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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Amulet Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 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.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

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2 Comments on Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, last added: 3/13/2014
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2. 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.

1 Comments on The Quick Fix, by Jack D. Ferraiolo, last added: 5/13/2013
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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES offical Mask!


Listen up ya knuckleheads! Here's your chance to look like a real life space bunny!

Mask by DAN SANTAT

Other Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies blog enteries

1. Cover Evolution
2. Interior Sneak Peak

1 Comments on ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES offical Mask!, last added: 6/22/2010
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8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (5) Press Release



THIS FALL . . . EVERYTHING CHANGES.

MORE THAN 5 MILLION COPIES OF

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE UGLY TRUTH,

BOOK 5 IN THE BLOCKBUSTER SERIES BY JEFF KINNEY,

TO BE PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY AMULET BOOKS.

NATIONAL LAYDOWN IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2010

FIRST-EVER BOX SET OFFERS NEW CONTENT FOR FANS


New York, NY, July 29, 2010—Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, reveals today in a major press announcement the title, first-printing quantity, and cover of the fifth Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. The Ugly Truth will have the largest first printing to date of any title in the series, with more than 5 million copies, making it one of the largest publishing releases of 2010 when it goes on sale Tuesday, November 9. The cover is purple, following the red, blue, green, and yellow of the first four #1 bestselling books, which are available together for the first time this September in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of Books, which features an original Rowley Jefferson cartoon. The Ugly Truth follows the sales and publicity momentum of the #1 bestseller The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, a nonfiction book by Jeff Kinney published to coincide with the March 2010 release of the feature movie version of the first Wimpy Kid book. The Ugly Truth is a pivotal installment in the s

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9. 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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10. 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

2 Comments on Evolution of the Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes cover, last added: 11/24/2010
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11. 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.

2 Comments on Diary of a Wimpy Kid - The Ugly Truth, last added: 1/26/2011
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12. Coming soon!

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13. 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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14. 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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15. 100 Scopenotes BLOG interview



CLICK HERE FOR FULL INTERVIEW

I was just interviewed by the blog 100 Scope Notes. Travis Jonker my interviewer is an elementary school librarian since 2005, started 100 Scope Notes in the golden days of 2007.

In addition to posting children’s literature reviews here, Travis also periodically straightens his tie and reviews for School Library Journal, and has been a judge for the Cybils Awards.

He lives in Michigan.


Hope you enjoy the interview it was a lot of fun to do.


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16. Book Review of NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One) by Michael Buckley

I'd been preparing a Christmas package for my cousin's 9-year old son (and 13-year old daughter) and came across NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley. I can't wait to hear what 9-year old Luis thinks of this book!

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One)

Fifth grader Jackson Jones of Arlington, Virginia was very, very, very, very, very, very very, very popular at Nathan Hale Elementary School. Head of his PeeWee football team and with a catchy touchdown dance, Jackson was so popular that his fellow students copied his every move. Jackson and his friends had a particular game - catching and tormenting the many nerds that populate Nathan Hale Elementary School. Jackson orchestrated and executed spitwad attacks, "purple nurples, blistering pink bellies, cruel charley horses, nasty noogies" and atomic wedgies - just for fun.

But when Jackson's visit to the dentist leads to major braces, his life changes dramatically. He's soon a nerd himself. His old friends pick on him. And the nerds he'd picked on want nothing to do with him. Lonely, Jackson passes the time trying to uncover the many secrets at Nathan Hale Elementary School.

His greatest discovery is the existence of NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society, a secret government agency composed of the most elite and successful secret agents. Billions of dollars in research and scientific support have given these elite agent amazing physical and techonological powers. For NERDS, the government has recruited the only group not afraid of technology - children. The team is made up of the same nerds and geeks that Jackson had enjoyed tormenting during his popular days!

The NERDS are made up of: Matilda with the inhalers that can be used as rockets or a blow torch. Melinda turns out to be a gifted killer who can use any household item as a deadly weapons. Bucktooth Heathcliff can use his front teeth to hypnotize anyone and force them to obey his commands. Junkfood addict Flinch has superhuman strength, partly linked to his huge consumption of candy and sugar. Ruby with the rashes and hives turns out to be highly sensitive to falsehood - she is a human lie detector. Duncan, the paste-eater, who can stick to walls and trap enemies with his special glue. Jackson's braces are upgraded with billions of dollars of nanotechnology - so that they work like transformers and can do anything that he can picture in his mind! The NERDS travel on the "School bus" a super rocket.

Jackson wants to be one of the NERDS so badly. He doesn't understand the antagonism - his fellow agents seem to dislike him no matter what he does. When Jackson recognizes how he'd been a jerk to the NERDS, he tries to make it up to them as they work together to figure out the sudden spate of kidnappings and natural disasters.

Further complicating things for Jackson is the appearance of the former child beauty pagent winner and professional assassin, Mindy (a.k.a. the "Hyena").

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society is witty and action-packed. The description of the elementary school social hierarchy and taunts was particularly well done. It's sure to be a huge hit with young readers - whether they're girls or boys!

Publisher: Amulet Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2009), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

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17. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda—Sneak Peak


THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA


With every galley given out Tom Angleberger author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda has made a Origami Yoda for each book. I forsee big things for this 'strange' book.


About the book
In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.

About the author
Applying for a job as a newspaper artist, Tom Angleberger was mistakenly assigned to cover local government meetings. Fifteen years and countless town council meetings later, he is still writing instead of drawing, currently as a columnist for the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia. He began work on his first book while in middle school. Tom is married to author-illustrator Cece Bell. They live in Christianburg, Virginia.

Authors: By Tom Angleberger
Imprint: Amulet Books
ISBN: 0-8109-8425-3
EAN: 9780810984257
Availability: Prepublication
Publishing Date: 4/1/2010
Trim Size: 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Page Count: 160
Cover: Hardcover
Illustrations: Through out

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18. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang


Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang have been friends forever. They are in their last year before middle school, and they know it’s time to take action regarding their popularity. Better stated, their lack of popularity is the real problem. They have watched Lydia’s sister make the transition to middle school and somewhere along the lines she went from a tanned, cute, musical girl to a pale, black-haired, pierced being. To tell the truth, Lydia and Julie are a bit scared of her, and want to make sure that nothing like that happens to them along the way.

But how to get popular? They decide their best course of action is to do some good old-fashioned research by studying the girls who are now popular, and recording their findings in a journal. They divide the work up by having Julie do most of the writing and drawing (since she’s better at both), and having Lydia dictate.

They study the 4 main popular girls: Gretchen (who has the cool blonde streak in her hair), Lisa (who has the expensive cell phone), Jane (the fashionista, theater girl) and Sukie (who they can’t really figure out). Should they dye their hair like Gretchen? Learn to knit or play field hockey like Sukie? Start to like boys?

The girls end up trying various hobbies and interests of the other girls on for size. Is the result popularity? What do you think?

Amy Ignatow has created a super cute scrapbook-style book, that tween readers will eat up. Not only is the format fun, by Ignatow is able to go beyond the format to get at the meaty issues of girl-friendships. There are bossy moments, backstabbing moments and she brings the ebbs and flows of girl-friendship alive on the pages. And Julia's parents just happen to be two dads, which is always a good thing. Ignatow does this with panache, without Julia's family being a big deal, simply a fact.

I read this in arc format (due out 4/10) and I cannot wait to see the final copy. The details even in the arc are stupendous with scotch taped bits, school notes, and hilarious illustrations. I hand sold it to a big reader of mine, and it’s safe to say that The Popularity Papers won’t cross my desk again until every girl (and some of the boys) in her class have read it

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19. February Bullentin Board

Starting at the top left: Michael Buckley's NERDS: M is for Momma's Boy the second book in the NERDS series, Barry Deutsch's Graphic Novel Hereville, David Clement Davies novel Scream of the White Bears, and the final book in David Ward's trilogy Beyond the Mask, Second row: Laura Numeroff teams up with Dan Andreasen for Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever, Kim Gordon writes Misty Gordon and the Pirate Ghosts with cover art by Gregg Call, then The WIMPY KID Movie Diary, followed by Lisa Greenwald's second novel Sweet Treat and Secret Crushes, Third Row: a sketch I made for an online banner ad for MEANWHILE a 'chose your own adventure' graphic novel by Jason Shiga and final George Bates and Nancy Raines Day's long awaited On a Windy Night picture book. All these books are due out in 2010.

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20. Evolution of the MEANWHILE cover


Original hand-printed version of this "insane choose-own-adventure masterpiece" —Scott McCloud


About the MEANWHILE


Chocolate or Vanilla? This simple choice is all it takes to get started with Meanwhile, the wildly inventive creation of comics mastermind Jason Shiga, of whom Scott McCloud said “Crazy + Genius = Shiga.” Jimmy, whose every move is under your control, finds himself in a mad scientist’s lab, where he’s given a choice between three amazing objects: a mind-reading device, a time-travel machine, or the Killitron 3000 (which is as ominous as it sounds). Down each of these paths there are puzzles, mysterious clues, and shocking revelations. It’s up to the reader to lead Jimmy to success or disaster.
Meanwhile is a wholly original story of invention, discovery, and saving the world, told through a system of tabs that take you forward, backward, upside down, and right side up again. Each read creates a new adventure!


I first met Jason Shiga in a large ABRAMS conference room in 2008. At this point I had the opportunity to read Jason's early version of MEANWHILE, pictured above.
It was and is unlike any graphic novel I had ever seen. The amount of work and thought that went into it is staggering. On top of that the stories were great. Only like other books there wasn't one story to follow. This provided an interesting problem for the cover design. Jason's orginal cover was in Black and White and had elements that we liked but it wasn't quite to the place that we wanted. So . . . Ja

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21. A Look Back on Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Book and the Movie by Charles Kochman



Last week the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie premiered and now there is talk of producing a second film. But how did we get here? It just seems like yesterday that we started work on the cover. Which was over 3 years ago now. The first time I ever heard anything about Diary of a Wimpy Kid was through a PW announcement informing us that Charles Kochman had acquired a book told in cartoons. It was the first time I had seen an announcement like that about a book I was going to be working on before working on it. I had yet to work with Charlie since he was an editor for the Abrams imprint and had yet to work on anything in the Children's Dept. Not knowing what lay ahead there was an air of excitement around this book from the day one. Charles Kochman took a moment last week to reflect back about the movie and how Wimpy Kid came to be.

Charles Kochman: It’s late in the afternoon on Sunday, February 26, 2006, and I’ve been working the New York Comic-Con since Friday. A young man walks up to the Abrams booth and we begin to talk about Mom’s Cancer, a Web comic we’d just published as a graphic novel that was starting to get a lot of attention. He then asks if we would ever consider an online comic that was written for younger readers. “If the material was right, sure,” I say. “I can’t see why not.” The man then hands me a 6 x 9 spiral-bound packet of eighteen pages. There’s a simple line drawing on the front and a title scrawled across the top, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I looked down at his proposal, smiled, then looked up, the eight year old in me thinking, Why wasn’t there something like this when I was a kid? I offer encouragement, leafing through the pages, and let him know I’d be in touch after I read it and looked at his Web site. The man walks away into the crowd and, as he told me later, called his brother and said, “I just met the guy who’s going to publish my book.” Little did he know, but as I watched him walk down the aisle of the Javitz Center that afternoon, I thought the same thing.

That night I went home, ate, and sorted through my stack of swag from three days at the con. Spread out on my bed were comics, books, posters, postcards, buttons, and proposals, each in its own pile. And then I unpacked Diary of a Wimpy Kid and read the first page and started to laugh. By the time I got to page seven and the Reading Group titles Einstein as a Child and Bink Says Boo, Jeff Kinney and Greg Heffley had won me over completely.

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22. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Tommy is just trying to get through sixth grade. He’s not the most popular guy, but he’s not the biggest weirdo either. That particular title belongs to Dwight. Dwight is always doing odd things that aren’t helping his social status; stuff like “barfing in class because he ate thirteen servings of canned peaches as lunch” (p.4), or answering Tommy’s questions simply with the word “purple” over and over again.

Dwight’s latest thing is wearing a origami Yoda finger puppet and doling out advice. Tommy’s not sure what to make of this. On one hand, it’s the kind of odd Dwight behavior that fits Dwight’s profile, on the other hand, some of the advice that’s been handed out has been good advice. Tommy decides along with his buddies Harvey and Kellen to make a case file documenting origami Yoda’s successes and failures so that Tommy knows whether or not to trust origami Yoda with his own big question!

The “files” are all told by the people who asked Yoda for advice in the first place and each segment ends with Harvey’s two cents (he’s kind of like a control since he doesn’t believe in Yoda’s powers at all), and Tommy’s own opinion. Throughout the case file, readers are treated to a full serving of life in middle school, including embarrassing pant stains, pop quiz ethics, Shakespeare bust mysteries, and the ever nerve inducing school dance (renamed “Fun Night” to take the pressure off).

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a laugh-out-loud funny read, and captures that same essence of The Diary Wimpy Kid books without trying to imitate them. Tommy is a quintessential middle school kid, and the push-pull of his relationships with Dwight and Harvey will feel familiar to many readers. is equal girl and boy appeal, as the advice that is asked tends to be universally middle school in scope.

If some of you doubt the possibility of a kid pulling off a month of wearing an origami Yoda puppet, I say you just haven’t spent enough time in a middle school. This is exactly the kind of thing that goes on in the cafeteria and hallways.

Fun, fun, fun!

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23. Interview Adventure Series—Adam McCauley • 7



Adam McCauley enjoys illustrating, playing music, and making things. His illustrations have appeared in magazines, publications and campaigns world wide. Adam's work has been included in group shows in Osaka, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo and Nashville. He works out of his studio in the sunny Mission district in San Francisco.

Adam's clients have included Time, MTV, Apple Computer, National Geographic, Levi's, Viking, Harper Collins, Microsoft, and many others.

Adam's awards have included American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, Print Regional Design Annual, 3 x 3, and How Magazine.

Adam received the Society of Illustrator's Gold Medal for his illustrated monster stamp endpapers for the book "The Monsterologist:A Memoir In Rhyme" by Bobbi Katz.


CW: My goal so far with the various interviews of illustrators is to help of illustrators find there way. The following questions will be add to this underlying idea. Let's get started!


CW: How would you recommend to other illustrators to get there work published?


AM: Do the best work you can do, make it as interesting to look at and experience as it is interesting for you to do. Good work makes for good work received.

CW: D

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24. Art Preview! Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies

A Sneak Peak at the art of ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES
(even though Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies is in-stores as of Mid-May)



Illustrated by
Dan Santat


Story by Andrea Beaty



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25. The Evolution of the Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies Cover






One day a year he is Santa Claus, but the other 364 days Dan Santat works as a children's book writer and commercial illustrator. He is also the creator of Disney's animated hit, "The Replacements"

Dan graduated with honors from the Art Center, College of Design.

He lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, a cat, a bird, and one rabbit

For some time I had been looking for a project that would be just right for Dan's sensibilities. Crazy giant rabbits from outer space fit that bill.

From the beginning our ideas for the direction of the cover were in sync, vintage monster movie posters! Here are some that we looked at.



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