“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Listen, Listen • Lap board book

Listen, Listen
Phillis Gershator • illustrated by Alison Jay
November 2008 • Barefoot Books • Board Book
"Listen, listen...what’s that sound?”
Story: Take a seat, lay this big board book across your lap, and explore a bounty of telltale sights and sounds that mark the seasons. From summer’s sizzling sun to winter’s crackling snow, prepare for senses to be teased by Phillis Gershator’s lively rhyming words and Alison’s Jays lavish illustrations. Locate the ‘can you see’ pages at the back of the book and search for the animals, insects, flowers, and trees that are the harbingers of each season.

★ "Jay’s stylized pictures, with the texture of ancient frescos, are a window into a world in which the buzz of an insect and the whoosh of the wind lend surprising emotion. Illustrations filled with snowmen, anthropomorphized animals, and people running through a leaf-swept field will make children long to discover what is just over a hill or around the next bend. Capturing a summer idyll reading in a hammock with the same care as a warm evening by the fireplace, Jay invests each image with both joy and melancholy. This jewel of a book will draw children back again and again"—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

"In this ode to the seasons, the sights and sounds of a picturesque country village are artfully evoked. Under the summer sun, 'Leaves rustle, hammocks sway. Splish, splash, children play.' In autumn, 'Pumpkins ripen, quick, quick. Apples, corn—pick, pick.' During winter, 'Crunch, crunch, boots clomp. Grown-ups shovel, children romp./Skaters spin, skiers glide. Zip, zoom, slip, slide.' When spring arrives, 'Pop, pop, bulbs sprout. Leaves grow, flowers shout.' Jay's crackled-varnish paintings have a nostalgic, folk-art quality. The rhyming, onomatopoeic text wraps around the busy scenes, and the words and art together provide a smooth transition between the seasons: 'summer's gone' is illustrated with a swarm of insects buzzing off the page. An appended 'can you see' game encourages close examination of the changing landscapes. Children will be inspired to 'listen, listen' in their own environments."—School Library Journal
Story behind the story: Listen, Listen marks the launch of the lap board book format for Barefoot Books. Meant for young children who are just learning the love of reading with their parent or teacher, the thicker pages of this edition allow small hands to grasp and turn them.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews to date from your colleagues.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Red Shoes • Picture Book

The Red Shoes
by Eleri Glass illustrated by Ashley Spires
2008 • Simply Read Books • Picture Book
"The red shoes are happy apples waiting to be picked.'The red ones Mom.'"
Story: A little girl needs new shoes. There are hundreds of pairs of shoes in the shoe store, but they're all the same dull brown or grey — all except one pair. They’re red. Bright red. Fire engine red! And they’re exactly what the little girl wants. But how can she convince her mother and the skeptical sales clerk? Simple, lyrical text and charming watercolor illustrations combine to create a picture book that shows how bright, colorful things can lift one’s spirits. Set in the 1960s, this book also shows young readers the fashions of the era.
Story behind the story: Haven't red ruby slippers always been alluring? What child (or adult) hasn't wanted that special something that was "just out of reach"? The Red Shoes presents a story we can all relate to as evidenced by this early praise:

"This text would be a perfect accompaniment to a writing invitation for children. The descriptive language of the text conjures up images that allow the reader to imagine the tiny ruby gems as something more than just ordinary shoes. They may wonder what kinds of adventures the little girl will go on with her new shoes. Or they may name the character and create their own story about the girl with the red shoes. Children may also have a connection with the character as they think of something that they desire." -- CM Magazine.

"Spare text and 1960s fashions lend a subtle sophistication of bygone days when shopping trips required white gloves and dresses. Any child who's ever begged for the least sensible shoes in the store (and later worn them to bed) will definitely relate." -- Publishers Weekly

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hunger Games • YA fiction

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

October 2008 • Scholastic • YA fiction • Ages 12 and up
Each year in the ruins of North America, 24 teenagers are forced to enter the Hunger Games. Only the winner survives. Every moment is televised.
Story: Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone watching you? Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Story behind the story: When I received this book I was warned: be sure to have time to read it in one sitting. Who hasn't heard that before, but believe me, make the time to do just that. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, took it to a dinner party so she could keep reading it under the table!

"It's hard to choose one element that inspired The Hunger Games," says Suzanne Collins, New York Times bestselling author of the Underland Chronicles for middle grade readers. "Probably the first seeds were planted when, as an eight-year-old with a mythology obsession, I read the story of Theseus...and even as a third grader I could appreciate the ruthlessness of this message. 'Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children.'....But it wasn't until the much more recent experience of channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage that the story for this series came to me."

Since it's publication in October, it's landed on the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestseller lists, been named a PUBLISHERS WEEKLY'S Best Book of the Year and a NEW YORK TIMES Notable Children's Book, is #1 ON CHILDREN'S INDIE NEXT LIST, and has received starred reviews from many journals/publications.

You may have heard the buzz about it, but have you read it? Here's the first chapter and, also, a discussion guide which includes discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and connections to classic literature (The Grapes of Wrath, Nineteen Eighty-Four, among others) that are part of high school students' curriculum.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Big Bell and The Little Bell • Picture book with audio CD

The Big Bell and The Little Bell
by Martin Kalmanoff • illustrated by Alastair Graham
November 2008 • Boxer Books (US sales/distribution via Sterling Publishing) • Picture book with audio CD
Read and sing along with the classic song!
Story: The classic 1950s song ‘The Big Bell and the Little Bell’ is brought to life in pictures, words and music and tells the tale of a King who has to decide which bell—large or small, loud or soft—he wants to ring out on his wedding day. The big bell makes a mighty “bong!” while the little bell just makes a tiny “bing!” In this beautifully illustrated picture book, kids will discover that big isn't always better -- sometimes the little one wins the day! Complete with audio CD for a full visual and auditory experience.
Story behind the story: Martin Kalmanoff wrote many hit songs, some performed by Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, and his “The Big Bell and the Little Bell”— became a family favorite when it was first released in 1954. Boxer Books created the CD to include both Julius La Rosa singing the original 1950s track, and a spectacular new recording by the London Crouch End Festival Chorus.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The World That Loved Books • Picture Book

The World That Loved Books
written and illustrated by Stephen Parlato
November • Simply Read Books • Picture Book
"There once was a world where everyone loved books, even the animals. Everyone loved to read so much that when they read their books, they became what they read."
Story: Imagine a world where everyone loves books, and where people become what they read. And then... when the book is done, they become themselves again, only smarter. This is the world Stephen Parlato creates in The World That Loved Books, a world where even the animals love to read. Illustrated with gorgeous, intricately detailed collages, this dazzling picture book conveys a sense of joy and wonder about the natural world. It’s also a powerful fable about reading books and how they change the reader in marvelous and unexpected ways.
Story behind the story: Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for his unique teaching methods with specially gifted inner city high school students (he works as a counselor with mentally challenged young adults in Baltimore), Stephen Parlato describes his work as “visual puns” with a “double identity of forms”. Images constructed of bits and pieces of the familiar are meticulously rearranged into strange, exotic and marvelous new creatures. Language arts and art teachers will have much to talk about.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Waggit's Tale; Waggit Again • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)

Waggit's Tale and Waggit Again
By Peter Howe • Illustrated by Omar Rayyan
Waggit's Tale, July 2008 • Waggit Again, May 2009 •
HarperCollins Children’s Books • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)
A young dog lost--an unexpected family found
Story: When a small pup is abandoned by his owner in the city park, he meets a team of mutts who name him Waggit, for his powerful wagging tail. Waggit soon learns the lingo of his new friends and the dangers and hardships of life in the wild. But Waggit is sharp, and he becomes the best hunter and tracker in his group. Still, he remembers and longs for the comforts of home.
Story behind the story: Peter Howe got the idea for Waggit when he and his wife were living near Central Park. They were walking in the park when they found a puppy, about six-months old, who’d been badly abused. They took him home, planning to take him to a shelter after the weekend. He was so bouncy, they named him Roo, after the character in Winnie-the-Pooh. That weekend stretched into 14 years, and Roo lived a full and happy life with them. Peter often saw dogs, clearly wild, running around the woods in Central Park. They gave him the idea for the pack that Waggit meets and joins.

After Roo died, Peter and his wife adopted another rescued dog, who loves to come with him on school visits. If you’d like to have Peter visit your school or library, please contact
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews from your colleagues.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale • Illustrated Young Reader

Up and Down the Andes:
A Peruvian Festival Tale
Written by Laurie Krebs • Illustrated by Aurélia Fronty Publication: November 2008 • Barefoot Books • Illustrated Young Reader
"Up and Down the Andes, there are children just like me."
Story: Join the young narrator and six other children, each carrying a special item, as they descend from all parts of Peru to Cusco to celebrate Inti Raymi – the Festival of the Sun. Readers’ curiosity will be piqued at the mention of several parts of Peru from Lima and Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu’s ancient sites, Arequipa, and Puno. Extensive educational footnotes -- plus a map and a "Did You Know?" section -- satisfy inquiring minds about Peru’s history, terrain, peoples, and festivals.
"Peruvian children in colorful native garb make their way to a winter solstice celebration in this glowingly illustrated book. Krebs's rhyming couplets build anticipation as each of six young travelers uses different means of transport (bus, pack animal, etc.) to arrive at the ancient Incan festival of Inti Raymi, honoring the Sun God. .” Fronty's paintings, in a warm, vibrant palette, are contemporary in their compositions but recall folk art in their flat planes and use of patterns. Tile roofs, costumes and the sun's rays incorporate repeated geometric motifs. Meaty endnotes highlight Peru's history, geography and people." -Publisher’s Weekly
Story behind the story: Up and Down the Andes is the sixth title in the Barefoot Books World Travel Series, written by intrepid traveler and former elementary school teacher Laurie Krebs. Other books in the series introduce the young armchair traveler to Egypt, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, Tanzania, and the Silk Road. Stay tuned to see where Laurie travels next...
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- plus more to come!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bugged! • Early reader

by Michelle Knudsen • illustrated by Blanche Sims • 2008 • Kane PressEarly reader

Bzzz! The mosquitoes are attacking, and Riley’s on the run! Can he find a way to make himself bug-proof---once and for all?
Story: Poor Riley. He’s tried just about everything to ward off those pesky mosquitoes. Even his “mosquito dance” doesn’t work. To make matters worse, the pesky insects would rather bite him than his friends, Steve and Lara. There’s just got to be something Riley can do before he bugs out!
Story behind the story: From the author of Library Lion (New York Times bestseller and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year list, among many other accolades) and the illustrator of the ever-popular "Kids of the Polk Street School" books, this early reader for children in grades 1-3 is one of the titles in Kane Press' "Science Solves It!" series. The books in the series merge fiction and content in storylines to intrigue youngsters and encourage them to observe, investigate, predict, experiment, compare, and draw conclusions. Kids will be inspired by the characters in each story, as they solve kid-size mysteries and dilemmas. Bugged!, along with the other books in the series, can be enjoyed by independent readers and also read aloud to younger children.
"An excellent book for the school classroom or library.... an engaging story that also helps introduce key elements for critical thinking." Read more of the review at The Reading Tub.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews from your colleagues.

It's That Best Books Lists Time of Year...

Three Picnic Basket titles were named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year list:
Congratulations to the authors, illustrators and publishers!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ratha's Courage • Young Adult fiction (fantasy)

Ratha’s Courage: The Fifth Book of the Named
by Clare Bell

October, 2008 • Imaginator Press • YA Fiction
The return of Ratha: kept alive by fans, the critically acclaimed teen fantasy series returns after 14 years.
Story: Ratha, the fiery female leader of the sentient prehistoric cat clan called the Named, continues her story in this new novel. In Ratha's Courage, the Named attempts to share the gift of fire with the mammoth-hunting clan introduced in Ratha’s Challenge, but the contrasting values of two very different cultures lead to misunderstanding, tragedy, and war. Ratha learns that reaching out to others, especially when the chasm is so wide, takes true courage.
Story behind the story: Clare Bell’s first book, Ratha’s Creature, was published in 1983, with help and encouragement from science fiction writer Andre Norton and legendary editor Margaret K. McElderry. Ratha’s Creature garnered an International Reading Association award, a Pen Center award, a Booklist starred review, and a place on the American Library Association's Best Books for Young People list. Three more books about Ratha followed between 1984 and 1993, two of which were also on the ALA Best Books for Young People list.

The series eventually went out of print, and Clare stopped writing, but a base core of fans kept the series alive and Firebird Books resurrected the series last year, reprinting the four original books in 2007 with new cover art. Now, Imaginator Press is publishing Ratha’s Courage, the first new book in the series in fourteen years. In its electronic newsletter, Horn Book magazine recently recommended the series for older Warriors fans looking for new books. With romance, friendship, epic battles, and thought-provoking themes, the Named series is loaded with teen appeal.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- plus more to come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Over 210 reviews! Plus newly named National Book Award finalist Laurie Halse Anderson coming to a city near you?

The Picnic Basket is now home to more than 200 reviews, so two shouts of thanks: to the generous participating publishers who provide us with the review copies and to all of you, who are considering these books for your schools and libraries, for your feedback. Your words have been read by the 1900+ unique site visitors ... and beyond as links to Picnic Basket reviews have been popping up on websites everywhere. Keep 'em coming!
When I read CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson, I fell immediately into Isabel's world and was so taken with Laurie's words, her creation of characters, and ability to make me feel like I was right there in the center of the action. Many of you have read and written about CHAINS and feel it's an absolute must read -- and you're not alone: the National Book Award committee agrees and, this week, named CHAINS a National Book Award Finalist in the Young People's Literature category (winner to be announced November 19th). As Laurie will be going on tour to talk about CHAINS next week, I thought you'd like to know where and when just in case you're in the area and can meet up with her. One children's literature consultant told me she heard her speak at a conference and those ten minutes changed her life!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

That Book Woman • Picture Book

That Book Woman
by Heather Henson • Illustrated by
David Small

October 2008 • Atheneum Books for Young Readers • Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing • Picture Book

A Tribute to Teachers and Librarians . . .
Story: Cal is not the readin' type. Living way high up in the Appalachian Mountains, he'd rather help Pap plow or go out after wandering sheep than try some book learning. Nope. Cal does not want to sit stony-still reading some chicken scratch. But that Book Woman keeps coming just the same. She comes in the rain. She comes in the snow. She comes right up the side of the mountain, and Cal knows that's not easy riding. And all just to lend his sister some books. Why, that woman must be plain foolish — or is she braver than he ever thought? That Book Woman is a rare and moving tale that honors a special part of American history —the Pack Horse Librarians, who helped untold numbers of children see the stories amid the chicken scratch, and thus made them into lifetime readers.
Story behind the story: David Small writes, “That wonderful book woman goes about her lonely, possibly futile mission with the determination and bravery born of the convition that what she is doing is right. To me, as I worked on the pictures for this book, she became a symbol of my own sometimes lonely work in the studio, and of the mission of all of us who worked on this project: to keep books alive and available in the face of tremendous odds.”

Keep an eye for the That Book Woman reading group guide which will be posted shortly on SimonSaysTEACH.com!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Amadi's Snowman • Picture Books

Amadi's Snowman
by Katia Novet Saint-Lot Illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo
Newly released • Tilbury House, Publishers • Picture Book
Why does Amadi's mother insist he learn to read words when he is going to be a great businessman?
Story: Amadi, a mischievous young boy in Nigeria, believes he can become a successful businessman without learning to read. But one day, after running away to the market, he spots an older boy reading about a strange white creature with a carrot for a nose. Amadi soon realizes that learning to read will open up new worlds for him, and introduce him to places and ideas he never knew existed outside his village.
Story behind the story: Author Katia Novet Saint-Lot will be doing a virtual tour next month so be sure to check Tilbury House, Publishers for a full schedule as well as suggestions on how to incorporate this topic into a classroom lesson with lots of links on websites to explore for info about Nigeria, related reading titles, activities and much more. Until then, you might be interested in what a few children's industry folk have to say:

"Amadi's Snowman is a beautiful tribute to the power of reading and one boy's journey of self-discovery through books. Dimitrea Tokunbo's evocative illustrations underscore the loving interchange between a mother and son. The richly hued paintings invite us to enjoy Nigeria's many splendors and provide the perfect stage for Katia Novet Saint-Lot's imaginative story." —Andrea Davis Pinkney, Coretta Scott King Honor Author of Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

"Amadi's first-ever glimpse at a snowman—one depicted in the pages of a book—inspires him to transform from a resistant to an enthusiastic student of reading. Children will identify with Amadi's initial reluctance, his mixed feelings about a new challenge, and his attempts to rationalize staying the same. Yet they also will likely be inspired, as Amadi is, by the possibilities of reading, the way it can fill one's heart and shine a light on the unknown." —Cynthia Leitich Smith, Children's Book Author

-- plus check out an interview with Katia on The Writing Wild Life blog, read some of the wonderful reviews to date from ForeWord magazine as well as The Bees Knees Review.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Arthur of Albion • Illustrated Young Reader

Arthur of Albion
by John Matthews • Illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov

October 2008 • Barefoot Books • Illustrated Young Reader
"A king shall come who shall rule over these lands and as far afield as Rome herself, and his name shall be Arthur."
Story: Compiled by world-renowned Arthurian expert John Matthews, this Barefoot anthology is a comprehensive collection of the many legends that make up the realm of King Arthur. Stories include: The Boy Who Became King, The Ladies of the Lake: How King Arthur Came by the Sword Excalibur, Merlin the Wise, Knights, Their Horses, Weapons, and Armor: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The Grail, and more. Includes removable, fold-out map of Albion.
Story behind the story: There are many of us who know and love the tales that make up Arthurian Legend, but not necessarily how they are all related. Barefoot Books co-founder, Tessa Strickland, is amongst those for whom the threads connecting each story remained hidden. So, she asked good friend, Barefoot Books author, librarian, and Arthurian scholar John Matthews if he would compile a collection of the more renowned tales, revealing the weave that binds them. John was more than happy to comply and, along with the mystical, Klimt-like art of first-time Barefoot illustrator Pavel Tatarnikov, we have what is sure to be a definitive Arthurian anthology for young and old alike.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; just click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- more in the works, too!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before • YA fiction

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
by David Yoo
Brand New! September 2008 • Disney Hyperion Books
YA Fiction
A hilarious new YA novel from the author of Girls for Breakfast.
Story: In this desperately funny novel, David Yoo tells an authentic story of first love, and therein captures the agony, the mania, the kicking and screaming that define teenage existence.
Story behind the story: David Yoo writes, “I had a tendency, growing up, of falling for girls who shortly thereafter got back together with their ex-boyfriends, thereby instantly transforming me from a good friend into a third wheel. I’ve always wanted to write about that. And one summer in high school I had an incredibly dull job at a golf course, where on my lunch breaks I’d head over to this pond on the 9th hole and throw rocks at these huge frogs that lazed around the edge—my only respite from the boredom. The frogs were only twenty feet away, and yet day after day, for an entire summer, I could never hit a single one. I’ve always wanted to write about that, too.”
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews to date from your colleagues.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chains • Middle-grade fiction

by Laurie Halse Anderson

October 2008 • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
• Middle-grade fiction
Freedom. In 1776 New England, that word is on everyone's lips. But for thirteen-year-old Isabel the word holds a different meaning...
Story: Equal parts political thriller and coming of age story, Chains is an impeccably researched story of a young woman's quest for freedom that brings the American Revolution to life in all its grand and conflicted glory. After the death of the only mistress she has ever known, Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, are sold to a wealthy New York family even though their former owner had promised them their freedom. As Isabel tries to work freedom for herself and her sister, alliances are made and promises are broken and Isabel learns the hard way that the "freedom" she's being asked to spy for does not and may never extend to her. Faced with the choice of working for or against the British, Isabel chooses to side with herself and work with anyone who can help her.
"Laurie Halse Anderson's CHAINS is searing and has so many brilliant sparks I became lost in it. Isabel's harrowing journey into a nightmare realm of slavery, betrayal, loss and ultimately hope quite literally had me sobbing."
-- Three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Michael L. Printz Award winner, Angela Johnson
Story behind the story: About the inspiration for Chains, Anderson says: "A decade ago, while researching Fever 1793, I came across facts that shocked me: that Benjamin Franklin owned slaves, that twenty percent of New York City in 1776 was in bondage, and that the Revolution was not fought for the freedom of all Americans. These surprises led me to a deep investigation of our history . . . . Slavery affects all Americans, regardless of ethnic background, or how long our families have lived here. Slavery is the elephant in our country’s living room. It won’t go away until we acknowledge, understand, and deal with it. I hope Isabel’s story will help young readers break free of the chains of ignorance and misunderstanding. Maybe they will be strong enough to move our country forward to empathy and healing, and finally allow America to fulfill the dream of liberty and justice for all."
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- plus more to come!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Day Leo Said "I Hate You!" • Picture Book

The Day Leo Said “I Hate You!”
Robie H. Harris • Illustrated by Molly Bang
September 2008 •
Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
A family book about what it feels like to say--and hear--those other three words.
Story: In a reassuring manner, Robie H. Harris and Molly Bang portray what happens when a little boy feels SO frustrated and SO mad at a parent who has said NO all day long. Together, Harris and Bang delicately navigate not only the momentary angry feelings and outbursts of young children, but also the most profound bonds between a parent and a child.
Story behind the story: This book has been in the works ever since Robie and the previous publisher of Little, Brown, David Ford, ran into each other at the 2002 American Library Association convention. Both commented on the fact that there were so many “I LOVE YOU!” picture books on display, many overly sentimental and vapid. They surmised that this was most likely an empathic response to 9/11 — a way to reassure our young children. Together, they wondered if anyone had ever written a picture book about three equally powerful words — “I HATE YOU!” David’s response was, “I'd like to publish that book and you could write it!” Robie has spent much of her career writing about young children’s powerful emotions. So it is no surprise that after many years, she was able to successfully craft the compelling and reassuring story of Leo and his Mommy.

Here’s a little taste of the three starred reviews (!!) received so far:

“Must have reading for many a parent and child.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Harris’s wisdom and sense of humor regarding early childhood behavior complement Bang’s depictions of a little boy’s strong emotions…. Children will delight in the realism of the collage elements (cloud-covered sheets, shaggy stuffed animals, exploding broccoli spears) and relate to the intensity of the scenes in which Leo struggles with his rage and lack of power. It may dawn on parents that sometimes playing is better than getting another thing done.” -- Wendy Lukehart, School Library Journal

“Harris and Bang are so simpatico that it’s almost surprising that no one thought of bringing them together sooner…. booksellers might actually want to consider filing copies of this book in the parenting section.” – Publishers Weekly
(For the complete reviews, see: the Kirkus starred review; the School Library Journal starred review; and the Publishers Weekly starred, boxed review.)

You might also be interested in reading excerpts from a presentation Robie gave at the Reach Out and Read of Greater New York Conference entitled "Young Children's Deepest Thoughts and Strongest Feelings" as she talks about picture books, young children's powerful feelings, reassurance -- and how Molly Bang became the artist for this book.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and Picnic Basket reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Brothers Torres • YA fiction

The Brothers Torres
by Coert Vorrhes
Spring 2008 •
Disney – Hyperion Books • YA fiction
The provocative story of a Mexican-American teenager's
coming of age in the southwest.
Story: Frankie Towers looks up to his older brother Steve, who always gets what he wants: girls, a soccer scholarship, and--lately--street cred. But Frankie has reservations about Steve's crusade to win the respect of the local cholos. He may have to choose between respecting his brother and respecting himself.
Story behind the story: Debut author Coert Voorhees will be featured at this year’s National Council of Teachers of English annual convention and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents workshop. Born and raised in New Mexico, Voorhees states, “When I was growing up, I received so much conflicting information about my role in the world as a man. I questioned how to act, and wondered who to emulate. During my time as a high school and junior high teacher, I had the opportunity to see this paradox with two viewpoints: through the conflicted and sometimes tortured eyes of a teenager and with the wizened eyes of someone who has made it through. That experience helped to inform my writing of The Brothers Torres.” Voorhees was
interviewed for School Library Journal’s The Debut.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews to date from your colleagues.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fabulous Terrible: The Adventures of You • YA fiction

Fabulous Terrible: The Adventures of You
by Sophie Talbot
Just out! • Chooseco • YA fiction
In six short months, your entire life has gone into turnaround...
Story: Fabulous Terrible: The Adventures of You, a brand new novel for teen girls from the creators of the classic best-selling “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, puts YOU at an elite girls’ boarding school where you face a complicated social scene, super competitive classmates and … elements of magic. As if your new life in the fast lane isn’t enough, what’s with your sudden psychic talents?
Story behind the story: "We understand that when teens girls read, they want to have a deep unique experience with the characters -- they want to form relationships with them," says Chooseco publisher Shannon Gilligan. "Fabulous Terrible is “chick lit” geared around info that YOU and your friends can find in the book and online. Girls like to try on personas and writing the book in the 2nd person point-of-view, true to classic Choose Your Own Adventure style, allows readers to learn about themselves as they read the book. Fabulous Terrible is about an orphan with a lot of strikes against her. She's grappling with growing up (who isn't?), there's a really strong geek girl character, and an additional element of magic thrown in." See the Which FABULOUS TERRIBLE Girl Are You? Facebook quiz.

“This fantasy novel is different than any book I have ever read....What makes this book different is the main character, it is you.…make[s] you want the sequel, Fabulous Terrible: The Adventures of You: Chloe to come out sooner than October. I definitely recommend this book to those out there who love chick-lit with a fantasy twist or those looking for a good light read.”
– Sarah Bourg, YA librarian, Lebanon Public Library, Lebanon, IN (yasarah.blogspot.com)

“Fabulous Terrible is the perfect choice for any and every reader. The combination of mystery, friendship and secrets makes it hard not to love. No matter when or where you read it you’ll immediately be hooked. 4.5 Stars! (P.S. For those still not convinced, think A Great and Terrible Beauty meets Private.)” -- ChickLitTeens (chicklitteens.blogspot.com)

25 copies available. Order your reviewer's copy now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World • Middle-grade non-fiction (illustrated)

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World
Jane Yolen • illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt

July 2008 • CharlesbridgeMiddle-grade non-fiction (illustrated)
"Young pirate princesses (and princes) will be dazzled." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Story: Throughout the ages, women from all classes and walks of life turned to pirating out of necessity, desperation, or greed. Acclaimed author Jane Yolen examines the contradictions of these bold women’s lives and times. Meet Artemisia, the admiral-queen of Persia in 500 BC; Grania O’Malley, the Irish “pirate queen” who challenged Queen Elizabeth I’s British ships; Madame Ching, who sailed the South China Sea in the early 1800’s; and ten other female pirates on their ships, in battle, and in disguise.
The Story behind the story:
Jane Yolen writes: "I have been one of those 'pirate addled' readers since I first encountered Anne Bonney and Mary Read in seventh grade. When I wrote an earlier book on women pirates, there was little easily obtained information about them. I didn’t know then about Grania O’Malley, or Artemisia, or Teuta. In the over forty years since publication of that book, Pirates in Petticoats, scholars have done much work on the subject of women pirates. This book uses a lot of that new material." Just for fun: International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19th.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Keesha's Bright Idea! • Early Reader

Keesha's Bright Idea!
by Eleanor May • illustrated by Amy Wummer

July 2008 • Kane Press • Early reader
Will Keesha’s plan for an Earth Day project get in the way of her brother’s band rehearsals?
Story: Uh-oh. Eddie’s little sister gets a “bright idea” just days before the Battle of the Bands. Now Eddie has to write a new song, practice with his band, and help Keesha save energy—all at the same time! Can he do it?
Story behind the story: This early reader for students grades 1-3 is part of Kane Press' "Social Studies Connects" program which combines characters and plots with social studies concepts -- here, the environment, saving energy, and making thoughtful decisions -- that relate to kids' everyday lives and supports/reinforces social studies vocabulary. Keesha's Bright Idea!, along with the other books in the series, can be enjoyed by independent readers and also read aloud to younger children.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews from your colleagues.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dog Who Belonged to No One • Picture Book

The Dog Who Belonged to No One<
by Amy Hest • Illustrated by Amy Bates
September 2008 • Abrams Books for Young Readers • Picture Book
A timeless tale of friendship by New York Times bestselling author Amy Hest!
Story: No one takes notice of a small dog with crooked ears who doesn’t have a home. He explores the narrow streets and wide boulevards every day, while across town a little girl named Lia pedals on her bicycle alone, delivering breads and cakes. Both dream of finding a friend, until fate brings them together.
Story behind the story: Amy Hest, multi-time winner of the Christopher Medal, says that “the dog in this story reminds me a lot of a dog I know called Billy. They both try SO hard. They both mean SO well. And in the end, they both want to be loved SO much.” The love-fest for Hest’s and Bates’ timeless characters is beginning thanks to starred reviews in both Booklist (“…the lesson, that you may not know you’re missing something until you find it, makes this simple and eloquent story especially suitable for children who hold out hope for the day when that perfect dog will cross their paths and warm their own homes") and School Library Journal (“Lia in her blue dress, pinafore, and jaunty cap and the bright-eyed little dog evoke tender sympathy.”).
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!

Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)

Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing
by Gue Yue and Clare Farrow • Illustrated by Helen Cann
Just out! •
Barefoot Books • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)
Wouldn’t you rather be free, for just a day, than spend a lifetime in a cage?
Story: Eight-year-old Little Leap is growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution. He loves to spend his days flying kites, playing games with his friends, and practicing his flute. One day, he catches a songbird—but she refuses to sing as soon he places her in a cage. Little Leap Forward cannot understand why....Then Mao’s Red Guards arrive and everyone’s lives change as even the littlest freedoms are restricted. Little Leap comes to terms with these changes as he decides whether he can hold onto the beautiful bird who will not sing, or should return her to her freedom.

Story behind the story: The launch title in Barefoot Books’ New Young Fiction list for readers ages 9-12, Little Leap Forward is based upon the real-life experiences of accomplished musician Guo Yue. Born in Beijing in 1958, the year of Mao's Great Leap Forward, his name is a revolutionary one: Guo meaning Kingdom, Yue meaning Leap Forward. His family lived in a traditional courtyard in the maze of old alleys known as the Hutongs, between the beautiful Drum and Bell Towers and the river where he played as a child. His courtyard housed the families of five traditional musicians, mostly from the countryside. From these musicians he learned how to put not just his breath but his whole body into playing the flute. In 1982 Yue left China for England with the help of his sister who lived there. He studied flute at the Guildhall School of Music. Yue now plays 15 different bamboo flutes and records on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. He has worked on the soundtracks of several international films, including Bertolluci's Oscar-winning 'The Last Emperor' and 'The Killing Fields'. An accomplished cook, Yue has also written, with his wife Clare Farrow, Music, Food and Love.
"I have heard Guo Yue play his music, I have eaten his food, and can guarantee he delivers in a magical way." Peter Gabriel

“This is a story that deepens with each rereading…. The authors thread together themes of music, freedom and friendship so subtly that children will hardly detect the shifts going on within Leap Forward until he takes Little Cloud to the riverside. By ending the novel before the worst tragedies befall his family, Guo and Farrow suggest that Leap Forward has gained the inner strength he needs to get through whatever lies ahead.”—Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness

Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing has been selected by Anokaberry as one the the top 20 Best Books of 2008 for Middle Grade Readers.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and some reviews are in, and more in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about this book and be sure to come back as there are more reviews to come!

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves • YA fiction

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves
by M. T. Anderson
October 2008 • Candlewick Press • YA fiction
Follow Octavian to Virginia as he allies with the British, lured by the promise of freedom.
Fleeing from a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape to British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows, Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he learns of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces.
Seeking the truth of his past and hope for his future, he encounters generous thieves, pious carpenters, delicate lords, noble cowherds, bedazzled scientists, and murderous rebels — as this astonishing narrative escalates to its startling, deeply satisfying climax.

Story behind the story: No one can articulate the story behind Octavian better than the man himself. In his interview with Ingram Library Services at ALA Annual, author M.T. Anderson talks about writing this epic tale that “fascinates, appalls, condemns, and enthralls.”
“Viewed through historical hindsight, Octavian’s final, wounded optimism (‘No other human generation hath done other than despoil, perhaps we shall be the first’) will resonate strongly with contemporary teens.” – Booklist, starred review
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- plus more to come!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Judy Moody Goes to College • Middle-grade fiction (illustratedO

Judy Moody Goes to College
by Megan McDonald • illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Just out! • Candlewick Press • Middle grade fiction
It’s her funniest adventure yet! A few sessions with a college-age math tutor turn Judy into a jargon-spouting polygon princess. Crucial!
Story: The substitute teacher in Class 3T thinks Judy’s math skills need improving. So Judy has to start meeting with a math tutor. Does this mean flash cards? Does this mean school on weekends? But when Judy meets her tutor—a college student with an uber-funky sense of style—and gets a glimpse of college life, Judy’s bad math-i-tude turns into a radical glad-i-tude. Pretty soon, Judy’s not only acing her math class; she’s owning it.
Story behind the story: Charlie Schroder, Candlewick's Vice President at Large, Licensing and Development, laughed out loud as she read the manuscript for Judy Moody Goes to College. And while typically this wouldn’t have been a problem, at the time Charlie was in the quiet car of the train headed to New York City and she was subsequently kicked out for her uncontrollable laughter. So just a warning – don’t read Judy Moody Goes to College in the quiet car of the train, or any place where quiet is strictly enforced.
Learn more about Judy Moody and her “bother” Stink at http://www.judymoody.com/.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!

Vibes • YA fiction

by Amy Kathleen Ryan
October 2008 • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt • YA fiction
Be careful what you are thinking -- Kristi Carmichael can read minds. Or can she?
Story: Lovably snarky teenager Kristi is convinced she has ESP, but recent events have proved her perception skills to be a bit off. Maybe her friend Jacob isn’t always thinking about her breasts. Maybe her mother didn’t chase her father away. And maybe, just maybe, hot guy Gusty doesn’t think she’s disgusting. In this bitingly funny but utterly sweet novel, Amy Kathleen Ryan has created one of the most vivid, deliciously disdainful teen voices in contemporary YA fiction.
Story behind the story: Teens are already embracing Kristi! Here are some quotes from enthusiastic advance readers:
“It doesn’t take a teenage psychic to realize that this story holds a shockingly real outlook on high school life.”—Cara, 14, Glastonbury CT
“An absolutely fantastic book..” —BookChic.com, 18 Lynchburg VA
"Hilarious, supernatural, original, and witty. Vibes will now be considered a must read in my book.” —Hilary 16, Columbus OH
"If you ever thought reading people’s minds would make it easier to understand other people, Amy Kathleen Ryan is here to tell you that you’re dead wrong. Funny, fresh, and heartfelt, Vibes zigs when you expect it to zag, and will have you laughing out loud.”—Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy.
FYI: all the review copies have been sent. To hear what your colleagues have to say about VIBES, click on the "comments" link below.

Bad Rats • Picture Book with Audio CD

Bad Rats
By Eric Drachman • Illustrated by James Muscarello
Just out! • Kidwick Books • Picture Book with Audio CD
Follow along as Josiah and several other inspired rats teach their professor the value of creativity.
Story: Josiah was a rat. He was a bad rat..... or so he was told. In fact, Josiah and his friends are aspiring artists, and for a rat, painting outside the box like that just won't do.
Story behind the story: Narrated by the author and featuring his young nephew among other voices, the companion book-on-CD includes audible page turns to help children follow along as they learn to read. Hear what author Eric Drachman has to say about creating Bad Rats in this podcast with Ingram Library Services and in this interview with California Readers. Also, check out the Bad Rats audio slideshow to see and hear the book in its entirety, for free (and feel free to link your site/blog/newsletter to the show so your readers can see and hear it too!).

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!

Meet the Hippos • Board Books

Hip Hippos • One Hippo Hops • Sad, Mad, Glad Hippos
By Jane Yolen • Illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen
Just out! • Key Porter Books • board books
Meet the hippos – a lovely, zany crew ready to take the youngest reader on a rollicking ride through the world of numbers, colors and feelings.

Story behind the story: Jane Yolen has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America. She and her impressive number of children’s books have been recognized by some of the most prestigious awards given from librarians, booksellers, teachers, children and parents, including the Caldecott and Christopher Medals, countless state children’s book awards, a National Book Award nomination and Jewish Book Award, among many others. She has proven herself a true storyteller for all ages as evidenced by the tremendous sales and reception to her entire body of work. Vlasta van Kampen has won the Governor General's Award, the Graphic Arts Illustrator Award and the Blue Spruce Award.
FYI: all the review copies for these titles have been sent and reviews are in the works; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about them and be sure to come back as there are more to come!