Inspired recommendations for kids from
independent booksellers across the country.

In This Issue...

#1 Kids' Next List Pick...

Frankly in Love

By David Yoon

(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781984812209, $18.99)

"Frankly in Love is a breathtaking, sit-on-the-floor-sobbing, smile-till-your-face-hurts whirlwind of a novel. David Yoon's writing is extraordinary: carefree and playful, yet deep and resonating. Embedded throughout are gems that encapsulate the humanity of being young, being in love, and discovering who you are and who you aren't. Not only is this a compelling and engrossing story of love and growing up, it powerfully hits many notes regarding race, family, and biases. I know this will be a book that will continue to resonate with me for a long time, and I can't wait to share it so that it will stick in other readers' hearts, too."
--Tildy Banker-Johnson, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

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

credit: David Zaugh/Zaugh Photography

Indie booksellers across the country have chosen David Yoon's Frankly in Love (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers) as a top choice for the Fall 2019 Kids' Indie Next List.

Frankly in Love follows Frank Li, a teenager caught between Korean and American worlds who must hide the fact that he's dating the girl of his dreams, Brit Means, because his parents will disapprove. With the help of family friend Joy Song, who's in a similar bind, he comes up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. It works, until life throws them a curve ball.

Here, Yoon talks about family, romance, and indie bookstores.

Where did the idea for this book come from? Were you inspired by anything in particular?

I was inspired by my own adolescence. My parents had pretty traditional ideas about who I should date (meaning only Korean girls), so when I inevitably wound up dating a non-Korean girl, I found I had to hide that fact. Other kids my age were open about who they were dating, even going out to dinner with their girlfriends' parents and such, but not me. It struck me how strange it was that I had to hide such an important part of my high school experience from such important people as my parents, and that's when I got the idea for the story.

How did you create Frank Li's character?

Frank is basically a wiser, smarter, and more courageous version of me as a teenager--he's the kid I wish I could've been when I was 17. He learns big, huge lessons about love and parents and generation gaps in a single year that took me decades to figure out. Lucky him! ^_^

The characters in this book also playfully riff on each other's names — for example, Brit Means calls Frank Li "Frankly" and Joy Song calls Brit "Brit means it." What was the process for naming your characters like? Did you always intend for their names to have another meaning, or say something about who they are?

I love offbeat, punny names. I always base them on the defining traits of a character--Frank is Frank because he is honest and direct, Joy is ironically named Joy because she isn't very joyful, Brit Means is earnest, and so on. I normally give characters these kinds of names as a drafting shorthand for my own purposes, and sometimes they just stick.

One aspect of this book is how Frank deals with his parents' racism and the expectations they have of him. Can you talk more about that?

There's so much I could say about this subject, but it boils down to a generational gap. Frank juggles the traditional values of his parents (ethnic homogeneity, selflessness), with the American values surrounding him (ethnic diversity, independence). The challenge for him is to figure out if he can live by his own rules while somehow respecting his parents at the same time. The story takes him on a journey toward one of the hardest concepts ever: acceptance. How can he learn to accept his parents for who they are, without wishing they were something else? Moreover, how can he learn to love them, even though he disagrees with so much of what they believe?

Friendship, as well as the feeling of existing between two worlds, is another central aspect of this book. Over the course of the story, Frank balances his best friend with his girlfriend, his real girlfriend with his fake girlfriend, and the Limbos with the Apeys. Why did you decide to explore all of these different kinds of relationships in one story?

I love romance stories. I love falling in love with the main couple, watching their highs and lows, and their ultimate triumph. But! I also love seeing all the things that make up their world--and that includes best friends and even family. For me, romantic love doesn't exist in a social vacuum. It can be so interesting to see a love interest not just through your own eyes, but reflected in the eyes of others. We all contain multitudes, and that's why it was so important for me to show how Frank behaved in different social situations--to give readers a full sense of his self.

We also see Frank and Brit each grapple with comparing their own family's dynamic with that of the other's, which puts a strain on their relationship. Can you speak more about this?

Frank, caught between Korean and American worlds, feels like he doesn't belong anywhere. Brit, who is something like a fourth generation British American, has fully assimilated into American society and has strong historical roots. She's very comfortable in her own skin, and enjoys a strong sense of cultural savvy and entitlement that Frank deeply envies. It's a struggle for him to admit this to her, and it's also a struggle for Brit to acknowledge how belonging to the dominant tribe affords her lots of shortcuts that she may not even be aware of.

What has been the role of indie bookstores in your life?

Indie bookstore are some of my favorite places in the world. Since high school I've always hung out in bookstores, exploring shelves, discovering things I would never have encountered through a web browser. I absolutely love the physical connection to books--holding them in my hands, talking with staff, reading the shelf-talkers. Indie bookstores have always been the place to not just find what I might like, but also what might challenge me and stretch my existing notions of the world.

Can you tell readers what you're working on next?

All I can say is I'm working on another YA romance. More soon!

Top Picks

Serpent & Dove

By Shelby Mahurin

(HarperTeen, 9780062878021, $18.99)

"Can love really mend centuries-old wounds or does it truly make fools of us all? Full of magic, danger, and secrets, Serpent and Dove shines a light on the imperfections humanity possesses--that no one person or group is always right, that we all have the ability to do good or evil, and that it is our choices and actions that reveal our hearts. A pleasure from start to finish, I couldn't put it down! If you're a fan of Sarah J. Maas, you will love this book!"
--Ashley Conti, The Family Book Shop, DeLand, FL

My Jasper June

By Laurel Snyder

(Walden Pond Press, 9780062836625, $16.99)

"This is the kind of middle-grade book we need more of! The story is a realistic portrayal of the lives of two teenage girls, one grieving the death of her brother and the other homeless due to alcohol and physical abuse in her family, who meet by chance and become friends. It is impossible to determine which girl benefits more from the relationship. It is heartrending but also hopeful."
--Diane Howell Robinson, Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA

The Scarecrow

By Beth Ferry

The Fan Brothers (Illus.)

(HarperCollins, 9780062475763, $18.99)

"A beautifully written and gloriously illustrated tale of love and devotion, The Scarecrow pulls you in and opens your heart. Beth Ferry's gentle, rhythmic language and the enchanting, uplifting illustrations of the Fan brothers (The Night Gardener) create a story in which caring and kindness are everything at a time when this world needs it most. A moving and touching reading experience for the whole family."
--Kathy Neff, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home

By Guojing

(Schwartz & Wade, 9781524771768, $17.99)

"My new favorite picture book, Stormy by Guojing, contains not a single word. Nonetheless, it's one of the most heartfelt and moving stories I've ever experienced. An orphan dog and a young woman come to know of each other at a park. The pup is shy of the woman's attempts to play, but slowly comes around. When the woman heads home for the day, she leaves the dog behind (or so she thinks), but when a sudden thunderstorm erupts, both dog and woman are desperate to be reconnected. The artwork is amazing--the use of color and expression tells the reader everything, with no text necessary. I can't wait to share this with a child too young to read, but fully able to tell me the story by looking at the pictures."
--Jen Wills Geraedts, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery, Park Rapids, MN

The Evil Princess vs. the Brave Knight (Book 1)

By Jennifer Holm

Matthew Holm (Illus.)

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781524771348, $17.99)

"Brave knights, evil princesses, and deeply irritated magic mirrors take center stage in this wonderful story about siblings and playing together. The jokes and pictures are perfect, which makes it another great addition to the story time lineup."

--Angela Whited, Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN

Mr. Pumpkin's Tea Party

By Erin Barker

(blue manatee press, 9781936669776, $17.99)

"This delightful Halloween-themed counting book introduces Mr. Pumpkin's monstrous guests one by one as they arrive with their delectable contributions to his tea party. Soft and humorous illustrations with just the right amount of spookiness will surely make this a seasonal favorite."
--Betsy Covert, The Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH

Once Upon a Goat

By Dan Richards

Eric Barclay (Illus.)

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781524773748, $17.99)

"This is an adorable, funny, and heartwarming story of a king and queen who are wishing for a baby. Their fairy godmother wants specifics, so they tell her, 'Any kid will do!' But when they look on their doorstep on the next full moon, they are surprised to see a different type of 'kid'... a fuzzy baby goat! A clever story with the most charming illustrations, this is a must for any reader's bookshelf!"

--Amanda Zirn Hudson, Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach, DE

Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781547602377, $17.99)

"Carefree Ruby loves playing and exploring the world around her. But one day, she notices a Worry hanging around. At first, she decides to ignore it, but it just grows bigger and bigger, and before long, it's so huge that it's all she can think about. Then she comes across a boy who looks as sad as Ruby feels and who also has a Worry. As the boy tells Ruby about his Worry, though, it begins to get smaller, and Ruby learns that talking about her Worry is a good way to make it go away. An excellent teaching book about managing worry, which everyone has and which may come back sometimes but can get better if you share it with someone who can help you through it."

--Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Spencer's New Pet

By Jessie Sima

(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534418776, $17.99)

"I love all of Jessie Sima's work, and this book is unlike anything she has ever done. In the style of a silent film, this picture book tells the story of Spencer and his pet balloon dog. This book is absolutely beautifully drawn and the twist made me gasp. I am still reeling from the trip this book took me on."

--Portia Turner, The Book Cellar, Chicago, IL

A Stone Sat Still

By Brendan Wenzel

(Chronicle Books, 9781452173184, $17.99)

"As he did in They All Saw a Cat and Hello, Hello, Brendan Wenzel plays with perspective and place in the world around us in A Stone Sat Still. He looks at a stone, which serves as everything from a home to a maze to a throne, and as we read the book, the stone weathers and its environment shifts. It's a brilliant book, gorgeously illustrated, and perfect for the home or the classroom."
--Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX


By David Biedrzycki

(Charlesbridge, 9781580896825, $18.99)

"SumoKitty is a humorous, enjoyable tale of a stray kitty who is taken in at a sumo wrestling training center. SumoKitty lives an easy life and becomes quite plump and a bit lazy, and because of this he is put back out as a stray. When he is given a second chance, he must train and learn the values and traditions of a sumo wrestler in order to be in good enough shape to catch mice and earn his keep at the sumo heya. This story is filled with elements of Japanese culture and vocabulary while teaching the importance of dedication and perseverance. A delightful read-aloud with an inspiring message and a humorous tone."

--Colleen Shipman, Phoenix Books, Essex Junction, VT

This Book of Mine: A Picture Book

By Sarah Stewart

David Small (Illus.)

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR, 9780374305468, $17.99)

"Dreamy and enchanting for bookworms of any age, This Book of Mine is one to be read aloud, to read together, or to read after carefully inhaling the scent of magic that clings to its pages (for those of you who don't know, magic smells like books). This book had me hooked with its lovely images and kept me there with its bookish sentiment. I can't wait to gift this book to my youngest family members or any child in my immediate vicinity, but there will also be a copy just for me on my shelves."
--Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

All the Impossible Things

By Lindsay Lackey

(Roaring Brook Press, 9781250202864, $16.99)

"It's impossible not to love this story full of heart and a touch of magical realism. Foster kid Ruby wants nothing more than for her mom to overcome her addiction and act like a real mother. After some time, she learns to trust the Grooves, her foster parents, and grows attached to the giant tortoise in their petting zoo. As Ruby struggles to cross off all the impossible things from a list she and her late grandmother made, she learns the true meaning of family. A beautiful, forceful book. Ruby will bowl you over."

--Jennifer Kraar, City of Asylum Bookstore, Pittsburgh, PA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Crumbled! (The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill)

By Lisa Harkrader

(little bee books, 9781499809718, $17.99)

"Poor Nobbin Swill feels trapped in the dung pit he farms for the king until the fateful day he happens upon the royal signet ring gleaming through the waste. Thus begins the series of misadventures that lead to his involvement in a missing persons case. Well-crafted and enchantingly illustrated, this new take on oft-encountered characters like the witch, troll, stepmother, and prince will defy expectations and upend any fairy tale tropes. Crumbled! is sure to be a hit with young readers seeking a fresh new series."

--Alexa McGuinness, The Bookman, Grand Haven, MI


By Raina Telgemeier

(Graphix, 9780545852500, $12.99)

"When Raina was in fourth grade, she had a lot on her mind--school, trying not to vomit, and a million other things. Over time, Raina learned how to confront her fears and find ways to stay calm during overwhelming moments. Raina shares her anxieties and fears in this funny and poignant graphic memoir, which is sure to comfort any reader who may be going through the same thing."
--Jen Steele, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Lalani of the Distant Sea

By Erin Entrada Kelly

(Greenwillow Books, 9780062747273, $16.99)

"Lalani of the Distant Sea is exquisitely written from many different perspectives, focusing mainly on that of Lalani, a young girl who will do anything to protect her people--her mother and friends most of all. Erin Entrada Kelly speaks through this lovely story, telling us that within sorrow, strength can be found, and in ruin, paradise can be discovered by those willing to search for it."

--Cassie Molitor, The Book Shoppe, Boone, IA

The Okay Witch

By Emma Steinkellner

(Aladdin, 9781534431461, $20.99, trade paper)

"This is such a fun graphic novel about Moth Hush, who discovers she's a witch when something funny happens to her at school. Her mom is set on her not practicing her witchcraft because of something that happened in the past, so Moth and her friend start researching the history of the town. Complete with a sassy grandmother and a talking cat, this is a graphic novel I will highly recommend to middle grade readers."
--Nichole Cousins, Still North Books & Bar, Hanover, NH

Some Places More Than Others

By Renée Watson

(Bloomsbury Children's Books, 9781681191089, $16.99)

"This book is a tribute to the power of place and memory. How do we keep alive the voices of beloved family members, poets, freedom fighters, and heroes? Amara grapples with the pull of the past as she seeks to discover her family's stories, reconcile the mysterious rift between her father and grandfather, and bear witness to the landmarks of memory and celebration spread throughout Harlem. I loved seeing the neighborhood through Amara's eyes as her understanding of history, culture, family, and herself evolved."
--Rebekah Shoaf, Boogie Down Books, Bronx, NY


By Jen Wang

(First Second, 9781250183873, $21.99, trade paper)

"Christine does not really like Moon the first time they meet, but circumstances (parents!) bring them together. With Moon being raised by her mom and Christine in a more traditional setting, the pair are different in so many ways but both are looking for a true friend and the chance to be themselves. But Moon's quirky behavior might ruin the whole thing, and Christine will have a tough choice to make. Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker is a story that resonated with everyone who read it, and I think Stargazing will do the same!"
--Margaret Brennan Neville, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

American Royals

By Katharine McGee

(Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781984830173, $18.99)

"American Royals has all the drama, love triangles, and expensive vacations one would expect from a book about royalty. But it is also so much more. In an America where George Washington was crowned king instead of elected president, his descendants still sit on the American throne. Beatrice, first female heir to the throne, has always been the perfect princess. Samantha, her younger, wilder sister, has not. As Beatrice gets closer to the role she has been training for her entire life, she begins to feel stifled by her duties and is then forced to consider an arranged marriage when her father gets ill. As the two princesses' once-secure lives spin out of control, secrets are revealed and relationships are broken and repaired. It's a spectacularly engrossing first in a series."

--Stacey Pyle, Curious Iguana, Frederick, MD

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

By Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

(Inkyard Press, 9781335777096, $18.99)

"With its charming mixed media epistolary style and compelling story, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a novel that demands to be read. Once you've met Alaine, you'll need to see how her tale ends up. At once endearing and poignant, this illuminative book is important and I am so happy it exists. I can't wait to see what the Moulite sisters write next!"
--Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

By Adrienne Young

(Wednesday Books, 9781250168481, $18.99)

"Feeding off the marvelous and vicious world established in Sky in the Deep, Adrienne Young has delivered another powerful and phenomenal book featuring amazing illustrations and personable characters. Inspired by the Vikings and Norse mythology, this is a story of coming together to fight for what you love, even against the odds. The characters are flawed and well-developed; the battles and fights are realistic and emotional. This book proves that old wounds can heal and enemies can put aside their differences. Young has a way with words--they are powerful, raw, and filled with emotion. You will not regret getting sucked back into the wonderful world from Sky in the Deep!"

--Anna Rose Carleton, The Well-Read Moose, Coeur d'Alene, ID

House of Salt and Sorrows

By Erin A. Craig

(Delacorte Press, 9781984831927, $18.99)

"Annaleigh is one of twelve sisters. Or she was. Mysterious and tragic circumstances are plaguing the Thaumus family, claiming the lives of the girls one at a time. Will Annaleigh be able to put a stop to it before she loses another beloved sister? Or will the curse come for her next? Equal parts gothic ghost story, tale of sea gods and legends, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Craig's thrilling debut will sweep you into its pages and keep its claws latched on until the last page is turned."

--Hana Boxberger, Village Books, Bellingham, WA


By Akwaeke Emezi

(Make Me a World, 9780525647072, $17.99)

"Akwaeke Emezi's debut YA novel is nothing short of breathtaking. Emezi's prose is poetic and perfect, their world-building is seamlessly engaging, and the images and ideas they evoke in this delicious bit of a book are searing. It's a critical examination of the society we live in today, of the future we hope to create, and of the constant, enduring need to keep our eyes and hearts open so that we can take care of the most vulnerable among us. I can't wait to see what Emezi writes next."

--Abby Rauscher, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

A Treason of Thorns

By Laura E. Weymouth

(HarperTeen, 9780062696908, $17.99)

"Imagine being the caretaker of a powerful and magical house and its grounds, a house with the power to control the wind and rain and bring prosperity to the surrounding countryside. Imagine it all goes wrong and everything and everyone suffers because of it. Would you risk your life to save your house and restore the lands? Moody and atmospheric, with beautifully descriptive images, this is fantasy and magic at its best."
--Jane Simons, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY