Inspired recommendations for kids from
independent booksellers across the country.

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During times like these we're grateful for the solace and escape of a great book. We're grateful also for your support. We hope you and yours are all safe and sound, and we hope you love these books as much as we do.

In This Issue...

#1 Kids' Next List Pick...

The List of Things That Will Not Change

By Rebecca Stead

(Wendy Lamb Books, 9781101938096, $16.99)

"Rebecca Stead masterfully captures the voice of middle-schooler Bea, who struggles with anxiety and doesn't always handle her emotions without some kind drama. Things kick into high gear when her parents announce they are divorcing, and her dad tries to incorporate his partner, Jesse, and his daughter into the family. Stead's latest sensitively deals with issues of gay marriage and blended families, as well as anxiety and coping with one's emotions. Highly recommend."
--Lisa Nagel, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, MA

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

(photo: Faye Bender)

Indie booksellers across the country have chosen Rebecca Stead's The List of Things That Will Not Change (Wendy Lamb Books) as a top pick for the Spring 2020 Kids' Indie Next List. 

Here, we discuss mental health and family with Stead.

Where did the idea for The List of Things That Will Not Change come from?

So many places. My idea-generating process can be summed up as "collection"--of images, fun facts, wishes, memories, questions, and so on. Bea's home life--divorced parents, the two-apartment arrangement--is how I grew up. Her eczema and deep longing for a sister are also semi-autobiographical. But many of the details that flesh out the world of the story--including the list named in the title--came from other people's experiences. And the oyster-related aspects came while I was researching New York City high schools. Once I start writing, lots of small ideas show up and seem to attract or repel one another, like mysterious story magnets.

How did you craft Bea's character?

By writing without a plan. I create characters by scribbling scene after scene in which they talk and do things. I use the word "scribble" for two reasons: one, I write longhand, and, two, I'm usually writing quickly because I'm trying to outrun the hypercritical voices that live in my head. By the time I have a hundred-ish pages, I'm beginning to know my characters. Then the long process of revision starts. For this book, revision meant letting Bea's complex emotional life stay at the center of the story.

The story begins with Bea sharing an anecdote about her father and uncle being able to hear corn grow near their childhood home in Minnesota. Why begin there?

I love the idea that Bea, just hanging out making pancakes with her dad, hears a small story that allows a big piece of understanding to fall into place for her. What she's understanding is something about the nature of love--it's small, but it's big. This is how I experience life most of the time--little human-to-human exchanges often resonate. And I'm pretty much doomed to create stories that represent my way of experiencing the world. That's a writer's job, I think.

Bea deals with feelings of anxiety and immense guilt, which she sees a therapist for. Do you often explore issues of mental health in your writing?

I think mental health is something that concerns every person on earth. As a kid, I was really preoccupied by the fact that I am absolutely alone inside my head. I'm not sure I'll ever get over it. A lot of my stories are, in some way, about finding a way to share the burden of a solitary internal experience. Every child feels sadness, and pain, and anger, and guilt, and anxiety. It's important to share those feelings, and to break down the shame that builds up around normal human emotion.

This book also deals with homophobia, particularly the ways it crops up in Bea's conversations with classmates and family. Why did you decide to explore this issue through the eyes of a 10-year-old?

Because 10-year-olds are exposed to prejudice as much as anyone else, if not more. It's one of the things kids process as they build their understanding of the world and of themselves. Worries about bigotry and concern about the withdrawal of love are often deeply rooted in childhood.

Many of the children in this book yearn for a strong family, even a nontraditional one. Can you talk about the importance of exploring different types of families in children's literature?

This is something I see coming up in my work again and again, although I have no conscious goal to write about it. I didn't grow up in a traditional family, but, like Bea, I grew up in a strong and loving untraditional family. It's important for kids to know that these exist, whether they are living in a "traditional" situation or not. It's also important to know that love and a nourishing, wonderful family life can be found outside of the family you grew up with. It would be great if every kid could be reassured that his family will love him forever, no matter what. But that's not true for every person.

What role do indie bookstores play in your life?

I have spent time in independent bookstores since I was tiny--I have strong memories of lying on the rug at New York's Womanbooks on Amsterdam Avenue in the 1970s, and of peeking at my mom through the tiny window halfway up the stairs at The New Yorker Bookshop just off Broadway. I met Madeleine L'Engle at Books & Company on the east side when I was 11. (And said nothing, I believe. I just stared.) I was a quiet kid in bookstores, my neck bent to read the titles on the spines. I read entire books on the floor.

As an adult, however, I find I can't shut up in bookstores. If someone is holding something I've read, or something I want to read, my mouth just starts a conversation. I guess I feel an immediate connection to people in bookstores. At Oblong Books in Millerton, New York, I recently loaded up one poor girl with at least six books I wanted her to read. We had met about 10 seconds earlier. And, of course, as a writer for children, I feel enormous gratitude toward independent booksellers, because they create the reading communities that make books possible.

Sourcebooks Young Readers: The Curse of the Night Witch (Emblem Island #1) by Alex Aster

Top Picks

Tigers, Not Daughters

By Samantha Mabry

(Algonquin Young Readers, 9781616208967, $17.95)

"Haunting and magical, Tigers, Not Daughters follows the lives of three young women one year after the death of their eldest sister, Ana--and it seems her presence still lingers. There's Iridian, the writer; Rosa, the quiet observer; and Jessica, who strives to become the embodiment of who Ana once was. Now Ana leaves ominous signs and messages for her sisters, but whether she's warning them or antagonizing them, none can say. Mabry's writing is so lyrical and enrapturing, I would have been happy to follow the Torres girls wherever their intuitive hearts took them long after the last page."
--Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

Havenfall

By Sara Holland

(Bloomsbury YA, 9781547603794, $18.99)

"Once again, Holland weaves a heady blend of magic and mayhem into words. Havenfall, an inn hidden in the mountains of our mortal world, acts as a gateway and protector to magical realms. When a door that was closed long ago suddenly cracks open, monsters begin roaming the tunnels and grounds of the inn, threatening the hard-won peace of Havenfall. Monsters aren't the only thing on the loose, as secrets and hidden agendas slowly permeate the one place Maddie always thought was the safest in the world. A wonderfully diverse and exciting start to a new series!"
--Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

They Went Left

By Monica Hesse

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316490573, $17.99)

"In riveting, compelling prose, Hesse addresses the fragile state of lives in 1945 after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps' prisoners. They Went Left is ultimately a mystery to untangle. It explores the lasting damage of the camps and what drives an individual seeking reunification with a family member. This is a vital addition to the literature of the Holocaust as it examines the courage and resolve of the human spirit to find hope."
--Mary Alice Garber, Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

By Jessica Kim

(Kokila, 9780525554974, $16.99)

"Yumi Chung has a dream of being a stand-up comedian, but her parents aren't on board. Suddenly, Yumi finds herself with a chance to attend a summer camp with her all-time favorite comedian, except everyone thinks Yumi is someone else. This book is hilarious, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at once. And in the end, you will absolutely be standing up and cheering for Yumi Chung!"
--Sarah True, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

DC Comics: Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel by Jennifer Munro and Thomas Krajewski, art by Gretel Lusky

A Book for Escargot

By Dashka Slater

Sydney Hanson (Illus.)

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 9780374312862, $16.99)

"Aside from the fact that Escargot is simply adorable, this book weaves in enough interaction points to keep a wiggly toddler's attention and enough humor to keep the adults laughing, making it really engaging in all the ways a great book should be. If you can read it in a French accent, then it's even better."
--Lisa Francisco, Second Star to the Right Children's Books, Denver, CO

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family

By Nelly Buchet

Andrea Zuill (Illus.)

(Schwartz & Wade, 9781984848994, $17.99)

"This is a refreshing and innovative take on a subject that kids don't get to have agency over in real life. Buchet and Zuill use humor and accessibility as tools to allow young children to command the narrative on their own terms. Zuill's zany and unconventional perspective is a perfect match for the simplicity of Buchet's narrative. Bravo!!"

--Jane Knight, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT

Child of the Universe

By Ray Jayawardhana

Raul Colón (Illus.)

(Make Me a World, 9781524717544, $17.99)

"This book is too gorgeous for words! I absolutely loved it. The illustrations are works of art and perfectly balance the text. A stunning book for bedtime with a special nod to Carl Sagan fans. We're all made of star stuff."

--Brandi Stewart, Changing Hands, Tempe, AZ

How to Be a Pirate

By Isaac Fitzgerald

Brigette Barrager (Illus.)

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781681197784, $17.99)

"CeCe wants to play pirates with the boys in the neighborhood, but they tell her that girls can't be pirates. CeCe is certain that her Grandpa knows about pirates because he has so many tattoos. As Grandpa reveals each arm tattoo to CeCe, he describes a characteristic that a pirate must have, helping CeCe realize she can be a pirate because she's brave, quick, independent, and fun. Full of love and girl power, this picture book reminds readers that they can be anything they want to be!"
--Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

I Found a Kitty!

By Troy Cummings

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781984831866, $17.99)

"With humor and charm, this book wonderfully illustrates the importance--and joy!--of finding just the right home for an animal in need. A helpful guide in the back on how to help animals in need has great advice for youngsters who may finish this book inspired to do good."
--Brittany Baker, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA

Little Monster Trucks GO!

By Doug Cenko

(blue manatee press, 9781936669837, $17.99)

"Little Monster Trucks GO! teaches even the youngest of readers the importance of teamwork. Little people can do big things, especially if they work together, and each of the book's little trucks has special skills. This book is a bright, colorful, fun race where everyone is a winner."
--Sally Sue Lavigne, The Storybook Shoppe, Bluffton, SC

A New Kind of Wild

By Zara Gonzalez Hoang

(Dial Books, 9780525553892, $17.99)

"A New Kind of Wild is the best kind of picture book, a tale told with heart and illustrated in lush, whimsical technicolor. The story in these pages is about leaving everything you know behind and struggling to find joy away from the place you call home. I love that I recognized Puerto Rico from page one, a place so many of our local readers call home, and I can't wait to proudly have this on our shelves. Zara Gonzalez Hoang is a dazzling new talent and I can't wait to see what she does next."

--Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

This Way, Charlie

By Caron Levis

Charles Santoso (Illus.)

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 9781419742064, $17.99)

"A beautifully illustrated story inspired by a real animal friendship! Jack the goat needs his own space, until he meets up with Charlie the horse at an animal rescue ranch, where they discover that together they can overcome their fears and challenges. Readers will identify with the themes of friendship and cooperation."
--Janice Penner, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS

Bloom (The Overthrow, Book 1)

By Kenneth Oppel

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781524773007, $16.99)

"A destructive plant begins to invade the entire planet. Blooms follow and throw off deadly toxic pollen. Enormous sinkholes emerge, endangering lives and swallowing buildings. Strangely, three teenagers appear to be immune to the effects of the deadly plant. Why? What do they have in common? Can they figure out how to destroy the plant? Just as their efforts are gaining ground and success is assumed, the book ends and leaves the reader breathlessly waiting for the sequel. A book not to be missed!"

--Jean Fennacy, Petunia's Place, Fresno, CA

Efrén Divided

By Ernesto Cisneros

(Quill Tree Books, 9780062881687, $16.99)

"This book is, unfortunately, very relevant to our current political climate and to too many young readers. That's what makes it so important. When Efrén's mother is suddenly deported, he has to figure out how to balance his relationships at school with his new responsibilities at home. As if middle school wasn't hard enough! Reading about those most affected by the immigration crisis will make anyone want to take action to change this story to fiction."
--Riley Jay Davis, Next Chapter Booksellers, St. Paul, MN

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Into the Tall, Tall Grass

By Loriel Ryon

(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534449671, $17.99)

"Yolanda's beloved grandmother is dying and social services is knocking on her door. Yolanda is determined to help her dying grandmother fulfill her last wish: a trip to the mysterious pecan tree on their property. Along the way, she discovers family stories and secrets she never knew and the importance of dealing with both life and death. Into the Tall, Tall Grass is a magical story with a charming cast of characters and emotional life lessons."

--Jackie Jou, Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, CA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane

By Kate O'Shaughnessy

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781984893833, $16.99)

"The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O'Shaughnessy is a sweet, tender story for those of us who have not yet found our voice and those of us who have lost it. Eleven-year-old Maybelle Lane is looking for her perfect happy ending, but oftentimes the one you are looking for and the one you find are completely different, and that's okay."
--Jenny Siegel, Anderson's Book Shop, Larchmont, NY

Rick

By Alex Gino

(Scholastic Press, 9781338048100, $17.99)

"A fantastic book about identity and acceptance! This is a great introduction to LGBTQ+ topics for middle-grade readers, whether you're finding your own identity or if you just want to be a good friend. Rick isn't sure if he's gay or asexual or queer or something else entirely, but that's okay! Identities take time to figure out, and sometimes your identity can change."

--Genevieve Taylor, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

When Stars Are Scattered

By Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

(Dial Books, 9780525553908, $12.99)

"A timely, powerful, and important book for our time. This memoir of a childhood largely spent in a Kenyan refugee camp is skillfully adapted into a graphic novel. The combined talents of Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson result in a harrowing yet triumphant portrait of life as a refugee. Readers feel Omar's gnawing, constant worry; we revel in his unflagging hope for a better future. When Stars Are Scattered, a story of great hardship, affirms the power of resilience and goodness to remake lives."
--Christopher Rose, The Spirit of '76 Bookstore, Marblehead, MA

A Wish in the Dark

By Christina Soontornvat

(Candlewick, 9781536204940, $17.99)

"In a world where light is a commodity, Pong has grown up seeking a way out of the darkness. A desperate escape from the prison where he was born leads him to a life on the run, and he will need the help of old friends, new enemies, a generous monk, and all the inner strength he can muster to find his way home. This incandescent novel will fulfill the wishes of many a middle-grade reader seeking something new and wonderful."
--Melissa Posten, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO

Dancing at the Pity Party

By Tyler Feder

(Dial Books, 9780525553021, $18.99)

"Dancing at the Pity Party is touching and humorous, poignant and endearing. I found this so relatable and true; I laughed, cried, and felt less alone. Tyler's mom is diagnosed with cancer and after she passes away, she is left trying to sort out her life. There are a multitude of self-help books, but nothing that seems helpful when you are young and in this situation. This memoir will break your heart and put it back together again. It's so well done and comforting to know someone really gets it."

--Katrina Bright-Yerges, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, WI

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

By Samira Ahmed

(Soho Teen, 9781616959890, $18.99)

"For 17-year-old Khayyam, her family's annual summer in Paris should be a delight. But she's reeling from a disastrous scholarship application and completely unprepared to meet a handsome stranger. Their shared adventure intersects with the life of a 19th-century Muslim woman, the artist Delacroix, and the author Dumas. What could be just a meet-cute romance gets added depth with well-integrated reflections on immigrants, mixed-race heritage, and the silencing of women's voices."
--Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC

Raybearer

By Jordan Ifueko

(Amulet Books, 9781419739828, $18.99)

"In Raybearer, Tarisai's longing for family and connection make her empathetic and relatable, while her strength and fortitude in standing up to corrupt power make her admirable. I loved diving into this fully realized fantasy world and rooting for Tarisai's success every step of the way. The story also touches on colonialism and the value of culture--very timely and important subjects--and includes an ace supporting character. A great read for fans of fantasy, stories with strong female leads, and anyone looking for a good book!"

--Stephanie Seales, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Ruthless Gods

By Emily A. Duncan

(Wednesday Books, 9781250195692, $18.99)

"Wicked Saints was a tour de force, and Ruthless Gods takes up its mantle with no trace of second book syndrome or lagging energy. Emily Duncan's carefully crafted sequel takes both familiar favorite characters and new faces from the Tranavian court to thrilling new locales--to mines and monasteries, into Kalyazi forests, and far away to the holy seat of the gods. This brilliant, brutal fever dream peopled with gods and eldritch things, limned with magic and horror, will leave readers breathless for the trilogy's third installment."

--Anna Bright, One More Page Books, Arlington, VA

The Silence of Bones

By June Hur

(Feiwel & Friends, 9781250229557, $17.99)

"I was struck by the depth of this gripping story. Seol's quest for answers about her past is a fascinating counterpoint to her investigation into a grisly murder. The meditative quality of the narration of this historical mystery felt perfectly suited to the Korean setting and the backdrop of political and religious struggles. Seol's courage, curiosity, and dedication make her a character I can't get enough of. Let's hope this is the start of a series."

--Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, WA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Witchlight

By Jessi Zabarsky

(Random House Graphic, 9780593119990, $16.99)

"A heartwarming graphic novel that will appeal to fans of the adventure in Nimona and the characters in The Tea Dragon Society. Seeing strong, diverse characters at the forefront of a story is such a breath of fresh air in young adult fantasy graphic novels!"

--Ashlee Null, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA