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1. NEW VOICES, A WORD FROM THE EDITOR: PLANET TAD

Based on a MAD Magazine blog of the same name, PLANET TAD is a seriously funny look inside the mind of twelve-year-old Tad, nerd extraordinaire.  Capturing one full year in the life of Tad, this laugh-out-loud illustrated (by Doug Holgate) novel—written in a captivating blog format—will capture the hearts of everyone who reads it.  One day at a time.

And not only is Tim Carvell the author of this laugh-out-loud funny middle grade novel, he’s also the head writer for the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Yes, that’s right. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Which leads to the fact that this book has been blurbed by two pretty exciting fellas:

  • “This book will make you laugh. If you’re not into that sort of thing, consider yourself warned.” –Stephen Colbert
  • “Hilarious to anyone who ever went through, is currently in, might go to, or flunked out of middle school.” –Jon Stewart

And if those glowing endorsements are not enough to make you ask CAN I PLEASE GET MY HANDS ON THIS EXCITING BOOK?! (the answer is yes, it’s on sale now!), consider these words from Tim’s editor, Rosemary Brosnan:

I have a confession to make: For years I have raced to the mailbox to filch my son’s copy of MAD Magazine before he has a chance to read it. I’ve been reading MAD since I was twelve, and it’s an addiction I can’t give up. One of my favorite features has been the blog PLANET TAD by Tim Carvell, which has appeared in the magazine since 2006. Fresh and funny, its perfectly on-target voice and humor capture the life of a nerdy middle-school boy—his awkwardness with girls, the travails of living with a clever little sister, his funny takes on popular culture.  The author, Tim Carvell, is the head writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has won five Emmy Awards writing for the show. It seemed natural for me to call Tim and ask him to write a PLANET TAD book. Perhaps then I could stop stealing my son’s copies of Mad.

When I met Tim, I found him to be extremely likable…and I thought perhaps he had been a little bit like Tad when he was a kid. How else would he have come up with this blog? Happily, Tim agreed to write a PLANET TAD book; he wrote about two-thirds new material, and we took the other third from the published MAD pieces.  PLANET TAD is a hilarious look at a year in the life of twelve-year-old Tad, revealed in his own blog. It’s a year-in-the-life you’ll never forget, in which Tad takes a summer job wearing a hot dog costume, has an unwilling turn onstage in his little sister’s school play, learns a painful lesson about sunburn, attends an embarrassing Halloween party, and is ignored by every girl in his school.

I think this is the kind of book kids are going to pass around to one another. I would have hidden it inside Johnny Tremain myself. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Cory, a seventh grader, says:

“You will laugh your head off, and if you don’t you probably didn’t read or if you did you didn’t understand it.”

Happy reading!

Return tomorrow when we Open The Book with Tim Carvell, and post a free excerpt of PLANET TAD.  In the meantime, take a peek at the video trailer here!

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2. FALL 2012 LIBRARIAN PREVIEW

This Wednesday, we plied our local librarian friends with coffee and treats to meet us very very very early in the morning to hear about our Fall 2012 titles, straight from the mouths of our truly masterful editors. Our attendees live-tweeted under the hashtag #harperfallpreview and it was really exciting for us to see those enthusiastic tweets roll in. Thanks, guys!

Everyone with their listening caps on.

Greenwillow Editor Martha Mihalick (follow her on Twitter @MarthaMihalick) and VP/Publisher Virginia Duncan holding up the f&g of Michael Hall’s September 2012 title, CAT TALE, one that prompted a lot of great discussion. We always learn something new from librarians!

Balzer + Bray Editor Kristin Rens and VP/Publisher Alessandra Balzer holding books from their fall list: DEFIANCE, by C.J. Redwine, and THE OTHER NORMALS, by Ned Vizzini.

Now, for some great This Meets That’s:

  • “Dan Brown for 10 year olds” — THE SECRET PROPHECY, by Herbie Brennan.
  • “Scott Westerfeld meets Lauren Oliver” — THE LOST GIRL, by Sangu Mandanna.
  • “The Goonies meets The Walking Dead” — GRAVEDIGGERS: MOUNTAIN OF BONES, by Christopher Krovatin.
  • “My So-Called Life meets Twilight” — DRAIN YOU, by M. Beth Bloom. (full disclosure… this one killed me!)

Can you believe that in a little more than a month, we’ll be at the ALA Annual meeting in Anaheim, California?  Because we sure can’t (cue folders flying, frantic packing).  But if you’ll be there too, please make sure to stop by, say hello, and grab galleys of the titles above.  Booth #2558– see you there!

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3. BBW Booktalk: GEOGRAPHY CLUB

Banned Books Week goes on and today’s booktalk is GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger.  It was successfully banned for its homosexual content in Brent’s own hometown in 2005 – read Brent’s great post about it – and has continued to appear on the most challenged lists.  In Brent’s blog post, he quotes a local parent who defended GEOGRAPHY CLUB at the time: “This is the most bogus thing I’ve heard of [...]  It is about gay students.  However, the most important part of the book is that it’s about bullying, outcasts, about tolerance [...] This is a really good book for any student to read.”

Generously contributing a booktalk today is the eloquent, often provocative, teacher, librarian, and blogger Jonathan Hunt (you can also visit him over at School Library Journal‘s blog Heavy Medal):

When is a Geography Club not a Geography Club?  When it’s the front for a Gay-Straight Alliance, of course!  Russel Middlebrook believes himself to be the only gay student at his high school, but when he makes an online connection with a job from his school, he begins to realize there may be others, too.  Ultimately, seven students will come together to form the Geography Club, offering support to each other through thick and thin.  Readers will fall in love with Russell – regardless of sexual orientation – because his voice just rings so true: funny, angsty, yet wise.  There’s been an explosion of gay and lesbian young adult fiction in recent years, but this gem remains one of the very best.

Thanks so much, Jonathan!  For more information, you can see this interview with Brent, check out Brent’s website (in particular, his information for LGBTQ kids is a wonderful resource), and follow Brent on Twitter.

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4. Storytime Corner: DOGS

Having done a Storytime Corner on cats, it only makes sense that we’d have to do one on dogs, right?  I’m a cat person myself, but these dog stories are completely irresistible.  And to keep all your parents and kids happy, you could even consider mixing up the dog and cat stories to make an integrated “Pets” program!

STORIES:

IF YOU GIVE A DOG A DONUT by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (On-sale 10.4.11)

THAT PUP! by Lindsay Barrett George

NO DOGS ALLOWED! by Anne Davis

TEN LITTLE PUPPIES/Diez perritos by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Ulises Wensell

Usually when I do storytimes, I like to make some books available for checkout that follow the theme.  Here are a few ideas of books you can display for checkout post-program:

CHARLIE THE RANCH DOG by Ree Drummond, illustrated by Diane deGroat
DOGS by Seymour Simon
HARRY THE DIRTY DOG by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
HIP HOP DOG by Chris Raschka, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
I AM THE DOG by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jack E. Davis
MAGGIE’S BALL by Lindsay Barrett George
ZOOMER by Ned Young

I started compiling song, rhyme, and craft ideas…and then I realized that Storytime Katie had most likely already put together something fabulous for a dog-themed storytime.  And she had.  Check out her

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5. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes

WARNING: Be prepared to have this song in your head all day!  Especially after using it in a storytime!

See what librarians and teachers are saying about PETE THE CAT: ROCKING IN MY SCHOOL SHOES by Eric Litwin and James Dean:

“The text invites students to sing along with Pete as he rocks in his new school shoes. It also invites them to jump in with the place in the school where Pete is doing whatever it is he is doing. A perfect book for young children at the beginning of the school year. So many possibilities!” ~ A Year of Reading

“This book is a perfect fit for preschoolers through early elementary, and potentially as fun for the reader as the listener (I suggest belting out Pete’s song right along with him in your jazziest voice!).  It might be a comfort to kids who are experiencing first-day jitters, as Pete’s sense of calm and cool is a tad infectious.  And just like this cat, school IS cool, after all!  My grade for Pete, the coolest cat around?  A+.” ~ Book Talk (King County Library System)

“PETE THE CAT: ROCKING IN MY SCHOOL SHOES is the perfect back-to-school story for preschoolers through first graders. You better believe you’ll hear enthusiastic singing and clapping coming from my school library.” ~ Watch. Connect. Read (Mr. Schu)

PETE THE CAT: ROCKING IN MY SCHOOL SHOES
by Eric Litwin and James Dean
Available now

ISBN  9780061910241

Check out the website!

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6. BBW Booktalk: BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA

In addition to appearing on the list regularly, Katherine Paterson’s BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA was a Top 10 Banned Book in 2003.  It is also ranked in the Top 10 Banned Books of the decade, 1990-2010.  It has been challenged and banned for using the lord’s name in vain, secular humanism, occultism, offensive language, and death as a major theme.

So let’s booktalk it!  We asked Jen Bigheart – blogger at I Read Banned Books, librarian, and founding member of Literary Lonestars – to contribute a booktalk for BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA; feel free to use it in your own classrooms and libraries to support the Freedom to Read year-round:

Living in a small, rural town in the late 1970s with his parents and four sisters is far from exciting for fifth-grader Jess Aarons.  When tomboy Leslie Burke moves into the house down the hill, the two strike up an unlikely friendship that doesn’t go unnoticed by Jess’ family and classmates.  The two sneak deep into the woods as King and Queen of Terabithia, conquering hostile savages and getting lost in their imaginative play.  When an unexpected tragedy strikes, Jess realizes that Leslie was more than just a friend and play partner.  She was his ticket to freedom from his mundane home life and gave him a gift beyond measure: courage.

Thanks so much, Jen!

For further assistance in teaching BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, download the discussion guide.  Scholastic also has put together Literature Circle questions.

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7. Banned Books Week: Booktalks

It’s well-known in book-ish circles that it’s Banned Books Week.  This week is a wonderful celebration of the freedom to read and to raise awareness against censorship.  But one thing that comes up each year – by myself, included – is that Banned Books Week needs to happen every day of the year.  As book people who are passionate about the right to read whatever one chooses, we must remain vigilant in supporting that right.

With that in mind, this week we’ll be featuring booktalks of banned books by well-known librarians, school media specialists, and bloggers.  That way, you can support the freedom to read year-round.  (Not to mention that, should you be working on your programs, these booktalks can set you on your way!)

So stay tuned and visit here all week for the booktalks.  Before I post the first one, I thought I’d share what others are doing around the interwebs to celebrate this week:

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8. EVERYTHING GOES: ON LAND Giveaway Winners

Eek!  We forgot to post the winners of our EVERYTHING GOES: ON LAND giveaway contest yesterday as promised!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING WINNERS!

Jana

Jennifer Coffelt

Holly Baker

We’ll contact you shortly to get your mailing address and congrats!

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9. BBW Booktalk: ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING

A regular on the top banned and challenged books list, ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING by the fabulous Louise Rennison has a cult following (um, include me in that cult!).  The book has been challenged for a multitude of reasons: age inappropriateness, profanity, and sexual content.  It has also made the Top 100 list, which we can’t help but consider a distinction!

Today’s booktalk is by the uber-fabbity-fab Sarah Bean Thompson, librarian and blogger (GreenBeanTeenQueen).  She’s also on the 2013 Printz committee!  She’s a fan of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson stories and contributed a booktalk that you can use all year long in your programming:

Join Georgia Nicolson and The Ace Gang for a fabbity fab adventure through the craziness of high school.  Georgia is madly in love with the sex god, Robbie.  Too bad Robbie has a girlfriend who happens to be the annoying wet Lindsey.  Georgia knows that she could get Robbie to fall in love with her if only she had the chance.  And if high school and love triangles weren’t bad enough, Georgia has to deal with her fat cat Angus who is always causing problems and her embarrassing three-year-old sister who is not as cute as everyone thinks.  Georgia’s adventures are always full of laughs as her entries into her diary recount her attempts to survive school, boys, and big noses.  Growing up is never easy, but at least Georgia Nicolson manages to make it fun.

Thanks, Sarah, for joining us!  For additional info to support your programming and curriculum, check out the Georgia Nicolson reading guide.  I’m also a bit of an evangelist for the Georgia Nicolson website so check that out for a glossary, the complete snogging scale, and quizzes.

Last but not least, I’ll leave you with the trailer for the the ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING trailer:

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10. New Voices: Lili Wilkinson

Working in the booth at conferences, we often get questions about the latest GLBTQ books.  I am thrilled to recommend PINK by Lili Wilkinson to them.  And the first thing I tell people in the booth is that I hesitate to attach the GLBTQ label to PINK because it’s a book about identity and figuring out who you are – not only as it relates to sexual orientation but also as it concerns coming-of-age.  It’s about exploration and experimentation in a safe home environment.  And it’s about friendship, belonging, and first love.  So throw out that GLBTQ label – this is a story for most teens.  (Can you tell I’m a fan?)

Lili Wilkinson is an Aussie writer who hasn’t quite broken out stateside yet but, I assure you, that’s going to change with PINK.  Get to know Lili better at her website, her blog, and her Twitter (@twitofalili).

Want to know what your fellow librarians and teachers are saying?  Here are some awesome reviews:

Check out the buzz, read PINK and let us know what you think!  On-sale now.

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11. New Series: The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

You know Dan Gutman’s books, of course.  He’s the author of the wildly popular My Weird School series and its offshoots, as well as The Baseball Card Adventures series as well.  When I was a librarian, we couldn’t keep these series on the shelves so I was thrilled when I heard about…

THE GENIUS FILES!

It’s Dan’s new series and the first book is THE GENIUS FILES: MISSION UNSTOPPABLE, which is available now.  The second book in the series, THE GENIUS FILES: NEVER SAY GENIUS is on-sale in January 2012.  Check out the book trailer:

Booklist says that “thrill seekers and Gutman fans alike will welcome the opening installment of the Genius Files series.”  Here are some other links to check out:

  • Washington Post interview with Dan Gutman
  • Pink Me’s awesome review where she says, “I love books like this – a funny mystery appeals to just about everyone, and when that funny mystery is written with this kind of ease and confidence you feel like you’re putting those kids into good hands.”
  • Librarian Pirate says in her review that you’ll want this for your libraries.
  • Monica Edinger (Educating Alice) has her students doing blog reviews and this review says the book is “fun, weird, and original”.

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12. Buzz Alert: PERFECT SQUARE by Michael Hall

Who knew that a perfect square could be transformed into so many things?  In his stunning follow-up to last year’s MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO, Michael Hall creates rivers, mountains, and parks out of a single square of paper.  The storytime possibilities are limitless: give kids a square of paper and scissors and see what they can create.  So often as a librarian, I would create elaborate artwork for the kids to do during storytime but, sometimes, all you need is a single piece of paper.

What’s buzzy about PERFECT SQUARE?  It has received FOUR STARRED REVIEWS!  Here’s what they’re saying:

“A smart lesson in thinking outside the box (or the square).” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Memorable for reading aloud and terrific for inspiring creative play with the simplest materials.”  ~ Booklist (starred review)

“As its week progresses, the narrative turn of events in the square’s world encourages page-turning to discover the results. What will the square do next? This is a not-to-be-missed adventure for all young readers.” ~ School Library Journal (starred review)

“Young readers will absorb the visual lessons effortlessly and with delight.”  ~ Kirkus (starred review)

Here are some more wonderful links for you:

PERFECT SQUARE (ISBN 9780061915130) is available now.

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13. New Voices: Crystal Allen

In HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY, 13-year-old Lamar is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise but he seems to keep striking out with the ladies.  When an older kid talks Lamar into hustling at the bowling alley, he thinks it just may be his chance to get ahead.  Finding himself in trouble, Lamar realizes that sometimes the long way to success is better than the short cut.

In its starred review, Publishers Weekly said that “from the first sentence Lamar will have readers hooked.”

I have to admit that I have blatantly borrowed laugh-out-loud lines from Lamar.  My favorite?  “If I ever find the drama fairy who sprinkled all this drama dust in my life, I’ll personally pluck her wings.”  This debut novel is full of such gems and I dog-eared my galley every place where I snorted with laughter (hint: my copy was pretty heavily marked).

Speaking of gems, debut novelist Crystal Allen is one of them herself.  She recently joined us at the Texas Library Association conference, and we all adored her.  She is laugh-out-loud funny (much like Lamar) and her enthusiasm is contagious.  Want to know more about her?  Check out her website where you can get added to her mailing list and read fun trivia about her.  You can also friend Crystal on Facebook and read this great interview with Crystal at The Brown Bookshelf.

Let’s welcome Crystal to the school and library community!

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14. Buzz Alert: THIS PLUS THAT

Don’t listen to us gab about the newest picture book from Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace…check out the three starred reviews for THIS PLUS THAT!

“Teachers could use the book, perhaps paired with Betsy Franco’s picture book Mathematickles! (2003), to introduce math equations or to inspire students to create their own verbal equations. But first, just read this unusual book aloud and let it work its magic.” ~ Booklist (starred review)

“Clever premise + artful execution = sure winner.” ~ Kirkus (starred review)

“Corace’s tidy figures echo with prim grace the gentle theme of the book, that life can be parsed into the simplest terms that recombine to create something joyous.” ~ Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

Check out the adorable book trailer:

And check out these other great reviews:
A Year of Reading
Literacy and Laughter (look how she used it in the classroom!)
The BK Club (the Children’s Room at Memorial Hall Library)

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15. Editorial Insight: Jordan Brown talks about Anne Ursu’s BREADCRUMBS

“My brother teaches an undergraduate writing course at a university in New York, and he recently shared with me a thesis statement from one of his students’ papers: “Words are very important in A Passage to India.”  It was, perhaps fittingly, a poor choice of words on the student’s part—it’s a novel, after all—but I think I see the point about word choice that the student was trying to make.  Words, after all, are not simply bricks in the path upon which an author is leading a reader, identical and interchangeable and valuable more for their sequence than for their individual qualities.  They are much more than that.  They have shades and contours.  They catch light in different ways.  They are meant to illuminate a pathway that already exists, and when enough of the right ones are strung together in a great novel, they are just as tangible as the things they represent.

One of the reasons I love working with Anne Ursu, and especially on her latest middle grade novel Breadcrumbs, which releases this September, is because she knows how important words are.  Anne is one of the most talented wordsmiths I know – her ability to turn a phrase is boundless, fluctuating so smoothly between humorous and heartfelt that the two almost seem to form one quantum state (“It was not the greatest insult ever, but one thing Hazel had learned at her new school was when it comes to insults it’s the thought that counts”).  But Anne takes things much further than that in Breadcrumbs.  It’s a contemporary fairy tale set in present-day Minneapolis which draws its structure and inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story “The Snow Queen.”  In Anne’s book, a young girl named Hazel and a young boy named Jack are best friends, and they’re both dealing with hardship, but it’s their friendship that holds them together.  They spend their days talking about Joe Mauer’s batting average and Batman’s utility belt and the Chronicles of Narnia, but what they’re saying with all of it is “I know you, and I am here.”  They’re just saying it with different words, and it’s the words that make the difference.

If you’re familiar with “The Snow Queen”, you know what happens next.  Jack’s heart is frozen by a broken piece of an evil mirror, and he decides to leave everything in his life behind – including his friendship with Hazel.  Jack is still there, he is still speaking English, but the language they had created is gone.  Now, baseball and comic books and talking lions are just baseball and comic books and talking lions.  As in the original story, Jack eventually leaves, taking off into an enchanted forest with a woman made of ice.  Hazel, of course, follows him, and under normal circumstances, this would be fine.  She has read Alice In Wonderland, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle In Time.  If she has to kill a sinister queen, slay giant spiders, or tesser, she’ll be good to go.  But how do you save someone you can’t talk to anymore?  How do you convince someone to come back home when no one there speaks the same language?  How do you connect when words have lost their meaning?

Part of the brilliance of Breadcrumbs is that it is so deeply concerned with the shades and contours and light-catching that make words much more than interchangeable bricks.  Hazel navigates the fantasy world in the book the same way the reader will – with the stories she’s brought in with her.  It’s finding the right words that will save Jack or lose him forever at the end, but Hazel thankfully has enough words and stories to light the pathway to him.  And we hope that readers will find a similar path lit for

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16. Blogs We’re Reading

It’s Vacation Time around the office lately, especially now that ALA is over.  But one of the delights of being offline is getting to catch up once you’re back online: it’s always fun to see that the electronic world has continued to spin even in your absence.  Here are some of the posts I’ve read and loved since being back in the office:

17. BUZZ ALERT: THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB

THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB, by award-winning author Robert Sharenow (My Mother the Cheerleader), has been given THREE STARRED REVIEWS!  Here is what everyone is raving about:

“Sharenow delivers a masterful historical novel that examines racism through the eyes of both children and real historical figures.” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A story with well-drawn, complex characters, gripping history, and intense emotion.” ~ School Library Journal (starred review)

“Readers will be drawn by the sports detail and by the close-up narrative of the daily oppression.” ~ Kirkus (starred review)

Robert Sharenow’s editor, the fabulous Kristin Rens, recently shared with us what it is about the story and Robert’s writing that drew her to the story when she first read it:

It’s hard to talk about just one thing that struck me about BERLIN BOXING CLUB, because when I read the first draft I was struck by something new on almost every page: there’s Rob’s writing, which is eloquent and moving; there’s the way he beautifully marries the political and social upheaval happening around Karl with the life-altering events that take place in his own family; and there’s Karl’s quest to find his own unique talents through boxing and art—a quest to which any teen can relate. Most of all, though, I was struck by the fact that Rob was writing about this place and time from a point of view that I hadn’t seen before: that of a teen boy whose heritage is Jewish, but because his parents haven’t raised him in the Jewish faith, he doesn’t consider himself Jewish. In fact, at the beginning of the story he identifies more with boys in the Hitler Youth than he does with his Jewish classmates. And his struggle to understand why he’s being bullied for a faith that he doesn’t really embrace as his own is absolutely heartrending.

Pick up THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB to see what the buzz is all about!  And check out the following links for more info:

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18. Blank-Meets-Blank

Our popular feature is back!  Blank-Meets-Blank was actually started first by Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 – she ranks the best “Blank-Meets-Blank” when she attends publishers’ librarian previews.  This is an awesome way to booktalk to kids and teens in your library or classroom!

Today, we’re sharing the best Blank-Meets-Blanks for our upcoming Fall 2011 titles:

“Richard Scarry meets Where’s Waldo?”

EVERYTHING GOES: ON LAND by Brian Biggs
On-sale 9.13.11

“Kate DiCamillo meets Neil Gaiman”

LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver
On-sale 10.4.11

“Ramona meets The Penderwicks”

MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND by Tricia Springstubb
On-sale 8.23.11

“Lord of the Flies meets Michael Grant’s GONE”

VARIANT by Robison Wells
On-sale 10.4.11

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19. The Writing Process: Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

We hope you have all had a chance to read KICK, the outstanding YA novel co-written by debut teen author Ross Workman and New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers.

When Ross Workman, then 13, emailed his favorite author, he hardly knew that he would have the opportunity to write a story collaboratively with him, in alternating chapters.  What’s so wonderful about the story of these two authors is that it has broadened the conversation about the writing process, not to mention that it’s inspiring for teens considering writing to their favorite author.

Below, Ross Workman poses 5 questions about their writing process to Walter Dean Myers:

1. We did a lot of thinking about the story before we even started writing. You had all these techniques you’d developed to help you figure out your characters and plot—using photographs of the characters to help you think of them as real people and keep them consistent, doing character timelines, and creating a detailed outline. How did you come up with these? Did you ever try to write without them? How did that turn out?

Ross, I started writing without the outlines and without time-lines, etc.   My understanding of literature was that the writers were all geniuses and the words just flowed from their pens or typewriters.   I kept getting stuck in the middle of a manuscript. Developing the prewriting techniques help me to understand if I really have a book in mind or just the germ of an idea.  Now, having said that, I still occasionally jump into a book too quickly.   When I do, there’s usually a price to pay in starting over or replotting.

2. At times, I got discouraged, especially when I was worried that my writing wouldn’t be good enough.  Did you ever get discouraged when you were writing or revising KICK? Did you ever get discouraged while working on another project?  What do you do when you get stuck?

I enjoyed working on the book so much that I didn’t get discouraged.   In fact, I’m rarely discouraged.   If I do get stuck, I simply revisit my outline to see what I’ve overlooked.

3. Was it easier to edit my chapters or your chapters?

It was easier to edit your chapters because I can’t always see what mine are missing.   My wife reads my chapters and reminded me to put in descriptions.   Then you would point out my inconsistencies and, finally, our editor Phoebe made suggestions.   I get the core feelings right most of the time but I often fall down when it comes to details.

4. You introduced me to the poem “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. What made you think of that poem and its relevance to KICK?

As I understood the character you created, he seemed always eager to do the right thing.  He wanted to help his friend, Christy, when she was troubled.   He was very sympathetic and concerned with Dolores, who worked for McNamara.  He was even hoping that Mr. McNamara wouldn’t get into too much trouble.   I liked Kevin’s character and his willingness to get involved.  In “The Second Coming” Yeats describes the end of the world, made easy by the lack of conviction of good people:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

I believe that the end of the world as we know it ca

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20. Weekend Reading

The kidlitosphere was hopping this weekend with news, reviews, and commentary.  Here are some of the gems we uncovered while reading through our blogroll:

  • Lee Wind at I’m Here, I’m Queer.  What the Hell Do I Read? went to the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles and shared some of his favorite quotes.  I loved this one from Donna Jo Napoli: “Any civilization is built on empathy. If dreadful things happen to you, you learn empathy. …And for the protected child …the safest way for them to develop empathy is through a book.”  Yes.
  • Oh, Roger.  We adore you.  Thanks so much for sharing your criticisms thoughts on the strike-through trend.
  • Sarah’s YA Movie News posts on her blog GreenBeanTeenQueen are some of my favorites!  She mentions the Hunger Games movie stills many of us have seen – I’m not a fan, I have to admit.  Katniss and Peeta are fighting for their lives so why do they look so pretty and stagnant?  And what do you make of the upcoming Snow White movies?
  • Chicken Spaghetti shares a great list of picture books about New York.  I’d also love to add SUBWAY by Christoph Niemann, which is one of my recent favorites that captures the energy and vitality of New York’s iconic subway system.
  • Kiersten White’s blog is one of my favorite things – she is just completely charming and hilarious and silly.  Sure, her book PARANORMALCY just got a director…but what Kiersten is really excited about is Saved by the Bell’s Mr. Belding tweeting about it!  I would be too.  I mean, it’s Saved by the Bell!
  • It’s been all over the web but, just in case you haven’t seen it, these minimalist posters of children’s stories from Flavorwire are a must-see.  Do you have a favorite?  This is mine:

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21. Turning the Page with…Robison Wells

You’ve been bounced around from foster home to foster home, and it’s becoming clear that no one cares where you end up next.  You’ve fallen between the cracks.  So imagine your luck when you discover that you’ve been accepted to an exclusive private boarding school where you might have a chance to make something of yourself.  Only…once you get to the school, you find out that there’s no leaving it.  There are no grown-ups…only classes taught by fellow students who have received the lessons from mysterious adults on the outside.  The students have formed their hierarchies so that you’re in or you’re out, and you’re constantly watching your back.  Nothing is quite what it seems.  What do you do?  Fall in line?  Try to escape?  Only…those who try to escape aren’t heard from again…

And this is the hang-on-to-the-seat-of-your-pants, twist-around-every-corner story that Robison Wells has written with VARIANT.  As Heather mentioned in her guest post yesterday, we – publishers, librarians, bloggers – read a lot of books  and we’ve become rather jaded.  But this one…this one is special.  You won’t see these twists coming.  In its starred review, Publishers Weekly says that “there are plenty of  ’didn’t see that coming’ moments and no shortage of action or violence. With its clever premise, quick pace, and easy-to-champion characters, Well’s story is a fast, gripping read with a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more.”


We recently put the get-to-know-him-now-because-he’s-about-to-skyrocket-to-the-stratosphere author of VARIANT, Robison Wells, in the hot seat –  well, since it’s summer, we actually put him in a hammock – and begged him to answer The Most Important Questions He’d Ever Answer.  Here’s what he had to say:

What time is your alarm clock set for?

I know this sounds terrible, but when I’m writing I wake up at 4:00am. I still have a fulltime job, and I find that I write much better before work than after. It took a while to get used to the early schedule, but now I like it quite a bit. Everything is quiet and calm, and I don’t have a million stressors running through my head. I can really focus.

Favorite book from childhood?

I guess that would depend on the era of childhood we’re talking about, but overall I’d probably say THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. I think I connected a lot with Milo, who was a little cynical and always bored. I was a smart kid and I was in advanced classes in elementary school, but I didn’t really like learning, or even reading. So, when the book starts with the main character saying “I can’t see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February”, I was immediately drawn in. And then the book was filled with clever wordplay that you would only get if you actua

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22. BLOG ALERT: Storytime Katie

I just discovered the blog Storytime Katie and, I’ve gotta tell you guys, it’s phenomenal.  Anything and everything you want to know about storytime is here: Flannelboards! Theme ideas! Fingerplays! Books! Songs!  The Penguin storytime package is particularly sweet.

And be sure to check out her helpful Resources section and follow her on Twitter (katietweetsya)!

Yep, I have definitely developed a new blog crush.

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23. DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver

In a future where love is considered a disease to be eradicated, Lena wonders if she’s missing anything by not feeling affection and emotional connection.  Then she meets Alex and Lena finds herself a victim of the illness.  Suspenseful, fast-moving, and soaring, DELIRIUM is 1984 meets ROMEO AND JULIET.

In its starred review, Kirkus says that Lauren Oliver’s prose is “artfully detailed” and – I love this part – “Lena’s gradual awakening is set against a convincing backdrop of totalitarian horror. Chilling epigraphs from the government’s rewritten histories begin each chapter, providing contextual propaganda so thorough that they’ve even reinterpreted the Bible to suit their message.  The abrupt ending leaves enough unanswered questions to set breathless readers up for volume two of this trilogy.”

Here are some reviews from teachers and librarians:

Kate’s Book Blog
Karin’s Book Nook
Confessions of a Bibiliovore
Miss Remmers’ Review

Lastly, check out this video where Lauren Oliver talks about the inspiration for the story:

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24. Buzz Alert: Inside Out and Back Again

The school and library world is a-buzzing with accolades for Thanhha Lai’s debut novel INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN!  Check out these reviews…and the shiny stars that accompany them:

“In her not-too-be-missed debut, Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.” ~ Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An incisive portrait of human resilience.” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Based on Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child-refugee’s struggle with rare honesty.” ~ Booklist (starred review)

“[...] the immediacy of the narrative will appeal to those who do not usually enjoy historical fiction.” ~ School Library Journal (starred review)

“Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.” ~ The Horn Book

And here is what our teacher and librarian friends are saying:

INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (ISBN 9780061962783) is on-sale now.

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