Welcome 2018! With a new year comes a brand new reading list. RKR is excited about many titles publishing this year, and we hope you add the books below to your reading list…we already have!
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
In the lavish world of Orleans, Belles are responsible for controlling beauty, and Camellia is one. The citizens are born gray and only with the help of a Belle can they be made beautiful. However, Camellia wishes for more than just being a Belle—she wants to be the favorite. But when she arrives at the palace with all of her Belle sisters, she concludes that being the favorite is not all that it is cracked up to be. Now with the queen asking her to risk her life and her fellow Belle sisters in danger, Camellia must decide if she wants to change the ways of the world or save the way of the Belles.
The Unflushables by Ron Bates
Thirteen-year-old Sully Stringfellow has always admired Nitro City’s plumbers—they resemble superheroes in his eyes. The plumbers are tasked with overseeing the city’s sewers until the Ironwater Corporation discredits them. Now Nitro City is overrun by mutant creatures and it is up to Sully and the plumbers to save the day in this hysterical tale.
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Marvin and his twin brother Tyler go to a party together but what starts out as a good time ends with a shooting, which then leads to a police raid. The next day Marvin goes to look for a missing Tyler and then finds out through a video that he was shot and killed by a police officer. As tensions continue to rise and Marvin and his mother try and cope with the loss of his twin, Marvin struggles to define what freedom and justice truly mean.
Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks
Peter Gronkowski has always been ambitious and even views himself as a businessman. He is sick of seeing lemonade stands on his block and strives to accomplish something bigger and even hires an intern to help him form his business. He ends up hiring Rachel, but is surprised when she has innovative ideas and isn’t afraid to share them. When Rachel decides to leave Peter, and open up a competitive business—the rivalry is on. Told in alternating points of view between Peter and Rachel this is one hilarious book you don’t want to miss out on.
Dork Diaries 13—Tales of a Not So Happy Birthday by Rachel Renee Russell
It is Nikki Maxwell’s birthday and you know what that means. Cake, presents and a party will all be present. The question is will the birthday be a success or will something go horribly awry? Find out in Nikki’s newest diary.
12 Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn
Kira gives everything up—her school, her friends, her boyfriend—and moves away when her father enters rehab. Now that he is out and she has returned home she is determined to get her life back on track to how it was, exactly the way she left it. She even makes her own 12 steps list to achieve that goal, but somewhere between steps 1 and 12 she realizes that when your parent is an alcoholic there is no such thing as normal.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
If you are looking for a historical fiction book for middle graders, this is the choice for you. Nisha is a twelve-year-old girl grappling with the newfound freedom of India from Great Britian but the split of the country into both India and Pakistan in the late 1940’s. The change has caused lots of violence in the region and when Nisha’s father decides that living in their homeland of Pakistan is no longer safe they travel by both foot and train to reach their new destination and become refugees. Struggling with losing both her homeland as well as her mother at birth, Nisha copes by writing letters to her late mom.
James Patterson’s Indie Bookseller Bonus program has selected the recipients for 2017. Publishers Weekly announced that Patterson donated $350,000 (an additional $100,000 over past years!) to indie bookstore employees this holiday season, and more than doubled the number of booksellers affected, up from 179 in 2016 to 320 this year. Individual bonuses ranged from $750 to $1250 and booksellers and owners who have been impacted by the hurricanes and wildfires were among the recipients.
The full list of recipients can be found on the ABA website.
The air is getting frosty, holiday tunes are already on repeat and hours have been spent brainstorming the perfect gifts for your loved ones—the holiday season is officially here! Whether you are looking for the perfect picture book for your child, the most “unputdownable” book for your middle schooler, or even a juicy young adult novel for your teenager, ReadKiddoRead is here to help. We've gathered our top choices for all ages to gift this holiday season!
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by: Anna Dewdney
Is your little one bursting at the seams for Christmas to finally come? Join Llama (and his mama) as he experiences how to handle holiday season excitement and learns what truly matters most.
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by: Michelle Edwards
Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for her neighborhood. Young Sophia doesn’t know how to knit and thinks it is very difficult. One day, Sophia realizes that Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have a hat—so she sets out to make her one—easier said than done!
The Night Before Christmas by: Rachel Isadora
Enjoy this rendition of a classic Christmas poem—Santa wears leopard print pants and has gray dreadlocks. This is one classic tale that you don’t want to miss out on sharing with your family.
Middle Grade Books
The Tale of Rescue by: Michael J. Rosen
A family ventures from Florida to the Appalachia to experience a snowy holiday weekend. Nearby, a cattle dog is going about her normal routine. When a blizzard strikes and the family is stuck in the snowy drifts, it is up to the cattle dog to save them.
Snow and Rose by: Emily Winfield Martin
This reimagined fairy tale will get your middle schoolers in the holiday spirit. Beautiful illustrations are included in the timeless story of two sisters who live in an enchanted forest. It is up to them to fight terrible spells and restore peace.
The Girl Who Saved Christmas by: Matt Haig
Amelia Wishart was the first child to receive a Christmas present and it was her Christmas spirit that gave Santa the extra energy to fly his sleigh around the world. When Amelia’s mom gets sick, she is forced to work in a wrecked workhouse with unsavory working conditions. When Santa learns about Amelia’s situation and realizes that Christmas spirit is running extremely low, he goes off to find Amelia—the only girl who can save Christmas.
Young Adult Books
The Chaos of Standing Still by: Jessica Brody:
Ryn experiences one chaotic New Year’s Eve. Stuck in the Denver Airport, she is forced to acknowledge her past thanks to a chance romantic encounter, the kindness of strangers and circumstances that are usually mundane, but in this case magical.
Far from the Tree by: Robin Benway
Being the middle child is not an easy task. Add on an adoption, teen pregnancy and foster care and you get to read Far From the Tree, perfect for fans of This Is Us.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by: Erika L. Sanchez
Julia is not your perfect run of the mill Mexican daughter—that was her sister, Olga’s, job. When Olga is killed in a tragic accident, Julia is left behind to fill the void for her parents. While Julia continues to try and be the perfect daughter amidst all of her grief she discovers that Olga may not have been as perfect as she appeared.
2) Pity is a strong, female protagonist with some impressive fire arm skills. What inspired you to construct a modern-day Annie Oakley as your main character?
Well, Annie Oakley was definitely an influence! I loved that Oakley performed in a Wild West show, because she was using her very real skills in a very dramatized setting—which is basically what Pity ends up doing. Also, having Pity be a skilled sharpshooter from the beginning of the story (instead of honing her abilities along the way) allowed me to play with plot problems that couldn’t be solved by her simply shooting her way out of them. (Because if were that easy, she would do it!)
3) The theater’s concept and description are simultaneously glamorous and terrifying. How did you choose to juxtapose those two views of what the theater represents?
Something that I try to keep in mind when I’m writing is that the accepted morality of our world and the world of a story don’t necessarily need to align. And in the setting of Cessation, where there are no laws and a lot of decadence, the twisted, elaborate “justice” of the theatre fits in perfectly. Beyond that, I don’t think the Theatre Vespertine is even that unusual. Escape artists, air shows, Cirque du Soleil, pretty much any performance with a wild animal involved—these are all glamorous theatrical experiences that involve an aspect of danger, and people go to see them every day. The Theatre Vespertine simply takes it up a notch or two.
4) How did you come up with the notion of “The Finale,” and what are you hoping that people take away from Pity’s desire not to participate in them?
At one point in the story, a character refers to the Finales as “feeding the beast.” Writing Cessation, I knew that an entirely lawless city wasn’t really a believable (and sustainable) setting. So the Finales provided a way to create consequences in a manner that the city would both accept and enjoy. For Pity, the Finales force her to challenge her perceptions of what is right and wrong. And while neither of those things are easy to clearly define in her world, I’d hope that the reader takes away that Pity ultimately has a choice in how she chooses to participate in regards to them. (Even though her choices may come at a cost.)
5) Pity’s relationship with Selene is different than with the other residents of Cessation. Why do you think that Pity often toes the line between defiance and obedience with Selene?
I think Pity’s relationship with Selene is different because of the somewhat unpredictable way Selene exercises her power. She can be incredibly generous as well as dangerously unforgiving (which Pity learns the very first time they meet), both ruthless and protective. A part of Pity respects what Selene does. But at the same time, it’s not in Pity’s nature to be unquestioningly obedient. She sees the kinds of sacrifices Selene is willing to make to get what she wants, and it doesn’t always sit well with her.
6) You didn’t leave the book on a cliffhanger, but you did conclude it with a rather open ending; are there more adventures to come in Pity’s future?
I hope so! (And maybe not just in Pity’s future?)
7) What is next for you? Are you working on another book?
Always! I probably have five or six projects fermenting in my brain at any given time. But fantasy was my gateway genre, so I think I’d like do something there next.
To learn more about Lyndsay and Gunslinger Girl click here.
There’s nothing better than time spent with family during the Holidays, and maybe a few extra hours to read! Just in time for Thanksgiving, we've picked out some titles we're especially thankful for…
Thanks from The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle
This classic picture book is perfect for the holidays. Following everybody’s favorite hungry caterpillar, this colorful picture book celebrates the word "thanks," and its impact in everyday life.
The Know-Nothings Talk Turkey By Michele Sobel Spirn
The funny foursome is back in this hysterical book about how to get the Thanksgiving turkey to join them at their table for the meal!
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving By Charles M. Schulz and Adapted By Daphne Pendergrass
Celebrate the holiday with Charlie Brown and the gang as Charlie scrambles to make a feast for Peppermint Patty and all of their friends. Will Charlie be able to rise to the challenge or will the gang be thankful that the meal is over?
Give Thank You a Try By James Patterson
James Patterson emphasizes the importance of giving thanks for small things, like ice cream, for larger things, like a parent's love.
Pete the Cat The First Thanksgiving By James Dean
Join Pete the Cat as he gets the starring role in his school play that shares the first story of Thanksgiving fun. While even the “coolest” cat would be nervous about being a star, Pete has fun with sharing the history of thanksgiving and your kids will have fun reading it too.
There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Turkey By Lucille Collandro
Everyone’s favorite quirky old lady is back: and she's swallowed a turkey!
Goblins, ghouls and ghosts, oh my! Halloween is rapidly approaching. To get into the festive spirit, check out RKR's list of super spooky books sure to entice even the most reluctant readers.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—By Ransom Riggs (12+)
16-year-old Jacob is traveling to a remote island, fleeing his own personal tragedy. Once he arrives he stumbles upon the remains of an old orphanage that housed peculiar children—children that may still be alive. Now a major motion picture, this thriller is super spooky and will get you in the mood for Halloween.
The Graveyard Book—By Neal Gaiman (10+)
This Newbury Honor award winner follows Bod, a boy raised in a graveyard. Bod doesn’t have human parental figures, instead he was raised by ghost, werewolves and other species found in a cemetery. Follow Bod as he navigates both the world of the living and the world of the dead in this award winning middle grade book.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronical Series)—By Marissa Meyer (12+)
Cinder is a girl with a mysterious past. She is a gifted mechanic and cyborg who lives with her evil stepmother and stepsister when she suddenly finds her life entangled with the handsome prince, Kai. It is up to Cinder to uncover her haunted past quickly to save her future in this young adult take on a classic fairytale.
Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales—By Kiersten White (8+)
Once upon a time, fairytales got mixed up and mashed together to form one hilarious and spooky scarytale—look no further this story is perfect for getting your kiddo in the Halloween spirit.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding—By Alexandra Bracken (8+)
Prosper Redding is just your average boy who happens to have a demon living inside of him. Now plagued with hosting a demon who wants to destroy the family fortune and a family who would rather save their fortune than one of their own flesh and blood—Prosper is in for one wild ride.
The Girl with All the Gifts—By M.R Carey (12+)
Join Melanie as she navigates her dystopian reality and adapts to the various trials and tribulations that she is constantly faced with in this science fiction thriller.
Hunting Prince Dracula—By Kerri Maniscalco (12+)
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are back for another adventure, this time in Romania. The dynamic duo is all set to attend forensics school, but their semester starts off with a few problems—mainly, dead bodies drained of blood. Could Dracula be stalking their halls or is the real killer someone they know? Follow Audrey and Thomas as they journey to find the real murderer or lose their lives searching.
Monsterland--By James Crowley (10+)
Charlie is surrounded by Halloween excitement but for him, it’s just a reminder that his cousin Billy is no longer around. After being bullied into giving away Halloween candy, Charlie heads off the woods where low and behold he believes he sees his cousin Billy. Soon enough Charlie finds himself entering Monsterland, a mysterious place filled with supernatural creatures. Will Charlie be reunited with Billy or is it just all a mirage—find out by picking up a copy of Monsterland.
There's Someone Inside Your House—By Stephanie Perkins (12+)
Makani Young thought she left her gruesome past behind in Hawaii when she moved in with her grandma in Nebraska. She enrolls in the local high school and then something strange starts to occur—one by one students are being murdered. As Makani starts to question her own past as the death toll strikes—the question still exists, who is killing all of these students?
A Tale Dark and Grimm—By Adam Gidwitz (10+)
Hansel and Gretel take a leave from their own story and enter eight other Grimm original tales—this is one spooky spoof of original fairytales you don’t want your kiddo to miss.
1) After the success of Stalking Jack the Ripper, writing Hunting Prince Dracula must have been no small feat. How did your writing process change from your first to second novel? What drew you specifically to Dracula?
I was mostly worried about the “second book curse” and how I’d “up the stakes” after SJTR’s incredible reception. Normally I’m a creature of habit, so I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when my writing process changed drastically after Stalking Jack. Getting out of my own head was the hardest thing, and instead of writing in a linear fashion like I usually do, I found myself sitting down and writing scenes out of order. Which threw me into a mental tizzy for quite a while because I was breaking the form that had worked so well while writing Stalking Jack. The stress was oh so real.
I didn’t have any time for writer’s block, though, so to ensure I was reaching daily word-count goals, I wrote scenes that felt the most natural when I could. Once I got out of my own way and had fun with writing a story I wanted to read, the words flowed naturally. I think readers can always tell when something is forced, so letting loose and writing scenes that I was drawn to made for more engaged prose.
As for why I chose Dracula, he is one of those villains from literature who is dark and troubled, and yet still likable and sympathetic. I enjoyed going the route of discussing the historical figure Vlad the Impaler, and sort of marrying the two, fictional and real, into one copycat killer for our crime-solving duo to stop.
2) Both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula do such a great job exploring historical villains and the mysteries behind them. Are there similarities between these two villains even though one is a real-life unsolved mystery and the other is based in myth?
Definitely. They’re both infamous and have maintained a huge audience for over a hundred years, in Jack the Ripper’s case, and nearly six hundred years, for Vlad. Both committed crimes that were wildly vicious and terrifying in their era—and would be considered so today. And they both certainly transformed their stories into legends—bloody ones.
That said, Vlad the Impaler, the historical inspiration behind the fictional Count Dracula, is considered a folk hero in Romania, and I really wanted to explore that and break it down in the text. He used impalement and other medieval methods of killing to instill fear in his enemies—the people who were invading his beloved country and trying to destroy their culture and beliefs. That was one of the most interesting things I learned during the research process, and it is one of the major differences between these two historical figures. We have a clear understanding of why Vlad killed—there is still speculation and no solid truth as to why Jack the Ripper committed his crimes.
3) You described the gothic setting of Romania and the autopsies in such detail that it almost feels as if you attended the forensics academy yourself. What was your research process like the second time around?
Thank you! The research process followed the same general path as the first, though this time I could really delve into the process from a teacher’s perspective. Thanks to my dad and grandpa, I grew up in a household where having anatomical texts and medical journals around was normal, which has always been the foundation for my love of medicine and science. To really get into the mind-set of writing the professors from the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science, I studied texts and syllabuses from teachers to create authentic courses for our burgeoning forensics students. I’m hoping to get to the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee for the next adventure, which has always been one of my dreams as a forensics enthusiast.
I have Eastern European roots, so the research that I did for Romania and its myths and customs was very important to me—I wanted to get right. Romania is a beautiful country, and I wanted to bring an authentic feel to the setting but also be respectful of the people who live there. When I did take historical liberties, I made sure to outline how and why in my author’s note. I surrounded myself with information on Bran Castle and Brasov and Bucharest, trying to find out exactly how those locations looked during that time period so I could describe it through Audrey Rose’s eyes.
My favorite thing about writing historical fiction is that there’s all of this wonderful history to investigate and delve into while still asking the all-important “what if” to make it relevant today. What if there was a Victorian girl scientist, one who was expected to be cosseted, but was inspired by other women’s movements to do her own thing? What if she chose a different path, an uncertain future, judged by many, but one which felt right in her bones? History cannot be rewritten, but we can certainly use it—and its mistakes—to craft better tomorrows.
4) Without giving too much away, Audrey Rose is still grappling with the true identity of Jack the Ripper and is immersed with grief. She struggles with her emotions and how people perceive her, particularly because she is a woman. What are you hoping the audience learns about grief and its perception?
One of the things Audrey Rose has to worry about is how she’ll be viewed by her male peers when they already have this preconceived notion that she’s going to be more fragile because of her sex. It’s something I’ve experienced in my life, and, unfortunately, I know a lot of other women who have, too. You almost have to be stronger in certain situations in order to command the same level of respect that’s just awarded to others. I imagine in the nineteenth century it would have been something that Audrey Rose thought about a lot.
Through experience I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s one of those tricky emotions that varies from person to person, and takes many different forms and even morphs over time. Sometimes it’s all-consuming, and other times it’s brushed off and stuffed someplace deep inside until it bursts through the cracks and you can’t help but face it head-on. I hope my readers—and anyone who’s currently having feelings of grief or has experienced it—knows that however they grieve or feel is okay. There is no right or wrong way—just whatever works for you. Take however long or short you need—giving yourself permission to feel authentically is also gifting yourself power.
5) You left the ending open for another adventure for Wadsworth and Cresswell and hinted that they would be heading to America. Can you give us any teasers of what’s to come for our favorite pair?
Oh…let’s see what I can reveal without giving too much away. The next adventure begins two days after Hunting Prince Dracula ends, and the duo is definitely headed to America. I’ve laid hints about some subject matter in both SJTR and HPD, so there are clues for readers if they can’t wait until the official title/blurb reveal around January, or sometime early in 2018. I will say this—there is an actual murderer from history who will be terrorizing the pair…
It’s dark, eerie, and filled with mischief and mayhem. Oh, and there’s a bit of magic. Whether or not it’s real is another question. Hopefully Wadsworth and Cresswell will both survive—the darkness is calling to them, and one might be compelled to answer that tug. One teaser from the text is: “To truly end a murderer I’d need to become one.”I’m really looking forward to sharing this next gothic adventure with readers in the fall of 2018.
Your Guts & Glory series tackles history in an action-packed, exciting fashion. Have you always been a history buff, or was this interest fostered in later years?
I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. My Dad was a big history buff, and he collected all sorts of awesome artifacts ranging from old swords and muskets to Roman helmets—things you’d probably only see in action movies or museums. He’d always talk about what the different items were used for, and about the kinds of people who would have used them, and I found the entire thing fascinating. I was a huge history fan throughout all of school, majored in it in college, and now I’m so lucky and grateful to be able to do something I love professionally.
How did you come up with the idea for the Guts & Glory series? What made you want to write for kids?
I am of the opinion that anyone who loves history loves it because they had one person in their life who was able to make history a real, tangible thing. Whether it was a parent, teacher, or friend, or even a movie or video game, history fans usually have something in their past that changed history from the rote memorization of the birthdays of a bunch of old dead white guys, and turn it into a fun, visceral, and exciting adventure. History is literally the study of everything that has ever happened, and it’s filled with over-the-top heroics, unbelievable triumphs, and white-knuckle drama. So I’ve always had a hard time with how some authors or teachers could take incredible deeds and make them sound so unbelievably boring that you’d rather sit in line at the DMV than hear about the French Revolution. It’s like, sometimes historians get so bogged down with the names and dates and chronology that they forget why any of that stuff is worth remembering to begin with.
With the Guts & Glory series, I wanted to tell history the way I see it – as a thrilling ride laced with enough excitement, danger, and heroism to produce a million blockbuster films. History not only describes some of the most epic deeds ever accomplished by humans, but also shows all of the amazing and inspirational things that one person (or one group of people) can do when they don’t let anything stand in their way.
What’s the best part about writing for children? What’s the most challenging?
The kids themselves are the best part! I love doing school appearances, talking to students, and getting nice letters from readers and fans. It’s so rewarding to be able to teach kids about the things that I think are awesome and have them actually learn something in the process.
It can be challenging, though, because kids can smell a phony from a mile away, and you need to be on the top of your game. I think it can be easy to underestimate your audience and say, “oh, it’s just fifth graders” or whatever, but trying to dumb down your content or using that as an excuse to get sloppy with your research or writing is a huge mistake. You need your work to be accessible to the age group (and rated PG, which is seriously not easy to do when you’re talking about some of these historical figures), but if you bring anything less than your best, you’re not going to succeed. If you do bring your best, it can be the most rewarding thing in the world.
What were some of your favorite books growing up? Did they inspire you to write and/or get you excited about reading?
I’ve always loved reading cool history stuff. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is probably one of my favorite books of all time, because Edward Gibbon was an old-school historian who didn’t pull any punches. A lot of the primary source writers like Suetonius and Xenophon were the type who just straight-up told you “this guy was amazing, and this guy deserved to be overthrown.” As long as you can filter their critiques through the lens of the author’s personal belief system, it makes the content more engaging, insightful, and exciting. I feel like it can be easy to get bogged down by objectivism and give up entire chapters trying to explain the motivations of all parties involved in a conflict. But that gets really boring really fast. I always preferred the writers that could get right into the action, lay out where they stood on the subject, and then give the reader freedom to draw their own conclusions.
Do you have any more historical book suggestions for kids who love your series?
My main advice to students is to push yourself! Read some of the primary sources if you can find them… it’s a truly fantastic insight into the minds of historical figures. Sure, it’s good to know that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, but when you’re reading his autobiography and he’s talking about his favorite dish to eat at home with his wife, it makes him into a real human being, not an old painting or a crumbling white marble statue. Some of these people are actually really funny too, and their writing can be pretty entertaining. Sure, even as late in history as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War some of the language can be tricky to get through. But here’s a secret: reading the writings of Thomas Jefferson is kind of tricky for most adults, too! Give it a shot, and see how you do. It’s never too early to aim high.
What are you working on now?
Well, I’d love to work on more Guts & Glory in the future, and I am also working on a new series due out next year called Epic Fails, where I talk about some of the great mess-ups from history – and how some pretty incredible people took really hopeless situations and ended up succeeding against all odds. Beyond that, who knows? I hope to keep writing about awesome stuff, visiting schools, and teaching kids that history isn’t nearly as boring as they might think it is.