Centering Black Voices

The Pumphrey Brothers on THE OLD TRUCK, Indie Bookstores, and What’s Next

Each fall before the holiday season, we spend a lot of time as a staff talking about our very favorite books of the year—the can’t-miss future classics that we know will make for a perfect gift. Sometimes it can be tough to remember all the books that came out over the calendar year. But sometimes, we’ll read something in January or February and just know it will come up in those year-end conversations. That’s what happened with a debut picture book called The Old Truck, by Texas-born brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. It came out on January 7, and we haven’t stopped loving it since. It’s a beautiful story about perseverance and the passage of time, with striking retro design and unique, stamped illustrations. If you haven’t already read it, we highly recommend picking it up.

Check out our exclusive Q&A with the Pumphrey brothers below, then circle August 4 on your calendar. That’s the day when Jarrett and Jerome are helping us close out our Camp Blue Willow summer author series on Facebook Live! They’ll read The Old Truck and share a fun activity with viewers. We hope you’ll tune in!

Liara Tamani on Signs, Basketball, and ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER KNEW

Friends, one of our favorite Houston authors has a new book on the way, and we can't wait for you to read it. All the Things We Never Knew is the second YA novel from Liara Tamani, a dear friend of the shop and general author-you-need-to-read. It stars Carli and Rex, a pair of Texas teens who meet on the basketball court, and it's the perfect thing to help you through these lonesome, sports-less times we've been living through. The book is funny, romantic, thoughtful... it belongs on the same shelf as your well-loved copies of With the Fire On HighTo All the Boys I've Loved Before, or The Sun Is Also a Star.

As if that wasn't enough, we partnered with Liara to hook you up with some special swag. If you pre-order a signed, personalized first edition of All the Things We Never Knew from us by June 4, we'll send you a branded notebook, pencil, sticker, pin, and bookmark in addition to your book! Liara will also generously make a donation to the Houston Food Bank for every pre-order placed. We were hoping to host a big event with Liara in the store to celebrate the book's release, but we've had to switch to the next best thing: An exclusive virtual launch party taking place via Zoom on June 12! Attending is easy: Order All the Things We Never Knew from our shop, and we'll send you an invitation to the Zoom event. We can't wait to see you there! In the meantime, check out our Q&A with the author.

Gilly Segal & Kimberly Jones on I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Friends, the current health situation has upended life here at the shop, and has reminded us that our top priority is always to keep our customers and staff healthy and safe. That's meant a lot of event cancellations and a lot of curbside pickup for the last two weeks. We're carrying on as well as we can, but we're still bummed beyond words that one of our event casualties was this year's TeenBookCon festival. To us, the festival is a joyful, life-giving day each year where we get to see a lot of hard work and planning pay off and connect thousands of young local readers with some of our very favorite authors.

Two of those authors—Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones—have written an urgent page-turner of a debut that tackles big topics like race, privilege, violence, and coming together. I'm Not Dying With You Tonight is the story of Lena and Campbell, two very different girls from very different backgrounds, who are forced to rely on one another in order to survive a riot. We know it's not the same as attending a TeenBookCon panel, but we were able to ask Gilly and Kimberly a few questions about the book, what it's like to write together, and which books are on their nightstands. Read on!

TeenBookCon Author Ngozi Ukazu on Hockey, CHECK, PLEASE!, and What's Next

Friends, have we told y'all about our favorite hockey books? They're part of a graphic novel series called Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, and they're just the best. The story follows Eric Bittle, a gay former figure skater and amateur pâtissier who plays on the hockey team at the fictional Samwell University. It's a funny, charming series—you'll love getting to know Bitty's teammates, watching his vlogs, and cheering for him as he comes into his own. 

The second and final volume, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones comes out on April 7. If you're not coming to TeenBookCon on April 4, you can pre-order a signed, personalized copy on our website by April 2, and upload your receipt online before April 6—while supplies last, the publisher will send you a poster featuring Bitty's pregame playlist! 

We're so excited to be hosting Ngozi as part of our eleventh annual TeenBookCon festival, where we'll be selling copies of both Check, Please! books for Ngozi to sign. (Attendees, buy your book at the event! You’ll even have a chance to sign up to receive that same exclusive pre-order swag.) You can register for the festival here, then check out the full author lineup to see who else is coming. In the meantime, tide yourselves over with our exclusive Q&A with Ngozi!

Bookworm Author Vanessa Brantley-Newton on Girlhood, Read-Alouds, and JUST LIKE ME

It's no secret that we love a good picture book. We dedicate half of our store to kid lit, and the staff almost always has a new favorite making the rounds from bookseller to bookseller. Lately, we haven't been able to stop talking about Just Like Me, written and illustrated by the wonderful Vanessa Brantley-Newton. It's a gorgeous book, with a unique concept: Instead of a traditional narrative, the book consists of a series of poems describing girls of all kinds, each matched to a vibrant illustration. It's uplifting and inclusive, and it will have readers eagerly turning the pages to find themselves—and their friends—within.

We're so excited that Vanessa is coming to Houston for our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1st, where she'll be joined by eleven other terrific authors and illustrators... and hundreds upon hundreds of eager young readers. It's going to be a great morning full of author panels and signing lines. You can pre-register for the festival now—early registration isn't required, but it helps us figure out seating and other logistics. Then, to pass the time leading up to the big day, dive into our exclusive Q&A with Vanessa!

Tweens Read Author Kwame Mbalia on Myth, Grief, and TRISTAN STRONG

October is here, friends, and that means it's officially Tweens Read season at the shop. We've been busy prepping for the October 19th event, where you can meet all sorts of your favorite authors, like Jason Reynolds, Jon Sciezska, and Julie Murphy. It's also a great place to discover new favorites. One of the authors we're most excited to introduce you to is Kwame Mbalia, debut author of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Friends, this is a great book. It's got humor, adventure, and heart, bound together with a dose of African mythology. If you don't believe us, just ask Rick Riordan—he's publishing the book through his new imprint, Rick Riordan Presents. So you know it's going to be a fun, sometimes-scary adventure you won't be able to put down.

Tristan Strong comes out on October 15th... why don't you celebrate by joining us at the Tweens Read festival and meeting the author just a few days later? You'll be able to ask questions, get your book signed, and maybe even convince Kwame to share a detail or two about the forthcoming sequel. In the meantime, check out our exclusive Q&A with the author.

A Q&A with Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison, Author and Illustrator of HAIR LOVE

Friends, have you seen the charming new picture book gracing our display this week? It's called Hair Love. Adapted from the animated short film of the same name, the book is a celebration of fathers and daughters—and an ode to loving your natural hair.

It's a sweet and empowering story, and we can't wait to share it with you. What's more, we're absolutely thrilled to welcome the author, Matthew A. Cherry, to the shop on May 21! You may remember Matthew from his time as a wide receiver in the NFL. Nowadays, he's an author and filmmaker—and was named to Paste Magazine's list of Directors to Watch in 2016. Matthew will be joined by our friend (and Bookworm Festival 2019 alum) Vashti Harrison, who illustrated the book and provided character art for the short film.

Check out our Q&A with the creators, then be sure to head to our events calendar for the details—we're looking forward to seeing you!

Danielle Paige on Graphic Novels, Superheroes, and MERA: TIDEBREAKER

Danielle Paige is a master at taking a world you think you know and flipping it on its head in interesting ways. Just look at her bestselling Dorothy Must Die series, which showed readers a dark and eerie side of Oz that was miles away from any other adaptation before or since. Now, Paige is tackling Aquaman and Atlantis—specifically, the Atlantean penal colony of Xebel, where a warrior princess named Mera takes a mission to overthrow Aquaman and ascend to the throne. Her heart, however, has different plans. Mera's not exactly a new character—she's crossed paths with Aquaman since the 1960s. But in Paige's hands, she shines in ways she never has before—Mera is a full-fledged superhero in her own right, and Paige's new graphic novel, Mera: Tidebreaker, celebrates the princess in all her butt-kicking glory.

We're looking forward to learning more about this empowering character when Danielle Paige visits us at the shop on April 9. Check out our Q&A with the author, then pre-order your copy of Mera: Tidebreaker and plan to join us. It's going to be a super night. (We couldn't resist.)

TeenBookCon Author Justin A. Reynolds on Writing, Time Travel, and OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS

There's nothing in publishing quite as magical as a perfect debut novel. Not only does it make for great reading, but it so sublimely sets the stage for books to come. The latest debut to make our hearts flutter and our other books jealous? Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds, the time-travelling love story (written by a former NASA intern) that you didn't know you were waiting for. We'll be plain: This pitch-perfect, hilarious, heartfelt novel needs to be at the top of your TBR list. If that's not enough, take the recommendation of folks you already know and love—folks like Angie Thomas, Becky Albertalli, and our very own events coordinator, Cathy Berner. "It's funny and suspenseful—part Groundhog Day, part Love Story... a great story and a great new voice," says Cathy. And she would know—she chaired the nationwide Indies Introuduce committee that selected Opposite of Always as one of the top debut novels for young adults this spring. 

We can't wait for you to meet Justin at the tenth annual TeenBookCon on March 30—he'll be there alongside 23 other wonderful young adult authors and thousands of fans. Tempting though it sounds to time travel straight to the festival, that technology continues to elude us here at the shop. So instead, tide yourself over by checking out our exclusive Q&A with the author. Then take a minute to register for TeenBookCon so you can meet Justin, ask questions, and get your book signed. We'll see you then!

Christian Robinson on Art, Inspiration, and ANOTHER

Christian Robinson's distinctive illustrations are well-known to anyone who's been paying attention to picture books over the last several years. He's the artist behind best-selling favorites like Gaston and Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio, and Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, for which Robinson received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. The list goes on—Robinson has worked with Mac Barnett, Cynthia Rylant, and Renee Watson, and has twice teamed up with Matt de la Peña, including for Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal Last Stop on Market Street.

Early next month, Robinson will publish his first book as an author-illustrator, Another. It's a beautiful, wordless adventure story, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of emerging readers. Even more exciting? We're hosting Robinson right here in the shop on the book's release day, March 5. Prepare for the event by reading our Q&A, then make plans to join us—we can't wait to see you there.

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