IN THE WELL, Upper MG. Kammie’s in a new town with a new life. When she ends up trapped after a so-called initiation, she has lots of time to consider the life she’s lived so far. Who’s keeping her company? Wait, is that a French-speaking coyote? A zombie goat? March.

4. Elana K. Arnold, FAR FROM FAIR, MG. Odette Zyskowski has a list of Things That Aren’t Fair, and taking a road trip in an RV to visit her grandmother is currently at the top. Sharing the back seat on this trip is Odette’s exasperating younger brother. While the relationship isn’t at the center of the story, it’s certainly important to it, as is the exploration of life and death. March.

5. Miranda Kenneally, DEFENDING TAYLOR, YA. A lie to defend her boyfriend gets Taylor kicked out of her private school. She’s under lots of pressure when she switches to Hundred Oaks High — plus she has to play on a soccer team that used to be her rival. The person who seems to understand her best is her brother’s best friend. I’m interested to see how the brother weighs in on all of this. The soccer element also gives it extra appeal for me. July.

6. Holly Black, THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, YA. This one came out last year, but the paperback was just released for 2016, and since I haven’t read it yet, I’m counting it. Hazel and her brother, Ben, are in a town where humans and Faerie folks live side by side. The siblings grew up telling each other stories — like the one about the horned boy in the glass coffin. Hazel knows he’ll never wake. And then one day, he does.

BONUS: Also worth a mention is SQUISH, POD VS. POD, the eighth book in the Squish series. It’s by brother-sister team Jennifer and Matthew Holm, and whether a sibling relationship is at the core of the book or not (in this case, I believe it’s a not), I sort of figure all of their books explore brother-sister relationships, one way or another.

Excited about a brother-sister book due out in 2016? If so, please share in the comments.

Interested in other books about siblings? Melanie Crowder has a post about middle-grade novels featuring sisterly bonds right here.


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Earth, Wind & Fire

I’m not going to write about the death of every music icon, I swear. But music is woven into our memories. Music is what holds our memories in place. Here are a few, courtesy of Earth, Wind & Fire.

– It’s the 1970s and my family is going to California, one of the first plane trips we’ve ever taken. My brother and I are listening to music through headsets that plug right into the arms of the chairs. We are amazed by this technology. We don’t own a Walkman yet (because it isn’t the 80s) so this headphone business is brand new. The music pumps straight into our brains. Long flight, short playlist. We listen to September at least six times. (Also, Billy Joel’s My Life.)

– Now I’m in middle school, and the local record store has put a bunch of posters, album-cover size, in a bin for free. I spot a cover for EW&F. I don’t know much about the band except for September. I pick it anyway and go home to look for Scotch tape.

– Roller rink. Boogie Wonderland. Every Friday night.

-Marching Band in the 1980s, under the direction of David Mills. We are playing EW&F’s In the Stone. Whenever I hear that opening brass, I’m back on the field holding my saxophone, and my fingers are freezing. My friend Joe (stellar trumpet player) has a recording of the music. Our rendition is here if you want to check it out.

warriorband- And now we’re at an Obama rally in Manassas. Electricity in the air and Shining Star is on the P.A. Another one that repeats as we wait and wait and wait. The kids fall asleep on the hard ground, but we wake them up when the future president takes the stage.

Thanks for indulging me. As long as you’re here and we’re talking about music: I found out the ALA is bringing back the Bowie Read poster, in case you’re interested.

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IMG_5651My neighbor thinks maybe they come when we’re sleeping. Perhaps I should have left cookies as well. They’ve certainly been working hard enough!







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How to Make a Wishing Tree/Promise Tree Centerpiece

I’d mentioned this before in a few posts, so thought I’d lay out the full plans here:

wish tree img jpg

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