Sweet and Sour Pre-order Campaign!

I’m so thrilled to announce the pre-order campaign for my newest middle grade book, Sweet and Sour (September 6, 2022)! This is a book of my heart about childhood friendships set in Mystic, CT. I love love love the cover – big thanks to artist Jacqueline Li and cover designer Stephanie Yang. That’s my local indie bookstore Bank Square Books on the cover, so it should come to no surprise that I’m holding my book launch party there on Saturday, September 10 at 3 PM. Save the date! More info coming soon!

As you may know by now, pre-orders help authors by sending a message to the publishers that there is strong interest/demand for the authors’ books. This is why you see so many authors offering pre-order campaigns. I also like to do pre-orders to support my local independent bookstore and for this book it’s particularly special. Here’s what you get if you pre-order Sweet and Sour from Bank Square Books:

– a signed copy that is personalized to whomever you want (specify in the comments section of your order)

– a Sweet and Sour bookmark


-one of three character cards created by Jacqueline Li (selected at random)

Sweet, right? In addition to that, for every book pre-ordered, you will get an entry into the grand prize drawing (US mailing addresses only). What is the grand prize, you ask?

-all three character cards and a bookmark

-a totebag like Mai has in the book

-BT21 Cooky keychain like Mai has in the book

– Bank Square Books adult t-shirt (winner will be contacted for size)

-Mystic drawbridge sticker

-pencil case

Grand prize winner will be drawn at random the morning of publication on Tuesday, September 6. Be sure to include your email address in your order so we can contact you!

Pre-order here and make sure to specify to whom you’d like the book personalized (if any) in the comments section. If you plan to be at the book launch party, you can choose “pick up at store.”

Thank you for all the support! Happy reading!


SWEET AND SOUR: Reviews, interviews, news, and more

This is where you’ll find a full and updated list of all reviews and news about Sweet and Sour, coming your way on Sept 6, 2022!

“An endearing book exploring the ups and downs of friendship.”  Read the full review from Kirkus.

“… uplifting summer read.” Read the full review from Publishers Weekly.

Interview with MG Book Village

Podcast interview with Suzanne McCabe of Scholastic Reads in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month.

Clip from Sweet and Sour audiobook, narrated by Emily Ota.

Podcast interview – The Book Cougars episode #158: Author Spotlight with Andrea Wang and Debbi Michiko Florence on friendship and books.

A lovely review from Booklist of the audiobook: “Emily Ota delivers a heartfelt, emotionally resonant performance in a story of friendship, anger, mistakes, and the question of forgiveness. Ota’s narration is perfectly in tune with Mai’s feelings throughout her tumultuous summer. With a fairly large cast of characters, Ota provides each one with a unique voice. Especially impressive are the distinctive voices full of personality for Mai and the other girls her age. A wonderful performance of a moving story about the challenges of friendship and change.”

Cover Reveal Jasmine Toguchi Brave Explorer

I’m thrilled to share the cover of Jasmine Toguchi Brave Explorer, book 5 in the Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series. Many thanks to Team Toguchi at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, editor Grace Kendall, illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, designer Angela Jun, and always to my agent Tricia Lawrence! Look for this book on September 27, 2022. Pre-order personalized signed copies at Bank Square Books.


With more than 130,000 copies sold, this award-winning chapter-book series starring a spunky Japanese American heroine returns with four new standalone books set on a family vacation in Japan!

Toothbrush? Check. Her special journal? Check! Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi—flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch messmaker—can hardly wait for her family vacation to Japan, and by the time their plane finally touches down, she’s ready to dive into their new adventure. There are so many things to see in Tokyo: Ramen Street, which she learns is not a whole street made of ramen; old temples with fancy gates; and Tokyo Tower, where you can even spot Mount Fuji on a good day.

But when they arrive, Jasmine finds herself unable to get away from her older sister Sophie’s crabby attitude. Plus there’s so much about Japan she didn’t know, and she seems to be getting in trouble right and left. Will Jasmine be able to cheer up her sister AND find her footing in a new country?

With her trademark humor and warmth, Debbi Michiko Florence weaves family drama and a fun introduction of Japanese culture into this delightful next chapter in Jasmine’s world.


Cover Reveal: Sweet & Sour

I’m thrilled to share the cover of my next middle grade novel: Sweet and Sour!

Sweet and Sour, Scholastic/September 6, 2022

I love everything about this cover – how Mai and Zach are looking at each other, Bank Square Books in the background, the BT21 Cooky plush keychain on Mai’s tote bag, the clothes Mai and Zach are wearing. I love the manga vibe, the font and the bright colors. Huge thanks to talented illustrator Jacqueline Li and awesome cover designer Stephanie Yang (who has done ALL my fabulous Scholastic covers to date). I’m so lucky! A big shout-out to the entire Team Sweet and Sour at Scholastic!


For as long as she can remember, Mai Hirano has spent every summer in Mystic, Connecticut visiting family friends. And hanging out with her best-friend-since-birth, Zach Koyama, was always the best part.

Then two summers ago everything changed. Zach humiliated Mai, proving he wasn’t a friend at all. So when Zach’s family moved to Japan, Mai felt relieved. No more summers together. No more heartache.

But this year, the Koyamas have returned and the family vacation is back on. And if Mai has to spend the summer around Zach, the least she can do is wipe away the memory of his betrayal…by coming up with the perfect plan for revenge!

Only Zach isn’t the boy he used to be, and Mai’s memories of their last fateful summer aren’t the whole truth of what happened between them. But how can she forgive Zach for a betrayal she’ll never forget?

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites News, Reviews, and Interviews

This is where you’ll find links to all the news, reviews, and interviews for our picture book biography Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence

illustrated by Yuko Jones

Farrar Straus and Giroux, September 2021


  • “Determined heroine, delightful story, delectable illustrations: Both young readers and their adults will be inspired and charmed by every spread of this book.”   –Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and New York Times-bestselling author
  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly
  • Starred review from Booklist
  • A Mighty Girl’s 2021 Best Books of the Year (ages 6-8)

Book review from The Horn Book

Interview with Debbi Michiko Florence on Bee The Love

School Library Journal Fuse 8 Betsy Bird Interview with Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence

Nerdy Book Club: Tasty Books & Big Dreams A Recipe by Debbi Michiko Florence and Jamie Michalak 

Picture Book Builders: An interview with Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence, and Yuko Jones

Snack Time with MacKids: NIKI NAKAYAMA with Debbi Michiko Florence and Jamie Michalak – video with the authors cooking the wonton pizza recipe from the back of their book!

Book Review: A Tasty Review on Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Book Review from How Useful It Is


Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai, a companion novel to Keep It Together, Keiko Carter, publishes on August 3, 2021.

First heartbreaks. Fierce competition. Family Drama.

Who knew middle school would be so hard?

I’m pleased to announce that you can pre-order the book now. If you pre-order from my local independent bookstore Bank Square Books/Savoy Bookshop & Café, you will receive a personalized signed book and swag: Jenna Sakai bookmark, a limited edition Heartbreak is for Suckers button, a cover sticker or Leigh’s Diner sticker, and one of four of Jenna Sakai’s doodle stickers.


Additionally, for each pre-order, you will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize of a lavender backpack, a limited edition Leigh’s Diner mug, a package of Jenna’s favorite Japanese curry mix, chopsticks, and items from the actual cover shoot: 2 notebooks (one w Inuyasha stickers), coin purse, 2 enamel pins, and a set of pens. (Thank you to cover designer Stephanie Yang and to Scholastic for donating the cover items!) Winner will be drawn the morning of August 3. US mailing addresses only for grand prize.


Thank you, as always, for all your support. I hope you will love Jenna’s story as much as you loved Keiko’s!


If you’d like the book personalized, just leave the name in the comments when you check out.



Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai: News, Reviews, & Interviews

This is where you’ll find updated news and links to reviews and interviews. I’ll be updating regularly. Thanks for all your support!

Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is available now!

August 3, 2021 (Scholastic)

“Heartbreak is for suckers.”

When Jenna Sakai gets dumped over winter break, it confirms what she learned from her parents’ messy divorce: Relationships are risky and only lead to disappointment. So even though she still has to see her ex-boyfriend at newspaper club, Jenna is going to be totally heartless this semester — no boys, just books.

But keeping her cool isn’t always easy. Jenna’s chief competition for a big journalism scholarship is none other than her ex-. Her best friend Keiko always seems busy with her own boyfriend. And cute-but-incredibly-annoying Rin Watanabe keeps stealing her booth at the diner she’s been hiding at every day after school. Rin is every bit as stubborn and detached as Jenna. And the more Jenna gets to know him, the more intriguing a mystery he seems. Soon Jenna is starting to realize that being a loner is kind of, well, lonely. And letting people in might just be a risk worth taking.

This book is full of family drama and first crushes, independent girls, and friendship.

Starred review from Kirkus!

“Florence offers a tightly written narrative that is as fearless as it is balanced, diving into complicated feelings of distrust and isolation while still offering glimmers of friendship and hope. Jenna’s honest voice shines with clarity, portraying a flawed but relatable protagonist whom readers will root for. This entertaining read is as complex as it is delightful.”

From award-winning author, Jo Knowles: “Fans of Keep it Together, Keiko Carter will love this beautiful companion novel about Jenna Sakai and her struggle to “stay cool” when life gets messy. Jenna’s determination to avoid heartbreak by building walls between herself and those who love her comes at a lonely cost, but the journey leads to a deeper understanding of her own heart, and her capacity to love and be loved. A beautiful story about healing from heartbreak, and discovering the strength that comes from opening your heart to others. Jenna is a gem!

NEW! Montclair Baristanet: 21 Hot Summer Reads for All Ages – “…a layered, thoughtful, and light exploration of how middle schoolers respond to dramas big (family divorce) and not-so-big (academic competition, friendship changes).”

My interview on Reading Middle Grade about writing interesting dynamic characters, art, and bringing friendships to life on the page.

Q&A with The Nerd Daily about books, writing and more!

YAYOMG! Jenna Sakai Shares Five Ways to Just Be Cool When Things Aren’t Going Your Way

Interview with Debbi Michiko Florence on Bee The Love

Imagination Soup: Writing The Stories I Looked for as an Asian American Reader

A Bookish Home Podcast: Debbi Michiko Florence on Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

This One Is Dedicated To with Chris Barton and Jennifer Ziegler

Book Review from Reading Middle Grade

Book Review from Juanita Giles, NPR – Are You There God? It’s Me, Juanita

Book Review from Youth Services Book Review

Book talk by Read with Val

Book Review from Bridget and the Books

Color of Us: The 50 Best Multicultural Middle Grade Novels of 2021

Book Riot: 14 Must-Read August Book Releases

Just Be Cool Jenna Sakai Book Talk

The galleys of Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai are landing in mailboxes! This is always an exciting and nerve-wracking time for an author. It’s like letting your baby go into the world. The story and characters went from being in my head, in a file on my laptop, to printed pages – from being mine to becoming yours.

Many thanks to Val of Read with Val who just posted a cover recreation and a book talk on her YouTube channel! Make sure to check it out for her review and who her favorite character is and why. Readers are the best!

Didn’t Val do an amazing job? She even colored her hair to channel Jenna! Thanks also to cover model Zoe Manarel, cover designer Stephanie Yang, and Michael Frost Photography, and of course to Scholastic!

Project LIT

I am thrilled that Keep It Together, Keiko Carter is a 2020-2021 Project LIT Book Club selection!

Knowing that teachers and librarians will be sharing my book with their students brings me so much joy. Thank you Project LIT for this honor!