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The Middle Grade Spotify Playlist: A “The Best Worst Summer” Guest Post

I don’t usually do this, but doggone it, they offered me a Spotify playlist and I ain’t made of stone. You see, I’m fascinated by the different ways in which authors can promote or augment their books. In the old days you didn’t have to do much because the competition wasn’t all that fierce. These days, we have so many books for kids popping up all over the place that it’s a miracle if you can get your own title noticed at all. So the creators of books do all kinds of crazy tricks and treats and traps. But the kind I may like the best is the Spotify playlist.

Elizabeth Eulberg’s new middle grade novel THE BEST WORST SUMMER just hit bookstore shelves everywhere yesterday. It’s the story of Peyton. Her family just moved, and she had to leave her best friend behind. She’s lonely. She’s bored. Until . . . she comes across a box buried in her backyard, with a message: I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Things are about to get interesting.

Today, Elizabeth isn’t just guest posting. She’s providing us with a playlist of music to boot. But don’t take my word for it. Take it away, Elizabeth!

I want to take you back to a simpler time. When we were young, naïve, and had all sorts of freedom. I am, of course, talking about Summer 2019. This was when I was outlining an idea that would end up becoming The Best Worst Summer. The basic premise was that a girl in present day would find a time capsule and it would unravel a mystery. I knew the time capsule would include some fun “throwback” items like camera film and a cassette tape, things that would be foreign to today’s young readers. The big question was what year should it have been buried?

Summer 2019 featured a lot of pop culture 30th anniversaries – Tim Burton’s Batman, the debut of Seinfeld, When Harry Met Sally…, and something that pretty much defined my tween years: the release of New Kids on the Block’s “Hangin’ Tough.”

I was immediately transported back to that summer riding my bike around with my best friend, going to get magazines to decorate our bedrooms with pictures of Jordan, Joey, Jonathan, Danny and Donnie (and before you even try, Joey is MINE!), and watching their videos and TV performances we recorded on the VCR. It was also a summer of freedom. I joke that we were basically treated like feral cats – “Go out, just come back in time for dinner!” Reminiscing about that time in my life inspired me to have part the book take place in 1989.

Since one of the time capsule items ends up being a mixtape made by two best friends (Melissa and Jessica) in the summer of 1989, I had to research which songs would’ve been played on the radio in June 1989. This was back in the day when you had to record songs off the radio. Sometimes the beginning or the ending of a song were cut off or the DJ was talking over it, but it was still fun to make those mixes. Luckily, now I have the internet and don’t have to wait two hours for someone to finally play the New Kids. (The horror!)

M+J’s Best Summer Ever Mix starts with a brand-new single from Paula Abdul, “Cold Hearted.” Every song referenced in the book was out by that summer. However, for this playlist, there are some that came out later, some that had to be included because they were so huge (Chicago’s “Look Away” was the number one song that year), some which definitely captured a moment in time (Milli Vanilli, anybody?) and some just for me (“Waiting for a Star to Fall” was a particular favorite and I have done karaoke to “Wind Beneath my Wings” on more than one occasion). And, of course, there had to be not one, not two or three, but FOUR New Kids on the Block songs. It’s what Melissa and Jessica (and Elizabeth—past and present) would’ve wanted. What can I say? They still have the right stuff.

My god. It was the inclusion of “Toy Soldiers” that killed me. Elizabeth, I don’t know if I want to thank you or just curl up in this corner over here and cry. Hey, why choose when you can do both?

Many thanks to Elizabeth for the piece and to Alexa Higbee of Bloomsbury for setting this up. THE BEST WORST SUMMER is on bookstore and library shelves everywhere now.


About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Jennifer in FL says:


    This playlist spoke to my soooooul. I was 12 in 1989 and this is so incredibly perfect.

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