Speaking Up

Voice and Belonging in Middle Grade Life
with Veera Hiranandani, Ronald Smith, and Susan & Lexi Haas

Saturday, October 9th, 10 am Central   

What does it take to be heard? When you’re still growing up and it feels like the world around you is spinning out of control, what can you do to break out of the tailspin and be your authentic self, standing up for what’s right? In three very different sets of circumstances, Veera Hiranandani (How to Find What You’re Not Looking For), Ronald Smith (Black Panther: Spellbound), and Susan & Lexi Haas (The Year of the Buttered Cat) discuss how their protagonists find voice, belonging, and (maybe!) change the world. Moderated by National Book Award winner William Alexander.

Free to attend, registration required. We hope to “see” you there!


Copies of the books featured on this panel can be purchased in advance using the button below!  Books are provided by Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul; purchasing here helps support them AND Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival—thank you!

Praise for How To Find What You’re Not Looking For:

Gorgeously written and deeply moving, with a main character you can’t help but love, How to Find What You’re Not Looking For deals with the hardest act in one’s fight for justice—confronting the prejudice of those who are closest to us. Hiranandani is a master.

—Adam Gidwitz, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale

Pick Up How To Find What You’re Not Looking For

PRICE: $19

BOOK PURCHASE with Local Pickup at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, MN (price includes sales tax)

Ship How To Find What You’re Not Looking For

PRICE: $22

BOOK PURCHASE plus $3 shipping to your location (U.S. only, price includes sales tax)


Praise for Black Panther: Spellbound:

Smith delivers an action-filled story of friendship, youthful curiosity, and exploration that centers Black kids and is layered with anecdotes and storylines that highlight themes of social justice and power. Superhero fans will be satisfied by this latest installment.

—Kirkus Reviews

Pick Up Black Panther: Spellbound

PRICE: $18

BOOK PURCHASE with Local Pickup at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, MN (price includes sales tax)

Ship Black Panther: Spellbound

PRICE: $21

BOOK PURCHASE plus $3 shipping to your location (U.S. only, price includes sales tax)


Praise for The Year of the Buttered Cat:

This moving, inspiring, and laugh-out-loud funny memoir with an intriguing title follows disabled, mostly nonverbal, super-smart Lexi Haas and her family. The story switches between the present, as 13-year-old Lexi counts down the hours to the brain surgery she’s having for the second time . . . Readers will cheer Lexi on as she comes to terms with herself and her situation.

Booklist (starred review)

Pick Up The Year of the Buttered Cat

PRICE: $19

BOOK PURCHASE with Local Pickup at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, MN (price includes sales tax)

Ship The Year of the Buttered Cat

PRICE: $22

BOOK PURCHASE plus $3 shipping to your location (U.S. only, price includes sales tax)


About the Authors:

Veera Hiranandani earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist. A former book editor, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and Writopia Lab. 


Susan Haas is a Charlotte, NC-based medical writer, dog-lover, and painfully slow runner. She’s the #1 fan of her five adult kids and husband, Ken. Most days she would gladly trade the family cat for a Starbucks latte. Lexi Haas is very much the spunky, sassy, super-hero obsessed teen in The Year of the Buttered Cat. She embraces her inner nerd, her love of a good romance story, and her disability—but if you stand too close to her wheelchair, she will pinch you.


Ronald L. Smith is an award-winning writer of children’s literature including the middle grade novels Black Panther: The Young PrinceThe Owls Have Come To Take Us Away, and Gloom Town, a Junior Library Guild Selection. His first novel, Hoodoo, earned him the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. Before he became a full-time writer, he worked in advertising and wrote TV commercials for big corporations, but he is much happier writing books for young people.


William Alexander is a National Book Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of unrealisms for young readers. His novels include Goblin SecretsAmbassador, and A Properly Unhaunted Place. He studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at the Clarion Workshop. He teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Find him online at www.goblinsecrets.com.