Summer may not be here just yet, but it’s only a few short weeks until the backpacks come home overflowing with the detritus of another year. Get ahead of the rush — and get stocked for lazy afternoons of summer reading — with these new titles from Texas authors. Bonus: Many have signings in Austin this month.
It wouldn’t be summer without the Super Soaker — that propulsive column of water beloved by pool denizens and overheated tykes alike. The Super Soaker is just one of the creations of Lonnie Johnson, who was trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners when he accidentally doused his bathroom and stumbled upon the mechanics of the iconic water toy. Austin duo Chris Barton and Don Tate, who teamed on 2015’s “The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch,” join forces again on “Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions” (Charlesbridge Publishing, $16.95). They follow Johnson from his tinkering childhood to his engineering career and work with NASA. And as Barton underscores in an author’s note, “Whoosh!” provides an important counterweight to the traditional image of scientists as exclusively white, Einstein-like figures. (Ages 7-10)
Barton showcases a pint-size superhero of a vehicle in his other new picture book, “Mighty Truck” (HarperCollins, $17.99). When Clarence zooms through the car wash, the little truck’s tires grow, his sides shine and he feels “really wheely powerful.” Mighty Truck saves the day when his friend Bruno gets stuck in the mud, a cat is trapped in a tree and a dangling beam threatens the city of Axleburg. Whiz-bang, color-drenched illustrations from Troy Cummings plunge young readers into Clarence’s superhero star turn. (Ages 4-8)
Sixth-graders Dominic, Loop and Z have loved competing against each other since they first met in kindergarten. The stakes get higher, though, when the magic shop Conjuring Cats opens in their south Texas hometown. The boys are fascinated by the tricks, and decide to each create a routine in hopes of participating in a huge contest at the end of the summer. In “Nothing Up My Sleeve” (Little, Brown, $16.99), Victoria’s Diana Lopez showcases each boy’s life in alternating chapters, delving into real-life challenges like divorce, siblings and stepdads along with the intrigue of their new talents. (Ages 8-12)
Austin’s Amy Tintera kicks off a new young-adult series with “Ruined” (HarperTeen, $17.99), a romance- and politics-inflected fantasy. Emelina plots revenge after her parents are killed and her sister kidnapped; the closer she gets to Prince Casimir, however, the more she questions her resolve to murder Casimir’s father. Tintera joins “Illuminae” co-authors Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff at 2 p.m. Sunday at BookPeople for a joint reading and signing. Details on this and the following author signings are at bookpeople.com/event. (Ages 14 and older)
A fiercely patriarchal society rules the Manhattan of the future in Austinite Carolyn Cohagan’s “Time Zero” (She Writes Press, $14.95). Under the careful tutelage of her grandmother, Mina has learned to read despite the prohibitions against educating girls. Navigating an arranged marriage, exploring a budding romance with one of the servant class, and escaping the endless rules above ground into a women’s resistance movement all play a part in the dystopian “Zero.” An opening quote from young Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai provides an inspirational note, although the draconian rules of Mina’s world are drawn from a wide array of real-life extremist religious fringes. Still, Mina’s pluck makes this first volume in an expected series hopeful and adventurous rather than bleak. Cohagan reads from and signs “Zero” at 3 p.m. May 21 at BookPeople. (Ages 12 and older)
Texans Samantha Mabry and Joy Preble team for a joint launch of young-adult books that dip into danger. “A Fierce and Subtle Poison” (Algonquin, $17.95), Dallas author Mabry’s debut novel, centers on Isabel, the legendary girl “with green skin and grass for hair” who dwells on a Caribbean island. Lucas lives on the mainland but spends summers with his hotelier father in Puerto Rico, and when letters from Isabel begin appearing in his room the same day his girlfriend vanishes, Lucas sets out to find the truth behind the legend. Houston’s Preble spins a mystery that spans decades in “It Wasn’t Always Like This” (Soho Teen, $18.99). Seventeen-year-old Emma and her best friend Charlie sample an experimental polio vaccine that leaves them ageless — but not impervious to murder. The two are separated, and Emma spends the next century hunting for the evil-doers who killed their families while trying to stay safe in modern-day Dallas. Mabry and Preble will be at BookPeople at 1 p.m. May 22. (Ages 13 and older)