This October, Austin authors bring you life lessons from twin sisters, a real-life cave rescue, and kids who can show just how smart they are if given a chance. Add that to a trio of notable writers with new works and you have a month jam-packed with notable literary events for young people. Grab your calendar and read on for all the details.
Maureen and Francine are twin sisters who’ve always stuck together. But as they begin sixth grade, Francine wants to try things on her own. Austin’s Varian Johnson shows us how the girls’ shifting horizons fuel a heated class election in "Twins" (Graphix/Scholastic, $12.99), the first volume of his new graphic novel series with illustrator Shannon Wright.
Johnson — a twin himself and author of 2018’s award-winning "The Parker Inheritance" — shows us how challenging it can be to stretch the ties that bind. Outgoing Francine re-christens herself Fran, dresses differently and even switches to different classes than her sister. Maureen, already more reserved, can’t believe it. How is she going to navigate all these new experiences solo?
These relatable girls illustrate the familiar ups and downs of transitioning from elementary to middle school. It’s a contemporary, universal tale that happens to center on two Black girls, and we need more stories like that.
"Twins" is the first in a series, and both Johnson and Wright will present virtually at BookPeople at 6 p.m. Tuesday to launch the book. Johnson will be part of a virtual "Book Crush" workshop on "Twins," sponsored by the Mayor’s Book Club (10 a.m. Oct. 17).
The story of a boys’ soccer team trapped by unexpected flash floods in a Thai cave for more than a week captured headlines and captivated readers back in 2018. Austin’s Christina Soontornvat, who grew up in Texas and is of Thai descent, was visiting her family in Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing. She knew she had to write the story. The result is the fascinating, emotional "All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team" (Candlewick, $24.99).
"All Thirteen" is narrative nonfiction, full of compelling characters, telling details and propulsive action along with details about cave geology, engineering and Thai culture. Soontornvat, who also writes the "Diary of an Ice Princess" series and retold "Les Misérables" with a Thai spin in this year’s middle-grade "A Wish in the Dark," highlights two perspectives. We see the team of rescuers feverishly working to reach the boys; while inside the cave, the team tries to conserve energy and hope. There’s also plenty of source material, photographs and explanations of the science behind the rescue. She’ll talk about the book, as well as writing nonfiction for kids, at 4 p.m. Oct. 18 virtually at BookPeople.
Austin author K.A. Holt’s novels in verse for young people include "Rhyme Schemer" and "House Arrest," which tackle issues like bullying, with precise words that are equal parts evocative and accessible. "BenBee and the Teacher Griefer: The Kids Under the Stairs" (Chronicle Books, $17.99) deploys verse along with hand-drawn illustrations and other formats to show us the many ways kids can be smart thinkers.
Ben’s failed the state standardized test, so he’s in summer school along with two others who bombed the assessment and a previously home-schooled student with no test scores. The quartet take turns narrating the story, which illuminates the variations in how each student approaches school due to ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences. It also shows us the other challenges each student has, including family struggles.
Holt champions these students in a book that celebrates neurodivergent learning, along with a teacher who’s willing to meet the boys where they are (think a "Minecraft"-style game to practice language skills).
She’ll talk about the process of creating "BenBee" as part of her Mayor’s Book Club workshop at 10 a.m. Oct. 10, as well as at the virtual TweensRead festival (10 a.m. Oct. 22, "Say Something" panel). The TweensRead fest also features Soontornvat (1 p.m. Oct. 23, "Fact and Fiction" panel) and Johnson and Wright (12:30 p.m. Oct. 20, "A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words" panel).
You already might have heard of "Furia" (Algonquin Young Readers, $17.95). Yamile Saied Méndez’s Argentina-set story is Reese Witherspoon’s second pick for the young adult offshoot of her popular book club. "Furia" spotlights Camila — a quiet rule-follower at home, but a fierce La Furia on the fútbol field. When Camila gets an opportunity to travel with her team to a tournament, it’s a chance for her to shine.
Her parents, however, think differently, and she’ll need their say-so to compete. Compounding matters are her feelings for Diego, back in their hometown after finding his own success on the international soccer circuit.
Méndez makes Furia about far more than just fútbol: Camila and her family suffer from poor treatment and abuse from her father, and the role of women in a patriarchal society is an overarching theme. She’ll be at BookPeople virtually at 6 p.m. Monday.
Author Rick Riordan’s Disney-Hyperion imprint publishes books anchored by the same mix of adventure and mythology adored by devotees of his bestselling "Percy Jackson" series. The novels all draw from less-represented traditions. Kwame Mbalia’s 2019 blockbuster middle-grade "Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky" wove African mythology and African American folklore into its story of seventh grader Tristan, who punched his way through to an alternate universe as he grieved his friend’s death. The action-packed yarn rightly won a slew of awards, including a Coretta Scott King honor.
The sequel is almost here, and Mbalia will be at BookPeople virtually to talk about "Tristan Strong Destroys the World" (Disney/Hyperion, $17.99) at 4 p.m. Oct. 10. In the second book, Tristan must rescue his grandmother from the richly drawn world of Alke, with help from the likes of Anansi (now enshrined in Tristan’s phone) and comic-relief sidekick Gum Baby. Sharp dialogue, plenty of humor and a fast pace make this sequel as engaging as its predecessor — fans will be eager for the third and final volume in the series.
Last but certainly not least, Oliver Jeffers of "The Day the Crayons Quit" unveils his latest picture book at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 at BookPeople. "What We’ll Build" (Philomel/Penguin, $19.99) follows "Where We Are," his 2017 book inspired by the birth of his son that morphed into a TED Talk and Apple TV animated film. "What We’ll Build" spotlights a father and daughter as they build tangible things (a watch, a fortress) as well as important intangibles: resilience and love.
"I’ll build your future and you’ll build mine," he writes, with simple rhyming text that carries the reader through their collective imagination. It’s a lovely, inspirational book that should fuel the building of bonds between parents and their children.