Guest blog post by Aimee Friedman, Editorial Director of WISH, Point, and Scholastic Press
Ah, Valentine’s Day—a time for candy hearts, roses, and declarations of love. Except . . . the holiday can also be pretty awkward. Especially when you’re growing up. I remember my sixth grade Valentine’s Day, when I was equal parts terrified and hopeful that my crush would give me a carnation . . . only to receive one from the boy I didn’t like. Oh, the eleven-year-old angst!
Kids feel things deeply. But that’s why I love working as an editor in children’s books. Stories are the perfect place to explore these kinds of rocky feelings—from dealing with a first crush, first heartache, or first kiss . . . or realizing that it’s okay not to have a crush at all. Books provide a safe space for kids to read about and think about these varied experiences, whether or not they’re experiencing them firsthand.
When Scholastic launched the WISH line of books in 2016, we had a simple mission: to offer fun, engaging, books for kids 8-12 centered on family and friendship—and yes, the occasional first crush. While solidly appropriate for a younger audience, WISH books can be a stepping stone for a reader who might be transitioning into reading Young Adult books—or even for a Young Adult reader looking for a lighter read.
And sure, flowers and chocolates are great, but let’s face it: books may be the best Valentine’s Day gift of all. Here are five WISH stories perfect for young readers this holiday:
Maya Reynolds has grown up hanging out in her family's Brooklyn pizza shop, Soul Slice, and is a true NYC girl. But when her parents have an opportunity to expand the business and move to a small Pennsylvania town, everything changes.
At Soul Slice 2.0, Maya's immediately assigned pizza delivery duty. And though Maya knows pizza, she's never delivered before. Her first delivery is a disaster. Can you make a worse impression than slipping and falling... right into a rude boy's pizza order?
Bad turns to worse when that rude — and cute — boy, Justin, is in her English class the next day. Maya's had a rough start in her new town. Could Justin — along with some new friends and inventive pizza toppings — eventually turn Maya's new home into her own slice of heaven?
Mina is excited to start her mentorship at A Batch Made in Heaven, the bakery in her hometown that's famous for their inventive cookies. Mina dreams of becoming a baker herself someday. But there's a problem. Flynn, the (undeniably cute) son of the owner, won't let Mina into the kitchen: the top secret Cookie Vault. If Mina can't bake, then she can't enter the big cookie competition… and if she can't enter, she'll never win the money to help her dad open the restaurant he's always wanted.
What secret is Flynn hiding? And will Mina's entire plan crumble like an overbaked cookie, or can she find a way to help her family and her heart?
Twelve-year-old Ella has everything she needs to take seventh grade by storm, from the perfect outfit to the perfect new best friend. She's still not 100% sure why cool, confident Morgan has chosen Ella to be her newest sidekick, but Ella is flattered by the attention, even if it means giving up some of the things she's always loved, like fantasy novels . . . and her former best friend, Sophie. Ella feels a little guilty about ditching Sophie, but middle school is no laughing matter, and Ella knows that it'll be safer in popular Morgan's shadow than by Sophie's side.
But life as Morgan's best friend is trickier than Ella imagined. Everything has to be perfect, from their "on brand" selfies to the videos they record of them singing. And the more demanding Morgan becomes, the more Ella starts to wonder if she made the right choice. But Sophie already has a new best friend, leaving Ella feeling more alone and out of place than ever.
So when Ella discovers a new activity that she's really good at — a hopelessly dorky sport that Morgan has forbidden her from pursuing, Ella has to ask herself what matters more: popularity . . . or staying true to herself? But does she even know who she really is without loyal Sophie by her side?
Lonely seventh grader Avery just moved, and hasn't really made friends, despite joining stage crew for theater. To her surprise, when she explores behind the stage, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names her Phantom and tells her all her secrets.
When she is singing to Phantom during lunch one day, one of the other girls, Nic, overhears her — and tells the drama teacher Avery has to be cast in the Valentine's Day play. Even though it's Avery's worst nightmare to be in front of a crowd, she decides to audition to impress Nic, who just so happens to be the prettiest girl Avery has ever seen. To her surprise, she is cast as the lead!
She and Nic, who plays her best friend, start to get closer, though Avery can't give up her secret about Phantom. The cat is the only one Avery feels comfortable practicing in front of. But then she finds evidence that someone else is taking care of Phantom too. What if Phantom gets taken away? Avery's secrets about Phantom, and about having feelings for Nic, start to catch up to her. What will happen if the truth comes out?
Keep it Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko
Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she's got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have… together.
But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving in to Audrey's demands, and soon Keiko's besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she's been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn't have a crush on, the friendship she's always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.
Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?
Dacey Culpepper Biel comes from a long line of pie bakers, but Dacey didn’t inherit a gift for baking. Her pies always end up as messy or burnt disasters. Even worse? Business has been slow lately, and Dacey wishes she could do something to help.
Then opportunity knocks: A popular TV show wants to feature the shop! But that means Dacey will have to spend time with Chayton Freedel, her arch-rival and the cute son of the show's host. And when clues arise about a long-hidden family recipe, life at the shop may never be the same.
Malie’s mom manages an ice cream parlor, but Malie’s real love is ballet. Sadly, her mom is less than supportive. Then cute new boy Alonzo arrives from Italy. His true love is ice cream—gelato, to be exact. Alonzo offers Malie a deal: If she lets him help out at the parlor, she can take dance lessons from his mom, a famed ballerina.
As Malie pirouettes between the parlor and the ballet studio, things start to spin out of control. Does she have feelings for Alonzo? What about her boyfriend, Ethan? And if she doesn’t get a role in Cinderella, can she find her happily ever after?
Ana Ramos may not have a dog of her own, but she does get to walk her neighbor's adorable pug, Osito. One day, at the park, Osito befriends another pug, Pancake, whose owner just happens to be a cute new boy named Calvin. When Calvin assumes that Osito belongs to Ana, she doesn't correct him. No big deal, right?
Ana doesn’t realize the trouble she has unleashed until Calvin shows up at her school. Calvin suggests setting up play dates for the pugs, and Ana can't bring herself to admit that Osito isn’t hers. In fact, her fibs keep multiplying! Will Ana fess up and figure out how she feels about Calvin before her white lies catch up to her?
Alicia Ramirez has always loved baking. Her specialty? Cake pops! But Ali's sweet life turns sour when a sleek coffee shop opens across the street, giving her family’s small bakery a run for its money. Worst of all, the owner's son, Dane McGuire, likes to bake, too. He’s the new kid in Ali's school . . . and happens to be annoyingly cute.
When Dane and Ali engage in a bake-off to prove who is the cake-pop master, it’s Ali’s chance to save her family’s store. But will she be able to rise to the occasion . . . and ignore what her heart might be telling her?
Cecilia Murray has wanted a dog for as long as she can remember. And when a cute pug is brought in to the shelter where she volunteers, she knows he is the dog she’s been waiting for. There's just one problem: Eric Chung, a popular, arrogant boy from school, adopts him first. What's worse, he hopes to train the dog to become a show-dog superstar. Cecilia knows the pup isn’t cut out for that lifestyle, so she sets out to sabotage Eric’s plans.
But the more time Cecilia spends with the pug and Eric, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about dog shows . . . and a certain cute show-dog trainer. Can Cecilia save the dog—while also listening to her heart?
Learn more about all of the stories in the WISH collection.