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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: macmillan, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 3 Staff Members at St. Martin’s Press Receive Promotions

stmartins130Three staff members at St. Martin’s Press have received promotions. All of them work within the art department.

Mike Storrings has been named vice president and creative director of the imprint. David Rotstein will tackle on the dual role of executive art director at St. Martin’s Press and creative art director of Minotaur. Olga Grlic has been appointed executive art director of the Griffin and mass market paperbacks teams.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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2. Librarian Preview: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

macmillan Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)And the hits just keep on coming!  Ain’t no party like a Macmillan party, cause a Macmillan party has superior brownies.  So there I was, HUGELY pregnant with some major back pain attending my penultimate librarian preview in a publisher’s home base (I actually have three more to write up after this, so no worries about me running out anytime soon).  As you may know, Macmillan is based out of the Flatiron Building here in NYC and a nicer little ancient structure with teeny tiny elevators you will never meet.

Now a Macmillan Librarian Preview is a bit different from any other publisher’s preview.  First off, superior desserts.  So superior, in fact, that it takes an act of will not to eat large quantities of them.  Second, they hold their previews in the afternoon, post-lunch, and end at the end of the work day (5ish or so).  This allows you the chance to arrive on time, not particularly bleary-eyed, feeling guiltless when you go home afterwards.  Third, they assign each attendee a group and then the groups go off into separate rooms.

I have been to (rough guess here) ten or so Macmillan previews over the years.  I’ve seen them change and evolve over time into the clever current layout.  And not once, NOT ONCE, had I ever been allowed to be a part of the group that stays in the first meeting room.  Which is to say, the group that has access to those previously mentioned delicious snacks.  But now I must credit the magical powers of my pregnant stomach.  I got the first room!  I got it!!  Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay!  Pardon me while I chortle in my joy.

And so it was that I sat in on the preview, finding that now I had to concentrate my willpower on NOT eating the delicious snacks, one after another.  I tell ya, man.  I ain’t never satisfied.

Onto the preview!

Farrar Straus Giroux

If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson, ill. Chris Raschka

IfYouWereDog 500x497 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

It’s not as if Chris Raschka has to prove that he’s capable of drawing dogs or anything.  I mean, he bloody won a Caldecott Award with one such book not too long ago.  In the case of this particular title, we’re seeing a slightly squared off Raschka at work.  The author is Jamie Swenson, whom I am delighted to report is a children’s librarian from Wisconsin.  In the book a kiddo imagines being a dog, cat, fish, frog, and dinosaur.  I particularly liked the line about being a “dino-eyed, perching-raptor sort of bird.”  Extra Added Plus: In the vein of The Hello Goodbye Window (another Raschka award winner) the kid is mixed-race with a light mom and dark dad.

Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer

RupertCanDance Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

You can never predict a Feiffer.  For a couple years now he’s been pairing his art to his daughter Kate’s writing, yielding such lovely titles as My Side of the Car (which I personally am really quite fond of).  From time to time he’ll still strike out on his own, though.  I consider some of his solo picture book efforts true classics (see: Bark, George and The Daddy Mountain as two examples).  Now we meet Rupert, the dancing cat.  Since Feiffer’s picture books often have interesting back stories, one can only hope the tale behind this tale will come out someday.  In this book a cat that likes to dance en seul is discovered by his human owner.  Unfortunately, her attempts to “help” result in him pulling away and quitting his high-stepping altogether.  Things eventually reach a happy conclusion, and I couldn’t but think that the story was an excellent metaphor for when parental “help” offered to children is rebuffed in much the same way that Rupert rebuffs his mistress.  Consider pairing this with Flora and the Flamingo or Penguin Cha-Cha.

And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, ill. Sophie Blackall

TwoBoysBooed 500x407 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I’m all about helping kids deal with disappointment and failure.  Seems to me a healthy thing to do.  Recently I reviewed The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, which shows kids that getting things wrong over and over again can actually be a good thing.  Along much the same lines comes the latest from the author that brought us Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  So basically, we’re talking about a woman with some experience with disappointed boys.  In this tale there is a small classroom talent show going on and our hero is going to sing.  Trouble is, there are a LOT of kids before him and he really has to wait before his singing happens.  Told with rhythmic text and some really nice little flaps that you lift, it doesn’t hurt matters any that the art is by Sophie Blackall, one of my favorite illustrators of regular everyday kids.  When our hero does finally get his chance, most everyone applauds though two boys do boo him.  Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt him one jot.  And brother, if you can survive being booed as a kid then you are emotionally and mentally set for LIFE!  What a cool idea for a book.

Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

LittleHumans 498x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

So I’m walking down the street with my husband the other day and he says to me, “You know what the Humans of New York guy should do?  He should make a book for kids.”  I was mighty pleased to be able to say, “It’s out this October.”  So there you go, folks.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos

KeySwallowedJoey Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Sometimes a book jacket artist is so obvious you feel as if they’ve always been the artist on a series.  Lane Smith’s covers of the Joey Pigza books?  Yes, obviously.  He did those years ago, right?  Nope.  And why no one thought to pair Smith and Gantos together before now is baffling.  I mean, talk about a match made in heaven!  These guys complete one another.  As for the fact that there’s another Joey Pigza on the horizon, woohoo!  Do you remember how angry some folks got when the last one came out?  I remember some librarians complaining because at the end of #3 Joey really seemed like his life was coming together.  Then it all fell apart in #4 (I Am Not Joey Pigza).  In #5 he’s still dealing with some major problems and if I were a betting woman I’d say it’s likely that there are no easy answers.  One thought about the title, it’s going to make keyword searches for the first book just the teensiest bit more difficult now.

Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn

SpiritsKey Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

More keys.  I have to remember how they were describing this one.  If I’m remembering correctly then they said this was “Savvy meets Because of Winn-Dixie” (a “meets” I have certainly never seen before).  I heard their description of this book but for some reason I just wasn’t able to get my fingers to write down the information correctly.  Here’s the official summary then: “By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess devil spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, everyone blames the dogs–except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears. His help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.”

Feiwel and Friends

Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas by Nathan Hale and Rick Walton

FrankensteinFright Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I never really noticed it before but Frankenstein sort of looks like a shorter, more undead version of Hale’s Hangman from the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series.  See?

Hangman 210x300 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Sorry. That was random.  I just love the Hazardous Tales series so much I’ll use any excuse to talk about ‘em.  Anywho, here we have the sequel to Hale and Walton’s rather successful Frankenstein which, as you may recall, was a parody of Madeline. Looking at the book I was definitely reminded of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Not the worst thing to think of when looking at a new book, wouldn’t you say?

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

RainReign Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Right now this is the book I feel guiltiest for not having read yet.  To give us a taste, five pages of this book were read aloud.  And yup.  That was pretty much all it took to get us all very very VERY interested.  Yes, you could say that it looks rather familiar since it is yet again an Ann M. Martin dog book.  But the individual voices of the characters, in particular the father and the daughter, are amazingly well delineated.  With a heroine with Asperger’s who finds numbers and homonyms comforting, this was the take away line from the preview: “You may not like her, but you’ll love her.”  Oooo.  Well played, Feiwel and Friends.

Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom by Dan Yaccarino

Zorgoochi Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

What does it say about a publisher when they have not one but TWO books for kids coming out the same year featuring outer space heroes that deliver pizzas?  Over at the First Second imprint they’ve already published James Kochalka’s The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza.  Now Feiwel and Friends are coming out with a middle grade novel about an independent space pizza company (never buy your space pizza from corporate sellouts, sweethearts).  Copiously illustrated by Yaccarino and nicely designed, there is a moral to this tale: “Aliens aren’t good tippers.”  It’s an interesting size for a middle grade, coming in at a slightly larger than usual 6″ X 9″.  And since the story does, at some point, involve talking garlic, I officially approve.  Insofar as I’m concerned, all books should involve talking garlic in some way.  It just makes sense.

Coming Home by Greg Ruth

ComingHome 495x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Okay.  Fess up.  How many of you have watched those YouTube videos of soldiers returning home, being greeted by their loved ones and haven’t teared up?  Here, I’ll give you a challenge.  Watch this and don’t cry.

Now admit that this is a great idea for a picture book.  Greg Ruth was last seen creating the creepy as all get out graphic novel The Lost Boy.  Switching gears entirely, he’s now penned a picture book that will be out just in time for Veteran’s Day.  In this tale, a boy waits for his mom in an airport.  As he does we see family after family greeting returning soldiers home.

Henry Holt

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

StormWhale 500x434 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I’m the kind of parent who always makes a big show of reading the author’s name when I read a book aloud to my kiddos.  As a result, the name “Benji Davies” is VERY familiar to me.  That’s because here in the States we primarily know him through his Nosy Crow imports like the Bizzy Bear series.  Turns out, the man has loads of other books under his belt, and they do not all happen to involve wide-eyed board book bears.  This book sort of looks like a combination of One Morning in Maine meets modern Japanese prints.  With beautiful saturated color the story follows a boy, his fisherman father, and their cats.  One day the boy finds a small whale on the beach and brings it home.  Imagine this to be a companion to Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.  Then head on over to the 100 Scope Notes post on the proliferation of whales in children’s books this year.

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

ThisBookAteDog Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but after the publication of Herve Tullet’s Press Here, its overwhelming success led to a string of copycat picture books.  And they all basically did the same darn thing, but with a mild twist here and there.  *snore*  If you’re going to make an interactive picture book where the format is key to the storytelling, at least put a little originality in there, people.  Originality is the name of the game with Byrne’s latest.  This is a book that uses the gutter (in layman’s terms, the middle of the book between the pages) as part of the plot.  It’s funny and quirky and really rather clever.  It would also make a GREAT readaloud picture book.  Just sayin’.

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

LittleElliot Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I consider this one a love letter to New York City.  It reminded me in equal turns of Gus Gordon’s Herman & Rosie and Dan Santat’s Beekle.  In this story a small polka dotted elephant (the polka dots are awfully light) finds that he is just too small in this way too big city.  Fortunately, he soon finds a friend who makes the experience of NYC a little more manageable.

Classic Comics: Pinocchio by Kate McMullan, ill. Pascal LeMaitre

Pinocchio Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Fun Fact: Did you know that in the original tale of Pinocchio it wasn’t a whale that swallowed everybody’s favorite wooden boy but a shark?  You can thank Disney for mucking up your memories in that respect.  McMulland and LeMaitre (who may sound familiar to you because he illustrated Andrea Beaty’s Ted books) have created an early chapter book hybrid graphic novel series in two-colors based on classics.  First up (working off the original text) is Pinocchio.  Next: Robin Hood.

Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen

CentaurRising Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

In some ways, Jane Yolen is the queen of the hybrid humans.  I can’t tell you how easy it has been over the years to hear the pleas of mermaid loving girls and then hand them Yolen’s Neptune Rising (check out the cover and you’ll see what I mean).  Her latest is a bit of historical fiction with a title very similar to that old merman tale.  Here’s the official publisher plot: “One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?”

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough,

ill. Jennifer Thermes

LittleAuthorBigWoods Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The most interesting thing about this is that the cover and interior illustrations evoke most clearly (and we have to assume, deliberately) the original illustrations of the Little House books by Helen Sewell.  Knowing, as they do, that the Little House books are most accessible to slightly older children, this book makes Laura & Co. applicable to younger folks.  Recipes and crafts are also included.

And Away We Go by Migy

AndAwayWeGo Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Balloons are very big with Macmillan this year (as you will soon see with an upcoming Philip Stead book).  In this cumulative story a fox gets a hot air balloon.  As he travels, more and more animals join for a ride, bringing something with them.  That’s when things get a little crazy.  Think of a book like The Mitten only set in a hot air balloon and you’ll have the right notion.  Plus, you’ve gotta love the retro look that one-namer Migy has cultivated here.  Sweet.

Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog by Emily Arnold McCully

Strongheart Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

There is something deeply askew in the universe this year.  I like dog books.  Books.  Plural.  I keep bloody running into dog books that I enjoy and I am NOT a dog person.  If it’s not Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum then it’s Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalvan or Kathi Appelt’s Mogie: The Heart of the House.  Know what these all have in common?  They’re all based on real dogs.  McCully’s is no different.  Before Lassie, before RinTinTin, there was Strongheart.  A former soldier dog from Germany, Strongheart could march and obey orders but he didn’t know how to play.  That meant he was an ideal actor (and don’t worry, the man who got him taught him to play as well).  He became a real sensation of the 1920s, and his on-screen exploits even inspired the owners of RinTinTin.  Pair this book with the aforementioned Stubby as well as Meghan McCarthy’s Balto for other books about dogs-turned-Vaudeville and onscreen stars.

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

TalesBunjitsuBunny Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

If I were to list my favorite picture books of all time, I would be ashamed not to mention Chickens to the Rescue and Katie Loves the Kittens, two of my favorite books.  In the same vein as such series as Usagi Yojimbo comes an early chapter book series about a martial art that is entirely for bunnies.  Short little stories and a single color (red), John himself has long studied martial arts so he knows from whence he writes when he includes such elements as bunchucks (they’re made of carrots).

Three Pickled Herrings by Sally Gardner, ill. David Roberts

ThreePickledHerrings Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

To a certain extent I’m including this because I enjoyed the first book in the series so very much.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all how charming Operation Bunny: The Fairy Detective Agency’s First Case by Sally Gardner (which came out earlier this year) is.  If you haven’t read it yet then tsk tsk tsk.  It’s a pure delight.  Very much in the Dahl vein, only slightly more refined.  In any case, to know that there’s a second book coming out is just icing on the cake.  I will be reading this.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

HowWentDown Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

As per usual I have a tendency to skip mentioning all the YA in a given preview and as per usual I make exceptions here and there.  Kekla Magoon will always be such an exception as she is exceptional.  What we have here is a kind of Trayvon Martin storyline.  A black boy has been shot by a white man.  Done in a  Monster style (there are multiple voices and conflicting viewpoints) the crime has already happened.  Lots of people feel conflicted about the crime.  A politician who honestly feels this was a horrible thing to happen discovers that it does wonders for his poll numbers.  A person who honestly didn’t like the victim now has to deal with his death.  Great cover (love the hoodie).  A must read.

The Book of Three (50th Anniversary Edition) by Lloyd Alexander

BookThree Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

It’s been fifty years since Lloyd Alexander introduced the world to Prydain.  That’s long enough for people to have forgotten the lamentable Disney film based on them and to remember only Alexander’s wit and wisdom.  In this lovely new celebratory cloth-bound edition they’ve amped up the original cover and included an introduction from Shannon Hale.  The foundling stories are now included in the back, which is a clever idea.  Other books in the series will be coming soon too.

Roaring Brook Press

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

VivaFrida 500x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Are you excited?  You should be.  But you should also not rush to conclusions.  If you’re looking for a straight picture book bio of Frida Kahlo then this is not the book for you.  Written in both English and Spanish, Morales utilizes her impressive artistic skills to create this utterly beautiful mixture of illustration and models.  With extremely simple text the book is less about Frida’s life and more about her inspiration as an artist.  Biographical information is included at the end, but this is a book to hand to budding artists.  It reminded me of Yuyi’s previous, fantastic, experiment with models with Tony Johnston’s My Abuelita.  And speaking of Tony Johnston . . .

Sequoia by Tony Johnston, ill. Wendell Minor

Sequoia 500x498 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Looks like we finally have a companion book for Jason Chin’s Redwoods.  The difference is in the complete and utter absence of humans.  In this book the tree is the true protagonist.  Using poetic language, the book examines a single sequoia.  Readers are encouraged to occasionally turn the book on its side from time to time to read it.  Very cool stuff.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting the Great White Sharks of California’s Farallon Islands, by Katherine Roy

NeighborhoodSharks Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Great cover, right?  There are a number of reasons to be excited about this particular book.  I heard about it a year or so ago and have been anxiously awaiting its appearance ever since.  This is the first book in the brand spanking new David Macaulay imprint at Macmillan.  As the editors put it this is, “the most up-to-date book on sharks you will find.”  Consider Ms. Roy a debut to watch.  Gotta love that title too.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

SebastianBalloon Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The other balloon book of note.  Here we have a new Stead, coming out at the same time as his interview site Number Five Bus Presents.  To hear his editors speak of it, it’s a book about loneliness, friendship, quests, “and realizing your heart’s desire.”  I found it to have a distinctly “classic” picture book feel to it.  Plus, the man does a good bear.  That’s important too, right?

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, ill. Lane Smith

KidSheriff 500x389 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Look, I’ll level with you.  I love Bob Shea and I have great fondness for the work of Lane Smith, but neither of them guarantee a slam dunk of a book every time.  And yes, putting them together is fun but even that wasn’t enough to sway me.  I had to read this puppy before I’d write it off as brilliant.  And fortunately, it stood up to the test.  Maybe that’s because it’s so bloody odd.  Travis Jonker will tell you that the biggest trend in children’s books this year is whales, and he’s right.  But if I were to pick a very strange sub-trend, I’d go with Westerns Featuring People Riding Tortoises.  Don’t believe me?  Well, we have this and we also have the new Anne Issacs title Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.  Sure, it’s only two but it’s two in the same year.  That’s gotta mean something.

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, ill. Hadley Hooper

IridescenceBirds Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The way editor Neal Porter describes getting the pitch of this book, he was an event with Ms. MacLachlan and asked what she was working on.  She told him it was a book that would never get published.  Gotta watch yourself around Neal Porter though.  Them’s fighting words.  Challenge accepted!  So basically what you have here is a book consisting entirely of two sentences.  Two long run-on sentences, but still.  Just two.  Meant to be read aloud, this pairs well with the aforementioned Frida book because like Frida it has less to do with being a strict biography and more about what it means to be an artist.  Illustrator Hadley Hooper may look somewhat familiar to you, by the way, since his last book was that cool bio Here Come the Girl Scouts.

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

BornWild 490x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

A new Lita Judge is always cause for celebration.  Going a little bit more cuddly than her previous forays into birds and dinos, this book talks about the different things that babies need from their parents.  The book follows the current trend of including a younger readaloud text alongside nonfiction background information for older readers.  It’s a clever way of making a single book accessible to a range of ages.  Clever, yes?

Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass

EdibleColors 500x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

As a mother who attempts to break the cycle of picky eating with her own children (and the universe says, “Yeah. Good luck with aallllll that”) I instinctively gravitate towards any book that includes photographs of healthy food.  The first thing I thought when I saw Jennifer Vogel Bass’s latest nonfiction picture book was of April Pulley Sayre’s Rah Rah Radishes and Go Go Grapes.  In the same vein as Eating the Alphabet, the book consists of different colors and the fruits and veggies that are those colors.  I’m very curious to see how Bass tackles blue.  For the photos, Bass actually grew most of the foods here, going to her local markets for the rest.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

StarStuff 500x386 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

With the new Cosmos television show I’ve been saying for quite some time that somebody needed to do a Neil deGrasse Tyson picture book bio.  Well . . . this ain’t it.  Ain’t it, but it’s the next best thing.  Carl Sagan for the kiddos!  Considering that in my own youth my sole understanding of who Sagan was consisted of a Bloom County cartoon (points to anyone who can name which one) this is a step in the right direction.  This story tells how Carl got into science and ends with the Voyager project, golden records and all.  So now at long last we’ve something to hand the Cosmos watchers!  Woohoo!

The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas

GrahamCrackerPlot Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Huh.  Is that a Jeff Newman cover I see?  Hard to tell.  I should have asked at the time, actually, but I was too distracted by (A) The cool title and (B) the fun sounding plot.  In this tale by debut author Shelley Tougas, Daisy and Graham decide the time has come to bust her dad out of jail and escape to Canada.  The entire book is told in the form of a letter to a judge about the events as they occurred.  As you might be able to tell, not everything goes according to plan.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

ScandalousSisterhood Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)
Clearly somebody has been making blood sacrifices to the gods of good cover design.  That somebody must be Julie Berry.  In this Victorian farce seven girls in a boarding school make an unusual choice when their headmistress drops dead at tea.  Rather than report the fact, they decide to pull a Summer of the Gypsy Moths and bury the body themselves, telling no one.  Of course, that does still mean that her killer is out there.  Now tell me you’re not intrigued.

First Second

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

JuliasHouseLostCreatures 500x397 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I know that you already love his Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels, but that series just wrapped up.  So what’s the next step for Mr. Hatke?  How about picture books?  Because this book has been available through Netgalley, some of my librarians have already read it and they are BIG time fans.  In this story Julia opens up her house to a range of odd creatures, and then must domesticate them (read: Get them to do their chores).  For some reason, this felt like a good companion to this year’s The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara.  And it definitely reminded me of that old Cartoon Network show Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy

AboveDreamlessDead Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)
A far cry from Nursery Rhyme Comics, eh Duffy?  So this would be the second YA title to grace my round-up.  I wouldn’t necessarily mention it except that I love all the books that Duffy edits and this ties in so well with all the WWI units we’re hearing about this year.  Taking real poetry written by WWI soldiers in the trenches (called “trench poetry”) each poem is accompanied by a different cartoonist’s work.  A quick warning that this is being marketing for adults, but it has definite YA crossover potential.  FYI.

And that is that!  Many thanks to Macmillan for the lovely preview.  And thanks to you all for reading.

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3. COPPER MAGIC by Julia Mary Gibson, or, an emphatic "Cut it out!" from AICL

In Copper Magic, twelve-year-old Violet Blake is digging by a stream near her house in Michigan and finds a "talisman" -- a copper hand that she comes to call "the Hand." Violet feels that this hand has some kind of power. She thinks she can use it to make wishes come true. Course, her first wish (for a new dress) does come true (actually she gets TWO new dresses), so she's thinking about how she'll use it to get her mom and little brother back home. Her mother is half Odawa.

Well, it turns out there was more than just that copper hand in the spot where Violet was digging. There's also a skeleton there that is dug up (another kid finds it), reassembled, and displayed as a curiosity in a local hotel.

Cue some fake Hollywood Indian music...

Can't be messing around in them Indian burial grounds, right?! We've seen THAT enough times in movies and TV shows to know that messing with bones and artifacts means bad things are gonna happen. And of course, bad things happen to the people in Copper Magic. Lots of bad things. A wicked storm. Lake water behaving in odd ways. Death. Before all that happens, Mercy (Violet's new friend) talks about how there might be a curse on the grave... Violet and her mother (remember--her mom is half Odawa) have special powers, too. They can see things other people can't.

"Cut!"

Cut that fake Hollywood Indian music, that is, and an emphatic "Cut it out!" as my parents would say when I was doing something wrong.

Cut it out, Julia Mary Gibson! 
Cut it out, Susan Cooper! 
Cut it out, Rosanne Parry!


"Cut what?" you may wonder... Quit writing about Native spirituality! You mean well, but you don't know what you're doing. From a place of ignorance, you're adding to an already-too-tall pile of garbage that gets circulated as information about Native people.

A good many writers have a moment in their life that touched them in such a way that they feel they must write about Native people. Gibson's moment is described in her Afterword. When she was eleven years old, she and her family found some bones near their summer cottage in Michigan. "[A]n expert" said they were "most likely American Indian but not old enough to be archeologically significant" (p. 329), so her grandfather "pieced together a skeleton and mounted it on plywood." Her "superstitious" grandma didn't like it and insisted the bones be reburied. This took place in the late 1960s or early 1970s (my guess, based on Gibson's bio at Macmillan that says she was born "in the time of Freedom Rides and the Vietnam War").

Gibson goes on to say that her grandfather didn't know better.

In Copper Magic, Violet is Gibson. The person who puts the skeleton on display is Mr. Dell, a hotel owner intent on increasing his business. The superstitious person who wants the bones reburied? Well, that is Mrs. Agosa, an Odawa woman who tells Violet to "Watch out for ghosts out by you" because "mad ghosts can throw out curses" (p. 134).

Gibson, Cooper, Parry and many other writers poke around a bit and pack their stories with bits of info that make it sound like they know a lot about American Indians. Gibson does that in Copper Magic when she has some of her characters talk about grave robbing and why it is wrong. She also does that when she has Mrs. Agosa talk about the hotel owner burning her people's village and orchards because he wanted their land. In the Afterword, Gibson tells us that part of the story is true (p. 330):
"The real people of the Chaboiganing Band were yanked from their houses by a crooked land grabber and the local sheriff, who flung kerosene over homes and orchards and burned down the whole village, just as Mrs. Agosa tells it."
The burning of that village is important information. It is what major publishers like Macmillan (publisher of Copper Magic) ought to make known. I wish Gibson had made it the heart of her story. Instead, she chose to tell a story about grave robbing, curses, and mystical Indians. There's more to the "mystical Indians" theme... Interspersed throughout Copper Magic are pages about two ancient women: Crooked Woman and Greenstone. Those parts of Gibson's novel are presented in italics. They feed the mainstream monster of stereotypical expectations--where people love to read about "mystical Indians" and our tragic history.

In Copper Magic, Violet's dad is a steady voice saying that Indian graves deserve respect and ought to be left alone. Violet parrots some of what he says but doesn't really understand. Ironically, Gibson is more like Violet than she realizes. Her understanding is superficial. Violet wants to use the hand to get what she wants. Gibson uses the childhood story to do what she wants.

As you may have guessed by now, I don't like what Gibson has done in Copper Magic.  And of course, I do not recommend it. Copper Magic is another FAIL from a major publisher.

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4. Review of the Day: My Country, ‘Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf Murphy

MyCountryTis 230x300 Review of the Day: My Country, Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf MurphyMy Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights
By Claire Rudolf Murphy
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Henry Holt and Company (an imprint of Macmillan)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8226-5
Ages 7 and up
On shelves June 3rd

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked as a children’s librarian. It doesn’t matter how many books for kids you’ve read or how much of your life is dedicated to bringing them to the reading public. What I love so much about my profession is the fact that I can always be surprised. Take My Country, ‘Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf Murphy as a prime example. I admit that when I glanced at the cover I wasn’t exactly enthralled. After all, this isn’t exactly the first book to give background information on a patriotic song or poem. We’ve seen a slate of books talking about “We Shall Overcome” over the years (one by Debby Levy and one by Stuart Stotts) as well as books on the Pledge of Allegiance or “The New Colossus”. So when I read the title of this book I admit suppressing a bit of an inward groan. Another one? Haven’t we seen enough of these? Well, no. Turns out we haven’t seen enough of them. Or, to be more precise, we haven’t seen enough good ones. What Murphy manages to do here is tie-in a seemingly familiar song to not just the history of America but to the embodiment of Civil Rights in this country itself. So expertly woven together it’ll make your eyes spin, Murphy brings us a meticulously researched, brilliant work of nonfiction elegance. Want to know how to write a picture book work of factual fascinating information for kids? Behold the blueprint right before your eyes.

The press for this book says, “More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.” More than you ever knew. Originally penned in 1740 as “God Save the King”, the tune was sung by supporters of King George II. It soon proved, however, to be an infinitely flexible kind of song. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s followers sang it in Scotland to new verses and it traveled to America during the French and Indian War. There the colonists began to use it in different ways. The preacher George Whitefield rewrote it to celebrate equality amongst all, the revolutionary colonists to fight the power, the loyalists to celebrate their king, and even a woman in 1795 published a protest verse for women using the song. In each instance of the song’s use, author Claire Rudolf Murphy shows the context of that use and then writes out some of the new verses. Before our eyes it’s adapted to the Northern and Southern causes during The Civil War. It aids labor activists fighting for better pay. Women, Native Americans, and African-Americans adopt it, each to their own cause until, ultimately, we end with Barack Obama as president. Backmatter includes copious Source Notes documenting each instance of the song, as well as a Bibliography and Further Resources that are split between “If You Want to Learn More” and “Musical Links”. There is also sheet music for the song and the lyrics of the four stanzas as we know them today.

MyCountryTis3 300x251 Review of the Day: My Country, Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf MurphyThere’s always a bit of a thrill in being an adult reading information about history for the first time in a work for kids. I confess readily that I learned a TON from this book. But beyond that, it was the scope of the book that really captured my heart. That it equates patriotism with protest in the same breath is a wonderful move in and of itself. However, part of what I like so much about the book is that it is clear that our work is nowhere close to done. Here is how the book ends: “Now it’s your turn. Write a new verse for a cause you believe in. Help freedom ring.” Right there Murphy is making it clear that for all that the Obama’s inauguration makes for a brilliant capper to her story, it’s not the END of the story. People are still fighting for their rights. There are still causes out there worth protesting. Smart teachers, I hope, will brainstorm with their students the problems still facing equal opportunities in America today and will use this book to give kids a chance to voice their own opinions.

There’s a trend in nonfiction for kids right now that you’ll usually find in science picture books. When it comes to selling books to children, it can be awfully frustrating for an author to have limit their work to a very precise age range or reading level since, inevitably, your readership ages out of your book fairly quickly. The solution? Two types of text in the same book. The author will write a simple sentence on a page and then pair that with a dense paragraph of facts on the other. The advantage of this is that now the book reads aloud well to younger ages while still carrying information for the older kids. Or, put another way, children studying a subject can now get more information out of a single book if they’re interested and can disregard that same information if they’re not. I mention this because the layout of this book looks at first like that’s what Murphy was going for. You’ll have the factual information, followed by the new verses of the song. Then, at the end, in larger type will be a simple sentence. Yet as I read the book it became clear that what Murphy’s actually doing is using the large type sentences to draw connections from one page to another. For example, on the page about women marching for the right to vote, the section ends with the large type sentence, “But the privilege to vote didn’t extend to Native Americans, male or female” (a fact that, I am ashamed to say, I did not know). Turn the page and now we’re reading about the Native American struggles for Civil Rights and after reading the factual information the bolded sentence reads, “Equality did not exist for everyone in America.” Turn the page and there’s Marion Anderson. And it is at this point that Murphy draws her most brilliant connections between the pages. Marion Anderson leads to Martin Luther King listening to her Lincoln Memorial performance on the radio when he is ten, then we turn the page to King proclaiming “My country, ‘tis of thee” in his “I have a dream” speech, which then naturally ties into Aretha Franklin singing the song at the inauguration of Barack Obama. Amazing.

MyCountryTis2 300x180 Review of the Day: My Country, Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf MurphyNow I’ve a funny relationship to the art of Bryan Collier. Sometimes I feel like he gives a book his all and comes out swinging as a result. If you’ve ever seen his work on Uptown or Knock Knock or Martin’s Big Words or Dave the Potter then you know what he’s capable of. By the same token, for every Uptown there’s a Lincoln and Douglass where it just doesn’t have that good old-fashioned Collier magic. I worried that maybe My Country, ‘Tis of Thee would fall into that category, particularly after seeing the anemic George Washington awkwardly placed on the book’s cover. As it turns out, that’s probably the weakest image in the book. Go into it and you’ll see that Collier is in fine fettle for the most part. For example, in a section discussing how both the North and the South adopted this song and sang their own verses to it, Collier brilliantly overlays a soldier’s tent against a plantation background. Inside the tent are shots of the battle raging, letters from the soldiers spilling out over the sides like a fabric of their own. Turn the page and now the fields are bare, the Emancipation Proclamation having been declared, and the papers you see floating across the earth and into the sky all begin with “A Proclamation”. This is the kind of attention to detail that gets completely ignored in a work of nonfiction, even when the artist has taken a great deal of care and attention. It took me about five or six reads before I would notice the photographs of kids interspersed with the drawn people. And sure there’s the occasional misstep (the tea dumped by the Bostonians looks a bit more like the wings of birds than something you’d like to consume, and while Collier nails Aretha Franklin better than anyone I’ve ever seen he just can NOT get George Washington quite right) on the whole the book hangs together as well as it does because Collier knows what he’s doing.

I can already tell you that this book will not get the attention it deserves. And what it deserves is a place in every single classroom, library, and bookstore shelf in the nation. Yet this isn’t a work of children’s nonfiction that slots neatly into a pre-made hole. There’s nothing else really like this book out there. That it works as a brilliant piece of nonfiction as well as a smart as all get out piece of history and classroom ideas for teachers is clear. What it has to say about our country and our people and how they’ve fought for their rights should not, under any circumstances, be missed. It’s hard to write patriotic American fare for kids that doesn’t just sound like boosterism. This book manages to pull it off and you feel pretty good after it does. Do not miss it. Don’t.

On shelves June 3rd.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

  • We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debby Levy – More of a picture book like this one and nowhere near as well researched, but fun and a good companion in the old history-of-a-song-in-America genre.

Professional Reviews:

Interviews:

  • Bryan Collier talks about his work and discusses this book a little bit as well with SLJ.

Misc:

  • How cool is this?  Murphy has linked to a My Country Tis of Thee Music Project where “Choirs of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in the Music Project by singing and recording their own versions of My Country, Tis of Thee at school and in their communities.”  Want to know more?  Go here and then listen to some of the choirs that are already up for your listening pleasure.
  • Murphy answers a couple questions about the book here.

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5. Review of the Day: The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by James Kochalka

GlorkianWarrior1 224x300 Review of the Day: The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by James Kochalka The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza
By James Kochalka
First Second (an imprint of Roaring Brook)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-1626721036
Ages 7-11
On shelves now

James Kochalka has always had a penchant for the outright silly. If nothing else his Johnny Boo series of books have said as much. He’s not afraid to go for the obvious gag, but at the same time his sheer willingness to get ridiculous sort of becomes his strength. I picked up The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza uncertain if it would be honestly funny or just trying too hard, and you know what? There was more than one time I thought this book was actually, honestly really funny. It’s the kind of funny best appreciated by younger kids too. Your Captain Underpants / Junie B. Jones crowd. Humor is, admittedly, so completely subjective that adults have a hard time remembering what it’s like to be a kid and to find just the most ridiculous thing in a story freakin’ hilarious. But reading about The Glorkian Warrior I couldn’t help but feel like this was one book where Kochalka really put his finger down firmly on the pulse of kid-humor. Nothing against Johnny Boo or any of his other funny books over the years but with The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza I feel like the man has finally hit his stride. His funniest and most ambitious bit of space-based lunacy to date.

It’s a slow day for The Glorkian Warrior. No amazing adventures on the horizon. Nothing much going on. And though his Super Backpack is bugging him to go out and do something heroic, until the Emergency Space Phone rings our hero is out of ideas. Turns out the phone call is from someone ordering a pepperoni pizza and, not one to back down from a challenge, our Warrior sets off to complete this mission. Granted, the only pizza he has in his possession is the partially eaten peanut butter and clam concoction in his fridge. And granted, nothing seems to go according to plan. But between busting up his Supercar, blowing up a little bully (don’t worry, he’s not hurt), acquiring a baby space cat head sucker thing, and encountering a Magic Robot capable of mucking up time itself, it’s all in a day’s work for The Glorkian Warrior and his newfound pals.

GlorkianWarrior2 197x300 Review of the Day: The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by James Kochalka I’m not one of those children’s librarians that claims to have the sense of humor of a 9-year-old kid. There are folks out there that can say this in perfect seriousness and though I do understand where they’re coming from, it’s not really my thing. After all, there are some works of children’s literature that just baffle me with their popularity. That said, I found myself grudgingly really liking what Kochalka was doing here. It’s no mean feat to create an honest-to-goodness quest novel that fills itself from tip to toe full of silliness. The tone in this book is also consistent throughout. It has a clear vision, even if the reader does not, and even manages at the last minute to pull a little surprise coup on the reader. So while it will not be to every adult’s taste, I have absolutely zippo problem with the kiddos picking it up. Heck, I’ll be recommending it to them myself. This is for the kid who wants something along the lines of Adventure Time but without the existential philosophy.

Not that there wasn’t at least one element that struck me as particularly fascinating. Put a little time travel into a book and you’ll find folks like myself examining it from every angle, no matter how silly it is, for inconsistencies. I’ll repeat that. I, a 35-year-old woman, read a children’s graphic novel called The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza and when I hit on the time travel aspect I looked for mistakes. Just put that in your pipe and smoke it for a while. For me, the only possible problem I could come up with was the fact that if The Glorkian Warrior called himself to order the pizza, why did he call his own number thinking it was a pizza delivery place? So, yeah. Continuity-wise it’s a bit shaky, but honestly if that’s what you take away from the book you’re probably looking at it from the wrong angle anyway. Besides, I love the philosophical quandary of how The Glorkian Warrior learned about the existence of pepperoni pizza from himself rather than some outside source.

You can’t help but love a book where the Don Quixote of space is accompanied by a Sancho Panza-like talking backpack. And yes, it’ll get its own fair share of objections from various quarters. Not every parent will get it, but it’s awfully hard to find anything to object to here. It hasn’t the scatological warning signs of a Captain Underpants or the “bad” language / “bad” attitude of a Junie B. Jones. Instead it’s just a good-natured tale of a dumbo making a date with destiny. It’s not going to blow you away with its insights into the nature of humanity itself, nor would it want to. It’s just here to make kids laugh. And honestly, we could do with a couple more books along those lines these days.

Delivers.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

  • Meanwhile by Jason Shiga – Not to give anything away, but Shiga does some pretty similar things with time travel in his book with similarly goofy results. The tone of the two books is also quite similar.
  • Fangbone! Third Grade Barbarian by Michael Rex – I’m sort of seeking out the silliest/goofiest of graphic novels, all operating under their own internal logic, to pair with Kochalka’s latest. Fangbone is a much smarter character, but that doesn’t prevent him from running headlong into danger ala our pizza delivery boy here.
  • Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman – Because if we’re talking peculiar space-based graphic novels with their perfect little ridiculous worlds, you can’t do any better than this.

Other Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Other Reviews: Boing Boing

Interviews:

Misc:

  • Read the first three chapters of the book here!
  • Check out the alternate sketches for the cover of this book over here at Tor.com.  Then you can continue to read the book online here.

Videos:

Oh. And yes. It has its own app.  Makes absolutely perfect sense.  Sort of Centipede-ish (a statement that perfectly solidifies where in history my understanding of video games began and ended).

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6. Brendan Deneen on What Authors Can Do to Get Their Book Optioned for a Movie

Brendan-Deneen-article-2

Brendan Deneen knows a thing or two about getting a book made into a Hollywood film. He’s not only an author and former literary agent, Deneen is executive editor for Macmillan Entertainment, for which he shops TV and film rights for authors, whether the material is existing or created in house.

In the latest installment of Mediabisto’s So What Do You Do series, we talked to Deneen about the optioning process, why Hollywood so often relies on published bestsellers for content and the best way for an author to break into the movie business (no, you don’t have to be a big name like John Grisham, J.K. Rowling or Nicholas Sparks). Deneen also had plenty of advice to share with struggling authors:

Patience is key. I’m 41 and I wrote my first book when I was 18, and I sold my novel this year. It took me forever. And that doesn’t mean you have to not be putting yourself out there and working your ass off; it just means you may get rejected over and over again like I did when I was 18. It should be a badge of honor. It means you’re getting stuff out there. You need to be constantly writing. If you’re a screenwriter, you should be writing a new screenplay every three or four months. If you’re an author, honestly, you should have a new book every year if you’re serious about it — two years at the most.

To hear more from Deneen, including what he’d like his legacy to be, read: So What Do You Do, Brendan Deneen, Executive Editor Of MacMillan Entertainment?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. The Lost Planet - Guest Post with Author Rachel Searles



Hi, everyone! We have a special treat on the blog today. Rachel Searles, debut author of The Lost Planet is here with a guest post on invention and world-building. We are really excited to have Rachel on today. Don't forget that Rachel will also be a guest at the Pasadena Book Fest on April 26.

Take it away, Rachel!

On Invention and World-Building

When I talk to readers about the differences between fantasy and science fiction, I’m always quick to point out that while fantasy is based on mythology, magic, and all things make-believe, science fiction is based on elements that, while imaginary, are still largely possible within the laws of physics. This feeling of plausibility is one of the things that makes sci-fi so exciting to me, but as a writer it also means extra research to make sure that the details of my story adhere to the boundaries of reality. That said, it is fiction I’m writing, and at times I’ve stretched those boundaries to the furthest limits (and maybe a little beyond) for the sake of a good tale. I know I’ve done my job when the sci in my fi sounds believable enough that readers can’t tell the difference between what’s based in reality, and what I’ve completely made up.

Early in THE LOST PLANET, my main character Chase and his new friend, Parker, eat a meal produced by a food synthesizer in Parker’s autokitchen. Any Star Trek fan would recognize this machine as homage to the food replicators used on the Enterprise. The theory behind a food synthesizer is that the device grabs some subatomic particles, which exist in abundance throughout the universe, and rearranges them into molecules that are then arranged into the requested food. Sounds plausible, right? While I know that this kind of advanced technology is still far beyond our reach, during my research I was fascinated to learn that first-generation food synthesizers are already being tested, with the early prototypes expected to be put into use on the International Space Station as early as this year! Rather than arranging molecules, though, these devices run on the same principle as a 3D printer, using basic materials like proteins or sugars in a non-perishable powder form to build the food layer by layer. The best part is that these basic building powders can come from any number of unusual sources—after all, protein is protein, whether it comes from meat, legumes…or even insects. You can watch a video of the 3D food printer at work here, but in it you’ll see that “pizza” it makes isn’t exactly mouth-watering just yet. For that reason I decided to stick with the Star Trek-inspired version for my book.

Later in the book, in a diner on another planet, the boys enjoy a futuristic fast-food meal of soy-chitin-riboflavin patties, or “scrappies.” We currently consume soy by the ton, and riboflavin—aka vitamin B12—is an important and colorful part of our diet. But chitin, which you may recognize as the main component in the hard exoskeletons of insects, is used more commonly in the production of lipstick and other cosmetics, as well as surgical thread. It is edible, though, and in a chemically modified form has been used for things like edible films and as a thickener. And wouldn’t crisp insect shells work great as the crunchy filling in a delicious, savory scrappy?

One of the biggest advantages I have in writing an outer space setting is that my husband spent ten years designing, building, and launching rockets into orbit, so I can turn to him for help with the physics of space travel. In a scene where my heroes crash land on an uninhabited, mud-coated wasteland of a planet, he helped me to make sure the details of screaming into the atmosphere in a flimsy shuttle were as authentic as possible. But then I gave my characters their only chance to survive by having them climb up into the limbs of a vast jungle of pale, stalk-like plants. When the plants reject the climbers and send them pitching headfirst into the swamp, readers might think I based this on some sort of trigger mechanism like that of the Venus flytrap, where contact with sensory appendages on the plant cause a swift reaction. And this sure sounds plausible—but I didn’t actually research this at all while writing. I just needed to come up with a good way to try to drown my characters in a sea of mud. After all, sometimes it’s just about writing an exciting story.

Thanks, Rachel, for the fantastic guest post. Be sure to check out The Lost Planet

About the Author:

Rachel Searles grew up on the frigid shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she spent her childhood studying languages and plotting to travel around the world. She has lived abroad in Munich and Istanbul, working as a cook, a secretary, a teacher, and a reporter for the Turkish Daily News. She now lives in Los Angeles with her rocket scientist husband and two cats, and spends her free time cooking her way through the Internet and plotting more travel.

THE LOST PLANET, coming January 2014 from Feiwel and Friends, is her debut novel.


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8. Review of the Day: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

HermanRosie1 263x300 Review of the Day: Herman and Rosie by Gus GordonHerman and Rosie
By Gus Gordan
Roaring Brook (an imprint of Macmillan)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-1596438569
Ages 3-7
On shelves now

New Yorkers are singularly single minded. It’s not enough that our city be rich, popular, and famous. We apparently are so neurotic that we need to see it EVERYWHERE. In movies, on television, and, of course, in books. Children’s books, however, get a bit of a pass in this regard. It doesn’t matter where you grow up, most kids get a bit of a thrill when they see their home city mentioned in a work of literature. Here in NYC, teachers go out of their way to find books about the city to read and study with their students. As a result of this, in my capacity as a children’s librarian I make a habit of keeping an eye peeled for any and all New York City related books for the kiddos. And as luck would have it, in the year 2013 I saw a plethora of Manhattan-based titles. Some were great. Some were jaw-droppingly awful. But one stood apart from the pack. Written by an Aussie, Herman and Rosie, author Gus Gordon has created the first picture book I’ve ever seen to successfully put its finger on the simultaneous beauty and soul-gutting loneliness of big city life. The fact that it just happens to be a fun story about an oboe-tooting croc and deer chanteuse is just icing on the cake.

Herman and Rosie are city creatures through and through. Herman is a croc with a penchant for hotdogs and yogurt and playing his oboe out the window of his 7th story home. In a nearby building, Rosie the deer likes pancakes and jazz records and singing in nightclubs, even if no one’s there to hear her. Neither one knows the other, so they continue their lonely little lives unaware of the potential soulmate nearby. One day Rosie catches a bit of Herman’s music and not long thereafter Herman manages to hear a snatch of a song sung by Rosie. They like what they hear but through a series of unfortunate events they never quite meet up. Then Herman gets fired from his job in sales and Rosie’s favorite jazz club goes belly up. Things look bad for our heroes, until a certain cheery day where it all turns around for them.

HermanRosie3 238x300 Review of the Day: Herman and Rosie by Gus GordonYou can know a city from afar but never quite replicate it in art. I do not know how many times Gus Gordon has visited NYC. I don’t know his background here or how often he’s visited over the course of his lifetime. All I know is he got Manhattan DOWN, man! Everything from the water towers and the rooftop landscapes to the very color of the subway lines is replicated in his pitch perfect illustrations. Maybe the medium has a lot to answer for. I love the map endpapers that identify not just where Herman and Rosie live, but also where you can find a great hot dog place. I like how the art is a mix of real postcards showcasing everything from Central Park (look at the Essex House!!) to the Rose Reading Room in the main branch of New York Public Library.

But the art is far more than simply a clever encapsulation of a location. It took several readings before I could see a lot of what Gordon was up to. Here’s an example: Take a look at the two-page spread where Herman is leaving his office for the last time with all his goods in a box, while on the opposite page Rosie trudges home from the closing club, her high heeled red shoes sitting forlornly in the basket of her bike. The two images take place at different times of the day, but if you look closely you’ll see that they’re the same street corner. Yet where Herman’s New York is filled with loud angry voices and sounds, Rosie’s is near silent, a black wash representing the oncoming night. Note too that while Herman’s mailbox was a mixed media photo, Rosie’s is painted in a black wash with some crayon scribbles. It’s a subtle difference, but I love how it sort of represents how objects become less real when the lights begin to dim. And the book is just FILLED with tiny, clever details. From the pictures and instructions that grace Herman’s cubicle at work to the fact that Rosie clearly washes her clothes at home (the clothesline the runs from her bike to the old-fashioned vacuum tube television was my first clue) to Herman’s bed in the living room, Gordon is constantly peppering his book with elements that give little insights into who these two characters really are.

And that right there is the the crux of the book. Time and time again Gordon returns to this idea of how lonely it can be to live in a busy place. The idea that you can be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people and feel as alone as if you were on a desert island is a tricky concept to convey to small fry. Herman’s whole personality, in a way, hinges on the fact that he’s terrible at his job as a telecaller because all he wants to do is talk to people on the phone, not sell them things. He longs for connection. Rosie, meanwhile, finds a certain level of connection through her singing gig. Once that gig leaves, her feelings of extreme loneliness echo Herman’s with the loss of his job. Their sole lifelines to the outside world have been severed against their wills. If this were a book for adults we’d undoubtedly also get a couple scenes of the various failed dates they fine themselves on (well, Rosie certainly… I’m not so sure that Herman’s the serial dater type). Kids understand loneliness. They get that. They’ll get this.

HermanRosie2 Review of the Day: Herman and Rosie by Gus GordonThe book also plays on the natural inclination for a happy resolution, and the near misses when Herman almost meets Rosie and Rosie just barely misses Herman can be excruciating. You are fairly certain the two are made for one another (the natural tendencies of crocs to eat deer notwithstanding) so it can be particularly painful to see so many almost wases. This feeling is, admittedly, partly diluted by the fact that you’re not quite sure what will happen when the two DO meet. Are they going to fall in love? Well, not exactly. There may be a kind of child reader that hopes for that ending, but instead we’re given a conclusion where the two just learn to make beautiful music together, and in the course of that music happen to find financial success as well. This is New York, after all. Love’s great but a steady paycheck’s even better.

The truth of the matter is that Herman and Rosie could be set in L.A. or Minneapolis or Atlanta or even Sydney and I’d still love it as much as I do with its New York flavor, tone, and beat. It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but it’s the bones of the book that are strong. The setting is just a bonus, really. With original mixed media, a text that’s subtle and succinct, and a story that rings both true and original (for a picture book medium anyway), this is a city book, a true city book, to its core. Author Markus Zusak said the book was “Quirky, soulful and alive”. Can’t put it any better than that. What he said.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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7 Comments on Review of the Day: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon, last added: 12/20/2013
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9. Macmillan CEO Made Agency Model Decision on Exercise Bike

Macmillan CEO John Sargent has released a public letter addressed to “authors, illustrators and agents,” sharing the moment he decided to join the agency model in 2010–setting prices for eBooks across different retailers.

Check it out: “I am Macmillan’s CEO and I made the decision to move Macmillan to the agency model. After days of thought and worry, I made the decision on January 22nd, 2010 a little after 4:00 AM, on an exercise bike in my basement. It remains the loneliest decision I have ever made, and I see no reason to go back on it now. Other publishers have chosen to settle. That is their decision to make. We have decided to fight this in court.”

The moment will play a crucial role in court soon as the Department of Justice has sued Apple and publishers, alleging that they colluded together to set eBook prices. Sargent disputed these claims in his long letter. We’ve reprinted the entire letter below…

 

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10. On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

 Macmillan's Fall 2012 Catalog

 

 

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11. Youth Media And Marketing Movers & Shakers

Today we bring you another installment of Youth Media Movers and Shakers. We’ve culled through industry publications looking for the recent executive placements we think you should know about. If you have executive news that you want us to... Read the rest of this post

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12. Hidden - Review


Publication date: 10 May 2011 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
ISBN 10/13: 0446574473 | 9780446574471
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Category: Young Adult Verse Novel
Keywords: Kidnapping, friendship, forgiveness, compassion, camp
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased from Vroman's Bookstore



From the jacket copy:


When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra's father steals a minivan. He doesn't know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth—that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.

Alethea's Review:

I once had a parent tell me that she did not want her daughter (14 at the time) reading verse novels as they were "too short" and "too easy". I tried to tell her they are just different--that the form of the novel does tend towards brevity, but that extracting meaning from verse is sometimes a more difficult skill for kids to pick up. The parent was adamant, and I felt bad for her child--she'd be missing out on some great stories just because they were told in poetry format, or would at least until she is able to choose her own reading material. I hope that girl gets to read Hidden
4 Comments on Hidden - Review, last added: 7/5/2012
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13. Trailer Reveal

Only two more days until....




the world premiere of the trailer for
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's



THURSDAY


and some other cool stuff

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14. Tomorrow! Tomorrow!


Tomorrow's the day!



The trailer for On the Road to Mr. Mineo's 

will be revealed


AND

Mr. Schu is giving away The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester and The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

AND

There will be some other cool stuff


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15. Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friends

___________________________________________________________________________

Macmillan Logo Converted Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friendsbloomsbury Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friends papercutz Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and FriendsLogo Palgrave Macmillan Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friendsfirst second books logo Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friendsdq logo 200x220 Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friends Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friends
2 Comments on Coming Attractions: Winter 2013: Macmillan, and Friends, last added: 8/24/2012
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16. Publishers to Pay $69M in eBook Pricing Settlement

55 attorney generals from different states, districts and U.S. territories have reached an agreement with HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster in the ongoing litigation over eBook pricing.

According to the terms of the deal, consumers who bought an eBook from any of the “Agency Five” publishers during April 1, 2010 until May 21, 2012 will receive compensation.

Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster will pay consumers who purchased eBooks from any of the five agencies accused of price fixing, including Macmillan and Penguin, who have yet to settle. Payments will begin 30 days after the settlement gets its final court approval.

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17. The Girl is Murder - Audiobook Review


Read by Rachel Botchan
Publication date: 19 July 2011 by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN 10/13: 1596436093 | 9781596436091

Keywords: World War II, Girl detective, friendship, mystery
Category: Young Adult Historical
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Source: Purchased from audible.com



It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business.

Alethea's review:

I'm not a Veronica Mars fan (as the marketing taglines for this series insist on singling out that demographic), but there's something about the spunky girl-detective novel that never fails to please me. I'll confess that I have fond memories of a hundred Nancy Drew novels, and am currently obsessed with vintage fashion, which might explain part of why I liked this book. Some of the credit definitely goes to the reader, Rachel Botchan. She really nails not just the New York accents but also the inflections from--has it really been that long?--seventy years ago. I think I would have enjoyed this less had I tried to read it myself.

I'm actually surprised this novel kept my interest, as the beginning of the novel felt really slow. Iris is coping with many changes--not just the typical girl-becoming-woman challenges we expect of a coming-of-age novel. She's transplanted from the posh part of town to the Lower East Side, hears whispers of disapproval and malicious gossip regarding her mother's suicide the year before, and is trying to form some sort of connection with her estranged and now disabled father. It's heavy stuff, lending gravity to the story, and I can't decide whether or not it saves the rest of the book from just being a plot-driven mess.

The main mystery involves the disappearance of a boy from Iris's new school. I really enjoyed the author's skill at portraying the secondary characters: Suze, queen bee of the charmingly named "Rainbow Gang", the high school's resident hooligans, and Pearl, the plump, quiet, and defensive schoolmate Iris struggles to befriend. There's no team of good girls versus the bad girls here: everyone seems to have some bad with the good, even Iris, who makes some really terrible decisions for occasionally noble reasons. Despite all the mistakes they make, I found the characters well-rounded and likable. 

The solution of the mystery did leave something to be desired. I wouldn't call this a traditional whodunit--you're better off reading the original (or even playing the games--they're really good!) if a murder is what you're after. You'll enjoy this more if you like reading about relationships, teen problems and comparing those of today to those of yesteryear, or World War II nostalgia. 


You can find the author online at www.kathrynmillerhaines.com and on Twitter @KathrynMHaines.

FTC disclosure: Only the Bookdepository.com link may generate revenue for this blog if you make a purchase by clicking the link. The other links in this post are not formatted with my affiliate IDs.

3 Comments on The Girl is Murder - Audiobook Review, last added: 9/9/2012
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18. Macmillan CEO: ‘We will be more than fine in the land of the giants’

Macmillan CEO John Sargent wrote a letter to authors, illustrators and agents working with the publisher, pledging not to settle the price fixing lawsuit with the Department of Justice (as Penguin did this week).

He also noted that the company has no plans to merge like Penguin and Random House. Read his complete letter at Tor Books.

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19. Idol for YA Romance Writers: New Macmillan Imprint

In a recent PW announcement, Macmillan Children’s Books has announced the creation of a new YA Romance imprint. The switch? It will be a sort of American Idol for YA Romance Writers.

Romance writers, are you ready for this?
Crowdsourcing, or drawing on participation from the audience for decisions, will be the major focus of the new imprint. Audience will consider chapters and vote on their favorite. When a manuscript is finally chose, they’ll vote on book covers.

The editor’s role?

The imprint’s editors will not screen the submitted manuscripts, but will monitor the content to make sure that “nothing obscene happens” in the novels. Romance fans reading the manuscripts online will be able to provide comments and offer a rating, the highest of which is five hearts – or “swoon-worthy.”

The imprint will be under the leadership of the ever-innovative Jean Feiwel, senior v-p and publisher of Feiwel and Friends, Square Fish, and now Swoon Reads. She has collected wide support throughout Macmillan and this will be an imprint to watch.

Do you have a manuscript that is Swoon-Worthy?
Polish it up! Read the early offerings from SRYA and look for announcements of submission guidelines.

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20. Review of the Day: Pickle by Kim Baker

Pickle1 199x300 Review of the Day: Pickle by Kim BakerPickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School
By Kim Baker
Illustrated by Tim Probert
Roaring Brook Press (a division of Macmillan)
$15.99
ISBN: 978-1-59643-765-4
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

When I was in college I took a course in journalism to fulfill an English credit. I had no real desire to report the news in any way, shape, or form so when the time came to write an article for the paper I had to find something that would be in my wheelhouse. Ultimately I decided to write a piece on the history of pranks at my alma mater. It was a fun piece to write and instilled in me not a love of reporting but rather a love of pranking and all it entails. A good prank, a true prank, does no harm aside from a minor inconvenience for the poor schmuck who has to clean it up. It does not destroy school property, causing only joy for those innocents who witness it. And pranks, the really good ones, are almost impossible to think up. Now it’s hard enough to think up a prank for a liberal arts college in eastern Indiana. Imagine how much more difficult it is to think up a whole roster of pranks for a fictional elementary school. That is the task Kim Baker gave herself and the end result is a book that I simply cannot keep on my library shelves. Kids eat this book up with a spoon.

What would you do if you found out your favorite pizza joint was getting rid of all the balls in their ball pit for free? If you’re Ben Diaz, the answer is simple. You make several trips with the balls to your elementary school, dump the lot in your classroom window, and then sit back and enjoy the show. It’s an auspicious beginning for an up-and-coming prankster, and once Ben gets a taste of the havoc (and admiration) his act garners, there’s no stopping him. Next thing you know he’s started a prank club with school funds. Okay… technically the school thinks that he’s started a pickle club, but that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Trouble is, once you’ve started something as silly as a prank club, it’s hard to know when you’ve crossed a line and gone a little too far.

Pickle2 274x300 Review of the Day: Pickle by Kim BakerThere’s been a lot of talk in the press and the general public about the fact that when it comes to Latino characters in children’s books you may as well be asking for the moon. They exist, but are so few and far between when compared to other ethnicities that one has a hard time figuring out who precisely is to blame. Pickle, I am pleased to report, stars a Hispanic kid who is featured on the cover front and center, no hiding his race or getting all namby pamby on who he is. And let me tell you now that the only thing rarer than a children’s book starring a Latino boy is finding a children’s book starring a Latino boy that’s hilarious and fun. The kind of book a kid would pick up willingly on their own in the first place. It’s like a little diamond on your bookshelf. A rara avis.

Now the key to any realistic school story, no matter how wacky, is likable characters. Not everyone in this book is someone you’d like to hang out with (personally I wouldn’t cry a tear if Bean took a long walk off a short pier) but for the most part you’re fond of these kids. Ben himself is a pretty swell guy. I don’t think anyone’s going to accuse Baker of failing to write a believable boy voice. Best of all, he’s a can do kind of kid. He takes charge. His solution to the pickle problem is well nigh short of inspired, and a nice example of a protagonist using their special skills to problem solve. And though the true antagonist of the book is the principal, it’s clear that his best friend Hector is a likable but lowly worm that serves as the emotional antagonist to our hero. You can’t help but like the fact that Hector is such a stoolie/squealer that he will not only confess crimes he and Ben have committed but crimes they NOT committed as well. There is no better way to get a reader on your side than to tap into their sense of injustice and unfairness. It is a pity that the only girls in the group are the only people incapable of really good pranks. Or, rather, one is incapable of coming up with a good prank and the other is perfectly good but goes rogue with it.

Pickle3 287x300 Review of the Day: Pickle by Kim BakerBaker distinguishes nicely between pranks that merely annoy and pranks that upset and destroy. Undoubtedly there will be adults out there that worry that by reading this book kids are going to immediately go out and start putting soap in their own school’s fountains/drinking fountains/what have you. Aside from the fact that most of the pranks in this book would be difficult to pull off (unless your kids have access to abandoned ball pits, I think you’re pretty safe) the book distinguishes nicely between those pranks that do good and those that do harm. I’m sure there are adults who believe that there is no “good” prank in the world. Those are the folks who should probably steer clear of this one.

Pranking requires a certain set of requisite skills. You need to be smart enough to figure out what the pranks should be and how to make them work. You need to have the guts to pull them off, regardless of the consequences. And you need to know when you’ve gone two far. Include only the first two requirements and leave off the third and you’ve got yourself one heckuva fun book like Pickle. Celebrating the kind of anarchy only pranking can truly inspire, this is one of those books for kids that are truly FOR kids. Gatekeepers need not apply. Show one to a kiddo and watch the fun begin.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from author for review.

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  • The faux pickle related website that “Ben” created is pretty fun.  Hard not to love a site that promotes popsicles made out of pickle juice.  Mmm mmm!
  • Read an excerpt of the first chapter here.

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One hot and piping book trailer, just ready for you!

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21. Review of the Day: The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman

BoyLovedMath 241x300 Review of the Day: The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah HeiligmanThe Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős
By Deborah Heiligman
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Roaring Brook (an imprint of Macmillan)
ISBN: 978-1-59643-307-6
Ages 6 and up
On shelves June 25th

Make a beeline for your local library’s children’s biography section and learn firsthand the shocking truth about picture book bios of mathematical geniuses. Apparently there was only one and his name was Einstein. End of story. The world as we know it is not overflowing with picture book encapsulations of the lives of Sir Isaac Newton or Archimedes (though admittedly you could probably drum up a Leonardo da Vinci book or two if you were keen to try). But when it comes to folks alive in the 20th century, Einstein is the beginning and the end of the story. You might be so foolish as to think there was a good reason for that fact. Maybe all the other mathematicians were dull. I mean, Einstein was a pretty interesting fella, what with his world-shattering theories and crazed mane. And true, the wild-haired physicist was fascinating in his own right, but if we’re talking out-and-out interesting people, few can compare with the patron saint of contemporary mathematics, Paul Erdős. Prior to reading this book I would have doubted a person could conceivably make an engaging biography chock full to overflowing with mathematical concepts. Now I can only stare in amazement at a story that could conceivably make a kid wonder about how neat everything from Euler’s map of Konigsburg to the Szekeres Snark is. This is one bio you do NOT want to miss. A stunner from start to finish.

For you see, there once was a boy who loved math. His name was Paul and he lived in Budapest, Hungary in 1913. As a child, Paul adored numbers, and theorems, and patterns, and tricky ideas like prime numbers. As he got older he grew to be the kind of guy who wanted to do math all the time! Paul was a great guy and a genius and folks loved having him over, but he was utterly incapable of taking care of himself. Fortunately, he didn’t have to. Folks would take care of Paul and in exchange he would bring mathematicians together. The result of these meetings was great strides in number theory, combinatorics, the probabilistic method, set theory, and more! Until the end of this days (when he died in a math meeting) Paul loved what he did and he loved the people he worked with. “Numbers and people were his best friends. Paul Erdős had no problem with that.”

There are two kinds of picture book biographies in this world. The first attempts to select just a single moment or personality quirk from a person’s life, letting it stand in as an example of the whole. Good examples of this kind of book might include Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell about the childhood of Jane Goodall or Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President And the Country by Kathleen Krull. It’s hard to pinpoint the perfect way to convey any subject, but it can sometimes be even harder to tell an entire life in the span of a mere 40 pages or so. Still, that tends to be the second and more common kind of picture book biography out there. Generally speaking they don’t tend to be terribly interesting. Just a series of rote facts, incapable of making it clear to a kind why a person mattered aside from the standard “because I said so” defense. The Boy Who Loved Math is different because it really takes the nature of biography seriously. If the purpose of a bio is to make it clear that a person was important, how important was a guy who loved math puzzles? Well, consider what the story can do. In a scant number of pages author Deborah Heiligman gives us an entire life synthesized down to just a couple key moments, giving the man’s life form and function and purpose, all while remaining lighthearted and fun to read. Who does that?

Did you know that there are kids out there who like math? I mean, reeeeeeally like math? The kinds that beg their parents for math problems to solve? They exist (heck, Ms. Heiligman gave birth to one) and for those kids this book will come like a present from on high. Because not only does the author highlight a fellow who took his passion for numbers and turned it into a fulfilling and fun life, but thanks to illustrator LeUyen Pham the illustrations are overflowing with math equations and puzzles and problems, just waiting to be interpreted and dissected. I have followed the career of Ms. Pham for many years. There is no book that she touches that she does not improve with her unique style. Whether it’s zeroing in on a child’s neuroses in Alvin Ho or bringing lush life to a work of poetry as in A Stick Is an Excellent Thing, Pham’s art can run the gamut from perfect interstitial pen-and-inks to lush watercolor paints. I say that, but I have never, but ever, seen anything like what she’s done in The Boy Who Loved Math.

It would not be overstating the matter to call this book Pham’s masterpiece. The common story behind its creation is that there was some difficulty finding the perfect artist for it because whosoever put pen to paper here would have to be comfortable on some level with incorporating math into the art. Many is the artist who would shy away from that demand. Not Ms. Pham. She takes to the medium like a duck to water, seemingly effortlessly weaving equations, charts, diagrams, numbers, and theorems into pictures that also have to complement the story, feature the faces of real people, capture a sense of time (often through clothing) and place (often through architecture), and hardest of all, be fun to look at.

But that’s just for starters. The final product is MUCH more complex. I’m not entirely certain what the medium is at work here but if I had to guess I’d go with watercolors. Whatever it is, Pham’s design on each page layout is extraordinary. Sometimes she’ll do a full page, border to border, chock full of illustrations of a single moment. That might pair with a page of interstitial scenes, giving a feel to Paul’s life. Or consider the page where you see a group of diners at a restaurant, their worlds carefully separated into dotted squares (a hat tip to one of Paul’s puzzles) while Paul sits in his very own dotted pentagon. It’s these little touches that make it clear that Paul isn’t like other folks. All this culminates in Pham’s remarkable Erdős number graph, where she outdoes herself showing how Paul intersected with the great mathematicians of the day. Absolutely stunning.

Both Heiligman and Pham take a great deal of care to tell this tale as honestly as possible. The extensive “Note From the Author” and “Note From the Illustrator” sections in the back are an eye-opening glimpse into what it takes to present a person honestly to a child audience. In Pham’s notes she concedes when she had to illustrate without a guide at hand. For example, Paul’s babysitter (“the dreaded Faulein”) had to be conjured from scratch. She is the rare exception, however. Almost every face in this book is a real person, and it’s remarkable to look and see Pham’s page by page notes on who each one is.

Heiligman’s author’s note speaks less to what she included and more to what she had to leave out. She doesn’t mention the fact that Paul was addicted to amphetamines and honestly that sort of detail wouldn’t have served the story much at all. Similarly I had no problem with Paul’s father’s absence. Heiligman mentions in her note what the man went through and why his absences would make Paul’s mother the “central person in his life emotionally”. The book never denies his existence, it just focuses on Paul’s mother as a guiding force that was perhaps in some way responsible for the man’s more quirky qualities. The only part of the book that I would have changed wasn’t what Heiligman left out but what she put in. At one point the story is in the midst of telling some of Paul’s more peculiar acts as a guest (stabbing tomato juice cartons with knives, waking friends up at 4 a.m. to talk math, etc.). Then, out of the blue, we see a very brief mention of Paul getting caught by the police when he tried to look at a radio tower. That section is almost immediately forgotten when the text jumps back to Paul and his hosts, asking why they put up with his oddities. I can see why placing Paul in the midst of the Red Scare puts the tale into context, but I might argue that there’s no real reason to include it. Though the Note for the Author at the end mentions that because of this act he wasn’t allowed back in the States for a decade, it doesn’t have a real bearing on the thrust of the book. As they say in the biz, it comes right out.

I have mentioned that this book is a boon for the math-lovers of the world, but what about the kids who couldn’t care diddly over squat about mathy malarkey? Well, as far as I’m concerned the whole reason this book works is because it’s fun. A little bit silly too, come to that. Even if a kid couldn’t care less about prime numbers, there’s interest to be had in watching someone else get excited about them. We don’t read biographies of people exactly like ourselves all the time, because what would be the point of that? Part of the reason biographies even exist is to grant us glimpses into the lives of the folks we would otherwise never have the chance to meet. Your kid may never become a mathematician, but with the book they can at least hang out with one.

One problem teachers have when they teach math is that they cannot come up with a way to make it clear that for some people mathematics is a game. A wonderful game full of surprises and puzzles and queries. What The Boy Who Loved Math does so well is to not only show how much fun math can be on your own, it makes it clear that the contribution Paul Erdős gave to the world above and beyond his own genius was that he encouraged people to work together to solve their problems. Heiligman’s biography isn’t simply the rote facts about a man’s life. It places that life in context, gives meaning to what he did, and makes it clear that above and beyond his eccentricities (which admittedly make for wonderful picture book bio fare) this was a guy who made the world a better place through mathematics. What’s more, he lived his life exactly the way he wanted to. How many of us can say as much? So applause for Heiligman and Pham for not only presenting a little known life for all the world to see, but for giving that life such a magnificent package as this book. A must purchase.

On shelves June 25th

Source: Advanced readers galley sent from publisher for review.

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22. Macmillan Bringing Minotaur Digital Books To Libraries

Library eBook readers might see more books from Macmillan this year as the company has opened a pilot program to bring Minotaur digital books to library patrons.

AppNewser has all the details:

Macmillan Publishers has partnered with OverDrive, a company that distributes digital books to more than 22,000 libraries, to make a collection of its eBooks available to libraries through a pilot program. As part of the pilot, libraries that have access to OverDrive will now have access to more than 1,200 titles from Macmillan’s Minotaur Books imprint. This includes pieces from authors Olen Steinhauser and Julia Spencer-Fleming. Macmillan is making one copy of each eBook available so that one copy can be check out at a time.

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23. Macmillan Settles with the DOJ Over Price Fixing Lawsuit

Macmillan has settled with the Department of Justice in the lawsuit over the agency model for selling digital books. All five major publishers sued by the DOJ have now settled, leaving Apple to battle the government in court.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York must approve the settlement, but it will end Macmillan’s role in the suit.

Antitrust Division chief of staff Jamillia Ferris offered this statement: “As a result of today’s settlement, Macmillan has agreed to immediately allow retailers to lower the prices consumers pay for Macmillan’s e-books … Just as consumers are already paying lower prices for the e-book versions of many of Hachette’s, HarperCollins’ and Simon & Schuster’s new releases and best sellers, we expect the prices of many of Macmillan’s e-books will also decline.”

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24. Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills - Review and Recipe


Thanks to Claudia Mills and FSG for inviting me to kick off the Zero Tolerance blog tour!
Make sure you check out Claudia's guest post and giveaway, too. 


Publication date: 18 June 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Category: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Keywords: School controversy, friendship, family, values, morality
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: Library; Netgalley


Synopsis:

Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought. Claudia Mills brings another compelling school story to life with Zero Tolerance.

Review:

I was initially drawn to read this by the great cover art by Vera Brosgol (author-illustrator of Anya's Ghost -- note, not all her artwork is SFW ;) Sierra's worried brows striking just the right gesture of uncertainty towards the green apple on top of her head, William Tell-style, with the subtle background behind her forming a target. The symbolism of the apple is so clever--not just its part in setting off the events in the book, but also the reference to apples for teachers, that iconic fruit for teacher's pets. I started this late one night and finished around 3 am, earning it the Stay up all night rating!

Careful plotting and great characters are what make this middle grade novel by Claudia Mills so compelling to read. The book centers not necessarily around the zero tolerance policy that Sierra unwittingly breaks, but around the idea that right and wrong aren't always clearly defined. For a goody-two-shoes like Sierra and the other good girls she hangs around with, everything seems black-and-white... until she gets suspended and put on a track towards expulsion.

Her perspective shaken off its axis, Sierra starts to see people differently: Mr. Besser, the school principal she had previously viewed with an almost worshipful eye; her lawyer dad, who might not be handling the situation in a completely above-board way; and her friends, especially a cute boy named Colin who sticks up for her, but maybe not for the reasons she wishes he would. Then there's the hyperactive Luke, perennially suspended but not exactly bad-to-the-bone. Sierra starts to make impulsive, spiteful decisions she will later regret. As the consequences start to pile up, she needs to re-balance her views of good and bad if she is ever going to be able to make things right again.

There are a couple of words used that might make this objectionable for parents (assuming it's assigned for school reading), however I think Sierra's attitude towards swearing and how it changes throughout the book is a great way to broach the topic with tweens and younger teens (who, lets face it, probably swear a lot more than their parents think they do). Counterbalance that analysis with the school's creed: RULES - RESPECT - RESPONSIBILITY - RELIABILITY, and you've got quite a lot to talk about. The author provides a discussion guide with activity ideas on her website. 

I think this would make a great family tv-movie. Nick Offerman would make a great Mr. Besser; Joel McHale and Alison Brie could play Sierra's dad and mom. I don't know of any young actresses that could really pull off the various emotions and attitudes that Sierra goes through, do you?

Lastly, Sierra's mom keeps trying to keep her spirits up. She's affectionate and loving, but most noticeably (as most good moms do) she keeps feeding Sierra comfort foods. As the book goes on and Sierra becomes more and more disgusted by her own actions, she develops aversions to particular foods. I can't say I blame her! If only she hadn't brought that knife to school by accident... So below, I've included some ideas for apple nachos--if you're a kid, have an adult help you with the chopping and heating parts. You can vary the amounts as you wish, but for a lot of the toppings just a tablespoon of each will do. Recipes for the sauces follow. I'll try to update this post with more photos when I can make the other variations. And please, remember to leave the knife at home!

Enjoy!


Apple Nachos


"The Sweet Sierra"

Ingredients:
An apple, any variety
A lemon
Assorted toppings

Equipment:
A knife
A cutting board
A mixing bowl
A serving plate (or a container with an air-tight lid if you're taking it to school)

Makes 1-2 servings

  1. Wash and dry an apple. You can peel the skin off if you want to, but I like to keep it on unless it's a variety that has a bitter or waxy skin. 
  2. With an adult's help, chop the apple into quarters. Carefully cut out the core with the stem and seeds, then slice each quarter into thinner slices. These are your "chips".
  3. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
  4. Toss the apple chips in the lemon juice and let them soak for a minute. This will stop them from turning brown right away. Drain and pat the apple chips dry with a paper towel.
  5. Arrange the slices on a plate and add your choice of toppings. You can drizzle the sauces on or put them on the side for dipping.
  6. Eat it right away, or take it to school with you.
Suggested Toppings:

The Sweet Sierra (pictured above)
the sweet and sour variation
Dulce de leche or caramel sauce + raisins + mini chocolate chips + shredded coconut

Media Circus
the nutty variation
Peanut butter sauce + raisins + chopped pecans + banana slices


The Principal Besser
the school lunch variation
Nacho cheese (yes, apples taste great with cheese!)
+ diced tomatoes, olives, and jalapeños (optional)


The Gerald Edward Shepard, Esquire
the fine dining variation
Extra-virgin olive oil + balsamic glaze or vinegar
+ pine nuts + crushed dried basil or oregano + parmesan cheese
(You can toss a little crushed garlic in there if you're really feeling brave)

The Cornflake
the French toast variation
Maple syrup + crumbled shredded wheat or other cereal + cinnamon sugar


The Angie Shepard
the tough cookie variation
Cookie butter sauce + slivered almonds + dried cranberries


The Comfort of Friends
the hot chocolate variation
Chocolate syrup + mini marshmallows + whipped cream*


*You're going to want to eat this right away, unless you for some reason have access to a refrigerator at school. You can also toast this combo after adding marshmallows but before adding the chocolate syrup and whipped cream!

Credit: I first found this recipe on Allyson Kramer's blog.

***

Caramel sauce (based on Ree Drummond's ingredients)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1/2 Tbsp butter
Tiny pinch of salt
A few drops of vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together all the ingredients except the vanilla. When the sauce has melted and blended together (about 1 minute), stir in the vanilla. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

Peanut butter sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp maple syrup or light corn syrup

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

Cookie butter sauce
2 Tbsp cookie butter, regular or crunchy
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

I used a Granny Smith apple for The Sweet Sierra variation since it's a little tart -- it balances out all the sweet stuff and I thought this represented Sierra's character changes throughout the book. I used Gala apples for all the rest but you can use any kind you like or have available. I also used Mallow Bits for the hot chocolate variation, but use regular mini-marshmallows if you're going to toast it.


3 Comments on Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills - Review and Recipe, last added: 9/6/2013
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25. Macmillan CEO Made Agency Model Decision on Exercise Bike

Macmillan CEO John Sargent has released a public letter addressed to “authors, illustrators and agents,” sharing the moment he decided to join the agency model in 2010–setting prices for eBooks across different retailers.

Check it out: “I am Macmillan’s CEO and I made the decision to move Macmillan to the agency model. After days of thought and worry, I made the decision on January 22nd, 2010 a little after 4:00 AM, on an exercise bike in my basement. It remains the loneliest decision I have ever made, and I see no reason to go back on it now. Other publishers have chosen to settle. That is their decision to make. We have decided to fight this in court.”

The moment will play a crucial role in court soon as the Department of Justice has sued Apple and publishers, alleging that they colluded together to set eBook prices. Sargent disputed these claims in his long letter. We’ve reprinted the entire letter below…

 

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