Kids Article

Love Gone Wrong: Joy Interviews Lauren Strasnick

The arrival of a new Lauren Strasnick book is always cause for celebration! For me, there is just something uniquely brilliant about her spare prose, about her willingness to go to darker places and to tell relationship stories that don’t always have happy endings. Not that I’m opposed to happy endings or anything, but I do appreciate when an author writes the ending the story needs, even if it might not be the one readers are rooting for.

16 Ways to Break a Heart Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062418722
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - July 25th, 2017

Five YA Books You Should Read This Summer... Or Anytime!

So here’s the deal. I think teens should read whatever books they want to read without having to discuss it with their parental units or write a report for school or otherwise prove to anyone other than themselves that they have read the book and it has meant something to them. Reading is wonderful and subversive like that and it should remain that way.

The Hate U Give Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062498533
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - February 28th, 2017

I’ve talked about Angie Thomas’s THE HATE U GIVE before, but I’m talking it up again because it’s still on the NYTimes Bestseller list and it’s still a new, important voice as we chip slowly away at all the nuances of racism in America and in a more updated contemporary setting/situation than a classic like say, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Read it. Then discuss with everyone you know. I put this one our our Summer Reading list, but it really belongs on every list.


Winger Cover Image
By Andrew Smith, Sam Bosma (Illustrator)
$11.99
ISBN: 9781442444935
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - September 2nd, 2014

Want a book that absolutely nails being a teenage boy and is a newer take on this than something like CATCHER IN THE RYE? Then grab a copy of Andrew Smith’s WINGER. It’s been out since 2013, and it’s as brilliant as day one--funny and real and romantic and heartbreaking and yeah, a little inappropriate. Just like the real thing.


Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780062683038
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Teen - June 6th, 2017

And speaking of funny and heartfelt and spot on teen voice, out new in paperback with a new, awesome cover, is Sarah Mlynowski’s TEN THINGS WE DID (AND PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE) is a wonderful, clever, contemporary that asks the question all of us would say yes to: If given the opportunity at sixteen, would you move in with a friend and live parent-free? Without them knowing. And with all sorts of humorous and serious consequences. Mlynowski proves you can write a compulsively readable and funny book and STILL take teens seriously.


The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780544586505
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarion Books - March 7th, 2017

I’m hoping you’ve already read Benjamin Saenz’s ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF the UNIVERSE. If not, then start there. When you’re finished, continue with his newest, THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE, which touches on everything we angst about growing up-- love and friendship and family and the tough question of belonging. Saenz’s work is brilliant as always, touching on race, sexuality, poverty, feminism and more.(Some good read-alikes include two others on our summer reading list: Becky Albertalli’s much lighter and humorous yet nuanced THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED and Adam Silvera’s HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME).


The Duke of Bannerman Prep Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781510710405
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sky Pony Press - May 9th, 2017

What happens when a good kid makes some bad choices? The answer gets explored in THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP Katie A. Nelson’s contemporary YA retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY, set in a boarding prep school. If you’ve read Gatsby, or even if you haven’t, the themes and characters will resonate powerfully. Cause let’s face it, we’ve all made some spectacularly bad choices, haven’t we?


Flame in the Mist Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780399171635
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - May 16th, 2017

Okay, yes, I know I said 5. But I’m sneaking in a 6th. THE FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh. Mulan meets Throne of Glass, set in Feudal Japan. Everyone needs a sweeping fantasy for a summer read. With the daughter of a samurai masquerading as a boy to infiltrate the clan of bandits trying to kill her. Yup. You’ll love this one. It is the new fantasy you need right now in this summer of Wonder Woman. Because girl power plus cultural nuance plus magic realism? Yes. Yes.


Happy reading!


Waldo is Hiding in Houston Again!

The world-famous Waldo comes to Houston in July and will be hiding out in 23 local businesses all month (starting July 1). Drop into any of the locations to pick up your Find Waldo Passport and get it stamped every time you find him. Once you have collected ten stamps, you can come to Brazos Bookstore and get a “I Found Waldo!” button and $1 off coupon for any of the Where’s Waldo books we have on display.

Superhero Summer Reading List for Kids

With classic favorites, award-winners, anthologies, brand new titles, and hidden gems that might have slipped under your radar, our summer reading list has something for everyone! (Some books are out now; others will release throughout the summer, so our display will stay fresh and new!)

FOR READERS AGE 6 AND UP

1. LOUISE TRAPEZE WILL NOT LOSE A TOOTH by Micol Ostow

Write About the Changes You Want to See: Joy Talks Picture Books

Today I am fortunate to get to talk about picture books and how they are created with authors Hannah Barnaby and Bethany Hegedus and editors Alessandra Balzer and Kristin Daly Rens. Hannah is the author of many books, including the picture book BAD GUY, which is currently on our shelves and one of my absolute favorites of the season. You may know Bethany—who also runs The Writing Barn in Austin— from her award-winning GRANDFATHER GANDHI series, co-written with Arun Gandhi.

Read the World: Brazos' Book Picks

Our weeklong Read the World celebration is underway! Our shelves are brightened immeasurably by works written by immigrants and international authors. Through our Spring Break programming, we hope to convey the importance of Houston's many voices. Joy, our kids specialist, has a few particular books on her list that fit the bill. Read below to peek in on what she'll be sharing this week!

Teacup Cover Image
By Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780735227774
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - October 4th, 2016

Jingle Dancer Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780688162412
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - April 5th, 2000

Tomo Explores the World Cover Image
By Trevor Lai, Trevor Lai (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250085450
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Imprint - October 25th, 2016

The Water Princess Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780399172588
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - September 13th, 2016

Mango, Abuela, and Me Cover Image
By Meg Medina, Angela Dominguez (Illustrator)
$15.99
ISBN: 9780763669003
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - August 25th, 2015

Not Quite Black and White Cover Image
By Jonathan Ying, Victoria Ying (Illustrator)
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062380661
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - September 6th, 2016

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781524715472
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Books for Young Readers - January 31st, 2017

Brazos Bookstore's Annual Bookmark Contest: 2017

We give out a LOT of bookmarks here at Brazos, and we are always looking for new ideas for their design. This spring we’re asking kids to lend their artistic expertise to our annual Bookmark Contest! Download the official entry form here and return it to the store by Sunday, April 23, 2017. We’ll announce the winners at our summer reading kickoff party on Saturday, May 13th at 2pm!

Wartime, History, and Scottish Insults: An Interview with Caroline Leech

I am so incredibly excited for the arrival of Caroline Leech’s YA historical romance debut, WAIT FOR ME. (Okay in full disclosure, I have not only read it already—bookseller perk!—but was honored to have been asked by her publisher Harper Collins to blurb it as well. You’ll see my praise somewhere on the finished copy). It’s a lovely, moving novel, set in WWII Scotland, and we are thrilled to be hosting the WAIT FOR ME release party on 2/7 at 7 PM right here in store. We hope you’ll join us!

Wait for Me Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062459886
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Teen - January 31st, 2017

Facing Fears and Writing Through Them

I first became a fan of Micol Ostow back in 2009 with her YA novel SO PUNK ROCK (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother). It was a funny, quirky, irreverent little book that also dealt authentically with spiritual identity, and it was illustrated by Micol’s brother David Ostow. I loved it. And then in that way that often happens in the world of publishing, our paths began to cross here and there: mutual author friends; a mutual Soho Press editor; bumping into each other at various panels at a writing conference.

Amity Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781606841563
Availability: Backordered
Published: Egmontusa - August 26th, 2014

One of my favorite Micol Ostow series to put in readers’ hands is actually not her YA work, but her series for emerging chapter book readers, LOUISE TRAPEZE. The titular Louise is one spunky girl, but not without her doubts and layers. It’s definitely a departure from Micol’s other work and so I asked her if I could interview her about what it’s like to write the darker as well as the more frothy. Here’s what she had to say:

Joy: Here at Brazos we (and our customers) are huge fans of your LOUISE series and recommend it to our younger readers. It's such fun but also very girl positive. So how did this wonderful series come into existence? Do you have a plan about how you will continue to develop Louise in each subsequent book?

Micol: As you know, traditionally I've been a young adult writer, and I never had any designs about writing for a younger market. But one day a friend of mine suggested I try it. I laughed her off, but my daughter was two years old then, and I was just beginning to feel like I had some perspective on younger readers' and their point of view. So, shortly after that conversation, a character -- Louise Trapeze -- popped into my head. Immediately, I tried to imagine what Louise's story -- or her "problem" -- would be. And of course, the worst thing I could imagine for a trapeze artist would be a fear of heights. (It happens to be that I'm terrified of heights, too, so I could relate). So from there, the basic concept of book one was born. And again, going back to my own experiences with my daughter, I was very taken by the fact that overall, my daughter was (and still is) extremely determined and brave, much more than I ever was as a child. It's a great quality but it also works against her because she has a hard time accepting her own occasional fears. So that informed a lot of Louise's character, and her journey in book one -- realizing that being brave is not about not having fears, but rather, it's about how you go about facing them.

As of now, we have four books planned, and in each, Louise aspires to do something that she perceives as "grown up," while balancing her own concurrent fears about falling short or failing. For instance in book two, she really wants an important job of her own. But when she gets one, she makes an error in judgement and finds herself scrambling to course-correct. In book three, she misunderstands a conversation she overhears among the grown-ups, and sets out to "save the circus," despite the fact that the adults around her keep telling her not to worry. And in book four, Louise yearns to lose her first tooth -- until it seems like that just may be happening. So, we try to develop her character by putting her into typical seven year old experiences where she learns to bridge the gap between her own wishes and expectations, and her capabilities. If we were to continue the series, my own wish list includes a Halloween special. I imagine Louise could cause a lot of trouble around that theme!

Joy: You are a prolific writer with a fine skill for telling darker suspense and horror. Can you talk a bit about how you balance writing the more frothy LOUISE books with, say, something like AMITY, your YA retelling of The Amityville Horror?

Micol: Thank you so much! In a time where so many artists are encouraged to "brand" themselves, I feel very lucky that the publishing community has really embraced my split personality. Like I say, I'm not sure that I would have been inspired to write something as young as Louise if it weren't for raising young girls of my own. But in terms of the balance, I find it comes very naturally. The darker YA and the frothy chapter books are both a challenge in their own way, and it's often a relief to go back and forth. It keeps me from burning out on one or the other. I think it would be too difficult to be forced to write cheerful, upbeat stories all the time -- but equally impossible to be constantly mired in dark, intense long-form novels. This way I get to work through all of my many moods. How amazing is that?! I think they just organically balance each other out. Hopefully that means my split personality has a certain equalibrium, too. :)

Joy: You came to writing full time from a number of years in editing. How does that experience inform your writing?

Micol: I would like to think that I am basically devoid of ego. Not only do I come from an editorial background, but my earliest writing was ghostwriting into ongoing series, where it was imperative that I conform to a series style and hit deadlines unfailingly. It is a very different process than that romantic notion of plinking away at ones' art ever so thoughtfully, coffee mug in hand, gazed fixed serenely out a window. So I tend to write more quickly than some, and after all those years of being expected to emulate a specific style, I think I'm very open to editorial feedback. (That said, my editors might disagree!) I don't get very defensive when I read editorial letters, and I am always willing to consider a note or comment. I don't think I get very precious about my "darlings." When I was in graduate school for writing my advisors were always very pleasantly surprised by my openness to their editorial feedback. (Or so they said!)

The flip side, though, is that after so many years in the business I can get into my own head and get very caught up in the packaging and marketing aspect of publishing. It's useful when it comes to discussion publishing schedules, and deadlines, but it can be distracting and counterproductive to the process of simply writing. Obviously if there were a magic bullet for publishing a bestseller we'd all be bestselling authors. Better to spend one's time writing for the joy of it and telling the story you are meant to tell.

Joy: Besides your own books, what are some children's titles that you'd recommend, both for younger readers as well as for teens? What are you reading to/with your own kids these days?

Micol: My five year old is a precocious reader, and we're constantly fighting over books (I buy things for "research," and then find them in her bed). Lately we are obsessed with PRINCESS IN BLACK and THE OODLETHUNKS  -- anything with strong female characters, humor, and a distinct voice. We also like THE OWL DIARIES, and she's getting into nonfiction as well. We will read anything by Peter Brown, basically. Also: unicorns and superheroes.

I've been on a bit of an adult mystery kick lately, but on the YA front am eager to read Adele Griffin's forthcoming BE TRUE TO ME, and Marianna Baer's THE INCONCEIVABLE LIFE OF QUINN. Too many books, too little time!

Joy: So why writing? That is, why are you a writer? Why is this your art?

Micol: I don't have a great answer for that! Only that I never really felt I had a choice. I began making up stories as early as I can remember, and writing them down as soon as I was able to. I loved working as an editor and didn't plan to become a full-time writer, but eventually, the deadlines became too difficult to juggle. I think it's true for most writers, and it's certainly true for me, that we write because we can't NOT write. I'm incredibly grateful to have been able to make a career of it.

Joy: What else should we know about Micol Ostow?

Micol: Micol Ostow has a caffeine addiction that is borderline problematic. Micol Ostow is unduly obsessed with dogs, and specifically French Bulldogs. Micol Ostow can nap anytime, anywhere, and is always happy to do so. Micol Ostow is afraid of heights, as mentioned, as well as loud noises, and phone calls from unrecognizable numbers. Micol Ostow is distinctly uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person, but is pleased to learn of your interest in her rather un-interesting life.


Louise Trapeze Is Totally 100% Fearless Cover Image
By Micol Ostow, Brigette Barrager (Illustrator)
$5.99
ISBN: 9780553497427
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers - May 31st, 2016

Revisiting a Classic

One of the topics we talk about a great deal in the kidlit world is representation. As with adult readers, but even more so, children and young adults want to enter new worlds through fiction, experience the lives of people who are different from themselves. This is one of the glories and values of reading and it builds understanding and empathy and a vicarious set of crucial experiences. But young readers also yearn to see themselves reflected on the page--to experience, at least just a little--characters who look like them or act like them or believe or live like them.

All-Of-A-Kind Family Cover Image
$6.99
ISBN: 9780440400592
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yearling Books - December 1st, 1984

More All-Of-A-Kind Family Cover Image
By Sydney Taylor, Mary Stevens (Illustrator)
$12.95
ISBN: 9781939601155
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lizzie Skurnick Books - June 10th, 2014

All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown Cover Image
$12.95
ISBN: 9781939601254
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Lizzie Skurnick Books - September 30th, 2014

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