STORYTIME: Katherine Applegate reads her new middle grade novel Willodeen

Willodeen by Katherine Applegate
Ages 8-12

From #1 New York Times bestseller Katherine Applegate, a singular middle-grade novel about a girl who risks everything to help a handmade creature who comes to life.

The earth is old and we are not, and that is all you must remember . . .

Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.

Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

A timely and timeless tale about our fragile earth, and one girl’s fierce determination to make a difference.


Praise for Willodeen:

“Employing flawlessly simple, candid prose that belies deeper messages, Newbery Medalist Applegate again considers the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. … Fiercely protective Willodeen is easy to champion, and her belief that “nature knows more than we do” is a message worth sharing.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Applegate’s gentle yet honest tale mixes magic with very real environmental messaging, both warning of human-caused harm and pointing to nature’s resilience and interconnectedness… Applegate empowers her young characters by not only granting them courage but also ensuring they earn the respect of their elders.”—Booklist, starred review

“An endearing fable that illuminates the importance of recognizing that all living things serve a purpose in our beautifully complex world and are worthy of care and dignity.” —BookPage


Watch more author storytimes here!

Watch our Anti-Racist Education Webinar & find Reading List Recommendations

Watch our anti-racist education webinar, featuring authors Dr. Crystal M. Fleming (Rise Up: How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy), Bethany C. Morrow (So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix), and Aminah Mae Safi (Travelers Along the Way: A Robin Hood Remix). In this conversation moderated by Julia Torres, a teacher-librarian in Denver Public Schools, the authors discussed how educators and librarians can build a more inclusive collection for their schools and libraries.

Find more resources mentioned during the event below:

More Resources for Continuing Anti-Racist Education: 
ILA Children’s Right to Read
NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center
NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English (CARBTE)
American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
Disrupt Texts
Diversity in Children’s Books Infographic (2018) by Sarah Park Dahlen

More Anti-Racist Book Lists to Build Your Collection 
Social Justice Books
We are KidLit Collective

Nonfiction to Pair with So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow:
Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony, 1862-1867 by Patricia C. Click 

Nonfiction to Pair with Travelers Along the Way by Aminah Mae Safi:
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf

Nonfiction to Pair with Rise Up by Crystal M. Fleming:
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen 

Check out our list nonfiction and fiction books to add to your anti-racist collections and classroom curriculums. Create more inclusive, representative and equitable collections by incorporating these newly published works and backlist favorites into your school and library collections!

Teacher’s Guide: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Add the Grishaverse books to your classroom library! With a second season of the hit Shadow and Bone Netflix original series in the works, now’s the perfect time to revisit Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling series and introduce new readers to the Grishaverse!

Want to create a lesson plan for Shadow and Bone? Download our Shadow and Bone teacher’s guide with discussion questions, extended learning activities, and more!

Watch our ALA New Voices in YA Panel!

Join five young adult authors for a conversation about their debut or sophomore titles moderated by Candice Mack, President of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association. Participating authors include Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Ace of Spades), Cory Anderson (What Beauty There Is), Angeline Boulley (Firekeeper’s Daughter), Cassandra Hartt (The Sea is Salt and So Am I), and Joan He (The Ones We’re Meant to Find).

Learn more about these books here!

Discussion Guide: A Game of Fox & Squirrels

A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese

Andre Norton Award finalist Jenn Reese explores the often thin line between magic and reality, light and darkness in her enchanting middle grade standalone.

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father’s anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn’t prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she’d ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she’ll lose far more than just a game.

Perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, Lauren Wolk, and Ali Benjamin, A Game of Fox & Squirrels is a stunning, heartbreaking novel about a girl who finds the light in the darkness… and ultimately discovers the true meaning of home.

Download the discussion guide here →

Activity Guide: Friday Night Wrestlefest

Friday Night Wrestlefest by J. F. Fox; illustrated by Micah

Bedtime has never been more fun! Friday Night Wrestlefest is inspired by WWE professional wrestling and is sure to wear kids out before they are gently tucked into bed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Friday night, and these kids are ready to wrestle! Join Dangerous Daddoo as he dishes out some serious moves to get the kids ready for bed. But what happens when Flying Mom Bomb gets home from work? Are the kids toast?

From writer J. F. Fox and illustrator Micah Player comes a charming and quirky family story that will teach you a new Bedtime Blitz that everyone will enjoy.

Teacher’s Guide: Last Pick

Last Pick by Jason Walz

In this first volume of Jason Walz’s dystopian graphic novel trilogy, the kids last picked are humanity’s last hope.

Three years ago, aliens invaded Earth and abducted everyone they deemed useful. The only ones spared were those too young, too old, or too “disabled” to be of value. Living on Earth under the aliens’ harsh authoritarian rule, humanity’s rejects do their best to survive. Their captors never considered them a threat—until now.

Twins Sam and Wyatt are ready to chuck their labels and start a revolution. It’s time for the kids last picked to step into the game.

A YALSA Recommended Reading Great Graphic Novel
A 2020 Texas Maverick Graphic Novel

DOWNLOAD THE TEACHER’S GUIDE HERE →

Teacher’s Guide: A is for Elizabeth

A is for Elizabeth by Rachel Vail; illustrated by Paige Keiser

This new chapter book series spinning off of the Justin Case books, stars Justin’s little sister, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is in second grade. Class 2B! It’s great! Friends, recess, homework! Even a big project: Make a poster of your name. Yayyy! Hang on. The name Elizabeth has a bajillion letters in it!

The name Anna has only four letters. Plus, Anna’s first letter is A, which is also the first letter of Alphabetical Order. But Anna can’t always be first! That’s not fair!

In A is for Elizabeth, Elizabeth makes more than a poster. She also makes some important choices—about fairness, rules, speaking up, and glue. But the most important thing she makes is…a friend!

With copious line art by Paige Keiser, this first book in a new series—spun off from Rachel Vail’s beloved Justin Case series—is sure to delight fans of Judy Moody, Junie B. Jones, and Clementine.

DOWNLOAD THE TEACHER’S GUIDE HERE →

Teacher’s Guide: Quintessence

Quintessence by Jess Redman

Quintessence is an extraordinary story from Jess Redman about friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she’s told her parents that they have. She’s homesick and friendless and every day she feels less and less like herself.

But one day she finds a telescope in the town’s junk shop, and through its lens, she watches a star—a star that looks like a child—fall from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and she knows that it’s up to her to save the star. And so, with the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self.

DOWNLOAD THE TEACHER’S GUIDE HERE →