Category Archives: middle grade fiction

AAPI Heritage Month Post 14

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Ah, it’s the last day of May and officially the last day of Asian American Pacific Islander Month. I managed to post for almost half of it. Again, apologies for not being able to post daily while I was on deadline. I hope that I’ve introduced some new books to you and that you will be buying and reading AAPI books throughout the years, not just during AAPI Heritage Month. It is my greatest pleasure to bring these books to your attention.

Today’s recommended read is a graphic novel by the amazingly talented Gene Luen Yang.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

From the publisher: In his latest graphic novel, Dragon HoopsNew York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.

Gene understands stories―comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

Buy the book here: bookshop.org

There are many great AAPI books out there and more coming your way. This is good news! I haven’t been able to keep up with all the books (also good news). Here are a select handful I hope to buy/read in the near future – there are many more on my list. Please share in the comments any AAPI books you recommend! Thank you!

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American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Lift by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

The Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh

 

 

AAPI Heritage Month Post 13

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We’re nearing the end of the month, but I hope you all will continue to read and share amazing books by and about Asian American Pacific Islanders. Today’s recommended middle grade book is another I had the honor and pleasure of reading as a galley:

The Comeback by E.L. Shen

FSG/January 19, 2021

From the publisher: Twelve-year-old Maxine Chen is just trying to nail that perfect landing: on the ice, in middle school, and at home, where her parents worry that competitive skating is too much pressure for a budding tween. Maxine isn’t concerned, however―she’s determined to glide to victory. But then a bully at school starts teasing Maxine for her Chinese heritage, leaving her stunned and speechless. And at the rink, she finds herself up against a stellar new skater named Hollie, whose grace and skill threaten to edge Maxine out of the competition. With everything she knows on uneven ice, will Maxine crash under the pressure? Or can she power her way to a comeback?

Set in Lake Placid, New York, this is a spunky yet stirring middle-grade story that examines racism, female rivalry and friendship, and the enduring and universal necessity of love and support.

What I think: While Maxine Chen feels at home skating on the ice, she struggles to find a place to belong in school as she navigates the twists and turns of changing friendships and mean boys. I cheered for the spirited and determined Maxine both on and off the ice in this fast-paced story that made me laugh out loud and cry tears of joy and heartbreak. A story deserving of a gold medal!

Pre-order here: bookshop.org

AAPI Heritage Month Post 11

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Today’s recommended AAPI book is

Kudo Kids: The Mystery of the Masked Medalist by Maia and Alex Shibutani

Razorbill/September 8, 2020

And yes, this book is written by Olympic ice skating medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani! I had the pleasure of reading this book as a galley. I thoroughly enjoyed it and know kids will, too!

From the publisher: Andy and Mika are going to Tokyo!

The Kudo Kids have never been to Japan before, so they can’t believe they get to attend the Summer Olympics there. The siblings plan to eat tons of delicious Japanese food, watch every event they can, and win a super-popular new game called OlympiFan.

Developed by a mysterious former medalist, OlympiFan brings players together from all over the world to search Tokyo for virtual medals and clues to the secretive creator’s identity. Andy loves puzzles, and he’s determined to crack this one, especially since the winning team will get to be beta testers for the Masked Medalist’s future games!

Mika wants to find as many clues as she can, but she also has a secret goal of her own–one that could get her into big trouble. But when someone sabotages the game, the Kudo Kids have an even bigger mystery to solve than the Masked Medalist’s identity. If they want to capture the gold, Mika and Andy have to figure out who’s trying to stop their team before someone beats them to the grand prize!

What I Think: An exhilarating page-turning romp through Tokyo for fans of puzzle games and mysteries! This book made me hungry for Japanese food and for more in this series.

Pre-order the book!

AAPI Heritage Month Post 8

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I’m currently featuring Asian American Pacific Islander books I’ve read in galley form that will be published in the upcoming months that I highly recommend. Today’s book:

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung

Levine Querido

October 6, 2020

From the publisher: Best friends Matt and Eric are hatching a plan for one big final adventure together before Eric moves away: during the marching band competition at a Giant Amusement Park, they will sneak away to a nearby comics convention and meet their idol-a famous comic creator. Without cell phones. Or transportation. Or permission. Of course, their final adventure together is more than just that-really, it’s a way for the boys to celebrate their friendship, and their honest love and support for one another. That’s exactly what we love so much about The Boys in the Back Row: it’s an unabashed ode to male friendship, because love between boys, platonic or otherwise, is something to celebrate. And of course, because this is Mike Jung, we’ll be celebrating it with hilariously flawed hijinks and geekiness galore!

What I think: A story of friendship between two 6th grade boys – sweet, funny, and endearing. I fell in love with Matt and Eric and their tight friendship. A fantastic book for all!

Preorder here: bookshop.org

AAPI Heritage Month Post 7

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Today is my birthday so I hope you will forgive a bit of self-promotion. My debut middle grade/tween novel published on May 5 and I’m thrilled beyond belief to have it out in the world.

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence

Scholastic/2020

From the publisher: A sweet story about first crushes, friendship drama, and finding the courage to stand up for yourself.

Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have… together.

But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving into Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.

Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?

This reader review made my day:

For more about the book including reviews and interviews.

You can also buy personalized signed copies of the book at Bank Square Books.

 

AAPI Heritage Month Post 5

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Whew! I made my deadline! And now I will be posting more frequently for the rest of AAPI Heritage Month. For the next few posts I’ll be highlighting AAPI books I’ve read in galley form that have not been released yet but will be published soon. These are books I highly recommend you consider pre-ordering or at least purchasing when they release.

 

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Aug. 4, 2020

From the publisher: Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic…

Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:

One: Help your town, do good all around.
Two: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
Three: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.

The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.

When she lands in the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.

What I think: Eva Evergreen’s journey unfurled before my eyes like a Miyazaki film, lush and mesmerizing. I cheered for Eva every step of the way, and hope to get to spend time with her on the next leg of her journey. (And I really want a flamefox!)

Pre-order here: Bookshop.org

 

Cover Reveal for my MG Debut

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I’m super excited to share the cover reveal of my middle grade debut, Keep It Together, Keiko Carter (Scholastic/May 5, 2020). I love everything about this cover – huge thanks to brilliant cover designer Stephanie Yang.

Check out my essay on the Nerdy Book Club blog, on how I came to write this novel. ❤

AAPI Heritage Month Book a Day 2019 – 29

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Day 29 of Asian American Pacific Heritage Month and I’m sad that I won’t be able to fit in all the AAPI books I want to read in these 31 days. But glad that there are that many AAPI books to read! A big shout out to author Mike Jung because had I not seen his post about this book, I might have missed it. And can I say how thrilled I am to see more books with contemporary Japanese American characters?

All The Ways Home by Elise Chapman looks to be exactly the kind of book I will love! And it just became available for purchase yesterday! I’m looking forward to getting this book!

From the publisher:

Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it.

After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano–now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family–developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out.

Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone–including himself.

This is a book about what home means to us―and that there are many different correct answers.

AAPI Heritage Month Book a Day 2019 – 25

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For day 25 of Asian American Pacific Heritage Month, I’m sharing two AAPI books that I want to read.

I loved Frazzled: Every Day Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat – a fabulous and funny middle grade graphic novel! And I had the pleasure of meeting the author who is super nice, as well as talented. And so, I’ve been dying to read the two follow up books and they are on my list to read this summer! Frazzled: Minor Incidents and Absolute Uncertainties and Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes look to be amazing – and how can you not love these titles?!

From the publisher:

Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes (book 2): Things are looking up for Abbie Wu: this year she’ll run for class president and get a brand-new shiny locker. Until—she doesn’t…

In her second tumultuous misadventure, Abbie Wu tackles more unbelievably unfair and calamitous middle school days. From facing locker thieves and battling diabolical cats to having absolutely no idea what to build for her science project, Abbie Wu is still in perpetual crisis.

From author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, this second story follows Abbie Wu, your favorite hilariously neurotic middle school girl, as she tries to come up with solutions to what seems to be a series of inevitable catastrophes.

Akin to Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes is heavily illustrated, embarrassingly honest, and sure to appeal to anyone hoping to figuring out how to survive the ordinary mishaps of middle school.

Frazzled: Minor Incidents and Absolute Uncertainties (Book 3)

Abbie Wu thinks that she’s finally getting the hang of this middle school thing. That’s until her teacher announces that they’ll be going to…OUTDOOR SCHOOL!

While Abbie’s usual clique seems to adjust fine at camp, she doesn’t quite fit in—with anyone! If that isn’t bad enough, her camp counselors are totally evil and she can’t figure out what is up with the golden pig.

Abbie feels all alone. Will she learn how to fit in yet stay true to herself? Or will she finally reach her breaking point?

From author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, this popular series follows Abbie Wu, your favorite hilariously neurotic middle school girl, as she tries to come up with solutions to funny real-life middle school challenges.

AAPI Heritage Month Book a Day 2019 – 22

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Happy 22nd day of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! I’m sharing an AAPI book a day that I want to read. Today is also my birthday, so as a gift to myself I’m allowing an exception and today’s featured book is by Japanese author Mariko Nagai, who spent many years living in the States. I am a fan of her work, so I’m especially looking forward to her new novel coming out later this year.

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai won’t be out until October of this year, but is available for pre-order.

From the publisher:

Twelve-year-old Natsu and her family live a quiet farm life in Manchuria, near the border of the Soviet Union. But the life they’ve known begins to unravel when her father is recruited to the Japanese army, and Natsu and her little sister, Asa, are left orphaned and destitute.

In a desperate move to keep her sister alive, Natsu sells Asa to a Russian family following the 1945 Soviet occupation. The journey to redemption for Natsu’s broken family is rife with struggles, but Natsu is tenacious and will stop at nothing to get her little sister back.

Literary and historically insightful, this is one of the great untold stories of WWII. Much like the Newbery Honor book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Mariko Nagai’s Under the Broken Sky is powerful, poignant, and ultimately hopeful.