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Book Cover Reveals

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Maya and the Robot by Eve L. Ewing

Publisher: Kokila
Publication Date: July 13, 2021 (Available for pre-orders now!)
Pages: 224
Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Grade Level: 1 – 4

Today I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of a new book by award-winning author Eve L. Ewing!  In addition to her work as a writer, Ewing is a sociologist of education whose research is focused on racism, social inequality, and urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people.

MAYA AND THE ROBOT is an illustrated middle grade novel about a forgotten homemade robot who comes to life just when aspiring fifth-grade scientist Maya needs a friend—and a science fair project. The cover and interior art are by Christine Almeda, a Filipina American freelance illustrator and character designer.

Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. She tries to keep calm by reminding herself she knows what to expect. But then she learns that this year won’t be anything like the last. For the first time since kindergarten, her best friends Jada and MJ are placed in a different class without her, and introverted Maya has trouble making new friends.

She tries to put on a brave face since they are in fifth grade now, but Maya is nervous! Just when too much seems to be changing, she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet. Once she uses her science skills to get him up and running, a whole new world of connection opens up as Ralph becomes a member of her family and Maya begins to step into her power.

“It’s hard for me to look at Christine’s cover without tearing up. I’m so excited for the world to get a first look at Maya and Ralph and for the ways the cover gives little glimpses into the story to come!” – Eve L. Ewing

Eve L. Ewing is the award-winning author of Electric Arches1919, and Ghosts in the Schoolyard. She also wrote the acclaimed Ironheart and Champions series for Marvel Comics. Her work has appeared in many venues, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Born and raised in Chicago, she was a middle school teacher before completing her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Currently she is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

Christine Almeda is a Filipina American freelance illustrator, character designer, and lover of sunshine. She graduated from Montclair State University with a BFA focused on character design and children’s media. She believes in the power of creativity, diverse storytelling, and that art can make life more beautiful.

Book Reviews

The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles (A Book Review)

Title: The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Published by Versify
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Versify in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

In this new Legendary Alston Boys adventure from Edgar-nominated author Lamar Giles, Otto and Sheed must embark on their most dangerous journey yet, bringing a fugitive to justice in a world that mirrors their own but has its own rules to play by.

Unlike the majority of Logan County’s residents, Missus Nedraw of the Rorrim Mirror Emporium remembers the time freeze from The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, and how Otto and Sheed took her mirrors without permission in order to fix their mess. Usually that’s an unforgivable offense, punishable by a million-year sentence. However, she’s willing to overlook the cousins’ misdeeds if they help her with a problem of her own. One of her worst prisoners has escaped, and only the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County can help bring the fugitive to justice.

The legendary Alston Boys of Logan County, Otto and Sheed, are back for another adventure in the follow-up to The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. Think The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Toolbooth, but with Black boys who happen to be cousins AND best friends.

Last time, Otto and Sheed accidentally managed to freeze time because they wanted the final day of summer to last longer. They ended up going on an action-packed journey to rescue their community, get things back to normal, and unfreeze time with the help of a few supportive friends. The cousins also learned some important truths about themselves along the way.

In The Last Mirror on the Left, the amateur sleuths pick back up where the first book ended. While I don’t think you necessarily need to read the first book before reading this one, I believe it definitely helps add a bit more depth and moments of reflection if you do. New readers to this series will have no problems following the story since the writing is so well done and seamless.

At the end of the first book, there is mention of Sheed possibly having health problems that may impact his future. Unfortunately, that possibility ends up becoming a reality in this book when Sheed becomes ill. Throughout the book, Otto is concerned about Sheed’s overall health which shows how close the bond is between the two cousins. Sheed’s illness doesn’t stop him and Otto from embarking on another new twist-turning journey.

Missus Nedraw of the Mirror Emporium reminds the boys about their adventure last summer and how they stole some of her mirrors without asking for permission. Oops! The boys then get caught in one mirror after another in a Warped dimensional prison world and are stuck there. To top it all off, Otto and Sheed are the only two who can help catch Miss Nedraw’s most dangerous prisoner, Nevan, who recently escaped. But first they’ll have to deal with a notorious group of spiders also known as the ArachnoBRObia. Spiders, and mirrors, and “butt shrubs”, oh my!

Overall, The Last Mirror on the Left is a funny, magical, and wild adventure that will have you laughing and cheering for the dynamic cousin duo, Otto and Sheed as they help bring a fugitive to justice. Author Lamar Giles is masterful at crafting fantasy stories and incorporating relatable themes that are relevant to current events. I also appreciate the illustrations Dapo Adeola included throughout to illustrate specific elements of the story which also helped to visualize what some of the fantasy characters looked like.

Will Otto and Sheed go on another fantastical journey? I certainly hope so! We’ll just have to eagerly wait and see…won’t we?

About the Author
Lamar Giles writes for teens and adults across multiple genres, with work appearing on numerous Best Of lists each and every year. He is the author of the acclaimed novels Fake ID, Endangered, Overturned, Spin, The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, Not So Pure and Simple, and The Last Mirror on the Left as well as numerous pieces of short fiction. He is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and resides in Virginia with his wife. Twitter: @LRGiles, Instagram: @LamarGiles

About the Illustrator
London born and bred but of Nigerian heritage, Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He is the co-creator and illustrator of the upcoming picture book series Look Up (June 2019) and illustrator for the middle grade novel The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles (April 2019). When he’s not busy cooking up new characters and adventures, you can find him running illustration and character design workshops in and out of schools, to help highlight the possibilities of a career in illustration to inner-city children. Twitter: @DapsDraws Instagram: @DapsDraws

The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles
children's books

Exclusive Book Cover Reveal: For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington + An Interview!

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington COVER REVEAL!

In partnership with Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, I am thrilled to be revealing the cover for the forthcoming July 2019 book For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington.  The cover is illustrated by Jamea Richmond-Edwards.  I also had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions which you can read below.

  • Total Pages: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication Date: July 30, 2019
  • Recommended Ages: 8-12 and up
  • Pre-Orders: Available for Pre-Order Now!


I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.

Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows— for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.

Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?

Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.

In this lyrical coming-of-age story about family, sisterhood, music, race, and identity, Mariama J. Lockington draws on some of the emotional truths from her own experiences growing up with an adoptive white family. For Black Girls Like Me is for anyone who has ever asked themselves: How do you figure out where you are going if you don’t know where you came from?

Author Interview

When I was a kid I was always looking for books that mirrored my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. I searched library shelves for stories about curious black girls with white parents—black girls with mothers who gave them away, but I never really found them. Instead, I’d find and devour books about spunky orphans like Heidi or Anne (with an E!) of Green Gables because I was able to relate to the resilience and questioning personalities of these characters. I wrote For Black Girls Like Me because it is the book I needed to read as a kid, a book that reflects the kind of family that looks like mine.

This is a book about adoption, yes, but more than anything it’s a book about a young black girl searching for her voice. It’s a book about a multiracial American family trying to love one another, despite difference and human flaws. My hope is that adoptees will read this book and see some small part of their experience validated. I also hope that this book will spark conversation about identity, race, and belonging between siblings, parents and their children, teachers and students, and anyone else who has ever asked themselves: Where do I belong? I hope that this book will be a friend to someone who needs it.

Well, The Lucky Daughter was a book of individual poems, about varying topics written for an adult audience. In earlier drafts, For Black Girls Like Me was also written for an adult audience. In 2013, I graduated from my MFA program at San Francisco State University with a collection of about sixty prose poems about a nameless adopted pre-teen black girl. The manuscript was much more abstract, and I was having a hard time taking it to the next level. When I published my article “What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew” on Buzzfeed in 2016, my now editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reached out. She asked if I’d ever considered writing a fictional book based on my own experiences as an adoptee, but for a middle grade audience. I was SO excited by this prospect, since my other passion in life is teaching and working with youth. I have a Masters in Education and I have worked with education nonprofits for more than ten years. When I thought about this girl I kept writing poems about, about writing her story more concretely for a younger audience, giving her a name, something just clicked. I was able to dive back into the manuscript and I began to write Makeda’s store in short poem-scenes, with a stronger narrative thread.

Since I was little, I’ve known I wanted to write books. I used to make my own books out of cardboard, glue, and string. When I was about 12 I saw the movie Harriet the Spy, and I’ve been keeping a journal ever since. At first writing down my daily observations and telling stories was about survival, about creating worlds bigger than the one I sometimes felt confined to. But ultimately it was music that helped me find my path as an author. Both of my parents are classical musicians, and while I did not grow up in a particularly religious household, music is a kind of religion in our family. I played the flute and piano growing up and the practice of music led me to explore the possibilities of other kinds of creative arts. Eventually, music led me to formally studying writing in High School and beyond. Like my main character, Makeda, music helped me find my voice and my discipline. It has always been an anchor for me.

While For Black Girls Like Me is fiction, it’s based on some of the emotional truths of my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. There are some ways in which I drew from my own memories to write Makeda’s character. For example, I made both of her parents musicians. But then I let my imagination run wild and allowed myself to move past the autobiographical. As I was writing, I found that my characters took on new complex identities and histories that are different from the identities and histories of my actual family.

This question is so hard for a bookworm like me! As I mentioned, as a kid, it was any story about an orphan— Annie, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, or any story about a young kid who has to survive on their own in the wild— My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I felt a kinship with these characters, as they struggled to make a way for themselves, without always knowing where they came from or if they belonged.

As an adult, my all-time favorite book is Sula by Toni Morrison. I re-read it almost every year. To me, it is an epic love story between two best friends who are full of contradictions. I love that it is a story about black girlhood, black womanhood, friendship, and how sometimes we fail to speak the same language as the ones who raise us or come up with us. But we love them fiercely anyway.

Don’t gloss over or skip subjects in books you think your child can’t understand, especially when it comes to race and identity. Be OK with being uncomfortable, with not having all the answers. Books help all of us learn about different perspectives and experiences— even adults. You don’t have to be the expert, you just have to be willing to grow alongside your child, ask questions, and listen.

Team Hardcover all the way! There is nothing more luxurious than the weight of a hardcover book in my lap and a hot cup of tea in hand.

I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. I am a poet at heart, so I read a ton of poetry, but I am also an avid reader of fiction. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying reading short story collections. I can read at least one story before I fall asleep!

If you follow me on Instagram, I periodically post #nightstandselfies which feature an overzealous stack of books I hope to get to. Right now, at the top of my pile, you’ll find: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Other Words for Grief by fellow adoptee, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

I work full-time for a youth nonprofit, so this fall I am busy writing curriculum and delivering programs. I’m also excited to be working on a YA project— a queer, black girl love story. It’s very fresh, so that’s all I’ll share for now, but stay tuned! And of course, I’m getting ready to launch For Black Girls Like Me and hopefully go on book tour.

You can find me on Twitter @marilock, or on Instagram @forblackgirlslikeme (Which frequently features pictures of my sausage dog, Henry!)

Check out For Black Girls Like Me when it publishes in July 2019!

children's books

Cover Reveal: Like Vanessa by Tami Charles + A Giveaway!

I’m so excited to host the book cover reveal for the forthcoming March 2018 middle grade debut novel by author Tami Charles!

Oh, and the back story about the actual cover of the book is quite inspiring.  There’s definitely powerful messages of dreaming big and persevering despite the odds.  Read below and let me know if you agree.

It was always a dream of mine to meet Vanessa Williams, tell her how she’s inspired me, and give her a copy of the novel. I had the opportunity to do that last November after one of her concerts here in New Jersey. Her agent, Brian Edwards, was kind enough to arrange a meet and greet. A few months after giving her my book, I received the most surprising message in my inbox:

“Congratulations Tami on your debut release, Like Vanessa. It’s such an honor to be the focal point of this wonderful book! Without a doubt, it will be inspiring to a new generation of young, talented girls well on their way to promising careers.”   – Vanessa Williams, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist, NY Times Best Selling Author, Fashion Designer and star of Television, Film and the Broadway Stage

Part of this lovely quote is featured on the cover of Like Vanessa! In addition, one of my favorite authors, Rita Williams-Garcia, provided a glowing endorsement. And last but not least, the cover is illustrated by the one, the only Vanessa Brantley-Newton! Vanessa herself is from Newark, New Jersey, and has a beautiful singing voice very much like my main character. 

I consider myself lucky to have the blessings of three powerful women who inspire my author journey!

Q&A with Tami Charles!
What inspired the story we read about in Like Vanessa?
One day, when I was thirteen, my mom went to the mall…without me. (I know, the nerve, right?) A pageant director and her winners were there passing out flyers to recruit for their next pageant. My mom brought the flyer home and asked me if I wanted to participate. I had always watched Miss America, but I’d never done a pageant before. The only reason I had the courage to enter was because I knew that someone came before me and made history. That person was Vanessa Williams.  This is how Like Vanessa was born. I merged a childhood hobby and heroine of mine into a tale of a thirteen-year-old girl who made her own history, against all odds.

What was your favorite scene to write (no spoilers, please!)?
With some convincing from her grandfather, cousin, and teacher, Vanessa shyly decides to audition for her school’s pageant. The night before the audition, Vanessa writes in her journal to ask God to make her beautiful. What she doesn’t realize, though, is that she’s been beautiful all along.  I enjoyed watching that reality unfold.

What books from your own childhood inspired Like Vanessa?
As a young reader, I wasn’t exposed to the Rita Williams-Garcia’s, Meg Medina’s, and Kwame Alexander’s of the literary world. Don’t get me wrong, I loved (and still love) Anastasia Krupnik and Ramona Quimby! But I didn’t see myself in those stories. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started reading the books I would have begged for as a child.  Two books in particular that guided me on this journey were: The Skin I’m In, by Sharon Flake and One Crazy Summer (series), by Rita Williams-Garcia.

If you could have readers walk away with one message, what would it be?
Achieving a goal is not easy, but do it anyway. Do it with pride, knowing that someone came before you to pave the way. And if there is no path, make your own…like Vanessa, like Oprah, like Malala! You are powerful and significant and worthy!

Can you tell us what you have coming up next?
I’m currently revising the follow-up to Like Vanessa. The story will focus on the bully, Beatriz Mendez, from book #1. Beatriz wasn’t born mean. Once upon a time, she had a dream. We’ll see it reignited in book #2.

About the Book
Middle graders will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, by reluctantly entering her own beauty pageant.

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.

You can pre-order a copy of the book here!  Publishes March 13, 2018 from Charlesbridge Publishing.

Author the Author

Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Her middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, debuts with Charlesbridge in March, 2018. The novel has been selected for the Junior Library Guild’s Spring 2018 collection, “Indies Introduce” 2018, and the SCBWI Book Launch Award.

Tami’s picture book, Freedom Soup, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019.  She also has more forthcoming works with Candlewick, Charlesbridge, and Albert Whitman & Company. Tami is represented by Lara Perkins, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Connect with Tami!
Twitter | Instagram

The Giveaway!
Enter for your chance to win an advanced copy of Tami’s forthcoming book!  Open to US residents age 18 and over only.

Like Vanessa Book Giveaway!