Blue Willow Content Team's blog

Book Bites: Jacqueline Woodson, More Jacqueline Woodson, and Other Great August Books

Many people know us for our kids' section. We embrace that. Good writing for children, after all, is what turns people into readers in the first place. So it's safe to say that we're pretty excited for Harbor Me. That's the name of the first middle grade novel that Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Children's Literature, has written since her National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming. To us, it's pretty much the kids' publishing event of the year. Even better? Woodson went and wrote another book—this one a picture book—and she's releasing it on the same day. What a time to be alive!

Of course, we're still making plenty of room for other books, too. Just check our list of recent favorites—whether you're in the mood for seafaring YA action-adventure, historical American epics, or darkly funny (and very strange) short stories, we've got just the thing you're looking for.

Katharine McGee on Endings, Technology, and THE TOWERING SKY

There are some authors we have the distinct joy of seeing again and again. Authors like Gabrielle Zevin, say, who has graced our shop on each of her book tours. We can hardly go three months without bringing Mac Barnett to the shop. Sarah Bird, Jennifer Mathieu, Katherine Applegate... the list goes on.

Houston's own Katharine McGee is one of those frequent Blue Willow fliers. We've hosted the launch party for each new release in her Thousandth Floor YA trilogy, those bestelling founts of primetime drama, glitzy glamour, and breathless romance. The final book in the series, The Towering Sky, comes out later this month. Which means that—you guessed it—we get to throw another launch party for this longtime friend of the store. (Not to mention a juicy pre-order campaign that you really shouldn't miss out on.)

August 29th is the date in question—we're looking forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, catch up with Katharine by reading our Q&A.

Book Bites: Humor and Heart

Here at the shop, we love a book that makes us laugh. Or cry, for that matter. This week, we’re featuring six wonderful titles that will achieve at least one of those outcomes—and a few of them will probably manage both. For kids, we have some hilarious new picture books in stock, featuring clever prose and delightful illustrations. A little older? We can steer you towards a terrific high school rom-com from Maggie Lehrman that will have you staying up late to see what happens next. And then there are the novels. Poignant and funny and altogether relatable, we think you’ll love the latest books from Anstey Harris, Kristan Higgins, and Joanna Cannon. Once you’ve finished reading, be sure to stop in and let us know—we’re dying to talk about these titles. Happy browsing, friends.

Our Hero Bob Shea on Bivalves, Basements, and Bananas

Here at the shop, we've been big fans of Bob Shea since we first saw his work over ten years ago. Bob has delighted us again and again with hilarious stories full of colorful characters like Dinosaur, Unicorn, Ballet Cat, and Cheetah. What can we say? We're a book store. We love people who write and illustrate wonderful books. But then there's this other thing about Bob, too: When Hurricane Harvey hit last fall, Bob was one of the first people to reach out to the shop and offer to help. His idea? A donation program to support area schools affected by the hurricane, with each donor receiving a hand-drawn unicorn. Thanks to him, we raised more than $10,000 to rebuild school and classroom libraries. So it's safe to say that Bob Shea is a pretty cool guy.

Which is why we're so excited that he's coming to visit us. We can't wait to welome Bob to the shop on September 18 (which happens to be the release date of his new picture book Crash, Splash, or Moo!). We encourage you all to stop by, hear all about his wonderful new book, and show how much the city appreciates his generosity. Circle those calendars! In the meantime, check out our fun Q&A.

Former Spy Mac Barnett on Snapchat, Crumpets, and His Explosive New Memoir

Most people know Mac Barnett as an acclaimed children’s book author responsible for titles like Triangle and The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. But his forthcoming memoir for young readers, Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover, divulges that he’s much more than that. The explosive revelation at the book’s center—that Barnett spied for the Queen of England as a child—is sure to set the literary world alight when the book is published this fall. We’re lucky enough to welcome Mr. Barnett to the shop on his memoir’s release date, September 11. In the meantime, slake your curiosity by reading our revealing Q&A with the international-superspy-turned-author.

(*Ed. note: Portions of the following conversation have been redacted by official government agencies. We're working with our legal team to declassify the material.)

Book Bites: Fresh Fiction Featured

It's been a wonderful summer for the novel. From quiet family dramas to sweeping literary epics, from chilling mysteries to breezy summer loves, we've barely been able to keep up with the glut of great reads sailing through the shop. This week, we're shining a light on a particularly wonderful batch of books. The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon's debut tale of finding (and losing) love and faith won the approval of booksellers across the country—it's the number one pick on the August Indie Next List. Or settle in with a good mystery: We've got a modern choice in Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, or an old-school, hardboiled throwback to Philip Marlowe by the incredible Lawrence Osborne. Want to meet some well-drawn characters? Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Louis de Bernières will pull you into the lives of their cast and tug on your heartstrings in the best of ways. Follow the heavier stuff up with the delightfully frothy The Shortest Way Home, and you'll move through the day with a smile on your face. Dig in, friends.

Beat the Heat: Book Recommendations From Our Publisher Reps

Back by popular demand... last night was our second annual "Beat the Heat" event with Liz and Brian, our publisher reps from Random House and Penguin (and two of our favorite people in the universe). Thank you to everyone who absolutely packed the bookstore and listened in as Liz and Brian shared some of their favorite new and upcoming reads. We think we have a tradition on our hands!

Liz and Brian shared twenty wonderful books last night—ten that you can find on our shelves now, and ten you'll have to wait for. We've compiled the master list here, in order of release date. If you're in charge of choosing the next read for your book club, all we can say is this: Good luck.

Cover Reveal: THE HOME BUILDERS by Varsha Bajaj

Houston author and dear friend of the shop Varsha Bajaj is on some kind of roll. When she's not in the news for scoring an exciting #ownvoices publishing deal with Nancy Paulsen, she's penning delightful middle grade novels. And when she's not doing that, she's creating incredible picture books. Her next release in that last category is called The Home Builders, and it's hitting shelves on February 12. It's a beautiful story with beautiful illustrations, and we can't wait to help Varsha launch the book here at the shop in February. We're delighted to reveal illustrator Simona Mulazzani's gorgeous cover below. Bask in its loveliness for a minute or two, then keep scrolling to read our Q+A with Varsha. Then, pre-order your copy at the bottom of the page. Trust us on this one: It'll hold a special place on your shelf for a long time.

Support Local, Win Audiobooks for a Year

You know we're partial to a good, old-fashioned physical books around here. But stories can take all sorts of forms, and (much as we'd like) we don't always have time to sit and read the day away.

That's where audiobooks come in. If you didn't know, we're all pretty big fans. Most of the staff listens to audiobooks on constant rotation—during our morning walks, through drives across town, on long afternoons spent in the garden, and any other time we can think of. So we were understandably pretty excited when we heard that our friends at Libro.fm were giving away free audiobooks for a year.

Book Bites: Princess, Rhino, Family, Cake

Okay guys, breaking news: Books are the best. These seven books, to get a little more specific, are among the best new releases to grace our shelves this summer. Whatever your mood—dark and twisty, lighthearted, inspirational, or strange—we've got just the thing for you to take home. Gorgeous illustrations your jam? Hello, here's the new Dan Santat. A quiet, inisghtful character study that spans a lifetime of hopes and heartaches? Anne Tyler's latest stands among her very best. Something to listen to while you tackle that morning jog? You simply must get to know Melissa Radke (psst! She's visiting us on Monday). Tuck in, friends. It's summertime, and the reading is wonderful.

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