Inspired recommendations for kids from
independent booksellers across the country.

In This Issue...

#1 Kids' Next List Pick...


By Claire Legrand

(Sourcebooks Fire, 9781492656623, $18.99)

"Furyborn is exactly the kind of ambitious, well-written YA high fantasy that I've been looking for. This novel is female-focused and driven, with girls who are strong, powerful, pissed off, damaged, unabashedly sexual, and in control. The writing is so beautiful, I found myself re-reading sentences simply for the pleasure of it. It's a story that is complex, compelling, and carefully crafted. Claire Legrand is a jewel. I can't wait for the next installment."
--Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

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

Booksellers have chosen Furyborn (Sourcebooks Fire), the first book in Claire Legrand's Empirium Trilogy, as a top pick on the Summer 2018 Kids' Indie Next List.

Book one of this young adult epic fantasy trilogy debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in May. Furyborn introduces Rielle, who, according to a prophecy in her world, is one of a pair of queens who will decide the world's fate: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. One thousand years later, Eliana, a bounty hunter for the ruthless and ever-expanding ruling empire, teams up with a group of rebels who show her the other side of the battle at hand. As a cosmic war rages across thousands of years, Rielle and Eliana's stories will ultimately intersect and determine the destiny of the human race.

Legrand is a librarian living in New Jersey and the author of many books for young readers, including The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls; Some Kind of Happiness; and Winterspell, her re-telling of "The Nutcracker" (all Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). Her next book, Sawkill Girls (Katherine Tegen Books), a queer young adult horror novel, will be released October 2.

This huge universe that you've created is a great example of "world-building," in YA parlance. How did you first get the idea for this book and this world?

I've actually been working on this story, the entire trilogy, for 14 years. I came up with the idea right after I graduated from high school. I was daydreaming and listening to music; I used to be an orchestral trumpet player, and so music has always been a huge part of my life and a huge part of my writing process as well.

The album was Howard Shore's score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and I had this vision of a young woman who was very powerful, but very sad. She was surrounded by a field of fire and she was about to make a choice that would change not only her life but the life of everyone around her. I started asking myself questions about her: who she was, what this power she had was, why she had it, who did she love, who did she hate. As I started answering those questions, the rest of the story grew up around there.

The world you created in your book contains intricate geographical, political, and cultural details. Were you influenced by fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings and their unique, three-dimensional worlds?

I'm a big fan of both of those series so you can definitely, I think, see the influence of those works in my own. I did try to infuse my story with more women and more people of color than may have appeared in Lord of the Rings and even Game of Thrones (which is slightly more inclusive than Lord of the Rings), so I tried to put my own spin on the story in a lot of ways.

In the first draft of this, which I wrote years and years ago, the story actually took place in our world, so in that iteration, I was drawing upon actual real-world geography and languages and cultures. Over the years, it evolved into a complete second world fantasy like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but you can still see echoes of that original version. For example, for Celdaria, which is Rielle's kingdom, I draw a lot on the French language to help me name the cities and the character names. In Kirvaya, I drew upon a lot of Russian language to come up with the various names in that kingdom. And then some of the kingdoms are based on languages and worlds of my own creation. So it's a combination of those two things.

One of the continuing themes in Furyborn is that of good and evil, as well as how our choices define us as human beings. Did you have this sort of ethical framework in mind as you were writing the book?

Yes, absolutely. There's a prophecy in Furyborn that is sort of the basis of the world's religion that says two queens will rise, one of blood, one of light; one has the power to save the world and one has the power to destroy it. So there's a good queen and a bad queen, and one of the things I'm exploring in this trilogy, and I particularly get into it in book two, is the idea that it is dangerous to say that anyone is all good or all bad; trying to force people into those narrow categories is unfair and unkind, and, in the case of Rielle, as it's at hinted in the prologue, it can even be dangerous and tragic.

Both of my protagonists have light and dark inside them; they are messy and they make mistakes and sometimes they are selfish and sometimes they are selfless, sometimes they are great and sometimes they're cowardly. They're incredibly flawed, and despite those flaws or perhaps because of them, they are able to do extraordinary things. I wanted my readers, but especially young girls, to see them and think, oh wow, these characters are full of messiness just like I am and yet they are still these extraordinary young women, so I can be extraordinary as well.

Was this trilogy originally one long book that you've split into three books, or are you continuously writing the next installments?

I've always imagined this story as a trilogy. I just always liked the structure of the three parts; there's something very satisfying about three books reflecting the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Working on this story for so long and finishing book two recently, I was excited to finally be able to write these scenes that I had been thinking about for years and years.

As a child, I loved trilogies both in books and in movies. I really like both of the Stars Wars trilogies, including the prequels--I know there are a lot of haters out there--and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman is one of my favorite series of all time. I also really like the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore.

The concept of "the Empirium" seems similar to the mysterious substance of "Dust" in The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials. Will we find out what the Empirium is as the trilogy continues?

Yes, you'll definitely find out more about the Empirium in books two and three. In the Star Wars prequels, one of the things that I did not like is that they tried to explain the nitty-gritty workings of the Force; I much prefer the idea of the Force as this mystical, powerful thing that we didn't quite understand, much in the same way that Philip Pullman wrote about "Dust." This way it allows the reader to think beyond the end of the story and come up with their own theories for what it is. So I will answer some questions about the Empirium but not all because that's the way I prefer to read stories, and so that's the way I want to write this one.

Do you still play music when you write or brainstorm, the way this trilogy was first inspired?

It depends on what I'm writing and my mood that day and where I am physically, if I'm at home or the library or a coffee shop, but I do write a lot to music. I listen primarily to film scores and television scores. For example, I just finished writing book two and I wrote much of it to the score for the Netflix show The Crown, but I've also listened to a lot of Game of Thrones and a lot of different scores by Bear McCreary, who did the score for the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

I also listen to music a lot when I'm brainstorming. I have extensive playlists for each of my books that I put together as I'm writing, and the playlists are made up of film scores and follow the action of the book from start to finish. I actually have those playlists on Spotify and they're available to people; I have links to them on my website. --Liz Button

Top Picks

We Don't Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan T. Higgins

(Disney-Hyperion, 9781368003551, $17.99)

"Higgins is back with a pitch-perfect tale of first-day jitters and unexpected empathy. Penelope, a pink-overall-clad T-rex, is exceptionally nervous about her first day of school. She's so nervous that, after learning her classmates are all children, she eats them. Delicious! But Mrs. Noodleman is not amused. It isn't until someone tries to make Penelope into a snack that she begins to understand just how her classmates feel. Penelope's growing awareness of her classmates' feelings is both adorable and relatable. Higgins' charming illustrations and use of humor make Penelope's story ideal for younger readers, especially as they transition into new experiences and social situations."
--Sara Grochowski, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

Ocean Meets Sky

By Terry Fan and Eric Fan

(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781481470377, $17.99)

"The Fan brothers have created a magical dream world that readers will want to return to over and over again. Each illustration begs the reader to pore over its details and imagine the possibilities such a world could hold. Finn's journey to honor his grandfather is one of the best picture book journeys I've ever been on."
--Erin Barker Yourstone, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

Neverworld Wake

By Marisha Pessl

(Delacorte Press, 9780399553929, $18.99)

"Neverworld Wake begins like a young adult version of Groundhog Day, with a group of young people experiencing the same 11 hours over and over, trapped in a purgatory. One will be allowed to live while the others will die--and they must unanimously vote on it! Mysteries and secrets from the past intertwine with the dangers of the present in this wonderfully dark fantasy novel. Pessl really delves into the psyche of young people, exposing traumas and fears that are usually well-hidden. The finale is stunning--a brilliant piece of psychological drama that is both suspenseful and, ultimately, incredibly moving. This is a book adults and young adults will love."
--William Carl, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA


By Kate Messner

(Bloomsbury, 9781681195360, $17.99)

"The format of Breakout--a collection of notes and recordings for a time capsule--was a great way to really get to know the book's characters. As a former English teacher, I know that this book will be beneficial for teaching voice and character development in English classes. By the end, I couldn't put it down for anything! I loved the poetry and history that swirled throughout--thank you, Kate Messner, yet again!"
--Shelley Lowe, Monkey and Dog Books, Fort Worth, TX

All Are Welcome

By Alexandra Penfold

Suzanne Kaufman (Illus.)

(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780525579649, $17.99)

"This is a beautiful and brave book. The inclusive, colorful, joyous illustrations help get across its very important message. It makes me proud to be a Seattleite!"
--Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, WA

Brave Enough for Two

By Jonathan D. Voss

(Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 9781250127488, $17.99)

"At its heart, this is a story about comfort zones, trust, bravery, and, most importantly, friendship--a soul-warming story to share with those you love any time of the day. Perfect for fans of Winnie the Pooh and The Velveteen Rabbit, Brave Enough for Two is a modern classic in the making."
--Ashlee Null, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

Drawn Together

By Minh Lê

Dan Santat (Illus.)

(Disney-Hyperion, 9781484767603, $17.99)

"A grandson and his grandfather--unable to converse--sit in front of a television until the boy loses interest and turns to his drawings. Grandfather then brings out his sketchbook and together they begin to 'talk' without words but with worlds of color, action, and excitement. Once again, Santat's (After the Fall) illustrations create a powerful book, this one about communication between the generations. Sure to be a hit with all ages and perhaps another Caldecott winner."
--Karen Briggs, The Booknook, East Tawas, MI

How to Be a Lion

By Ed Vere

(Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 9780525578055, $17.99)

"Take one poetic duck and one lovable lion and you have the makings of a perfectly charming, melt-your-heart read aloud. Leonard and Marianne are--against all odds and what others think--the best of friends in this instant classic that will stand the test of time. This book is a gentle yet empowering hug."
--Kathleen Carey, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

I'm Sad

By Michael Ian Black

Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Illus.)

(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781481476270, $17.99)

"It's important to let children know that life isn't so bad and things will get better, but it's equally important to make sure they know that it's okay not to be happy ALL of the time. I'm Sad is a funny and surprisingly sweet examination of those days when you wake up and just aren't at your most cheerful. Sometimes you're just sad and that's okay--it's even a little nice."
--Amy Brabenec, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

Niblet & Ralph

By Zachariah OHora

(Dial Books, 9780735227910, $17.99)

"Niblet and Ralph are best friends: they talk on the phone every day (meow!) and share hobbies (napping and purring). But they have never actually met! Will they find a way? A cute parallel story of best friendship between cats and new friendship between humans. Sixties-esque pictures and a great layout make this story a joy. Purrrfect for story time!"
--Leah Moore, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

Something Smells!

By Blake Liliane Hellman

Steven Henry (Illus.)

(Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781481488648, $17.99)

"Something Smells certainly does not stink! This charming picture book is a winner in every way. After young Elliot awakens to a powerful odor wafting through the house, he searches for its source. It isn't his pets, a skunk, or even Dad. Whimsical illustrations reveal a loving family highlighted by the very appealing (and clueless) Elliot. This funny tale with its oh-so-gentle message is a joy to read aloud. Listeners will giggle knowingly. Don't miss this!"
--Christopher Rose, The Spirit of '76 Bookstore, Marblehead, MA

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

By Christina Uss

Jonathan Bean (Illus.)

(Margaret Ferguson Books, 9780823440078, $16.99)

"A funny, heartwarming, and infinitely imaginative story about a friendless 12-year-old girl determined to ride across the country to befriend her hero, Polish bicycling champion Zbigniew Sienkiewicz. Along the way she meets ghosts, pie-makers, and crazy inventors; gets run over in a pig stampede; and accidentally launches a missile. And that's when she's not being chased by the mysterious woman in black. A fun, can't-miss summer read for everyone!"
--Chris Abouzeid, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA

The Cardboard Kingdom

By Chad Sell

(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781524719371, $20.99)

"The Cardboard Kingdom is a love letter to make-believers. The kids in Sell's fictional neighborhood spend the summer creating elaborate costumes (including an evil sorceress, an alchemist, a banshee, and a gargoyle), weapons, and secret hideouts from cardboard boxes. Many of the kids face resistance from their parents, such as the professor whose father doesn't understand why she wants to dress up in a mustache or the banshee whose grandmother constantly tells her that 'nice girls don't talk so loud,' but each finds strength in their alter ego. The Cardboard Kingdom is a wonderfully crafted world that has something for everyone, including your inner child."
--Kinsey Foreman, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Front Desk

By Kelly Yang

(Arthur A. Levine Books, 9781338157796, $16.99)

"A well-balanced book that shows one young Chinese girl's experience of immigrating with her family to California. Funny, heart-wrenching, and innovative, this book shows the difficulties of starting over in a new country in a way that a young reader is able to understand. A great book to open our eyes to the different and sometimes unseen ways people struggle and how we can make the world a better place by being more inclusive and willing to listen to each other's stories."
--Jessica Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA


By Melinda Beatty

(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781524740009, $16.99)

"An excellent beginning to a story kids will become immersed in! The protagonist, Only Fallow, cannot just see when people are lying, she can't tell a lie herself without it being incredibly painful. When news of Only's abilities reaches the king, he commands her to work at his side to parse out traitors and corruption at court. Heartseeker's every chapter is action-packed and the stage is set for a blockbuster second book. I cannot wait!"
--Nichole Cousins, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Mortification of Fovea Munson

By Mary Winn Heider

Chi Birmingham (Illus.)

(Disney-Hyperion, 9781484780541, $16.99)

"Imagine being a seventh-grader whose parents own and work in a cadaver lab and who love their work and constantly talk about their favorite body parts. Imagine having to give up summer camp plans to work in this body part lab that you consider extremely gross. As if that was not bad enough for Fovea (whose name means eyeballs, by the way), imagine having disembodied thawing heads begin to talk to you! Throw in a tiger kidnapping, weird recording sessions, a random mugger, and an order for 600 legs, and you have the makings for a never-to-be-forgotten summer. Well-written and destined to be a favorite of middle readers."
--Pat Trotter, Bookends on Main, Menomonie, WI

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers


By J.A. White

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062560087, $16.99)

"Unlike his 'normal' sports-loving brother, Alex has always loved monsters and scary stories. His favorite movie? Night of the Living Dead. His favorite hobby? Writing spooky stories. When things at school push him to make a change--to act more 'normal'--things take a turn toward the unexpected. Because apartment 4E is not what it seems. Alex finds himself in the middle of a story, and a spooky one at that. Can he escape with the help of some new friends, or will he run out of stories first? Dark magic, fairy tales, and witches swirl together in a spellbinding new mystery from J.A. White."
--Clarissa Murphy, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

By Jo Watson Hackl

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780399557385, $16.99)

"A charming mystery with a clever and resourceful protagonist. Cricket's adventures, driven by a longing to heal her family, are as informational as they are exciting. This book grabs readers from the start and journeys with them through ups and downs and twists and turns that leave the reader sad, hopeful, and, above all, grateful for a delightful story well told."
--June Wilcox, M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers, Greenville, SC

Where the Watermelons Grow

By Cindy Baldwin

(HarperCollins, 9780062665867, $16.99)

"Della's mama has schizophrenia. It's been under control for years, except for a bad time when Della was younger, but lots of pressures have been building up, and her mama's stopped taking her medicine. Della's daddy is trying to keep things together at home in addition to keeping their family farm going in the midst of a drought. Della wants her normal mom back, and she's trying everything she can think of to help, but it seems like she's just making things worse. A warm and sensitive story about families living with mental illness."
--Nancy Banks, City Stacks Books and Coffee, Denver, CO

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Bird and the Blade

By Megan Bannen

(Balzer + Bray, 9780062674159, $17.99)

"This book of riddles is itself a kind of sublime riddle composed of the ingredients of a true classic tale. There is doomed love, an authentic historical backdrop, fallen kingdoms and thwarted destinies, sacrifices that elevate, and an ending that, by transcending its finality, takes the reader full circle to begin the tale again with fresh eyes. Bannen takes the operatic tradition of Princess Turandot's slave girl and infuses it with a richness of character and a convincing dramatic immediacy that rewards the reader at every turn. The Mongol Empire has never been so deftly invaded as it is in the pages of The Bird and the Blade."
--Kenny Brechner, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, ME

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain

By Will Walton

(Push, 9780545709569, $17.99)

"Avery has a lot to deal with--recuperating from a serious injury, coming to terms with his family history of alcoholism, navigating his changing relationship with his best friend, and coping with the death of his beloved grandfather. In Walton's capable hands and original voice, Avery's difficult summer is full of tenderness, wit, and the transcendent beauty of both poetry and pop music. I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain is a book for anyone who has ever been moved by a poem or a song, anyone who is or has been an adolescent, and anyone who has or will ever experience loss and grief--which is to say, here is a book for all of us."
--Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

Legendary: A Caraval Novel

By Stephanie Garber

(Flatiron Books, 9781250095312, $18.99)

"Stephanie Garber delighted readers last year with her debut, Caraval, and her second story is just as beautiful and engrossing. In Legendary, we see Caraval through the eyes of the less trusting, more jaded Donatella. Starting out with Tell's backstory, the reader begins to unwind the lies that surround her and, in doing so, the lies that permeate their world. Dark and dangerous, Legendary brings the reader back to a decadent world where the only thing you know for certain is that you don't know anything."
--Jessica Cox, Plot Twist Bookstore, Ankeny, IA

My Plain Jane

By Cynthia Hand , Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

(HarperTeen, 9780062652775, $17.99)

"A stunningly imagined version of pre-Victorian England, complete with charming ghosts, combines with timeless, laugh-out-loud humor in this retelling of Jane Eyre. This book is a breath of fresh air in the teen genre, with strong heroines, an irresistible yet complex plot, a light smattering of romance, and a gleeful--yet tasteful--abandonment of the fourth wall. I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of predictable plot twists, cliffhangers, and endings and is looking for a rollicking adventure through a quasi-historically accurate rendition of Jane Eyre's England (with ghosts added, of course)."
--Annika Pfister, Petunia's Place Bookstore, Fresno, CA

Sea Witch

By Sarah Henning

(Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062438775, $17.99)

"This book floored me. I was expecting to like it, but I fell hard and fast for Sarah Henning's original take on the sea witch story. Evie is already an outcast in her hometown--she is the daughter of a fisherman and she uses magic, which is forbidden, to help him. When a young girl arrives who looks eerily similar to her dead best friend, Anna, Evie will do whatever it takes to make sure that she can stay on matter the cost. Magic, love, and loss permeate this stunning novel, which I will be highly recommending!"
--Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

By Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, editors

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062671158, $17.99)

"With A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman have edited a wonderful collection of short stories by some of the most prominent YA authors, exploring themes of East and South Asian folklore and mythology. Featuring 15 stories that cover every genre from contemporary to fantasy, readers will be delighted by the breadth and imagination of authors such as Preeti Chhibber, Melissa de la Cruz, and Cindy Pon."
--Angela Spring, Duende District, Washington, DC