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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Amulet Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 56
1. Best Selling Kids Series | December 2014

Best Selling Books for Kids: This month, our best selling kids series is The Marvel Heroes of Reading line of early readers.

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2. Best Selling Kids Series | November 2014

Once again, The Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is our best selling kids series this month and offers wonderful selections for seasonal science and beyond.

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3. Best Selling Kids Series | August 2014

This month we have a blast from the past on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list. Who remembers the Mr. Men and Little Miss books?

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4. Interview With Award Winning Author Joanne Rocklin.

I first “met” Joanne Rocklin when she graciously read my manuscript for WHEELS OF CHANGE and provided a lovely blurb. As soon as I read one of her stories, I was hooked.  I couldn’t get enough of her heart-warming and delightful books. Her titles, THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK, and ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET, capture the joys and sorrows of childhood with wonderful, unique characters and prose that wedges itself into your heart and takes hold. Her new book – FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY – (FLF) debuts this month, so I thought it would be great to feature her on this blog. First, here’s a description of FLF:

A story about a special girl, an inspiring book, and a brilliant (though unintentionally funny) flea.

From the publisher: This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.
Release Date: August, 2014
Amulet Books/Abrams ISBN 978-1-4197-1068-1    fleabrain cover

 
FIVE THINGS LEARNED WHILE WRITING MY MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY
My novel takes place in the 1950’s in Pittsburgh, during the worst polio epidemics of that era. Franny, my main character contracts the disease and can no longer walk. During her hospital stay she is introduced to the recently published Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and falls in love with the book, and, especially, the spider, Charlotte. She longs for a Charlotte of her own. Her wish is granted in the form of the brilliant Fleabrain, her dog’s flea.

1.
Much of what I learned while writing FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY were writing concepts I had to learn yet again, concepts that are integral to my own personal writing process. I usually begin with a phrase which arrives out of the blue. The phrase feels promising but doesn’t reveal much about the book I’m going to write. The phrase for this book was “you can stop seeking messages in spider webs.” This was Fleabrain’s first message to Franny, although I didn’t know it yet. I had to remember to just go with the phrase and wildly thrash about while I figure out what it means. I had to learn yet again, that for me, the rough draft is messy and chaotic but eventually leads to the story.

2.
Fleabrain provided Franny a necessary escape while she healed, as well as exciting adventures, affection, companionship and joy. He also taught her when it was time to face the real world. Fleabrain taught me, yet again, that humor will always be present in my books, no matter the seriousness of the subject matter, and that’s a good thing.

3.
Research is an ongoing process. I began reading about this particular era and began to get ideas about my character and her dilemma. I realized I had to set it in Pittsburgh because that’s where Dr. Jonas Salk did his important research on the polio vaccine, and I wanted to include a scientist in the story. But I was already deep into my story when I realized I would have to visit Pittsburgh and interview Pittsburghers who remembered that time. My research kept giving me ideas for scenes and themes for subsequent drafts.

4.
A surprising thing I learned while researching and writing this book was that many, many people knew very little about the polio epidemics. Some had never heard of an iron lung, or any of the treatment methods and medical advances associated with polio. Many were surprised to learn about the isolation and prejudice experienced by those stricken, and that most of the young people were required to attend special schools for “crippled” children. In addition, I myself learned that polio survivors were at the very forefront of the disability movement, agitating for many of the things we take for granted today (curb cuts, handicapped-accessible public places, etc.).

5.
And so, I learned yet again that the theme of my story will only become clear to me during the writing of the book itself, not before, and sometimes at the very end of the process. One of the important things that Franny learned is that it is not she who needs to be repaired by learning to walk again, but society itself, in accepting her.New picture book:

Joanne’s picture book:  I SAY SHEHECHYANU  will be out in January, 2015

Visit Joanne at: http://www.joannerocklin.com

 


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5. Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece Bell

ElDeafo1 198x300 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellEl Deafo
By Cece Bell
Amulet (an imprint of Abrams)
$21.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1020-9
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 2nd

We appear to exist in a golden age of children’s graphic novel memoirs. Which is to say, there are three of them out this year (El Deafo, Sisters, and The Dumbest Idea Ever). How to account for the sudden tiny boom? If I were to harbor a guess I’d say it has something to do with publishers realizing that the genre can prove a profitable one (hat tip then to Smile). We’re beginning to enter into an era where the bulk of the gatekeepers out there, be they parents or teachers or librarians, are viewing comics not as a corrupting influence but rather as a new literary form with which to teach. Memoirs are particularly interesting and have proven to be a wonderful way to slowly ease kids into the big beautiful world of nonfiction. That said, not everyone’s youth is worthy of a retelling. To tell a memoir well you need to have a narrative arc of some sort. One that doesn’t feel forced. For CeCe Bell, her first foray into graphic novels is also telling the story of her youth. The result, El Deafo, is a remarkable look at a great grand question (What to do when you can no longer hear and feel different from everyone you know?) alongside a smaller one that every kid will relate to (How do you find a good friend?). Bell takes the personal and makes it universal, an act that truly requires superhero skills.

Until the age of four CeCe was pretty much indistinguishable from any other kid. She liked her older siblings. She liked to sing to herself. But a sudden bout with meningitis and something changed for CeCe. All at once her hearing was gone. After some experimentation she was fitted with a Sonic Ear (a device that enabled her to hear her teacher’s voice) and started attending classes with other kids like herself. A family trip to a smaller town, however, meant going to a new school and trying to make new friends. When faced with problems she reverts to her pretend superhero self, El Deafo. With subtlety Bell weaves in knowledge of everything from reading lips and sign language to the difficulties of watching un-captioned television. At the same time the book’s heart lies with a single quest: That of finding the absolute perfect friend.

ElDeafo2 327x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellThe rise of the graphic novel memoir of a cartoonist’s youth with a child audience in mind really hit its stride when Raina Telgemeier wrote, Smile. That dire accounting of her at times horrific dental history paved the way for other books in the same vein. So where did my library choose to catalog that graceful memoir? In the biography section? No. In the graphic novel section? Not initially, no. For the first year of its existence it was shelved in nonfiction under the Dewey Decimal number 617.645 T. That’s right. We put it in the dental section. So it was with great trepidation that I looked to see where El Deafo would end up. Would it be in the section on the hearing impaired or would the catalog understand that this book is about so much more than the Sonic Ear? As it happens, the book appears to be primarily cataloged as a memoir more than anything else. Sure the information in there about the deaf community and other aspects of living as someone hearing impaired are nonfiction, but the focus of the story is always squarely on CeCe herself.

The real reason I found the book as compelling as I did was due in large part to the way in which Bell tackles the illogical logic of childhood friendships. So many kids are friends thanks to geographical convenience. You’re my age and live within a certain radius of my home? We’re besties! And Bell’s hearing impaired state is just a part of why she is or is not friends with one person or another. Really, the true arc of the story isn’t necessarily CeCe coming to terms with the Sonic Ear, but rather how she comes to terms with herself and, in doing so, gets the best possible friend. It’s like reading a real life Goldilocks story. This friend is too bossy. This friend is too fixated on Cece’s hearing. But this friend? She’s juuuuuust right.

ElDeafo3 329x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellSo why bunnies? Bell could easily have told her story with human beings. And though the characters in this book appear to be anthropomorphized rabbits (reminding me of nothing so much as when guest stars would appear on the children’s television program Arthur) there is no particular reason for this. They never mention a particular love of carrots or restrict their movements to hop hop hopping. They are, however, very easy on the eyes and very enticing. This book was sitting on my To Be Reviewed shelf when my three-year-old waltzed over and plucked it for her own perusal. The bunnies are accessible. In fact, you completely forget that they even are bunnies in the course of reading the book. You also fail to notice after a while how beautifully Bell has laid out her comic panels too. The sequential storytelling is expertly rendered, never losing the reader or throwing you out of the story. One librarian I spoke to also mentioned how nice it was to see that the dream sequences with El Deafo are always clearly delineated as just that. Dream sequences. Fantasy and reality are easily distinguishable in this novel. No mean feat when everyone has a twitchy little nose.

Maybe we’ve peaked. Maybe we’re seeing as many graphic memoirs for kids as we’ll ever see in a given year. But that can’t be, can it? We all have stories to tell, no matter what our upbringing looked like. There’s always some element in our past that’s relatable to a wide audience. It’s the clever author that knows how to spin that element into a storyline worthy of a younger audience. There isn’t a jot of doubt in my mind that CeCe Bell’s book is going to be vastly beloved by nearly every child that picks it up. Engaging and beautifully drawn, to say nothing of its strength and out-and-out facts, El Deafo is going to help set the standard for what a memoir for kids should be. Infinitely clever. Undeniably fun. Don’t miss it.

On shelves September 2nd.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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6. Best Selling Kids Series | October 2014

The Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is our best selling kids series this month and offers wonderful selections for seasonal science and beyond.

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7. Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardener 203x300 Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan AuxierThe Night Gardener
By Jonathan Auxier
Illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1144-2
Ages 10 and up
On shelves May 20th

For whatever reason, 2014 is a dark year in children’s middle grade fiction. I speak from experience. Fantasy in particular has been steeped in a kind of thoughtful darkness, from The Glass Sentence and The Thickety to The Riverman and Twelve Minutes to Midnight with varying levels of success. And though none would contest the fact that they are creepy, only Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener has had the chutzpah to actually write, “A Scary Story” on its title pages as a kind of thoughtful dare. A relatively new middle grade author, still young in the field, reading this book it’s hard to reconcile it with Auxier’s previous novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. It is almost as if Mr. Auxier took his whimsy, pulled out a long sharp stick, and stabbed it repeatedly in the heart and left it to die in the snow so as to give us a sublimely horrific little novel. Long story short this novel is Little Shop of Horrors meets The Secret Garden. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying that. Even if I am, I regret nothing. Here we have a book that ostensibly gives us an old-fashioned tale worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, but that steeps it in a serious and thought provoking discussion of the roles of both lies and stories when you’re facing difficulties in your life. Madcap brilliant.

Molly and Kip are driving a fish cart, pulled by a horse named Galileo, to their deaths. That’s what everyone’s been telling them anyway. Living without parents, Molly sees herself as her brother’s guardian and is intent upon finding a safe place for the both of them. When she’s hired to work as a servant at the mysterious Windsor estate she thinks the job might be too good to be true. Indeed, the place (located deep in something called “the sour woods”) is a decrepit old mansion falling apart at the seams. The locals avoid it and advise the kids to do so too. Things are even stranger inside. The people who live in the hollow home appear to be both pale and drawn. And it isn’t long before both Molly and Kip discover the mysterious night gardener, who enters the house unbidden every evening, tending to a tree that seems to have a life of its own. A tree that can grant you your heart’s desire if you would like. And all it wants in return? Nothing you’d ever miss. Just a piece of your soul.

For a time, the book this most reminded me of was M.P. Kozlowsky’s little known Juniper Berry, a title that could rival this one in terms of creepiness. Both books involve trees and wishes and souls tied into unlawful bargains with dark sources. There the similarities end, though. Auxier has crafted with undeniable care a book that dares to ask whether or not the things we wish for are the things best for us in the end. His storytelling works in large part too because he gives us a unique situation. Here we have two characters that are desperately trying to stay in an awful, dangerous situation by any means necessary. You sympathize with Molly’s dilemma at the start, but even though you’re fairly certain there’s something awful lurking beneath the surface of the manor, you find yourself rooting for her, really hoping that she gets the job of working there. It’s a strange sensation, this dual hope to both save the heroine and plunge her into deeper danger.

What really made The Night Gardener stand out for me, however, was that the point of the book (insofar as I could tell) was to establish storytelling vs. lies. At one point Molly thinks seriously about what the difference between the two might be. “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” She eventually comes to the conclusion that lies hurt people and stories help them, a statement that is met with agreement on the part of an old storyteller named Hester who follows the words up with, “But helps them to do what?” These thoughts are continued later when Molly considers further and says, “A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.” Nuff said.

As I mentioned before, Auxier’s previous novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was his original chapter book debut. As a devotee of Peter Pan and books of that ilk, it felt like more of an homage at times that a book that stood on its own two feet. In the case of The Night Gardener no such confusion remains. Auxier’s writing has grown some chest hair and put on some muscles. Consider, for example, a moment when Molly has woken up out of a bad dream to find a dead leaf in her hair. “Molly held it up against the window, letting the moonlight shine through its brittle skin. Tiny twisted veins branched out from the center stem – a tree inside a tree.” I love the simplicity of that. Particularly when you take into account the fact that the tree that created the leaf may not have been your usual benign sapling.

In the back of the book in his Author’s Note Auxier acknowledges his many influences when writing this. Everything from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes to The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon Gent. by Washington Irving to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s simple only on the surface The Secret Garden. All these made sense to me (though I’m not familiar with the Irving yet) but I wondered if there were other ties out there as well. For example, the character of Hester, an old storyteller and junk woman, reminded me of nothing so much as the junk woman character in the Jim Henson film Labyrinth. A character that in that film also straddles the line between lies and stories and how lying to yourself only does you harm. Coincidence or influence? Only Mr. Auxier knows for sure.

If I am to have any kind of a problem with the book then perhaps it is with the Irish brogue. Not, I should say, that any American child is even going to notice it. Rather, it’ll be adults like myself that can’t help but see it and find it, ever so briefly, takes us out of the story. I don’t find it a huge impediment, but rather a pebble sized stumbling block, barely standing in the way of my full enjoyment of the piece.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling offers some very good advice on dealing with uncertain magical beings. “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” Would that our heroes in this book had been handed such advice early in life, but then I guess we wouldn’t have much of a story to go on, now would we? In the end, the book raises as many questions as it answers. Do we, as humans, have an innate fear of becoming beholden to the plants we tend? Was the villain of the piece’s greatest crime to wish away death? Maybe the Peter Pan influence still lingers in Mr. Auxier’s pen, but comes out in unexpected ways. This is the kind of book that would happen if Captain Hook, a man most afraid of the ticking of a clock, took up horticulture instead of piracy. But the questions about why we lie to ourselves and why we find comfort in stories are without a doubt the sections that push this book from mere Hammer horror to horror that makes you stop and think, even as you run like mad to escape the psychopaths on your heels. Smart and terrifying by turns, hand this book to the kid who supped of Coraline and came back to you demanding more. Sweet creepy stuff.

On shelves May 20th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

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8. Best Selling Kids Series | May 2014

Best Selling Books for Kids This month, the popular Who Was …? biography series is back on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list. And the list of hand-selected series from the nationwide best selling Children's Series list, as noted by The New York Times, features the same popular dystopian thriller series as last month from the likes of Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins, the adventurous Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, and the relatable Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney.

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9. Review of the Day: West of the Moon by Margi Preus

WestMoon1 334x500 Review of the Day: West of the Moon by Margi PreusWest of the Moon
By Margi Preus
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0896-1
Ages 10 and up
On shelves now.

These are dark times for children’s literature. Pick up a book for the 9-12 year-old set and you just don’t know what you’re going to find. Whether it’s the murderous foliage of The Night Gardener, the implications of Nightingale’s Nest, or the serious subject matter of The Red Pencil, 2014 is probably best described as the year everything went dark. Don’t expect West of the Moon to lighten the mood any either. Like those books I just mentioned, it’s amazing. Dark and resilient with a core theme that simply cannot be ignored. Yet for all that Preus has tapped into a bit of harsh reality with her title that may give pause to all but the stoutest hearts. Fortunately, she tempers this reality with an artist’s license. With folktales and beautifully written prose. With a deep sisterly bond, and a serious consideration of what is right and what wrong and what is necessary in desperate circumstances. I don’t expect everyone to read this book and instantly love it, but I do expect people to read it. Slow to start, smart when it continues, and unlike anything you’ve ever really read before.

“Now I know how much I’m worth: not as much as Jesus, who I’m told was sold for thirty pieces of silver. I am worth two silver coins and a haunch of goat.” That’s Astri, discussing the fact that her aunt and uncle have just essentially sold her to Svaalberd, the local goat herder. Though she is loathe to go, she knows that she has little choice in the matter, and must leave her little sister behind with her foul relatives. Svaalberd turns out to be even fouler, however, and as she plans her escape Astri hits up on the idea of leaving Norway and going to America. With time and opportunity she makes good her plans, taking little sister Greta with her, protecting the both of them, and making difficult choices every step of the way.

I’ll just give away the game right from the start and confess to you that I’m a big time fan of this book. It’s sort of a brilliant combination of realism with folktales and writing that just cuts to the heart thanks to a heroine who is not entirely commendable (a rarity in this day and age). But I also experienced a very personal reaction to the book that as much to do with Preus’s extensive Author’s Note as anything else. You see, my own great-great-grandfather immigrated to America around the same time as Ms. Preus’s great-great-grandparents (the people who provided much of the inspiration for this book). I’ve always rather loved knowing about this fellow since most of the immigrants in my family disappeared into the past without so much as a blip. This guy we actually have photographs of. Why he left had as much to do with his abusive father as anything else, but I never really understood the true impetus behind leaving an entire country. Then I read the Author’s Note and learned about this “America fever” that spread through Norway and enticed people to leave and move to the States. It gives my own family history a bit of context I’ve always lacked and for that I thank Ms. Preus profusely.

On top of that, she provides a bit of context to the immigrant historical experience that we almost never see. We always hear about immigrants coming to America but have we ever seen a true accounting of how much food and staples they were told to bring for the boat trip? I sure as heck hadn’t! You can study Ellis Island all the livelong day but until you read about the 24 pounds of meat and the small keg of kerring folks were asked to bring, you don’t really understand what they were up against.

It should surprise no one when I say that Preus is also just a beautiful writer. I mean, she is a Newbery Honor winner after all. Still, I feel I was unprepared for the book’s great use of symbolism. Take, for example, the fact that the name of the girl that gives Astri such a hard time is “Grace”. And then there’s the fact that Preus does such interesting things with the narrative. For example she’ll mention a spell she observed Svaalberd reciting and then follow that fact up with a quick, “I’ll thank you to keep that to yourself.” You’re never quite certain whom she is addressing. The reader, obviously, but anyone else? In her Author’s Note Ms. Preus mentions that much of the book was inspired, sometimes directly, by her great-great-grandmother Linka’s diary. Knowing this, the book takes on the feel of a kind of confessional. I don’t know whom exactly Astri is confessing to, but it feels right. Plus, it turns out that she has a LOT to confess.

As characters go, Astri is a bit of a remarkable protagonist. Have you read Harriet the Spy recently? See, back in the day authors weren’t afraid to write unsympathetic main characters. People that you rooted for, but didn’t particularly like. But recent children’s literature shies away from that type. Our protagonists are inevitably stouthearted and true and if they do have flaws then they work through them in a healthy all-American kind of way. Astri’s different. When she recounts her flaws they take on the feeling of a folktale (“I’ve stolen the gold and hacked off the fingers and snitched the soap and swiped the wedding food. I’ve lied to my own little sister and left Spinning Girl behind, and now I’m stealing the horse, saddle, and bridle from the farm boy who never did anything wrong except display a bit of greed.”) But hey, she’s honest! This section is then followed with thoughts on what makes a person bad. Does desperation counteract sin? How do you gauge individual sins?

If I’ve noted any kind of a theme in my middle grade children’s literature this year (aside from the darkness I alluded to in the opening paragraph) it’s a fascination with the relationship between lies and stories. Jonathan Auxier explored this idea to some extent in The Night Gardener, as did Jacqueline Woodson in Brown Girl Dreaming. Here, Preus returns to the notion of where stories stop and lies begin again and again. Says she at some point, “soon I’ve run out of golden thread with which to spin my pretty stories and I’m left with just the thin thread of truth.” Astri is constantly telling stories to Gerta, sometimes to coax her into something, sometimes to comfort her. But in her greatest hour of soul searching she wonders, “Is it a worse sin to lie to my sweet sister than to steal from a cruel master?” And where does lying start when storytelling ends? There are no easy answers to be found here. Just excellent questions.

So let’s talk attempted sexual assault in a work of children’s literature. Oh, it’s hardly uncommon. How many of us remember the reason that Julie in Julie of the Wolves ran away to join a furry pack? In the case of West of the Moon the attempt could be read any number of ways. Adults, for example, will know precisely what is going on. But kids? When Astri sees her bed for the first time she takes the precaution of grabbing the nearest knife and sticking it under her pillow. No fool she, and the act turns out to be a good piece of forethought since later in the book the goatman does indeed throw her onto her bed. She comes close to cutting his jugular and the incident passes (though he says quite clearly, “Come summer, we will go down to the church and have the parson marry us. Then I’ll take you to my bed.”). Reading the section it’s matter-of-fact. A realistic threat that comes and goes and will strike a chord with some readers instantly and others not at all. There will be kids that read the section and go to their parents or teachers (or even librarians) looking for some clarification, so adults who hand this to younger readers should be ready for uncomfortable questions. Is it inappropriate for kids? That is going to depend entirely on the kid. For some 9 and 10-year-olds there’s nothing here to raise an eyebrow. Astri hardly does. Later she hates the goatman far more for baby lambicide than any attempted rape. For others, they’ll not care for the content. Kids are great self-censors, though. They know what they can handle. I wouldn’t be worried on that score.

If we’re going to get to the heart of the matter, this book is about grace and forgiveness. It’s about how even victims (or maybe especially victims) are capable of terrible terrible things. It’s about making amends with the world and finding a way to forgive yourself and to move on. Astri is, as I’ve said before, not a saintly character. She steals and tricks good people for her own reasons and she leaves it to the reader to decide if she is worth forgiving. This is an ideal book discussion title, particularly when you weave in a discussion of the folktales, the notion of stories vs. lies, and the real world history. It’s not an easy book and it requires a little something extra on the part of the reader, but for those kids that demand a bit of a challenge and a book that’ll make ‘em stop and think for half a moment, you can’t do better. Remarkable.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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  • The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer – Few can weave folktales into text as well as Farmer, so naturally when I saw what Preus was doing here I thought of this epic series.
  • The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – Because if anyone understands how to bring up the notion of whether or not sinking to the level of the bad guys makes YOU a bad guy, it’s Snicket. And this was the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events to come up with the notion.
  • The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier – These two books wouldn’t have a lot in common were it not for the fact that Auxier delves into the relationship between lies and stories as deeply as Preus and with similar conclusions.

Other Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Interviews: KUMD spoke with Ms. Preus about her books and her work on this one in particular here.

Book Jacket: Oo!  In case you didn’t get to see the back cover . . .

WestMoon2 Review of the Day: West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Misc: For a look behind-the-scenes of the book check out this article Award-winning Duluth author pulls from folk tales, ancestral diary for newest novel from the Duluth News Tribune.

Videos: And here’s the book trailer!

West of the Moon / Margi Preus Book Trailer from Joellyn Rock on Vimeo.

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10. School Days: AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

After the Book Deal Banner

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel,The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!

***

School Days: Crafting an Effective School Program

Yesterday I talked about how to do Skype visits with classrooms, now I want to move on to school assemblies! When my first book came out, I did almost nonstop school events for seven months—it was exhausting but extremely rewarding. I picked up a few things along the way that might be worth sharing …

 

NightGardener Cover

Be a Storyteller, not an Author

In the vast majority of cases, you will be coming to these kids as a complete stranger. Most kids will not have read (or even heard of) your books. This is important to remember as you’re crafting your presentation: don’t assume they will be impressed by the fact that you’re a published author. Your only job is to convince them that your story is something they want to read. The best way to do this is by BEING A STORYTELLER. Don’t just read an excerpt and give a summary—instead invite them into the world of your story, put them in the shoes of your hero, make the book come alive right there on the stage.

 

Play to Your Strengths

Take careful inventory of personal skills that you can bring to the table. Some authors draw on giant notepads. Others perform music. Others juggle or teach dance routines or fold origami. I exploited my past career as a professional yo-yo demonstrator by incorporating a yo-yo into my routine. It is hands-down the most popular part of every presentation! Chances are, you’ve got some silly talent that can be turned into a memorable moment in your presentations—make the most of it! Here’s a video of my yo-yo presentation, for the curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbmSYeyVDtI

 

Crowd Control

There’s no question that wrangling a crowd of kids can be tricky. I have a loud voice, but with groups over 100, I always require that schools provide a microphone. Even with a mic, however, a hall full of squirming kids can get pretty loud. I always request that the teacher/librarian who introduces me gives the kids a special reminder about appropriate assembly behavior. And when the classes are streaming into the room, I go to every one of the teachers and introduce myself, thank them for coming, and ask them where their students are sitting—this is a subtle way of encouraging the teachers to be more proactive with crowd control. My final crowd control trick is to start every presentation by showing the Peter Nimble book trailer. Not only does this give kids something to visualize the story, but it creates a baseline of actual silence from the crowd. I’ve found that when I don’t show the trailer, I’m never able to eliminate the dull roar of whispers and fidgeting that passes for “quiet” in other circumstances.

 

Build a Flexible Program

Every school runs on a different schedule. Generally speaking, assemblies will run between 40-60 minutes. It’s important that you have a program that can expand or contract to fit these requirements. Your goal should be to have discrete “bits” that you can add and remove at will depending on the needs of your audience. If I’m talking to a restless crowd, for example, I can trade out a more serious literary discussion for an extra game. Flexibility goes beyond time-management. When I started touring, I carried around two vintage suitcases full of props. The suitcases looked cool, but they were a serious pain in the neck. I’ve since learned to pare down my props—fitting everything I need into a single shoulder bag. Likewise, when showing my book trailer, I used to haul my laptop computer (school computers were just too unreliable). Recently, however, I’ve ditched the laptop for a small VGA adaptor that plugs directly into my iPhone … so much easier!

Selling Books

You always want to be working with a local bookseller that can handle sales—you don’t have time to deal with that stuff yourself. If the school doesn’t have a store they regularly work with, then offer to connect them to someone. In most cases, a store will give 10-20% of all proceeds back to the school … which you should encourage them to do. Every store has a different way of handling book sales. I’ve found the best method is to send out pre-order forms in advance of the event as well as a “last chance” order form that kids take home the day that you visit—then once all orders are collected, you can sign books at the store, which will deliver them to the school later in the week.

 

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEALTomorrow we’ll be talking about how how and when to charge for appearances. In the meantime, you can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please spread the word!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Stops So Far

WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community
4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona
4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media
4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers
4/25 –  Giveaways! … are they worth it?

 

WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 - Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing
4/29 –  Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch
5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals
5/2 - The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events

 

WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
5/5 – Handling Reviews … the Good and the Bad!
5/6 – Back to the Grindstone: writing your next book
5/7 – The Root of All Evil: some thoughts on money
5/8 – The Green-Eyed Monster: some thoughts on professional jealousy

 

WEEK FOUR: Ongoing Promotion
5/12 – Death by 1000 Cuts: Keeping ahead of busywork
5/13 – Can You Hear Me Now? Tips for Skype visits

Jonthan Auxier Headshot - web square

***
JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new.

Find The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 141971144X / 9781419711442

Thank you so much to Jonathan for stopping by today! Connect with Jonathan on Twitter and on Facebook!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our various affiliate relationships.

Original article: School Days: AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

©2014 There's A Book. All Rights Reserved.

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11. My First Re-Review: The Qwikpick Papers – Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger

Here’s something I’ve never done before.  For years I’ve been waiting for the moment when a book I loved and reviewed dipped out of print only to come back again.  Since I’ve only been doing this gig since 2006 I wasn’t sure what that first book would be.  Then, this year, I got my answer.  Back in October of 2007 I reviewed a book by a newcomer going by the moniker of Sam Riddleberger.  The book?  The Qwikpick Adventure Society.  I absolutely adored it, floored by some of the new things it was doing.  Years passed and no one paid the book the appropriate amount of attention it deserved.  Then Mr. Riddleberger decided to publish under his real name, Tom Angleberger, and next thing you know he’s written a little book by the name of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and the world was never the same.  What with his earlier efforts out of print and his name so incredibly bankable, I had high hopes that this might not be the last we’d seen of Mr. Riddleberger/Angleberger.  Then this year, behold!  Do mine eyes deceive me?  No!  It’s back!  New cover, new title, old book.

So for today’s Flashback Wednesday we’re going to reprint that old review I did of the book . . . slightly modified.  There are a couple mentions in the original review of things published “this year” that had to be updated.  I’m going to keep the parts about the rarity of trailer park kids that aren’t abused, though in the comments of my original review Genevieve mentioned that The Higher Power of Lucky could be considered another alternative.  Fair enough.

Enjoy!

Qwikpick 200x300 My First Re Review: The Qwikpick Papers   Poop Fountain by Tom AnglebergerAs a children’s book reviewer there is one fact that you must keep at the forefront of your mind at all times: You are not a kid. Not usually anyway. And because you are not a kid, you are not going to read a book the way a kid does. I keep talking in my reviews about how your own personal prejudices affect your interpretation of the book in front of you, and it’s bloody true. I mean, take scatological humor in all its myriad forms. When I read How to Eat Fried Worms as an adult, I didn’t actually expect the hero to eat worms (let alone 30+ of them). And when I read Out of Patience by Brian Meehl I really enjoyed it until the moment when the local fertilizer plant became… well, you’d have to read the book to grasp the full horror of the situation. Actually, Out of Patience was the title I kept thinking of as I got deeper and deeper into The Qwikpick Papers. Both books are funny and smart and both involve gross quantities of waste to an extent you might never expect. I am an adult. I have a hard time with poop. Poop aside (and that’s saying something) there’s a lot of great stuff going on in this book. It’s definitely a keeper, though it may need to win over its primary purchasing audience, adults.

Lyle Hertzog is going to level with you right from the start. In this story he and his friends, “didn’t stop a smuggling ring or get mixed up with the mob or stop an ancient evil from rising up and spreading black terror across Crickenburg.” Nope. This is the story of Lyle, Dave, and Marilla and their club’s first adventure. The kids say that they’re The Qwikpick Adventure Society because they meet regularly in the break room of the local Qwikpick convenience store where Lyle’s parents work. When it occurs to the three that they’ll all be available to hang out on Christmas Day, they decide to do something extraordinary. Something unprecedented. And when Marilla discovers that the local “antiquated sludge fountain” at the Crickenburg sewer plant is about to be replaced, they know exactly what to do. They must see the poop fountain before it is gone. The result is a small adventure that is exciting, frightening, and very very pungent.

Someone once told me that this book reminded them of Stand By Me, “except no dead bodies and no Wil Wheaton.” They may be on to something there. Author Tom Angleberger works the relationships between the kids nicely. It’s a little hard to get into the heads of all the characters considering that we’re seeing everything through Lyle’s point of view, but the author does what he can. As for the “sludge fountain” itself, kids looking for gross moments will not be disappointed. You might be able to sell it to their parents with the argument that it’s actually rather informative and factual on this point (though I suggest that you play up the relationship aspect instead).

There are few kid-appropriate taboo topics out there, but if I was going to suggest one I might say it was the issue of class. Oh, you’ll get plenty of books where a kid lives a miserable life in a trailer park and gets teased by the rich/middle class kids in their class about it, sure. Now name all the books you can think of where the main characters live in a trailer park and that’s just their life. Or have parents that work in a convenience store and there isn’t any alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc. I swear, a kid who actually lived in a trailer park these days who tried to find a book containing kids like themselves would have to assume that abuse was the norm rather than the exception. So when I saw that both Lyle and Marilla lived in a trailer park and it wasn’t a big deal, that was huge for me. Also, sometimes a book with kids of different religions or ethnicities will make a big deal about the fact. Here, Lyle’s Christian, Dave’s Jewish, and Marilla’s a Jehovah’s Witness and not white but not identified as anything in particular. Quick! Name all the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’ve encountered in children’s books where the story wasn’t ALL about being a Jehovah’s Witness! Riddleburger is making people just people. What a concept.

I’ve been talking a lot this year about books that don’t slot neatly into categories. The kinds of books that mix genres and styles. The Qwikpick Papers will be classed as fiction, no question about it, but its prolific use of photographs certainly separates it from the pack. For example, there’s a moment when the kids are trying to figure out what to do for Christmas. One of them suggests opening a fifty-gallon drum of banana puree that’s been sitting behind an empty Kroger store and there, lo and behold, is an actual honest-to-goodness photograph of a rusty, decaying, very real banana puree barrel. I don’t know whether to hope that Mr. Angleberger took the picture years ago and was just itching for a chance to get to use it, or that he created the barrel himself for the sole purpose of including a photo of it in his book. I also enjoyed the hand-drawn portions. The comic strip All-Zombie Marching Band deserves mention in and of itself (though technically William Nicholson’s The Wind Singer did it too).

I say that the poop, the sheer amount of it, will turn off a lot of adults. At the same time though there are plenty of moments that will lure the grown-ups back in again. Particularly librarians. Particularly librarians that have ever attempted an origami craft with a bunch of kids. For these brave men and women Lyle’s line about the process of doing an unfamiliar animal will ring true. “You follow the instructions through like thirty-four steps and all of a sudden there’s this funky zigzag arrow and on the next page it has turned from a lump of paper into a horse with wings.” YES! Exactly! Thank you!

All in all, I’m a fan. The characters ring true, the dialogue is snappy, the unique format will lure in reluctant readers, and talk about a title custom made for booktalking! There’s not a kid alive today who wouldn’t want to read the book when confronted with the plot. It has ups. It has downs. It has a great sense of place and a whole lot of poop. Take all angles into consideration when considering this book. On my part, I like it and that is that.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews of the Original:
Professional Reviews of the Original: Kirkus

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12. Best Selling Kids Series | June 2014

Best Selling Books for Kids This month, DK Readers: Star Wars are on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list.

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13. Best Selling Kids Series | July 2014

Thanks to World Cup Soccer, the new Magic Tree House book, Soccer on Sunday, has the series on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list.

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14. El Deafo, by Cece Bell

After an illness at age 4, Cece loses her hearing.  She is soon equipped with a hearing aid that involves wearing a pouch around her neck attached to some "ear globs".  Cece is happy to hear again, but now has to learn how to understand once more.  To top things off, Cece now has to go to a new school.

A good thing about the new school is the other kids are wearing hearing aids too, and Cece is learning some useful skills like lip reading and using visual, context and gestural clues to help in understanding.  Cece is just finding her way, when her family decides to leave the city and head to the country, where she will be going to a regular school.

Cece gets a brand-new-BIG-for-school-only-around-the-neck hearing aid (The Phonic Ear) that comes with a microphone for her teacher to wear and is superpowerful.  What nobody expects is that it comes with the added feature of having a super long range, allowing Cece to hear not only her teacher teaching, but whatever her teacher is doing when she is out of the room as well (yes...even *that*!).

Cece has to negotiate the things that all kids go through at school - including navigating a friend who is not-so-nice, and getting her first crush.  Things unique to her situation include dealing with friends who TALK TOO LOUD AND TOO SLOW, and those who refer to her as their "deaf friend".

This is more than a graphic memoir - it is a school and family story for all kids.  Cece is an imaginative and emotional kid with whom readers will identify.  There is an accessibility to Bell's art that immediate draws you in and you can't help but cheer with her successes and cringe with her tears.  Fans of Telgemeier and Varon will readily scoop this up off of the shelves, and it *will* be passed hand to hand.  I am certain I will see many doodles of Cece and her friends in the margins of writer's notebooks this coming school year.  Do yourself a favor...get more than one!

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15. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch

Readers get a sense of who Mirka is from the very first panel in this charming graphic novel.  While Mirka (who would rather be out fighting dragons) is knitting, her stepmother informs her that she dropped a stitch.  Instead of pulling out her knitting to the dropped stitch and continuing, Mirka argues with Fruma that Hashem must have preordained the dropped stitch, so why should she fix it?  That's Mirka; strong willed, a bit against the grain, and her own girl.

Mirka lives with her family in the Orthodox Jewish community of Hereville.  Expectations are clear, and Mirka and her siblings know what is expected of them.  What is unexpected is the tall, narrow house that Mirka finds in the woods one day.  Mirka brings her brother and sisters back to the house to prove to them it's real, but instead of seeing the floating witch that Mirka insists she saw, all they see is a giant pig that appears when Mirka takes a grape off one of the vines by the house. Mirka has never seen a pig before, and this proves very scary indeed, especially when the pig decides to chase her!

Before she knows it, the pig is pretty much haunting Mirka.  Even though her stepsister tells Mirka just what a pig is, Mirka is convinced that it's a monster and even searches through her forbidden Monster book to find information about it!  Mirka becomes obsessed, insisting that the pig has stolen her homework and decides that she is going to catch it once and for all!  She enlists little brother Zindel and they are soon hatching a plan to catch the pig and to rid Zindel of the bullies that have been tormenting him.

What follows is a wonderful blend of fantasy, quest and a window into the Orthodox Jewish world.  Mirka manages to get what she wants without outright rejecting her culture and faith, but finding ways to work them into her desires.  There is nothing that Mirka loves more than her family, and her quest to have a proper sword proves to be an awakening of sorts on this very topic.  Deutsch's portrayal of the relationships between siblings as well as those between children and parents are completely realistic, and readers will be able to identify with the characters regardless of their faith or their cultural background.

Completely different and refreshing, Hereville will quickly rise to the top of the recommendations that kids give to other kids.

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16. Evolution of the Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes cover


The story of how the Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes cover came to be started with Lisa's first book My Life in Pink & Green. This cover was a huge success and perhaps the easiest cover I have ever worked on. I credit this cover to a relaxing Sunday afternoon. I had just finished a large tasty sandwich from Los Paisanos in Brooklyn. My eyes were heavy and bored from watching the Sunday afternoon TV which means golf, a nap soon followed. Sadly, I was dreaming about work in particular this cover problem only to wake with an idea. Below is a sketch of my first idea which as you can see pretty much became the cover. Only I cropped out the potato chip grease from my fingers.


The final cover


There is only one problem to having a successful cover idea . . . repeating that success. Ugh!
Since this cover idea went over so well everyone from sales, editorial and even buyers want deanother "Pink & Green" cover. Sure sounds great, right? Only Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes was its own story and didn't really work with the design of "Pink & Green." The other issue was now that we launched Lisa Greenwald, we wanted to create a brand look for her books. Ugh! How to do all this and make it look like it belongs with "Pink & Green." This was going to take more than tasty sandwich induced genius.


When a blizzard threatens to ruin Valentine’s Day, three seventh-grade friends make and distribute fortune cookies to their lonely neighbors—and confront the secrets they’ve been keeping from one another.

Confident Kate doesn’t notice much but the latest gossip, and shy Georgia can’t say out loud what’s always on her mind. They’re joined by observant, careful Olivia, whose epic, single-minded crush on PBJ (real name: Phillip Becker-Jacobs) is starting to frustrate the other tw

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17. Diary of a Wimpy Kid - The Ugly Truth

So, what was the release date of this book? November 9th or something?  Well, it left our shelf on that day and didn't come back until Friday.  I snagged it and used a couple of commutes to get it read so that I can put it on the shelf to disappear for the next 3 months!

Greg and Rowley are on the outs.  Greg is considering his options for new friends, but he has to face the fact that they are few and far between.  Christopher Brownfield is more of a summer friend (he's really great for keeping mosquitos away!) and Tyson Sanders has a bathroom habit that's hard overlook.

More is changing in Greg's life than just his body (a fact that he can't avoid thanks to  his teacher insisting showers happen after PE and his mother giving him an embarrassing puberty book).  His mother has decided to go back to school.  Since she is not around so much, Greg, his brothers and father are left to fend for themselves for dinner, cleaning and getting ready for school often to disasterous results, as you can imagine.

One of the best segments in the book happens when the school has a lock-in sleep over.  After all of the games and cellphones are confiscated, the fun begins with ice-breaker games, too many chaperones and an incident involving body parts and polaroid cameras! 

There were fewer laugh-out-loud moments in this installment, and Greg isn't really growing too much as a character, however, tweens are still eating up the series.  The vignette style means that readers generally will recognize their lives in the book somewhere, whether it's having to take care of an egg for health class, being locked in at school for a sleepover, or having a parent who goes back to work.  The stories are solidly in tween territory now with issues of friendship, puberty, family and the search for self swirling through the pages.

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18. Coming soon!

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19. Evolution of LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE cover





I had a bad August.
A very bad August.
As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.
As bad as a spider web on your leg.

As bad as the black parts on a banana.
I hope your August was better.

I really do.

When Eleanor's beloved babysitter, Bibi, has to move away to take care of her ailing father, Eleanor must try to bear the summer without Bibi and prepare for the upcoming school year. Her new, less-than-perfect babysitter just isn't up to snuff, and she doesn't take care of things like Bibi used to. But as the school year looms, it's time for new beginnings. Eleanor soon realizes that she will always have Bibi, no matter how far away she is.

Written in a lyrical style with thoughtful and charming illustrations throughout by Matthew Cordell.


Here are a few of Matthew Cordell's first round sketches.






As you might have guessed the title wasn't working for us.
It worked for the story but was just to "quiet."


A list of new possible title was drawn up.


A Letter from Bibi

Waiting for

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20. Fusenews: What’s wrong with this picture?

With Book Expo going full-blast in town and my library celebrating its Centennial all at the same time, blogging is possible but slightly more difficult than usual.  I am amused to find that when I skip a day some folks worry that I might be in labor.  Fear not.  I’ll find a way to update the blog with that news, come hell or high water.  Tonight, meanwhile, is also my final Kidlit Drink Night (at least for a while) so if you’d like to view my largess (or, rather, largeness) here are the details.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .

  • So I go into the administrative office the other day to pick up my room’s checks and WHAM!  Two gigantic Lego statues of Patience and Fortitude (the library lions) are just sitting there, chewing their cuds (or whatever it is Lego lions chew).  I showed them to a class of second graders on a tour a day or so later (they’re on display in our main hall, if you’re curious) and one kid said that looking at them was like looking at a computer screen.  He had a point.  They’re mighty pixilated.
  • Wow.  That’s pretty cool.  The organization Keshet (“a national organization working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life”) is releasing posters of LGBT Jewish Heroes.  One of the posters available?  Leslea Newman of Heather Has Two Mommies and my favorite LGBT board books Mommy, Mama and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me.  Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link.
  • Do you have what it takes to take on the Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge?  I don’t want to hear your excuses!  I want to see you reading.  You’ve some time to prep so get those eyeball stalks limbered up.
  • Recently I attended SLJ’s Day of Dialog (slooooow emerging blog post to come on the subject).  The keynote speech was delivered by Katherine Paterson who began, much to my delight, with some praise of New Zealand children’s book superstar Margaret Mahy (who would be a superstar here if they just friggin’ republished The Changeover *coughcough*).  Anyway, it seems she recently won in the picture book category of the 2011 New Zealand Children’s Book Awards.  What would you like to bet me that someday they’ll rename those awards “The Mahys”?  I give it ten years, tops.
  • Speaking of aw

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21. BREAKING NEWS! DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: CABIN FEVER


Hold on Tight, this Winter has Bite



USA TODAY, the #1 paper in the country with a 1.8 million circulation,

broke the news this morning that

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: CABIN FEVER

the sixth book in the game-changing series by Jeff Kinney,

will go on sale November 15, 2011, with a 6-million copy first printing—the largest to date!

They are also the first to run the cover, which will be “ice blue.”

Please see the full press release attached and below. We expect all major daily trades to follow today and tomorrow.

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22. Review of the Day: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
By Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0025-5
Ages 9-12
On shelves August 1st.

What is the most telling difference between those works of children’s literature written long ago and those written today? Pose this question to a room full of children’s librarians and I suspect that the answers would be myriad. Books today are less racist. They’re willing to push more boundaries. They’re smarter, hipper, less didactic, and so on and such. Pose the question to a room full of kids now. What do they answer? Would they even know where to begin? I wonder since the memorable children’s books of the past, the ones that we hold in our hearts and pass along from generation to generation have a quality that most children’s books today don’t bother to cultivate: timelessness. Of course there are as many bad books for kids that try to reach that golden goal as there are good ones. It is incredibly difficult to write a book for the youth of today that is interesting to them and yet manages to feel “timeless” without covering itself in must and dust. That Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes succeeds in this endeavor is a testament not only to its author but to a publishing world that’s willing to put out something that doesn’t slot into the usual five categories of books for youth.

Babies found floating in baskets usually turn out quite well. They get adopted by pharaohs’ daughters and the like, right? Well, that may be the case for some babies, but Peter Nimble isn’t exactly the lucky sort. Found floating in the sea, his eyes pecked out (presumably by the raven perched there), Peter is abandoned to the wilds of the world. On his own he manages to use his talents to become the world’s greatest thief. This talent is swiftly exploited by the nasty Mr. Seamus who makes Peter steal for him. All seems bleak until the day Peter stops to listen to a crazy haberdasher who has come to town. Next thing he knows, Peter has pilfered a box containing three pairs of magical eyes and in accepting them he allows himself to take part in a marvelous, epic adventure.

A difficulty with writing a story from the perspective of a blind protagonist is that you’re limited to that person’s senses. Or rather, you would be if the book was first person. Auxier sets his tale in the third, leaving the reader to decide whether or not the book should be this deftly described. We’re still with Peter every step of the way, after all. So is it fair that the text should show such a visual world when that is not Peter’s experience? I don’t find it much of a problem myself, though I can see how some folks would deem it strange. Yet the third person narration is the key here. It’s not even particularly intrusive.

The book is also dotted with small pen-and-ink illustrations throughout the text (created by the author himself, no less) that serve to show a bit of what is described to Peter. It is interesting to see what Auxier chooses to show and not to show. For example, the kitten/horse/knight that is his companion Sir Tode is never fully seen in any of the pictures in this book except for the odd rear view. So it is that Auxier uses his art to give readers just a hint of the story. He leaves most of the characters and situations up to child imaginations, though.

He also has his influences. Jonathan Auxier doesn’t love 0 Comments on Review of the Day: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier as of 1/1/1900

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23. Review of the Day: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

Fake Mustache: how Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (And Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election From a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind)
By Tom Angleberger
Illustrated by Jen Wang
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
$13.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0194-8
Ages 9-12
On shelves April 1, 2012

I said it about Laini Taylor. I said it about Jeff Kinney. Heck, I even said it about J.K. Rowling and now, my friends, I’m saying it about Tom Angleberger: I was into him before it was cool. Seriously, a show of hands, how many of you out there can say that you read his first middle grade novel The Qwikpick Adventure Society written under the pen name of Sam Riddleberger? See, that’s what I though. I did and it was hilarious, thank you very much. The kind of thing you read and love and wish more people knew (plus it involved a poop fountain. I kid you not). Years passed and at long last Tom got his due thanks to a little unassuming title by the name of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. By the time Darth Paper Strikes Back came out, Mr. Angleberger was a certifiable hit with the 9-12 year old set. Fortunately for all of us he hasn’t rested on his laurels quite yet. He’s still willing to stretch a little and get seriously wacky when he wants to. Case in point, Fake Mustache. Just your average everyday twelve-year-old-takes-over-the-world title, Tom’s desire for total and complete goofiness finds a home here. I was into Tom before everyone else was, but considering how much fun Fake Mustache is I guess I’m willing to share him a little.

If he hadn’t lent Casper the measly ten bucks then it’s pretty certain that Lenny Flem Jr. wouldn’t have found himself pairing up with famous television star and singer Jodie O’Rodeo to defeat the evil genius Fako Mustacho. You see, Casper wanted to buy a mustache. And not just any mustache, mind you, but the extremely rare (and luxurious) Heidelberg Handlebar #7. A mustache so powerful, in fact, that when Casper puts it on he’s capable of convincing anyone of anything. Now Casper, posing as Fako Mustacho, has set his sights on the U.S. presidency and only Lenny and Jodie are willing and able to defeat him.

To read this book, kid or adult, you need to have somewhere to safely place your disbelief. I recommend storing it in the rafters of your home. Failing that, launch it into the stratosphere because logic is not going to be your friend when you read this. Literal-minded children would do well to perhaps avoid this book. The ideal reader would be one who reads for pleasure and who enjoys a tale that knows how to have a bit of fun with its internal logic. Once that’s taken care of you’ll be able to really get into Angleberger’s wordplay. He throws in just a ton of fun details that are worth repeating. Things like the fact that the state legislature tends to meet in the local Chinese buffet restaurant because

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24. Review: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell


 

Title: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe

Author: Shelley Coriell

Publisher: Amulet Books

ISBN: 978-1419701917

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

Review:

I enjoyed this book so much because I found the protagonist so likeable.  Chloe is one of those perpetually happy people, and she finds the good in every situation.  Because she is a “the glass is half-full” kind of girl, people are drawn to her open and friendly personality.  She doesn’t judge others, which I found refreshing, and she tries to be a friend to everyone.  It’s when her own BFFs ditch her that she finds herself alone and unhappy, because Chloe is such a people-person.  In order for her to be happy, she needs to be around others, so her friends’ defection leaves her reeling.

My biggest hurdle to overcome with this read was the reason for the breakup with her BFFs.  It just did not sound convincing, and to me, the tone of this plot point would have felt more at home in a Middle Grade book.  I really did feel that she was better off making new friends, because she isn’t the kind of girl to enjoy all of the drama her BFFs were putting her through.  They were not worthy of her loyalty, but Chloe’s refusal to acknowledge how petty they were being is one of the things that I admired about her character.  She truly wants to get along with everyone, and she goes out of her way to make people happy.

When she is forced to accept a new topic for her junior project, a paper that her school year hinges on, she is angry.  She doesn’t want to have anything to do with the school’s radio station, and she has no passion for the topic.  As she is slowly enmeshed in the lives and hopes of the radio station’s staff, though, she begins to enjoy learning more about it.  With low ratings and the threat of their funds being revoked, the kids running the station are just as wary of Chloe as she is of them.  They don’t have a good opinion of her, they don’t have time for her, and they doubt that she can bring any useful skills to the table.  As she struggles to complete her project and save the radio station at the same time, she begins to make allies among the radio station staff.

She is attracted to Duncan, who is content to keep her at arms length, but as Chloe warms up to her new acquaintances, she strives to become a fr

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25. The Quick Fix, by Jack D. Ferraiolo

This is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time now.  The Big Splash is a book that has a constant and steady flow of readers at our school.  I enjoyed it very much, but somehow I had not gotten around to reading the sequel.  Boy, I'm glad I finally did!

It's only 2 weeks after the end of The Big Splash.  Matt is experiencing a bit of a moment of celebrity himself, and more and more kids are interested in his services.  He is a bit surprised when beautiful cheerleader Melissa Scott, girlfriend of basketball star Will Atkins, want to hire him to follow her famously sporty boyfriend around.  Matt isn't exactly used to dealing with the beautiful cheerleader type, and little does he know that Melissa is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, Vinny is still ruling The Frank, and he isn't about to leave Matt's talents untouched.  He too, wants Matt's services and doesn't give him much of a choice about the matter.  Liz, who is pulling away from Matt at this point, accuses him of having a lack of moral compass.  Matt is left wondering if he is any better than Vinny and his thugs.

Throw in some twists and turns of the family mystery, a super twisty path toward a romance, and wrap it all in a noir package and you have The Quick Fix.  And somehow it works.  Readers totally buy into Ferraiolo's world with it's rules and slang.  Kids have pixy stix addictions, water guns seal their fates, basketball games are fixed, and it all makes sense.  There is a sensibility to Ferraiolo's writing that oozes commitment and authenticity.  Kids get this and they enjoy every moment of it.  If you haven't made time to read this one yet, you should.

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