Inspired recommendations for kids from
independent booksellers across the country.

In This Issue...

#1 Kids' Next List Pick...

Chirp

By Kate Messner

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781547602810, $16.99)

"Mia is not too happy about moving to Vermont after seventh grade, especially with a broken arm, but she makes friends, finds her spirit, and helps to solve mysteries regarding her grandmother's cricket farm. Mia has her own secrets, too, and it isn't until she finds courage in other people's stories that she can confront her fears. Messner is unparalleled in understanding young people's minds, and her skillful and sensitive handling of difficult topics and situations makes this story one both young people and adults will be glad they read."
--Gail Meyer, The Bookstore Plus Music & Art, Lake Placid, NY

#1 Kids' Next List Pick Author Interview...

Indie booksellers across the country have chosen Kate Messner's Chirp (Bloomsbury Children's Books) as one of their top picks for the Spring 2020 Kids' Indie Next List.

Messner's newest book follows a young girl named Mia as she adjusts to her new life in Vermont. But making friends before school starts isn't the only thing on Mia's mind--she's also trying to solve the mystery of who is trying to sabotage her grandmother's cricket farm. And she's also hiding a painful secret, one she'd rather forget. 

Here, we talk with Messner about cricket farms, entrepreneurship, and dealing with sexual harassment.

Why did you choose a Vermont cricket farm as Chirp's setting?

I've been fascinated by the idea of entomophagy (eating insects as food) ever since I read a 2013 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization called "Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security," about the benefits of eating insects, both for our health and the health of the environment. I was fascinated by the notion that we know crickets to be a healthy, sustainable protein, and yet in the United States, many of us are reluctant to try them. After I visited a startup cricket farm in Vermont, I knew this was something that would be fascinating to explore in a book for kids, so I spent several days there, shadowing the cricket-farmer-in-charge, learning all about the daily chores of a cricket farm and the potential pitfalls. It made for a fascinating science-infused setting for a mystery!

Mia learns about entrepreneurship and innovation through a local camp as well as reality television shows. Why did you decide to explore the intricacies of business through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl?

Kids are amazing innovators. So often, they don't have that voice of negative experience that shuts down fresh ideas by whispering "that's not possible." When they have an idea, they're excited about it, and so often, they can find ways to accomplish seemingly impossible things. They're also not afraid to fail in the same way many of us are as adults. With more and more young people launching their own businesses before they're even out of high school, this seemed like another way for Mia to not only connect with her grandmother's cricket farm but also to build the confidence she needs to face her own struggles.

Over the course of the story, Mia goes from wanting to sit alone inside to regaining the confidence she needs to make friends, be active, and pitch a business proposal. This personal journey is paired with the mystery of who might be sabotaging the cricket farm. Why did you decide to explore these two stories in tandem with one another?

Mia's story of finding her voice is a story I thought I'd write someday, but at first, I didn't realize it was going to be the same book as the cricket-farm mystery. That revelation came to me during one of my visits to the cricket farm in Vermont. I'd walked into the warehouse where a million crickets had just reached maturity, and the chirping that filled the air was like the most intense summer night you can imagine, times a thousand. As soon as I stepped inside, I said, "Whoa! So that's the sound of a million crickets!"

"Actually, half a million," said Steve, the cricket farmer. "Only male crickets chirp. Females are silent."

Mia was already very much alive in my imagination at that point. That detail brought her to the surface--and stopped me in my tracks. How would a girl keeping a painful secret process that scientific detail? How might she process that metaphor as she regained her strength and her voice? That was when the two storylines really came together.

As the story progresses, Mia learns about gender dynamics and sexual harassment in STEM and business fields as well as everyday life. In what ways did current conversations about gender and sexual harassment play into your writing?

Like many women, I've spent a lot of time in the past few years reliving tough memories related to the #MeToo episodes in my life. For many of us, it starts when we're still girls, feeling powerless to do or say anything about what's happening because society has already taught us that our voices don't matter, that it's best to be quiet and move on. And like many women, I'm not willing to be quiet anymore. More than ever, I believe we all need to be talking about these issues, so our kids know that their voices matter, that they can speak up when an adult's attention makes them uncomfortable, and that when they do, we'll be there to listen and take action.

One of the ways Mia learns to deal with the reality of sexual harassment and inappropriate touch is by forming closer bonds with the women and girls in her life. Can you talk about the importance of community for young children?

When we quietly censor books that deal with issues like this, we're leaving kids alone in the dark, without the sense of community they need for support. It's devastating, and it happens a lot. Even on my recent book tour, promoting a novel that's garnered five starred reviews for its handling of a difficult topic, a handful of schools quietly canceled visits, deciding that they didn't want to have those honest conversations with their students.

That leaves kids who have been carrying around a secret like Mia's feeling as if they're all alone, and it's simply not true. Stories are one of the safest, most wonderful ways to enter into important but tough conversations with young people. As adults, when we have the courage to do that, we let young people know they're not alone, and that can be everything--everything--to a kid who's been feeling confusion and shame and isolation over something they thought only happened to them.

Keeping stories like this from kids is a refusal to arm them with not only the courage they need to speak up but also the information they need to recognize when an adult is acting inappropriately. It enables abusers and harms children. Kids need caring, honest adults to talk with. They need to know they're not alone. They need to be protected from predators--not from stories.

Neal Porter Books: Hello, Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell

Top Picks

Yes No Maybe So

By Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062937049, $19.99)

"A canvassing rom-com for our time! When Jamie meets Maya at a local political event and they get roped into going door-to-door together, a friendship blooms into romance. But navigating cross-cultural relationships amid the turbulent politics of 2019 is no easy feat. This book is funny, romantic, and sweet, and it will inspire both empathy and activism in readers of all ages."

--Mackenzie Van Engelenhoven, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

Coo

By Kaela Noel

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062955975, $16.99)

"Coo is a brilliant, fresh take on animal fantasy. Among the many things that make this book marvelous, the pigeons have their own set grammar, which greatly appealed to me as a linguistics nerd. The book also takes a stab at answering some pretty big questions, such as what it's like to experience your own humanity for the first time. With echoes of Julie of the Wolves and Silverwing, this book has moments of human (and pigeon) connection that will sweep you off your feet."
--Laura Speake, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, NH

Black Brother, Black Brother

By Jewell Parker Rhodes

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316493802, $16.99)

"In Black Brother, Black Brother, Rhodes looks at colorism, prejudice in schooling systems against people of color, and whitewashing in history all in a brilliant sports narrative. After being falsely accused of disrupting class at his private school and then arrested for being angry that no one would listen to him, Donte is encouraged to get back at his bully in their own game: fencing. What follows is a book filled with brilliance, familial love, and friendship. I love this book and look forward to recommending it to everyone!"

--Nathaniel Hattrick, Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, WA

The Gravity of Us

By Phil Stamper

(Bloomsbury YA, 9781547600144, $17.99)

"A triumphant debut that absolutely soars, The Gravity of Us is a grounded love story set on Earth but inspired by the stars. Budding journalist Cal and shy former athlete Leon meet when their parents are chosen to go on a mission to Mars for NASA, but it's much more than a meet-cute as Stamper explores the complexity of social media, journalism, science, and more. It's earnest, dazzling, and everything you want in a debut novel. Perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and John Green."

--Sami Thomason, Square Books, Oxford, MS

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The Bear Must Go On

By Dev Petty

Brandon Todd (Illus.)

(Philomel Books, 9781984837479, $17.99)

"The Bear Must Go On took me straight back to lazy summer days planning performances with my friends. Just like the squirrels in this book, we loved planning all the details--including hand-drawn tickets--but what we lacked was a big-spirited bear to create a stellar show for us! This story is great for children entering the age of schools plays and choir concerts, and will make for a very fun, creative story time!"
--Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

The Box Turtle

By Vanessa Roeder

(Dial Books, 9780735230507, $17.99)

"Terrance, a little box turtle, is too cute for words. This is a great story about being more than what you look like, and what it means to be a good friend, too. Kids will identify with learning to be okay with being themselves--even if it means being a little weird."
--Tildy Banker-Johnson, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA

Nesting

By Henry Cole

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062885920, $17.99)

"Perfect for spring, this is a simply beautiful book about robins. I loved the illustrations and the contrasted bright blue robin eggs. The quick facts about robins in the back makes this book great for school or continuing education with your little reader."

--Amanda Zirn Hudson, Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach, DE

No More Naps!: A Story for When You're Wide-Awake and Definitely NOT Tired

By Chris Grabenstein

Leo Espinosa (Illus.)

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781524771287, $17.99)

"Being the mother of a toddler who often protests naptime, I laughed out loud when I saw No More Naps! A delightful premise (others taking the naps that Annalise won't take) and a satisfying ending (spoiler alert: there are zzzzzz's) make this a great read-aloud for story time or as a preamble to a good, long snooze (fingers crossed)."
--Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

The Paper Kingdom

By Helena Ku Rhee

Pascal Campion (Illus.)

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780525644613, $17.99)

"The Paper Kingdom is a clever and sweet story of a boy who goes to work with his parents at their night-janitor job in a fancy office. He doesn't understand why his parents have to clean up all the messes, but he enjoys the stories they come up with about those who run the kingdom. Maybe one day he can be king and teach his dragons to pick up after themselves! This book is imaginative and adorable, with an underlying message to be respectful of other people's time and effort."

--Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

Snail Crossing

By Corey R. Tabor

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062878007, $17.99)

"For fans of gentle, sweetly humorous picture books such as Truman and Escargot, Corey Tabor's Snail Crossing is a charming, clever adventure perfect for reading aloud, lap time, or any time! Snail wants his cabbage, but the journey won't be direct and it won't be quick... but then, most things deeply desired are rarely either of those! Delightfully illustrated and wonderfully told, Snail's story will make you laugh, cheer, and come away assured that kindness does, indeed, win the day."
--Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Vote for Our Future!

By Margaret McNamara

Micah Player (Illus.)

(Schwartz & Wade, 9781984892805, $17.99)

"Your vote counts--just ask the students at Stanton Elementary School, who are making their voices heard and working hard to get out the vote. Vote for Our Future! explains the voting process in vivid illustrations and language that children--and adults!--can easily understand. An important and timely book that would work well in an elementary classroom and with parents who want to discuss this topic with their children."

--Judy Hayes, Kids Ink Children's Bookstore, Indianapolis, IN

Aster and the Accidental Magic

By Thom Pico

Karensac (Illus.)

(Random House Graphic, 9780593118849, $12.99 paperback; 9780593124178, $20.99 hardcover)

"This book is perfect for fans of Hilda, with the simple design of Adventure Time and the guileless charm of Steven Universe. Aster is NOT happy to be moving into the boring old woods, but she quickly learns that there is more in this valley than meets the eye when she stumbles into the truth at the core of every local legend."

--Stephanie Heinz, Print: A Bookstore, Portland, ME

Bug Boys

By Laura Knetzger

(Random House Graphic, 9781984896766, $13.99)

"Bug Boys is one of the best graphic novels I have read in a long time! Laura Knetzger gives us a set of quirky and delightful stories set around the best friend duo Stag-B and Rhino-B. Their friendship is strong and so is their sense of adventure. With complex, relatable themes and adorably illustrated pages, you cannot go wrong with Bug Boys!"
--Alexa Ochocki, Content Bookstore, Northfield, MN

Here in the Real World

By Sara Pennypacker

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062698957, $17.99)

"I love how this book centers on a kid who detests Meaningful Social Interaction. Ware skips rec camp and with Jolene creates a secret castle and papaya garden. What at first is a secret world turns into a fight in the real world: a fight for birds and to save the sanctuary. The details of building the secret world parallel the building of trust between Jolene and Ware. A lyrical, well-constructed story destined to become a classic."

--Jennifer Kraar, City of Asylum Bookstore, Pittsburgh, PA

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs

By Leslie Connor

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062796783, $16.99)

"This sweet and heartwarming book is the perfect gift for anyone who's ever lost something--or someone--precious. While the plot is simple, the characters and the timeless message of healing more than make up for it. There's also a positive representation of a same-sex couple and elements of the famous story Marley & Me sprinkled throughout. But don't worry, the ending isn't nearly as devastating."
--Jason Mills, The Book Bungalow, St. George, UT

The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories

By Emily Winfield Martin

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780553511031, $18.99)

"Beautiful, whimsical, and ethereal are the thoughts and illustrations that make up The Imaginaries. At once a book of story starters and idea encouragers, The Imaginaries could also serve as a most intriguing coffee table art book. Emily Winfield Martin just never disappoints!"

--Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

Mañanaland

By Pam Muñoz Ryan

(Scholastic Press, 9781338157864, $18.99)

"A young boy seeking answers about his missing mother finds himself on a perilous journey to help someone in danger, a trek that will test his strength, courage, and determination. Pam Muñoz Ryan spins a beautiful tale, lightly brushed with magic, that speaks to the heart and reverberates with issues faced by contemporary society."

--Betsy Covert, The Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH

Snapdragon

By Kat Leyh

(First Second, 9781250171115, $12.99 paperback; 9781250171122, $21.99 hardcover)

"I could not have enjoyed this book more. It's a rare graphic novel that can capture the imagination of my 10-year-old daughter as well as myself. It's not just that the art is great or that the story is so unique. It's how many topics are addressed in such a small space: gender, death, rebirth, abuse, witchcraft, acceptance, love…most of all love. I can't wait until it's on our shelves."

--Luke Henderson, The Bookies Bookstore, Denver, CO

Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom

By Louis Sachar

Tim Heitz (Illus.)

(HarperCollins, 9780062965387, $17.99)

"In a return to the surreal Wayside School, this book stays perfectly in touch with the earlier works in the series. The characters remain wonderfully quirky, and the everyday oddities of the school are just as riveting as before. Sure to appeal to school-aged children who can recognize the weird in their schools."
--Gwendolyn Baltera, Buttonwood Books and Toys, Cohasset, MA

Be Not Far From Me

By Mindy McGinnis

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062561626, $18.99)

"While on a camping trip, Ashley, upon startling her boyfriend having sex with his ex, rushes away into the woods. Luckily for her, she has experience in the woods and training in survival. Unluckily, she has run off without her pack or even her shoes. The rest of the book is the narrative of her survival. The terse and tense prose lends itself well to the story. An amazing addition to YA survival novels."

--Rosie Lee-Parks, Readers' Books, Sonoma, CA

Dragon Hoops

By Gene Luen Yang

(First Second, 9781626720794, $24.99)

"In this immensely fun book, Yang lays out what could be a rote story in an entertaining fashion, splicing in the history of basketball, the backstories of several team members, and his own personal life to keep readers on their toes. While the book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel."
--Paul Swydan, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, MA

Foul Is Fair

By Hannah Capin

(Wednesday Books, 9781250239549, $18.99)

"Featuring a razor-sharp take on Lady Macbeth, this book is gripping. In the rise of antihero narratives in pop culture, this deserves to be up there with some of our favorites. It's cathartic to see karma come around in the form of our protagonist, Jade. For Shakespeare fans, all of the nods to the original play are clever. Hannah Capin gets the balance just right between the source material and her own unique vision. As a tale of revenge, Foul Is Fair soars. No matter what happens in the book, we are always rooting for the girls."
--Sofia Silva Wright, Phoenix Books, Burlington, VT

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

By Holly Jackson

(Delacorte Press, 9781984896360, $17.99)

"Brave and smart Pippa loves to search, pry, and dig into information. At the moment, she is looking into the murder/disappearance of Andie Bell while also trying to prove that Sal Singh, who confessed before completing suicide, is innocent. From the log entries and diagrams of Pippa's capstone project to terrific characterization and a fulfilling ending, this book features great storytelling. Highly recommended for people who liked One of Us Is Lying!"

--Megan Fortas, Novel., Memphis, TN

Only Mostly Devastated

By Sophie Gonzales

(Wednesday Books, 9781250315892, $17.99)

"A super-sweet queer reimagining of Grease! Ollie and Will had a perfect just-for-the-summer fling at the lake. When Ollie's family unexpectedly decides to stay in North Carolina to help take care of his ill aunt, Ollie thinks maybe, just maybe, their summer fling can last. Now, Ollie is facing a senior year in a new city with a secret sort-of-boyfriend, a beloved aunt whose health is deteriorating, and an unsure future. A smart, charming rom-com."
--Lillian Tschudi-Campbell, Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped From the Beginning

By Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316453691, $18.99)

"This is a book about big ideas. Ideas that, in the past, have only been laid out and talked about by adults. Now, Jason Reynolds has taken those ideas and traced them clearly through history so they can be presented and understood by a younger audience. Today, everyone grows up in a world affected by racism, so everyone should be able to understand its origins and the ways it creeps into the world. In Stamped, Reynolds speaks directly to young readers to give them the tools to understand the many forms racism can take, how they came to be, and how to deal with them."
--Bryce Lucas, 57th Street Books, Chicago, IL