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

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


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!
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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!