Kids Article

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
ISBN: 9780062498533
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - 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)
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
ISBN: 9780062683038
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - 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
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
ISBN: 9781510710405
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sky Pony - 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
ISBN: 9780399171635
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
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!

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!)



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)
ISBN: 9780735227774
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - October 4th, 2016

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

Tomo Explores the World (Tomo's Adventure Series) Cover Image
By Trevor Lai, Trevor Lai (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250085450
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Imprint - October 25th, 2016

The Water Princess Cover Image
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)
ISBN: 9780763669003
Availability: Backordered
Published: Candlewick - August 25th, 2015

Not Quite Black and White Cover Image
By Jonathan Ying, Victoria Ying (Illustrator)
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
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
ISBN: 9780062459886
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - 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
ISBN: 9781606841563
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Carolrhoda Lab (R) - 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)
ISBN: 9780553497427
Availability: Hard to Find
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 (All-of-a-Kind Family Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780440400592
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yearling - December 1984

More All-Of-A-Kind Family Cover Image
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
ISBN: 9781939601254
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lizzie Skurnick Books - September 30th, 2014

Books for Young Scientists and Historians

Looking for a book for those who love to figure out how things work and why things happen? Then check out these titles!

Ada Twist, Scientist Cover Image
By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781419721373
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harry N. Abrams - September 6th, 2016

The newest edition to a fabulous picture book series that began with IGGY PECK ARCHITECT and followed up with ROSIE REVERE ENGINEER, ADA TWIST is about a girl who adores science and the delight of discovery. This marvelous illustrated and written book features a girl who is endlessly curious about the ‘whys’ of the world. ADA TWIST reminds us to follow our passions and dreams!
Ages 5-8

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 Cover Image
By Matthew Olshan, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780374329549
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - October 11th, 2016

What happens when John Jeffries, an Englishman, and Jean-PIerre Blanchard, a Frenchman, set out to be the first to man a hot-air balloon flight from one country to another by crossing the English channel? Well, at first, just grand success. But then things go a bit wrong. And as the balloon begins to sink, the two gentlemen come up with hilarious and then clever solutions to save the day. This one will make you laugh… a lot. And it’s based on a true story!
Ages 4-8

Shakespeare Retold Cover Image
By E. Nesbit, Antonio Javier Caparo (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062404534
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - October 18th, 2016

Gorgeously illustrated, this collection of retellings of seven Shakespearean plays is a wonderful way to introduce younger readers to Shakespeare’s language and stories. Lots of good historical material is included: biography, timeline, and bibliography plus more. This is a simply beautiful addition to any home library.
Ages 8-12

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition Cover Image
By Chris Barton, Cathy Gendron (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781467721516
Availability: Backordered
Published: Millbrook Press (Tm) - September 2015

This gorgeous picture book by award-winning Austin author Chris Barton (who is also featured in this newsletter with his choices for Texas author holiday book gift giving), is a delightful and informative history of how the most famous ballet became a Christmas season classic. A must-read for Nutcracker fans.
Ages 7-10

What Books are Texas Kidlit Authors Chris Barton, Jennifer Ziegler, and Crystal Allen Giving This Holiday Season?

We’re ridiculously excited for our newest installment of our feature on the books Texas kidlit authors are giving for holiday gifts this year! Because who better to recommend books than authors? And we have a huge, diverse and amazing community of writers for young people in Texas, many of them right here in Houston-- so many wonderful voices and stories and points of view. I hope you continue enjoy reading their choices as much as I did!

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness Cover Image
ISBN: 9781620141489
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lee & Low Books - October 15th, 2016

This remarkable real-life tale -- as entertaining as it is touching -- will fascinate kids. Doc Key’s own story of post-slavery accomplishment is amazing enough. But when he teaches a once-hapless horse to spell -- and then some -- this picture book becomes truly enchanting.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land Cover Image
By John Coy, Wing Young Huie (Photographer)
ISBN: 9781467780544
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Carolrhoda Books (R) - March 2016

Inspiring and lovely and recognizable to so many children, parents, and grandparents, this celebration of the experiences and contributions of immigrants brings together Coy’s brief, poetic text and Huie’s striking photographs.

Two Naomis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062414250
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer + Bray - September 13th, 2016

Told in the alternating points of view of the 10-year-old title characters -- whose divorced parents have begun dating and start bringing their families together -- this contemporary middle-grade novel sparkles with smart humor and endearingly awkward drama.

And here are the titles Crystal Allen will be gifting this year.

She’s a new grandmother and new great aunt and so she’s focused on books for and about our littlest readers! Again, all these titles are on our shelves or coming soon.

School's First Day of School Cover Image
ISBN: 9781596439641
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - June 28th, 2016

With the school as the main character, this book was such a delight to read.  Whoever thought of how a school would feel on the first day of school?

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas Cover Image
By Gwendolyn Hooks, Colin Bootman (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781620141564
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lee & Low Books - May 15th, 2016

I love this book about Vivien Thomas, a medical pioneer who, without a medical degree, developed a way to save babies with heart defects.

This Is Our Baby, Born Today Cover Image
By Varsha Bajaj, Eliza Wheeler (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780399166846
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - August 2nd, 2016

This story follows the birth of a baby elephant with vibrant colors, beautiful illustrations and fun, repetitive text. **(Brazos Children’s Specialist Joy Preble wants to remind everyone that Varsha is also a local, acclaimed Houston author and friend of the store)**