Blue Stars: Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem

BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM, written by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Molly Murakami (Candlewick, 2024). Ages 8-up.

Two everyday superheroes set out to save the world–starting with their school–in an exciting new middle-grade graphic series from two award-winning authors and a debut illustrator.

When cousins Riley Halfmoon and Maya Dawn move to Urbanopolis to live with their activist grandma, they get off to a rocky start. Outgoing Riley misses her Muscogee cousins but is sure that she and Maya will be instant BFFs. Meanwhile, introvert Maya misses her parents, on active duty in Japan, and just wants some space to herself.

At school, Maya joins Robotics Club and Riley bonds with fellow gymnasts. Just when they start to feel at home, their school culture is threatened by an influential foe in disguise. Joining student council feels like a way to help, so both cousins toss their hats in the ring for sixth-grade class president. But when they realize what they’re up against–money, power, and lies–they quickly shift from competition to cooperation, joining forces as superheroes.

Riley is savvy with people; Maya is a whiz with gadgets. In no time, this dazzling duo is off to save the day! Relatable and rich in themes of family, community, and compromise, the Blue Stars series will entertain and empower, inspiring readers to be the stars they are.

Visit the Blue Stars microsite from Candlewick Press.

Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith discuss BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.

Order BLUE STARS: MISSION ONE: THE VICE PRINCIPAL PROBLEM by Kekla Magoon, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Molly Murakami.

Pre-Order Links: BookPeople (paperback; hardcover); AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks a MillionBookshop.orgHudson BooksellersTargetWalmart.

Depending on the title, Cynthia’s books may be found from Native bookstores like Birchbark Books and Native Arts and Red Planet Books and Comics, her local independent BookPeople in Austin, other terrific Texas bookstores like Blue Willow Bookshop and Brazos Bookstore, retail sites supporting indie bookstores like BookShop (Affiliate), IndieBound and (audio books), brick-and-mortar chains like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and online retailer (Author Central).

Awards and Honors
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • #1 Bestseller in New Native American Children’s Books (April 2024)

★ “Bustling slice-of-life plot beats by Magoon (CHESTER KEENE CRACKS THE CODE) and Smith (HARVEST HOUSE), paired with animated art by debut illustrator Murakami, culminates in a realistically rendered and impeccably paced graphic novel series opener that accessibly highlights the importance of youth involvement in local politics.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “…has everything: nuanced and empowered protagonists, a funny, gripping story, age-appropriate treatment of social issues, and expressive comic illustrations begging to be lingered over. Readers will come away inspired to raise their own voices and take action to create positive, peaceful change in their communities…sure to engender a devoted following.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This first entry in a new graphic novel series from acclaimed authors Magoon and Smith is a great introduction to the main characters and focuses on kids having a voice…in a modern, stylized cartoon style, this thoughtful and timely story featuring a multigenerational, multicultural family will find wide appeal.” —Booklist

“A thoughtful, funny, and memorable story about family, friendship, and cooperation. Purchase for all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journal

“The story and illustrations are a wonderful representation of a multiracial and multigenerational family. The graphic novel format…helps create a fast-paced adventure middle-grade and middle-school readers will appreciate.” —The Horn Book

Co-authors' Insights

Fighting for Libraries, On and Off the Page: A Conversation Between the Co-Authors of the “Blue Stars” Series by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith from School Library Journal. PEEK: “The ‘Blue Stars’ series is about collaboration and teamwork, and we can be, too.”

Co-Authors Interview: Kekla Magoon & Cynthia Leitich Smith on Collaboration, Careers & the Joy of Creating Children’s Books by Gayleen Rabakukk from Cynsations. PEEK: “Every collaboration between two writers probably looks different, but our process required shared time and space and the willingness to get comfortable, be silly, and toss out ideas freely until we landed on one that worked. It was a very safe and supportive space, and our conversations always led to consensus, never to conflict, which was amazing.”

Cover Reveal for Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Molly Murakami by JoAnn Yao from We Need Diverse Books.

CYNTHIA: It’s a series, and the stories all include family and friendship dynamics alongside the bigger, bolder missions. I love the interwoven humor, innovation, and heart. That said, the main takeaway is that, working together in family and community, we can raise up and safeguard our communities.

KEKLA: We want readers to have fun with the characters first and foremost, but also definitely to walk away feeling empowered by the knowledge that creating change is possible when you band together with those who share your convictions.

Co-author Bio

Kekla Magoon enjoys reading outdoors, solving puzzles, and eating ice cream. She has written more than a dozen acclaimed books for children and teens, including THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE, HOW IT WENT DOWN, LIGHT IT UP,  X: A NOVEL (with Ilyasah Shabazz), and the ROBYN HOODLUM ADVENTURES series. Recognitions for her work include the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, the National Book Award Long List selection, as well as the Margaret A. Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. Her office houses her pet turtle and appears cluttered at first glance, but that’s just part of her cover—her superpower is organizing thoughts and ideas!

Illustrator Bio

Molly Murakami is a cartoonist, illustrator, and writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She likes to make work about family, shared histories, and identity. Molly has worked with Bleacher Report, Candlewick Press, Densho, First Second, IDW, and others. She enjoys reading all kinds of books, helicopter-parenting her house plants, and looking up the ends of movies on Wikipedia.

Media Buzz

New and Noteworthy Children’s-YA Books of March 2024 from Publishers Weekly.

Most Anticipated Middle Grade Reads of 2024 by Amanda MacGregor from Teen Librarian Toolbox.

March 2024 New Middle Grade Books by Afoma from Reading Middle Grade. PEEK: “…loved many things about this series starter, including the natural, subtle way both girls share about their heritage and the way they find home and community with their grandmother. This is also super short (under 200 pages), and the superhero and planning scenes feel like something out of a ‘Spy Kids’ movie.” (Starred review.)

2024 Summer Reading Recommendations by Elissa Gershowitz, Editor in Chief, from Notes from the Horn Book. PEEK: “When compiling the lists — thirteen selections (a baker’s dozen!) for all age ranges — we seek out page-turning fiction, nonfiction, folklore, and poetry. We approach these lists in the spirit of exploration and curiosity and with the important reminder that “the individual child is the real criterion.”

Educational Resources

Discussion Guide for Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem (Blue Stars, Book1), prepared with Candlewick Press by Dr. Nicholl Montgomery, a former middle and high school English teacher for Boston Public Schools. She teaches children’s literature courses at Simmons University and education courses at Boston College. Includes information about the book, discussion questions, and common core connections.

March 2024 | 9781536204995; 1536204994 | Candlewick | Hardcover

March 2024 | 9781536228663; 1536228664 | Candlewick | Paperback