Mary Malhotra writes and reviews children’s books from her home in suburban Los Angeles. An active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, recently she has been revising a young adult novel and writing picture book texts for an educational app.
The new kid in my eighth-grade math class got it into his head that my name was Margaret. He called me that for weeks, which I found annoying because (a) I didn’t care for the name Margaret and (b) it wasn’t my name. But what if instead of a clueless classmate, it had been the principal of my middle school calling me the wrong name?
National Book Award and Newbery Medal winner Cynthia Kadohata’s middle grade novel Saucy (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, September 2020), follows the adventures of Becca, a girl who finds and fosters a sick pig. Digitally rendered in grayscale, Marianna Raskin’s warm illustrations depict tender moments, such as the main character crying herself to sleep and funny moments, like the eponymous pig standing proudly in a kitchen she has just torn apart. While wholly of this time, the art is also reminiscent Garth Williams’ illustrations in that other book about a pig, E.B.
Lindsay Wong’s memoir, The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family (Arsenal Pulp Press, November 2018), is as messy as the title suggests, exposing Wong’s disconnection and anger as she discovers the world beyond her dysfunctional home. Wong’s mother shows signs of bipolar disorder, her aunt evidences suicidal ideation and her grandmother is schizophrenic. The family believes their symptoms are caused by the Woo-Woo, a ghostly possession that must be escaped or exorcised.
For anyone who likes to read the book before seeing the movie, the clock has been ticking on Jenny Han’s young adult novel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Simon & Schuster BFYR), since it was first published in 2014. The Netflix movie is out and streaming now, but a new paperback edition of the book is here to help those who are late to the game avoid video spoiler-land. With New York Times Bestseller status, two follow-up volumes and the movie, clearly the book has legs. It’s past time to find out why.
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh (Little, Brown and Company; Sept. 19, 2017) is a middle grade novel narrated by Beatrix Lee, the first-ever seventh-grader to be poetry editor of her school paper, Broadside. Bea recently started middle school under the shadow of estrangement from her best-friend-since-kindergarten and their other friends. Bea’s story includes mystery and adventure and a wonderful dose of coming-of-age, but what makes the book different is how it opens a window into the creative life.