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Around here we love April– springtime starts to peek around the corner, summer vacations don’t seem quite so far away, conference season kicks into gear, and last but certainly not least, it’s Poetry Month!
There are so many reasons to love poetry– it evokes emotions, feelings and sensations. The rhyme schemes, vocabulary, free verse– it’s all so rich and powerful. And when we think of poetry, novels in verse might not usually jump to the front of our minds. But one of our most acclaimed books last year was a novel in verse: INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN, by Thanhha Lai. While there were many (many!) reasons I loved this Newbery Honor-winning book, one of the things I loved most while reading was the beautiful, poignant, and at times hilariously funny language. And the coming-of-age immigration story that sticks to you like glue after reading doesn’t hurt either…
Enjoy and share this poem from INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (now available in paperback!) and enjoy Poetry Month!
Ms. Bird has all kinds of great ideas for hosting a dance party in your library, classroom, or store that will get everyone moving and grooving, and she very kindly put together some suggestions for us. We hope you’ll use this guide to throw your own Giant Dance Party for your little giants. And don’t forget to check out the book, which Kirkus Reviews called “Full of pep and verve and enthusiasm . . . Sheer joy.”
Many thanks to Betsy Bird, and happy dancing to everyone!
In GIANT DANCE PARTY, we see what happens when some furry blue big ’uns cut loose on the floor. Now here’s your chance to have your very own Giant Dance Party in the comfort of your own store, school, or library. When hosting any kind of a dance event, it is important to remember the four essential elements of any good party involving kids:
You’re responsible for the goofy adults. For all other items, here are some ideas for having a GIANT DANCE PARTY to beat all other giant dance parties.
Food: It Gotta Be Blue
Are you the kind of person who quails at the thought of providing delicious, healthy, and one-of-a-kind snacks at a party? Well, quail not. Kids love specialized foods, but what they like even more is filling their bellies. And since the giants in GIANT DANCE PARTY are as blue as the sky above, try serving treats of a similar hue. Here are some simple party ideas that can be fancied up if you’ve a yen to do so.
Blue ice pops—In GIANT DANCE PARTY, Lexy turns into the human equivalent of an ice pop whenever she’s called upon to dance. Consider making some ice pops of your own.
Blue juice—Time to get nice and cozy with the Kool-Aid man, yet again. Find your favorite blue version and make up a nice big pitcher.
Blue popcorn—It can be done! Combine butter, oil, salt, corn syrup, and blue food coloring in a big bowl. Next, microwave the mixture for 30–40 seconds, just until butter melts. Stir to combine, and then add the unpopped popcorn kernels and stir so that the kernels get completely covered with the syrup mixture. Spread them out evenly in the bottom of the bowl. Then just cover the bowl with a vented lid and microwave on high for 3–5 minutes, or until there are 1–2 seconds between pops. Instant blue popcorn awaits you!
Cupcakes—Consider blueberry cupcakes with blue frosting and M&Ms for a topper. Healthier alternatives can include blueberry muffins or just big bowls of blueberries.
Suggested Tunes for Little Monsters
The number one most important thing you need when you host a dance party? Dancing! Now that you’ve gotten them hepped up on sugar, it’s time to let those kiddos strut their signature dance moves on the floor. Trust your gut when it comes to great music. If it has a beat, the kids will be able to dance to it. Some recommended selections include:
“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” by C&C Music Factory
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Cindi Lauper’s version)
“Walk Like an Egyptian,” by The Bangles
“Hey Ya!” by OutKast
“La Bamba” (Los Lobos version)
“Twist and Shout” (the Beatles’ version)
The Kidz Bop albums—You may roll your eyes when you hear the oddly infantilized versions of the latest songs on the radio. But hey, if it comes down to the dirty real lyrics and the ones Kidz Bop comes up with, you may as well go for the safe and secure, if only to avoid the glares of irate parents.
Big on Costumes
Everyone has a different idea of what a giant looks like. In GIANT DANCE PARTY the giants are huge (as per usual), furry, and blue. But leave yourself open to a range of different giant interpretations. Here are some great giants in pop culture you might want to consider replicating:
The giants in GIANT DANCE PARTY—Furry-and-blue is the name of the game here. Don’t want to go all out with a hot and heavy costume? Consider going to Etsy and purchasing a pair of furry blue boot covers for the legs alone. They’re sure to gussy up any outfit.
The Jolly Green Giant—The nice thing about this guy is that he doesn’t require fur. Just a toga of green, maybe some green tights, and some makeup for the skin. Toss in a little green dye for the hair, and voila! Instant giant.
Hagrid from the Harry Potter series—This is for your future motorcycle tough guy. All you need is a ginormous beard and maybe an old bathrobe, and it’s Hagrid in the flesh.
Finn MacCoul—He’s the most famous giant in Ireland, so run to your local library to pick up some books on him (we recommend Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife, by Robert Byrd, or Fin M’Coul, by Tomie dePaola). Next, construct an outfit. You can go all out with a kilt or just find some plaid fabric to make an appropriate sash.
Your standard Fe Fi Fo Fum giant—Bad teeth, warts, raggedy clothes, and maybe a club for grinding men’s bones into bread. Extra points if you bring along your own beanstalk.
King Kong—Who says all giants have to be humans? Go ape by dressing up as everyone’s favorite Empire State Building ascender. Consider attaching a couple of paper airplanes here and there for the kids to swipe at for fun (and don’t forget to carry a Faye Wray-esque doll around, too!).
Most important of all, have fun! There’s no wrong way to throw a Giant Dance Party. Each one, like each giant, is unique in its very own way.
BRAVE GIRL tells the story ofClara Lemlich, a young immigrant girl who led the biggest strike of women workers in U.S. history. The book has received four (!) starred reviews and big praise in the New York Times Book Review, in which they say: “Many schoolchildren today learn about the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, but they don’t often learn about what precipitated the disaster. Markel’s sympathetic, fact-filled and moving story of a garment worker with gumption rounds out the lesson.” And we completely agree with their compliments for Melissa Sweet’s artwork: “With her distinctive mixed-media collages, she may have surpassed herself here. And with an inspiration like Lemlich — smart, ambitious, gutsy — it’s easy to see why.”
There are so many terrific topics, themes, and curricular tie-ins in this fantastic picture book. We created an educator guide aligned to the Common Core designed to help you start the discussion, available here.
Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
I was always into books and a real sucker for the Dr. Suess stuff, can probably still recite Green Eggs and Ham by heart, but the first book that made me want to be a writer was Les Miserables, which I would probably have named as my favorite book, except for the Princess Bride by William Goldman, who is primarily known as a screenwriter, but has written some incredible novels.
I am currently re-reading several William Goldman novels, including Marathon Man and the Color of Light. You can learn a lot as a writer from reading his books. .
More importantly, I am back to reading hardcovers and paperbacks after spending too long with e-books. While I’m a techno nut, the truth is there is nothing better than holding a real book, being able to thumb back and forth through the pages and knowing exactly where you are at any given point.
What is your secret talent?
I play keyboards. I am, in fact, really bad musician and have been fired from some pretty talentless bands when I was younger. Thankfully I record nothing so no one has to know. Until now.
Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.
Mean Girls. I could watch this movie constantly and still laugh at every line.
Also, fart noises and Gilbert Gottfried, not necessarily in that order.
My current obsessions are…
Headphones, I have like 20 pairs. I need loud music when I’m working.
Also, Uncharted 3D, in fact almost every videogame, movie and documentary in 3D.
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Know where you are going before you start. Make an outline and stick to it and then keep on going without looking back until you hit THE END. And then, take whatever you’ve done and put it on the highest shelf in your room for 6 weeks without looking at it.
And then make a new outline and start over with the brightest red pen you can find.
And don’t, under any circumstances, get stuck playing Uncharted 3D or watching anything else in 3D. In fact, disconnect your television and your internet and throw away your iPads, playstations and smartphones.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Forgets that they are reading;
misses a train stop because they need to finish a chapter;
recognizes the characters so much that they find it difficult to believe that its fiction;
Buys another book the second they finish this one;
Or is inspired to write one themselves.
Tell us more about how CRASH AND BURN was born.
I was challenged by my son, who has ADD to write something that he would be willing to read. Spending time with him and his friends, playing videogames and watching movies, I wanted to come up with a form of entertainment that they would consider to be as fast paced and captivating, something that would make them think differently, more deeply about themselves and their world. Using him and his friends as models, I went back in time and thoroughly researched the everyday occurrences in the world they lived in, the language they used, the legal and illegal drugs they were experimenting with and the social interactions between them and the adults in their world. When I realized how difficult the struggle was for most kids, I knew that I had something that I wanted to write about.
Thanks Michael! CRASH AND BURN (which has received 2 starred reviews– from Booklist and BCCB!) is on sale in stores now.
Next in our Winter 2013 New Voices series is teen debut novel CRASH AND BURN, by Michael Hassan, a book that quite literally stopped us all in our tracks the first time we heard Michael’s editor, Jordan Brown, formally present it. Today I’ll let Jordan’s powerful words speak for themselves…
Of all the qualities of a manuscript that get me interested in working with an author, one of the most exciting is when I feel like I’m reading the work of someone who looks for untold stories in places where we don’t expect to find them. Of course, the most prominent plot elements of Michael Hassan’s debut novel Crash and Burn—the story of a profoundly troubled senior who takes his school hostage at gunpoint, and the profoundly untroubled student who stops him—are, sadly, not unusual or unobvious ones. But what is unique and unexpected about Mike’s story is the perspective from which he chooses to tell it.
Steven “Crash” Crashinsky is unlike any of the teen male characters one finds in contemporary teen literature. He is not the brooding, complicated, brilliant outcast; he’s not the bad boy with a heart of gold; he’s not the irredeemable jerk; he’s not the heartthrob who can distill his interior struggles in a moment but is still paralyzed by indecision. He is all of these things, and none of them. He is the kind of male character who is remarkable only for being so typical: a teen whose self-image has been defined by his learning disabilities, whose behavior has been shaped by society’s indulgent “boys will be boys” attitude, who has realized that life’s a lot easier when you just don’t care. He’s the kind of teen we all know, and yet the kind we don’t often find populating teen books—perhaps because he’s the kind we don’t often find reading teen books.
But he is not unreachable, as Mike’s knockout of a first novel shows us. This is a book—one of the first I’ve seen—that speaks directly to these young men, telling a story they need to hear. The element of the book that was paramount to both Mike and me in the editing process was keeping Crash’s voice and experiences as authentic as possible. And thus we have a story that doesn’t pull any punches, that reads more like a chronicle than a novel, that speaks to these readers in a language they can understand.
Crash and Burn is not a book for everyone. The truths it draws out and elucidates don’t provide many answers for the desperate struggles today’s teens experience. But I’m a big believer in the idea that the process always starts with asking the right questions. And Mike asks these big questions while writing a story that is hilarious and frightening and touching in turn; one about friendship and tragedy, first love and first hate; one that shows us that the untold stories can sometimes be the most important.
Thanks Jordan! And don’t forget to visit us again tomorrow for an interview with the author, Michael Hassan.
Yesterday we took you behind the editorial curtain of debut teen novel PIVOT POINT. Today I bring you the inside scoop on the adorable, hilarious Kasie West herself…
What is your secret talent?
Secret talent? If I tell, it won’t be a secret anymore. But since I’ve never passed up on an opportunity to brag (that might not be a true statement), I will tell you that I am super good at proving I’m not a robot. I rock word verification on blogs and websites. Seriously, I have like a 99% success rate at figuring out those impossible to read words. Is this a talent?? I think yes.
Fill in the blank: always makes me laugh.
My husband (He is so funny. The main reason I married him, by the way).
My current obsessions are…
twitter, garden salsa Sun Chips, naps (I’m only obsessed with naps right now because I haven’t been able to take them and I need a nap so bad).
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Read read read and keep writing. Make sure you are constantly feeding your mind with new books and plots by reading whenever you can. And when you are done writing a book and it’s ready to query, start immediately on your next one. Don’t spend a lot of time editing a book over and over (note: I’m not telling you not to edit. Definitely edit.). But keep moving forward.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Laughs, loves, and appreciates the friendships in their lives.
Tell us more about how Pivot Point was born.
Like with other books I’d written before Pivot Point (books that were not published) I find inspiration in life: things I see, movies I watch, experiences I have. My husband and I often discuss plots or ideas that would make a good book. Pivot Point was inspired by the movie Sliding Doors. I love that movie. I love the idea of one pivotal choice that can change everything; The idea of exploring alternate realities and seeing how small decisions can change outcomes. We may not have mental abilities like the people in this book, but I truly feel like choice is power. We have the power to choose to work hard and follow our dreams or to give up. We are in charge of our fate, our destiny, and that is power.
Thanks Kasie! PIVOT POINT is on sale in bookstores now– and once you read it, you’ll be happy to know this happy news: there will be a book 2, out next year!
No matter what you have planned for Friday, April 12, get ready to DROP EVERYTHING AND READ! April 12 is Beverly Cleary’s birthday and National D.E.A.R Day, and we’ve got just the thing to help you celebrate: classroom activities for the RAMONA books. They’re aligned to the Common Core State Standards, AND they contain fun suggestions and writing prompts to get your students’ creativity flowing.
Look out for the new Ramona Quimby Journal, jam-packed with writing and drawing prompts, quizzes, puzzles, and stickers galore!
Also, keep an eye out for the newly-updated Ramona books with fantastic new cover art and black-and-white interior illustrations!
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, a special type of clairvoyant, whenever Addie is faced with a choice she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes. So when her parents ambush her with the news that they are getting a divorce and she has to pick who she wants to live with, the answer should be easy.
However, as Addie searches her two possible futures, one where she leaves with her father to live off of the paranormal compound and the other where she stays with her mother and the gifted in the life she’s always known, she realizes how hard the choice really is. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through…and who she can’t live without.
This one was love at first sight (or should we say love at first read) for us: it’s bright, fun, well-plotted, and clearly the beginning of a very promising career for Kasie! Let’s hear why Kasie’s editor, Sarah Landis, loved it immediately too…
When the agent pitched Kasie’s novel to me, it immediately reminded me of one of my favorite rainy-day movies, “Sliding Doors”, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I’ve been let down more times than I can count by a great idea that doesn’t come through in execution. But in this case, not only did it live up to my expectations, it exceeded them! Addie is such a winning protagonist. She has attitude, spunk, intelligence, and a sense of humor (girl heroines rarely have a sense of humor!). The whole idea that one decision can potentially alter the course of your life has always intrigued me. I think we’ve all made a decision and then wondered… What If? In PIVOT POINT, when Addie is faced with a decision, she has the ability to look down both of those roads and decide which one has the better outcome. But…as we find out, knowing both paths doesn’t necessarily make choosing any easier. In fact, sometimes it makes it even harder.
PIVOT POINT had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how it was going to end. As editors, we see the same recycled plots over and over, and I feel like I’m rarely genuinely surprised. And I totally was! When I first read it, the ending was so good but so, so frustrating. Without giving anything away for anyone who hasn’t read it, I begged and pleaded with Kasie to change the ending (that is how strongly I felt about these characters fates). The way she revised the ending is so completely perfect now. That brings me to what a dream it is to work with an author who you know is going to be around for a long time.
Thanks Sarah! And don’t forget to check back tomorrow to hear from Kasie herself.
Today I have the privilege of introducing you to Jeff Baron, author of I REPRESENT SEAN ROSEN, the charming and hilarious middle grade novel about an ambitious kid with an admirably clever but potentially disastrous plan to make it in Hollywood. Jeff’s own work for the theater has been has been published and performed all over the world, but Sean Rosen’s story is his very first novel. Want to know more about Jeff? So did we! Read on…
Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
I loved the Hardy Boys books. I read them all and then I read my cousins’ Nancy Drew books. I liked starting a book already knowing the characters and then getting to know them better and better. With every book I love, I don’t want it to end. With a series, it doesn’t end for a long time.
I know I’m late to the party, but I’m finally reading the Harry Potter books. My friend Melinda, who’s 12, told me I should read them in order, and then when I finish each book, I should watch the movie, so that’s what I’m doing. The only problem is Melinda always asks me what part I’m up to, then she wants to tell me what happens two books from now. She should wear a sign around her neck that says SPOILER ALERT.
What is your secret talent?
I love to write music, even though I don’t know how to play any musical instruments. I’ve always written words to songs, even songs that got published and recorded, but I always worked with composers. My secret desire was always to write the music myself. Sean Rosen has the same desire, but he’s braver than I am. He also never studied music, but he puts the songs he writes on his website (www.SeanRosen.com) for the whole world to hear.
Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.
Dogs always make me laugh. They’re always their goofy selves, and never try to act any cooler or smarter than they are. I wish humans were more like that.
My current obsessions are…
Figuring out how things work, especially computer programs, electricity and plumbing. I rely on those things all the time, and I love being able to fix things myself.
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Read everything you write out loud, whether it’s a short story, a history paper or an e-mail. It’s the closest you can get to being inside your reader’s head when they read what you’ve written. I always do it, and I always catch something that didn’t quite make sense, and I always make changes that make it sound better.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
I hope a person who reads my book will see from Sean Rosen’s experience that it’s good to dream big and go after what you want. There are always bumps along the way, sometimes big painful bumps, but getting past them makes you stronger and more likely to succeed.
Tell us more about how I REPRESENT SEAN ROSEN was born.
I was sitting on the beach, and I had an idea. What if a kid with a big entertainment idea and no connections whatsoever, tried to sell his idea to Hollywood. How would he break through? Having done that myself (though not as a kid), I know what a closed world Hollywood can be. I thought this story might make an interesting movie.
The next day I was back at the beach, and now I thought, “Could this be a book?” I had never written a novel, and it was a little bit scary to even think about. But as a writer (I was already a screenwriter and a playwright), you learn that the things that scare you usually make the best stories. So I spent a little time thinking about who this kid was, and then I just started writing.
Sean Rosen begins the book by saying, “I have an incredible idea.” At that point, I didn’t know what Sean’s idea was, but just writing those words on paper (I write by hand) got me started, and Sean just took over. I heard his voice in my head, and fortunately, he never stopped talking. I just wrote it down.
I loved spending time with Sean and his family and friends, and when I finished and showed it to my cousins who are Sean’s age, they felt that way, too. Then I read chapters of the book to seventh grade classes, and when they liked it, that gave me the courage to try to get it published.
Thanks Jeff! And if you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to check out Jeff’s editor’s take on the delightful, wholly original I REPRESENT SEAN ROSEN.
Sean Rosen has a really good idea. So good, in fact, that he’s not going to tell you exactly what it is. What he is going to do is pitch it to a major entertainment company. But first he’s going to take his grandmother’s advice and go on a “trial run.” That trial run has some surprising results in this hilarious story about a middle school kid who, with the help of his manager Dan Welch (not his real name), sells a movie idea to a major Hollywood studio.
This a totally funny, fast-paced, and original novel that we think will appeal to fans of Jack Gantos and Carl Hiaasen. But enough from me– I’ll let Jeff’s editor Virginia Duncan, VP and Publisher of Greenwillow Books, tell you a little more…
“Sean Rosen is my hero!”—Lincoln Peirce
“I Represent Sean Rosen is the best book I’ve read in a while. Equal parts Hollywood satire, Louis Sachar‒style deadpan fable, and old-fashioned tale of American gumption, it introduces us to a character who is surprising . . . and quietly heroic. . . . I happily represent Sean Rosen.”—Ned Vizzini
The manuscript began: “I have an incredible idea. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it is.” Well, that was enough for me. I was hooked. And when Sean Rosen named his fictitious manager Dan Welch after rummaging around his kitchen for a snack (yogurt? grape juice?), I was sold. Sean Rosen’s “fries-texting” (spelling out a dinner table message using french fries) his mom? Icing on the cake.
I REPRESENT SEAN ROSEN is a bit different, and it is perhaps not your usual middle-grade fare. But it is an adventure nevertheless. I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through. What was this kid going to do next? What was going to happen next? How was Sean going to convince a major Hollywood studio to buy his movie? Does Sean even have a movie to sell? Would Sean take the deal? How was Sean going to survive middle school? How would Sean dodge Collectibles Dan Welch (a real guy who, unfortunately, shares Sean’s imaginary manager’s exact name). And what was up with his friend Brianna?
Jeff Baron is a great new voice, and he’s thought a lot about voice. It is the voice of this novel that made it irresistible to me. I love the piece Jeff posted on the Greenwillow blog recently about voice. You can read it here.
One of Sean Rosen’s claims to fame in the book is that he produces podcasts—it’s his hobby. What fun that you can actually hear Sean’s voice and listen to his podcasts at www.seanrosen.com. You will want a donut! (And I hope you’ll want to read I REPRESENT SEAN ROSEN.)
Thanks Virginia! And stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll hear from Jeff himself.
Getting ready for Poetry Month? We’ve got some brilliant activities for Jack Prelutsky and Carin Berger’s STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY, brought to you by picture book and flannelboard maven Storytime Katie. With Jack Prelutsky’s signature sense of humor and Carin Berger’s stunning collage, shadowbox, and diorama illustrations, this fantastic new poetry collection can be paired with SCRANIMALS and BEHOLD THE BOLD UMBRELLAPHANT or used on its own for a rollicking Poetry Month celebration.
Many thanks to Katie for these great activities, and happy (almost) Poetry Month to all!
In STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY, Jack Prelutsky and Carin Berger team up to create an unforgettable recording of sixteen brand-new species unseen by humans before! To celebrate this amazing new book from Greenwillow Books, readers are invited to try their hands at these activities.
1. Create Your Own Animal. In STARDINES, Jack Prelutsky creates animals by combining two words with at least one similar syllable. For example, a panda who plans becomes a planda. Plan + Panda = Planda. Try making your own animal! If you get stuck, you can try using two of the words in the following lists:
Panda: Fan, Land, Sand, Stand
Buffalo: Fluff, Muff, Stuff, Tough
Butterfly: Blue, Flew, Mutt, Nut
Make sure to write out the definition of your new animal. (For example, a Bluetterfly is a butterfly who only lands on blue flowers!)
2. I Spy. In Carin Berger’s collage illustrations, she includes a lot of details to demonstrate each animal’s environment and personality. Can you find all fifteen items listed below in the pictures throughout STARDINES?
Items to find: Apron, Broom, Cactus, Clock, Feather, Fork, Guitar, Mushroom, Pretzel, Red Shoes, Rocks, Sailboat, Spoon, Tuba, Umbrella
3. Collage Art. Make your own collage using a variety of paper, found objects, and creativity. You can use whatever can be glued down on a piece of paper, as long as you have permission to use it! Try using milk caps, cardboard boxes, and newspaper to make a truly Earth-friendly recycled craft.
4. Animal Discoveries. While the creatures in STARDINES may not be real, new animal species are discovered regularly in our world. Do some research about when your favorite animal was discovered and find out who was responsible for the discovery. Write a poem about how your favorite animal was discovered—be imaginative!
In Chris Crutcher’s upcoming novel, PERIOD 8, a group of students comes together every day during Period 8 to talk about (in the author’s own words) “the important things: hopes, dreams, fears, and the comedy and tragedy of their lives.” Teacher Bruce Logsdon, who runs Period 8, has only one rule—you have to tell the truth. No question is off-limits, no topic is forbidden, as long as the discussion remains honest.
If you’ve read his books or seen him speak, you know that frank treatment of tough subjects is a Chris Crutcher hallmark. Perhaps you are thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder how much of this Bruce Logsdon character is autobiographical.” We can’t exactly answer that for you, but we can offer you this exciting invitation . . .
In the spirit of Period 8, Chris Crutcher is taking real-life questions from teens, and he will answer them in a video to be posted on our teen community website Epic Reads.
Do your teens have burning questions they’d like to ask him? (Who doesn’t, right?) Encourage them to submit their questions on Epic Reads, and check back at the end of March for some video answers from this very wise man.
As Black History Month draws to a close, we’d like to celebrate the life and work of one of our most groundbreaking author/illustrators, John Steptoe.
“I am not an exception to the rule among my race of people, I am the rule. By that I mean there are a great many others like me where I come from.”
Born in Brooklyn in 1950, John’s career was filled with highlights of the highest honors: 2 Caldecott Honors, 2 Coretta Scott King Awards for Illustration, among many, many more– but above all he is remembered for his abiding passion for instilling children, especially African-American children, with pride in their identity and ancestry in a time when multicultural books were few and far between.
His first picture book, STEVIE, about an African-American child who resents and then accepts a younger foster brother, was published in 1969 when John was just 18 years old, and remains in print today.
John’s best-known book, MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS, was published to huge critical acclaim in 1988. This modern fable about pride going before the fall has been a classic for more than twenty years, the illustrations are absolutely stunning, and the research involved awakened John’s pride in his African ancestry.
If you follow the annual ALA Youth Media Awards, you’ll recognize John’s name from his namesake award: the John Steptoe New Talent Award, which the Coretta Scott King Task force awards annually to a new African-American writer or illustrator whose works “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” Quite a fitting way to honor a man whose work was a shining light blazing a trail forward.
We hope your Black History Month celebrations were fruitful this month and inspire you all year long!
The Day of Love is almost upon us! There are so many wonderful classics for this holiday (a personal favorite has always been, and always will be I LIKE YOU, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg) and I think the best way to celebrate is with books and chocolate*! These are a few brand new picks for your Valentine’s Day reading:
AN AWESOME BOOK OF LOVE!, by Dallas Clayton There are so many different kinds of love – the way you love your husband or wife, the way you love your child, the way you love your parents – and Dallas Clayton knows just how to describe them all.
FANCY NANCY, NANCY CLANCY: SECRET ADMIRER, by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
The second in the Fancy Nancy chapter book series. Love is in the air, and Nancy Clancy is sure to make the most of it!
NOBODY BUT US, by Kristin Halbrook
BONNIE & CLYDE meets BLUE VALENTINE in this addictive, heart-wrenching story about two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.
The news is now far and wide, but we want to officially say– yahoo! This past weekend in Seattle at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, six of our titles were honored by awards committees and we are beyond bowled over with excitement and pride. Congratulations to all– to the authors, editors, fans, and champions of these books. Every Midwinter we are so grateful to be reminded that the community we book-people live and work within is vibrant, supportive, and very, very much alive and kicking. We are all in it together.
Congratulations to all authors and illustrators honored with 2013 awards, and the biggest and humblest of thank you’s to the awards committees for their hard work, dedication, and the countless hours they spent this past year reading and discussing books. Now we wish we could fast-forward to June and our official ALA celebrations!
When it comes to Lemony Snicket and A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, you should probably STAY AWAY from the below video and totally free, downloadable resources. If you know what’s good for you, that is. If you just can’t resist, then…
A CONFUSION OF PRINCES, Garth Nix’s first teen novel since ABHORSEN, came out earlier this year– did you read it? We did, and we were completely enthralled: it’s a sci-fi, action/adventure tale set in a totally fascinating world where thousands of mostly-immortal superhuman Princes compete to rise above the rest while operating within a dangerous, traitorous Empire. And you know, fighting epic battles in space. But above all, it’s a coming-of-age story that you’ll find complex and moving. And it received three starred reviews (SLJ, Horn Book, and Kirkus), to boot!
Today we are lucky enough to hear from the man himself, as Garth graciously agreed to be subjected to our shockingly rigorous line of questioning…
What time is your alarm clock set for?
As it is shared with my wife Anna, who is an early riser, the alarm usually goes off about 6:00am. But if I am honest, my actual rising time is around 8:00am and sometimes later, if I stayed up working and didn’t go to bed till 1:00 or 2:00, as is not unusual.
Favorite book from childhood?
I have many, many favourite books from childhood. How could I select just one? Today I will choose KNIGHT’S FEE by Rosemary Sutcliff, tomorrow I might choose THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper, the day after that TARAN WANDERER by Lloyd Alexander, or perhaps CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein, or DOWN WITH SKOOL by Ronald Searle, or LEAVE IT TO PSMITH by P. G. Wodehouse or THE GOLDEN GOBLET by Eloise Jarvis McGraw or UNCLE by J. P. Martin . . . there are too many wonderful books to choose from!
If you weren’t an author/illustrator, what job would you like to have?
I have had many different jobs, mostly in publishing. My favourite was being a literary agent, helping other authors get their work published, and that is probably what I would go back to being if I wasn’t being a full-time author.
How many stamps are in your passport?
I think I am on my fifth passport since I was 19. The current one has about twenty stamps in it. Sadly, some countries don’t stamp passports anymore, it is all stored electronically, so I don’t have as many in the current passport as I would once have collected. The best passport I had was in my late 20s, which had lots of weird and wonderful visas and entry/exit stamps from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading the fascinating non-fiction book THE TIME TRAVELLER’S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by Ian Mortimer.
Finish this sentence: “I always smile when…”
…I come home from a trip away and see my family.
Funniest (or most interesting) question from a fan?
I get lots of interesting questions, but one that really stumped me was someone at a book event who asked me: “Why 996 steps?” I had no idea what she was asking. She repeated the question. Eventually it turned into a very specific question about the number of steps down from the well in the Abhorsen’s House, in my book ABHORSEN and why that particular number. The answer being that I had no idea, it just seemed the right depth.
Sometimes a publishing season comes around that is so full and great that you almost can’t believe it, and Winter 2013 is one such season for us in the picture book arena. There truly is something for everyone in this winter’s happy group: sneezing pandas, biographies, non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry, collage, dioramas, monsters, farm animals, and did we mention… unbearably adorable sneezing pandas? Neil Gaiman, Adam Rex, Melissa Sweet, Jack Prelutsky, and more– the talent pool is just too deep! Look forward to upcoming posts featuring the artwork of the following books that we think are going to be “picture-perfect” additions to your classroom, library, home, and heart.
by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Adam Rex Beloved storyteller Neil Gaiman and acclaimed artist Adam Rex bring us Chu, a baby panda’s whose mighty sneeze produces disastrous and hilarious results.
Great for: reading aloud, storytime! (there’s a great library scene ) Starred Review: PW
BRICK BY BRICK
by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper On the heels of the 2012 Presidential election comes this powerful story of the building of the White house. Coretta Scott King Award winners Charles R. Smith and Floyd Cooper capture the emotion and the toil that created this incredible structure, the home of our President. Built brick by brick, the White House was created by human hands, many of them slaves, whose hard labor created the symbol of this country. Themes and applications: history, the United States, slavery.
by Brett Helquist Goat has never had a single friend in his life. He doesn’t want one now. What he wants is to eat, and so he does! That is, until he stumbles upon a beautiful dandelion that stops him in his tracks. And once Goat opens his eyes to the beauty that surrounds him, he can’t help but open his heart as well. Themes and applications: friendship, grief, the circle of life, animals, reading aloud!
by Kadir Nelson In poignant verse and glorious illustrations, Kadir Nelson tells the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world. Themes and applications: equality, justice, perseverance, Black History Month. Two starred reviews! Kirkus, PW
by Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet The inspiring true story of Clara Lemlich, a young immigrant girl who led the biggest strike of women workers in U.S. history. Caldecott Honor and Sibert Medal winner Melissa Sweet has used a variety of techniques—oil paints, watercolor, collage—to create a truly stunning picture book. Themes and applications: Women’s history, equality, individuality, collage. Starred Review: PW
MONSTERS LOVE COLORS
by Mike Austin Different-colored monsters howl, growl, and roar for more as they mix and match primary colors to make new shades and hues. We (dare we say!) see this as the heir apparent to The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. Themes and applications: colors– primary and secondary colors, creativity, storytime!
STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY
by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Carin Berger Sixteen mixed-up animal poems by poet Jack Prelutsky are paired with stunning three-dimensional collages, dioramas, and shadow boxes by Carin Berger. A faux natural history catalog of silliness, originality, and spectacular beauty. Themes and applications: poetry, creativity, reading aloud!
TITO PUENTE, MAMBO KING
by Monica Brown
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez A vibrant picture book biography of Tito Puente, the Mambo King. Rafael Lopez’ colorful illustrations make the story come alive.
Themes and applications: biography, music, creativity, storytime!
What do you think? Do any of these books look like ones you can use with your students, patrons, or your own kids? We’d love to know!
Interesting fact: not even one of us on the School & Library Marketing team here at HarperCollins Children’s Books has ever been to Las Vegas. Honestly, I think we were all a little afraid… but later this week everything will change, as we fly off to the desert for NCTE– the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. Duty calls!
Though we’re a little disappointed that Cher isn’t performing during our visit, we’re feeling very lucky to have an honestly amazing roster of authors attending with us. Please swing by our booth (#520/522) for the following author signings!
Make sure to come by our booth for hot-off-the-presses middle grade and YA galleys, posters, discussion and teacher’s guides, bookmarks, delightful conversation, and more! We would love to meet you and talk books, so please don’t be shy. I mean, look how nice and friendly we are!
We couldn’t be more excited to be heading to beautiful Seattle for the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association next week– where we’ll mingle with our dearest librarian and educator pals, make new friends, sing the praises of our upcoming books, become well acquainted with our umbrellas, and lure you into our booth with amazing galleys, posters, kits, and conversation!
Will you be in Seattle? If so, visit us in booth #2630!
Here’s a glimpse at a few of the galleys we’ll be shoving into your hands whether you like it or not:
THAT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA, by Mo Willems: Think The Artist meets I WANT MY HAT BACK meets The Pigeon! One day, a very hungry fox meets a very plump goose. A dinner invitation is offered. Will dinner go as planned? Or do the dinner plans involve a secret ingredient . . . ? A chorus of suspicious goslings beg for raucous audience participation, making this a joy to read aloud. Mo Willems has cornered the market on totally fresh and subversive picture books.
THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY, by J.E. Thompson: A middle grade novel set in hot and steamy South Carolina that deftly weaves an exploration of race relations into a mystery revolving around the concept of heir’s property. And it stars Abbey Force—a spunky young heroine we can’t wait for you to meet. We would(humbly) compare it to MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool.
ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS, by Jenny Lee: Another terrific middle grade novel, this one tells the hilarious and poignant story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog . . . who can talk (bonus: the dog– a Newfoundland– sounds like Frasier Crane)!
SEVERED HEADS, BROKEN HEARTS, by Robyn Schneider:A worthy successor to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and John Green. This is about high school tennis jock Ezra Faulkner, whose life is irrevocably changed by a car accident. Ezra must re-examine everyone and everything in his life, and what he takes away from his misadventures is profound and memorable.
YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, by Jennifer Castle: We are always absolutely delighted to read excellent realistic teen fiction—and this is it. Jennifer Castle is back with a powerful novel about five teenagers who struggle with friendship and self-identity while being filmed for a widely-acclaimed documentary film series that revisits their lives every five years. And by 16, living their lives on camera has made them question if who they are is who they really want to be.
Want to hear the inside scoop on even more HarperCollins Winter and Summer 2013 titles? Then visit our Book Buzz Event on Sunday morning– all are welcome, and we hope to see you there!
9:30–10:00AM HARPERCOLLINS CHILDREN’S BOOKS 2013 TITLE PREVIEW Washington State Convention Center, Room 608-609
Black History Month (celebrated annually in February) is almost upon us, and we have two new, stunning picture books that we hope you’ll include in your festivities.
NELSON MANDELA, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, published January 2013 from Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN: 9780061783746
Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world. Rather than portray Nelson Mandela’s life and accomplishments in a standard nonfiction prose format, the beauty and language of this lyrical prose-poem distinctively captures time, place, and the story of a remarkable figure in world history.
BRICK BY BRICK, written by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper, published January 2013 from Amistad. ISBN: 9780061920820
I’m not sure if many people know that the White House was built partially by slaves, some of whom purchased their freedom after learning a trade through this work. This non-fiction picture book collaboration by a celebrated duo is told in verse and tells a new story of a landmark we all know well. Publishing right on the heels of the 2012 Presidential election, this moving book captures the tremendous feat of building the White House, with human hands. And it celebrates those African Americans slaves who toiled to bring this grand structure to life, as noted in President Barack Obama’s inaugural address.
And check out last year’s post for a round-up of further Black History Month reading from HarperCollins Children’s Books, as well as useful links!
Even though she doesn’t look a day over 25 (and a lady need never reveal her age), believe it or not, Amelia Bedelia turns 50 years old in 2013! We’re beginning a year-long celebration of our favorite well-meaning but a little bit mixed-up heroine on January 29th– Amelia Bedelia Day! You can download a full, free party kit at www.ameliabedeliapartykit.com to host a celebration of your own– in your classroom, library, home, bookstore, backyard, barn, wherever!
Also in January, we are reissuing the original book that started it all: AMELIA BEDELIA, by Peggy Parish, with illustrations by Fritz Siebel. It features the original jacket, two-color interior artwork, and book design from the 1963 edition, but with a slightly larger trim size and truly wonderful back matter: archival photographs, sketches, pages from the original book dummy, information about Peggy and Fritz, and a terrific timeline that shows how Amelia Bedelia has grown over the years.
Celebrate with us! We’ll be having fun with Amelia all year long.
We had a terrific time at NCTE and ALAN last month– dodging slot machines, searching for exits to the actual outdoors (fresh air! wow!), and ignoring the green glow of David Copperfield’s visage spookily projected onto the front of our hotel all night, every night. In the midst of all of that, we had some real fun:
Chris Crutcher hangin’ with Amelia Bedelia, a pairing we thought we’d never see. But it works, doesn’t it?
The always-lovely Rita Williams-Garcia signed galleys of P.S. Be Eleven, her sequel to One Crazy Summer.
After almost a week in Sin City, Penny got a little bit worn out, poor thing.
Leaving Las Vegas (yes, I’ll admit that my phone should have been totally turned off…)!
Thanks to all who stopped by our booth, said hello, picked up galleys, and talked books with us. Conferences are our favorite part of the job, and meeting the people who actually use our books with kids is the reason why!
Just a very quick post today to point out the terrific downloadable materials you can access here at The PageTurn. See the RESOURCES tab on the top right? Click there to access the section of our blog that houses lots of totally free, easy downloadables (like discussion guides, teacher’s guides, activities and kits) for picture books, middle grade, and teen. We just updated the page with a bunch of great new stuff (teaching guides for NEVER FALL DOWN, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN, PANDEMONIUM, to name a few), so check it out, download and share the good news!