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1. Australia Children’s Book Week 2015 YA Short List

I didn’t even realise the Australian Children’s Book Week awards were happening until I strolled into my library and ran face-to-face with the display. And better yet?! I’d read 5 out of 6 of the Young Adult short listed books! GO ME. (Clearly I’ve got monstrously good taste in books.) So obviously we need to have […]

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2. Interview (Part 3) With Ashley Hope Pérez, Author of OUT OF DARKNESS

Happy Monday! We're back again today with the final installment in our interview with the wonderfully articulate and interesting Ashley Hope Pérez, who has stopped by on her blog tour for her forthcoming novel Out of Darkness. The story is based on... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Interview (Part 3) With Ashley Hope Pérez, Author of OUT OF DARKNESS as of 8/31/2015 1:05:00 PM
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3. Review: I Kill The Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora is a gloriously witty and murderous book and I can’t love it enough! It’s a book about books (bookception!) and how can an avid bookworm not love and adore that?! If you geek out over books and authors — this was built specifically for you. Obviously it’s about the infamous To Kill a […]

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4. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in September

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief. Get FREE shipping when you use the promo code bookbrief at checkout Fiction Books Sweet Caress by William Boyd The new William Boyd is simply sublime. Sweet Caress tells the story of photographer Amory Clay and her tumultuous life over the […]

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5. Review: Sweet Caress by William Boyd

The new William Boyd is simply sublime. Sweet Caress tells the story of photographer Amory Clay and her tumultuous life over the course of a tumultuous century. Interspersed with photos from key periods in Amory Clay’s life Boyd will have you almost convinced that his novel’s protagonist and narrator is real and existed. Amory Clay […]

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6. How a Writing Contest for Students is Changing the Immigration Narrative

LEE & LOW BOOKS has two writing contests for unpublished authors of color: the New Voices Award, for picture book manuscripts, and the New Visions Award, for middle grade and young adult manuscripts. Both contests, which are now open for submissions aim to recognize the diverse voices and talent among new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

In this guest post, we wanted to highlight another groundbreaking writing contest that’s bringing attention to marginalized voices and fostering a love of writing in students: the Celebrate America Writing Contest run by the American Immigration Council. Coming into its 19th year, the Celebrate America Writing Contest for fifth graders has been bringing attention to the contributions of immigrants in America through the eyes and pens of our youngest writers.

In this guest post, Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of Education at the American Immigration Council, discusses the mission of the Celebrate America Writing Contest and how it has helped to shape the immigration narrative.claire tesh

It is impossible to escape the negative vitriol and hateful rhetoric around the issue of immigration that dominates the headlines, talk radio, popular culture, and in some cases the dinner table. In an effort to educate children and communities about the value of immigration to our society The American Immigration Council teams up with schools and community groups to provide young people the resources and information necessary to think critically about immigration from both a historical and contemporary perspective, while working collaboratively and learning about themselves and their communities.

The American Immigration Council developed “Celebrate America,” an annual national creative writing contest for fifth graders, because they are at the age where they are discovering their place in the world both locally and globally. They are also finding their own voice, opinions and ideas through writing, creating and sharing.   Students at this age start making sense of current events; they have a better working knowledge of basic history, and have a sense of global awareness.

Thousands of Entries

“Celebrate America” began 19 years ago with just a couple dozen entries. Today it has grown to over 5,000 entries annually! Since 1997 a total of close to 75,000 students have participated in two dozen cities, in nearly 750 schools and community centers across the nation.

As the lead on the contest since 2006, I have read thousands of entries and have attended numerous events featuring the writers. It is difficult to pick just one example, but in 2008 the winning entry America is a Refuge really showed how much a 10-12 year old can comprehend about the issue. That year, the winner, Cameron Busby, explained to a reporter from the Tucson Citizen that “I want to be a horror writer when I grow up,” and in order to tell the story of America being a place people come to be safe and thrive, he used bits and pieces of some of his classmate’s true horror stories of their own or their family member’s immigration journeys. This excerpt shows the young writer’s entry and how he made sense of injustice and how America has always been a nation symbolic as a beacon for hope:

A small child holds out a hoping

hand,

a crumb of bread,

or even a penny just to be fed

Hoping America is a refuge. A 

child weeps over her mother’s 

lifeless body,

the tears streaming down her

face

Praying America is a refuge.

Part of the reason why it’s a popular contest is because it fits neatly with the fifth grade curriculum and it is easy for teachers to implement by offering timely lessons and expository learning opportunities from classroom visits by experts to interactive web-based games. The contest is unique in that it allows for any written work that captures the essence of why the writer is proud that America is a nation of immigrants and students can express themselves through narrative, descriptive, expository, or persuasive writings, poetry, and other forms of written expressions. The teaching and learning opportunities the contest brings to both the classroom and the community has made it very popular and most teachers who participate do so year after year.In the Classroom

Monica Chun, a teacher from Seattle who has participated in the contest for several years and whose student, Erin Stark, was a national winner in 2013, starts the assignment by asking students to ask their relatives at home a question: “Who was the first person in our family to come to America?” No matter what ethnicity or how recent or distant a family’s arrival be, every student is going to have a unique answer to this question.

Involving the Community

”Celebrate America” encourages youth, families and surrounding communities to evaluate and appreciate the effects of immigration in their own lives. The unique contest includes the following components:

  • Immigration attorneys or trained volunteers visit classrooms, whether in person or virtually. The visitors give short presentations about the history of American immigration and the contributions immigrants have made over the years;
  • Teachers complement the contest by implementing lessons about immigration, social justice and diversity into their curriculum;
  • The American Immigration Council provides classrooms with innovative, relevant, and interactive lessons and resources;
  • Communities organize events, naturalization ceremonies and other celebrations to showcase the local winners;
  • The winning entry from each locale is sent to the national office and judged by well-known journalists, immigration judges and award winning authors;
  • The winning entry is read into the Congressional record, a flag is flown over the Capitol in the winner’s honor and the winner reads their entry at a 700+ person event that celebrates immigration; and
  • In the submissions the youth voice brings hope that there will be solutions to the immigration debate.

The American Immigration Council believes that teachers, parents, and students are essential to building a collective movement toward a better future: in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the larger society.   With the community’s engagement, educators, parents and students can help bridge this divide and approach the issue of immigration with intelligence and empathy.

american immigration council

Contest Impact

The contest has an impact not only in the schools and communities that participate, but also in the halls of Congress. Each year when the winning entry is read into the Congressional Record, it is rewarding to know that our leaders are hearing words of wisdom from a young person who has big ideas and who has chosen to use their voice to invite others to learn about immigration and to celebrate America’s diversity.

When the winning entries are read to new citizens at naturalization ceremonies or at dinner galas in communities of all sizes, almost every attendee has tears in their eyes because the young readers are speaking from their hearts and they represent the future. Each and every year the young writers continue to surprise us with the depth and empathy in their writings whether it is their common sense solutions to an immigration system or the story of their own immigrant background. Any writer, no matter how old and how experienced, should look at these entries to get a sense for authentic voice and various styles of writing. The thousands of students who submit to the contest get recognized in their communities and the affect is exponential because students start in the classroom and their voice continues to be shared within their schools, within their communities and beyond.

The students participating in “Celebrate America” are America’s future citizens, voters, educators and activists and it is truly an honor to shape the contest so that it provides some of the tools to think critically about immigration and to learn to explore the economic and moral effects of immigration policy as they engage in the public debates. But, today as we try to navigate the complicated maze that is immigration law and policy, it is through their incredible choice of words, that they are our guides, our teachers, and our voices of reason.

For further information on eligibility and submission process:

0 Comments on How a Writing Contest for Students is Changing the Immigration Narrative as of 8/24/2015 10:02:00 AM
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7. Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Well, just WOW. I did not expect to be terrified absolutely witless while reading this. BUT I WAS. This book is wonderful and addictive and…frightening.  If you need me, I shall be the one rocking in the corner giving random pterodactyl screeches from the trauma. True story. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes is about […]

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8. Freya Blackwood Blitzes the CBCA Awards

In an unprecedented achievement, illustrator Freya Blackwood has won three of the five categories in the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. In the past few years Freya has generally been shortlisted two or three times but this year all of her shortlisted books are winners. Her partnership with incomparable children’s writer, Libby Gleeson […]

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9. Ellie Royce makes History with ‘Lucas and Jack’

Along with a staunch group of Australian literary professionals, Ellie Royce is a strong advocate for promoting encouragement for families to connect with older generations, share love and facilitate the power of memory. Her latest picture book is one in a line up, not only involved in initiatives to create awareness of ageing people and […]

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10. 5 YA Books You Can Read In A Day

Reading an entire book in a day is basically living the dream. And while I’m quite the reading hooligan and often read a book a day, I particularly like books that I can whip through in a few hours. (I don’t know about you, but gargantuan books terrify me. Holding a 600-page weapon in your hands? Um, pass.) […]

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11. Books about the English language with a dash of humour

Being a booklover and an avid reader, I occasionally enjoy reading and learning more about the English language. I’ve read some great books on the topic over the years and thought I’d share some of them with you below. Let’s start with two Australian books for those with a general interest in the origins and future direction of our […]

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12. Interview: Monica Brown on Her New Book Maya’s Blanket

monica brown

Out this September from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW, Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya puts a child-focused Latino spin on the traditional Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”) about a piece of fabric that is made into smaller and smaller items. We interviewed author Monica Brown about how she’s been inspired by the book.

1.     What inspired you to write a children’s book based on the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mira Mantl”? 

I’ve always loved the idea song, which is as much about creativity as it is about recycling and creating something from nothing. The song has inspired several books, in fact, and still inspires me. I often draw on my cultural heritage for inspiration, and Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya is no exception, paying homage to different aspects of my Jewish and Latina identity. It celebrates the two languages I speak, side by side on the page, along with a history of multigenerational storytelling passed down from both sides of my family.

I love the message of the song–that an object can be transformed again and again, and ultimately into something intangible and lasting through effort, creativity, and imagination. I like the idea that we can extend the life of things we love—with our own two hands or our imagination.

2.     Did you have a favorite lullaby that your parents sang to you growing up? What about a lullaby that you sang to your daughters?

My mom sang me wonderful songs in Spanish. As a child I loved in particular Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, which translates into I have a doll dressed in blue. When her granddaughter and namesake Isabella was born, my mother, Isabel Maria, made up a special song for her. It started with this line “Isabelita, Chiquita bonita de mi Corazon” and ended with “Corazon de melon!”  It was a silly sweet line, but I’ve forgotten the lines in between, and now my mother is gone.

As a child, my only babysitters I knew were my tías and my Nana, my paternal grandmother, who taught me to embroider and sew.  I stayed overnight at my Nana’s often and when I did, “the sandman” would visit us at night. For those who don’t know, the Sandman myth, which originates in Europe, is of a character who sprinkles sand on children’s eyes, bringing them happy dreams. My Scottish and Italian Nana would be sure the sandman visited each night. If I behaved just okay during the day the sandman would sprinkle regular sand on my forehead to help me fall asleep. If I was good, I would get silver sand, and if I was very, very good, I would get gold sand sprinkled on my forehead. I could feel the different types of sand as my Nana’s hands smoothed across my forehead, hair, and closed eyes.maya's blanket

3. Do you have an object today that’s your “Maya’s blanket,” i.e. that you are continually finding new uses for and don’t want to part with?

As an adult I have more of a subject than an object, and it is the subject of childhood memory. I think I became a children’s writer so I can go back and be in that moment of childhood innocence to remember what it feels like to be comforted by a beloved grandmother or my mother, to remember those minutes and hours, forever gone, of days spend with my Nana, who patiently taught me to embroider, and to sew and stitch or my mother, who shared story after story of her childhood in Northern Peru, and her dreams and her art.

I’ve never used an electric sewing machine, but thanks to my Nana I’ve still managed to stitch and mend and sew my daughter’s things—even a Halloween costume or two with those basic stitches my grandmother taught. I have my Nana’s sewing basket still, just as I am surrounded by my mother’s paintings each time I pick up a pen or open up my computer to write.

5. MAYA’S BLANKET provides an important message about recycling! Do you have any tips on how people can be more eco-friendly?

As a teacher, I always think the place to begin with is education and The Environmental Protection Agency has a website with lots of resources for children, parents, and especially teachers: http://www2.epa.gov/students. I also love that the Sierra Club has a student coalition for high school and college students that trains and connects young environmental activists: http://www.sierraclub.org/youth. Finally, well, I want to give a shout out to my fellow writers by highlighting Authors for Earth Day: http://www.authorsforearthday.org, a group that supports conservation through literacy.

It is my hope that children and the adults in their lives can become more aware and conscious of the challenges using our natural resources responsibly, and looking to for more creative solutions to persistent problems.

About the Book:

Maya's Blanket CoverMaya’s Blanket/ La Manta de Maya
by Monica Brown, illustrated by David Diaz
Out September 2015
Ages 5-9 ~ 32 pp. ~ bilingual
Learn more about the book here.

0 Comments on Interview: Monica Brown on Her New Book Maya’s Blanket as of 8/11/2015 4:19:00 PM
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13. Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

I totally loved this book. This sucked me in from the opening sentence and still has not let me go. The moment I finished I started missing all the characters straight away and want to get back to this universes as quickly as possible. This is science fiction at its best; expansive, alien, full of […]

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14. ‘In a World of Imagination’ – Interview with Anna Walker

Anna Walker; master creator of picture books encompassing emotion, wisdom, sensitivity, adventure, charm and humour. And equally as gentle, creative, genuine and profound as her delightful stories and pictures is the author / illustrator herself, with which I had the utmost pleasure in meeting recently at her Mr Huff Exhibition. I am honoured that the […]

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15. ‘In a World of Imagination’ – Interview with Anna Walker

Anna Walker; master creator of picture books encompassing emotion, wisdom, sensitivity, adventure, charm and humour. And equally as gentle, creative, genuine and profound as her delightful stories and pictures is the author / illustrator herself, with which I had the utmost pleasure in meeting recently at her Mr Huff Exhibition. I am honoured that the […]

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16. Meet Bruce Pascoe: Seahorse

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Bruce Pascoe. Where are you based? How has this influenced your new adventure story for children, Seahorse (Magabala Books)? I live at Gipsy Point near Mallacoota in Victoria. I have spent all of my life near the lighthouses at Cape Otway, King Island and Mallacoota and the sea is a […]

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17. The Other Side of Quiet – An Intern’s Perspective

intern

Kandace Coston is LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is one of five recipients of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program inaugural grant. She graduated from Barnard College where she majored in music and took every creative literature class possible. In her free time, Kandace pursues her other interests, which include American Sign Language, handmade jewelry, and composing cinematic adventures!

Intimate. Calm. Inviting. That’s the atmosphere of the LEE & LOW BOOKS office in New York City. Twelve floors removed from the noisy hustle and heat of the city streets, this diverse books publisher’s office is a small levitating oasis.

I first noticed the Quiet during my interview in late May for the summer internship position in Marketing and Publicity. I stepped off the elevator, opened the door slowly (in compliance with the instructional sign), and instantly noticed the cool and calm. Initially I found the Quiet unnerving like the eerie silence in a horror movie that cues a tragic event. But the inviting display of bright books put my nervously pounding heart at ease. They make children’s books. I thought to myself. They make magic. I gazed at the sunny, shiny titles and was instantly relaxed.

intern deskOne month later I started my internship excited to be a small part of the magic LEE & LOW BOOKS creates. I was also excited to step over onto the other side of the Quiet. Now that I was an official member of this exclusive team I was sure my ears would tune into the buzz of the office like a radio tuning into a tricky channel. What I found instead was an immense Quiet accompanied only by the hum of a distant printer and the occasional disembodied sneeze. By July I’d surrendered. My ears stopped scanning for transmissions within the white noise that is the office’s Quiet.

As I ceased my mission for sound, I began my mission of getting to know the office. I made appointments with personnel in various departments to learn how the largest publisher of diverse books in the country operates. Everyone I reached out to was more than happy to oblige me which I was grateful for but not surprised by; the office is incredibly friendly and welcoming.

With each interview I learned new facts about children’s books and the publishing industry:

  • Children’s books take over a year to create.
  • Marketing a book entails intensely creative work.
  • The difference between dystopian and post-apocalyptic.
  • How to spell apocalyptic.

With each interview I also noticed a recurrence: every person I spoke to is excited about the work they do here. Their faces lit up as they eloquently, passionately, and patiently explained to me how they contribute to the LEE & LOW BOOKS message. Each person brings pride and a distinct expertise to their work that makes them invaluable. Many people in my life are not content with the way they earn a living. It seems the team at LEE & LOW has that life conundrum figured out. I found everyone’s enthusiasm refreshing and encouraging.

summer intern

Nowadays when I enter the office I’m not caught off guard by the Quiet. Instead I’ve realized that within the Quiet is progress. The diligent staff members of Lee & Low Books are busy bettering the world through children’s literature. In this intimate oasis of an office the Quiet is a sound; the sound of focus and fulfillment.

0 Comments on The Other Side of Quiet – An Intern’s Perspective as of 8/6/2015 10:09:00 AM
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18. Powell’s Q&A: Alice Hoffman

Describe your latest book. The Marriage of Opposites is a novel about the mother of impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, set on the island of St. Thomas and in Paris. What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had? A secretary at a university sex clinic. What was your favorite book as a child? Magic [...]

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19. Win a Father’s Day Hamper of Books

  Looking for great  gifts to buy for your Dad? Books make fantastic gifts for Father‘s Day! And to make your job easier, we’ve released our 2015 Father‘s Day Catalogue. If you order from our Father‘s Day Catalogue before midnight on Sunday 31 August, you’ll get FREE shipping on your order when you use the promotional […]

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20. New Spring and Fall Releases from LEE & LOW BOOKS and Tu Books!

Summer is here in full force. It’s the perfect time to curl up pool- or beachside with a good book! Look no further than our new spring and fall releases!

Finding the Music/En pos de la música

When Reyna accidentally breaks her abuelito’s old vihuela, she travels around her neighborhood trying to figure out how to repair it. In the process, she discovers her grandfather’s legacy. Written by Jennifer Torres and illustrated by Renato Alarcão.

Sunday Shopping

Evie and her grandma go shopping every Sunday. They put on their nightgowns, open up the newspapers,  and turn on their imaginations. Written by Sally Derby and illustrated by Shadra Strickland.

Poems In The Attic Text here

A young girl finds her mother’s poems written when her mother traveled around in a military family. The young girl writes her own related poems. Written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Ira Aldridge dreamed of acting in Shakespeare’s plays. Because of a lack of opportunity in the United States, Ira journeys to England to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Written by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

Maya’s Blanket

Maya has a blanket stitched by her Grandma. The blanket later becomes a dress, a skirt, a shawl, a skirt and a headband. This story is inspired by the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”). Written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz.

New from the Tu Books imprint:

Ink and Ashes

Claire Takata discovers her deceased father’s connection to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and puts her and her family’s lives in danger. Written by Valynne E. Maetani.

Trail of the Dead

In this sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Lozen and her family, on the run from the tyrants who once held them hostage, embark on a journey along a perilous trail once followed by her ancestors, where they meet friends and foes alike. Written by Joseph Bruchac.

0 Comments on New Spring and Fall Releases from LEE & LOW BOOKS and Tu Books! as of 7/16/2015 12:18:00 PM
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21. Georgie Donaghey in the Spotlight; ‘Lulu’ Makes her Debut

It’s not enough to just want something and hope that it will be delivered  to you on a silver platter. Unfortunately for most of us, life isn’t that simple. What we try to teach our kids is that you absolutely can achieve your aspirations, your goals, your dreams, but it takes work, persistence and determination. […]

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22. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in August

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief. Get FREE shipping when you use the promo code bookbrief at checkout Fiction Books Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham A mother and her teenage daughter are found murdered and a clinical psychologist is called in to help the investigation. Nothing […]

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23. Picture Books for Stubborn Kids

In typical toddler fashion, my youngest daughter (aged two and a half) has developed the “NO! I don’t like it!”, and the “Don’t want it!” approach to almost everything offered, much to the delight of her parents (that’s me). If you’re a parent or teacher of children anywhere between two and five years old, and […]

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24. Walden Award Winner Announced for 2015--Yay, A.S.!

I was thrilled (as many of you no doubt were as well) to see that A.S. King's latest Glory O'Brien's History of the Future was announced as this year's winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. There were some pretty amazing finalists, too:... Read the rest of this post

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25. Love Thy Pets – Picture Book Reviews

Why do animals feature so heavily in picture books? 1. They are so relatable. 2. They provide a sense of comfort and nurturing. 3. They reinforce positive emotions and behaviours such as empathy. Whether these animals are represented as their true natures or anthropomorphically, children (and adults) feel connected to these cute characters and regard […]

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