“'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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Almost Astronauts • Nonfiction audiobook

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
by Tanya Lee Stone
read by Susan Ericksen
Brilliance Audio Ages 10 and up
They had the right stuff. They defied the prejudices of the time. And they blazed a trail for generations of women to follow
Story: Have you ever heard of the "Mercury 13" women? Did you know that nearly twenty years before the first women were let into NASA's astronaut program, there were others who tried? Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved not only that there were as tough as any man but also that they were brave enough to challenge the government. Their passage to space was blocked by prejudice, jealousy and a note scrawled by one of the most powerful men in Washington. But in the end, their inspiring example empowered young women to take their rightful place in the sky, piloting jets and commending space capsules. Almost Astronauts is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age.
Included with the audio discs is a bonus disc with an author interview, poetry read by the author, pictures from the book and a study guide.

Story behind the story: Author Tanya Lee Stone tells readers, via KidsBuzz: "What if I told you there are 13 women you've probably never heard of who tried to be astronauts in 1961—almost 20 years before women were let into NASA's space program? Would you believe me? Well, it's true. I hadn't heard of them either—until I stumbled across one little sentence. Then I was on a mission to find out everything I could. I discovered an amazing story of gutsy, record-breaking female fliers who took all the same tests our first male astronauts did to answer one burning question—are women just as qualified as men to be astronauts?

The answer was YES. But NASA said NO. Think that's the end of the story? Not even close." To find out the whole scoop, listen to the audiobook or read the book (from Candlewick Press). But, as Tanya advises: "beware—this book contains some beloved American heroes behaving badly."

ALMOST ASTRONAUTS has been collecting awards: Winner of the Sibert Award (for the most distinguished informational book), named a Boston Globe Horn Book Honor book and a finalist for the  YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, a Horn Book Fanfare, a Kirkus Best Young Adult Book of the Year, an ALSC Notables Nominee, as well as starred reviews from numerous journals and raves from the New York Times and others.

to Tanya as she talks about ALMOST ASTRONAUTS on Vermont Public Radio, or watch her present the book with kids on BookTV.

Plus: Tanya Lee Stone is happy to call-in to your book group (or meet with your group if you live in Vermont); just email her to submit your request.

This is the first audiobook offered on The Picnic Basket (thanks to Brilliance Audio)

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Impossible • Young adult fiction

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
August 2009 Puffin/Penguin Young adult fiction Ages 12 and up
"A haunting, thrilling, romantic puzzle. Just read it." -- Gregory Maguire, author of WICKED.
Story: Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child's birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won't be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents beside her. And she has Zach, whose strength amazes her more each day. Do they have enough love and resolve to overcome an age-old evil? Inspired by the ballad "Scarborough Fair," Impossible combines suspense, fantasy, and romance.

Story-behind-the-story: "I’ve written seven young adult novels, but my most recent novel, IMPOSSIBLE, is the first time I’ve written the kind of ‘comfort book’ I most love to read," says author Nancy Werlin. "IMPOSSIBLE was inspired by the ballad Scarborough Fair. I loved the Simon & Garfunkel version as a teenager, but when I heard it again one day as an adult, I was struck by the lyrics. The man, singing, makes one impossible demand after another of the woman, and if she doesn't do as he says, she's "no true love" of his! I thought: There’s no way that woman can prove herself to that man; he’s already made up his mind. Did she do him wrong? What’s the story? What's true love?

Could I construct a puzzle-type novel around the lyrics? Suppose, for some unknown reason, a girl has to prove her love by actually performing the three tasks. I’d use a modern setting, I planned, and I’d have her figure it out using technology. Surprise him. He’s wrong, it turns out. She does understand true love. She can prove it.

But I couldn’t quite imagine the situation under which the puzzle-solving would occur. The characters, the plot, the impetus, the urgency? Love was clearly involved, somehow, but I just didn’t know enough.
It took more than ten years for me to figure it out."


“This tale, inspired by the song "Scarborough Fair," showcases the author's finesse at melding genres [with its] graceful interplay between wild magic and contemporary reality [and its] catapulting suspense.” —Booklist, starred review

"Teens, especially young women, will enjoy this romantic fairy tale with modern trappings."
School Library Journal, starred review

A New York Times Bestseller

"Readers will swoon at the intensity of emotion building between Lucy and Zach. Zach is much hunkier than Rumpelstiltskin, but his assistance still comes at a price. Not a painful one, though—unless you're not into dreamy guys vowing to devote themselves to you forever and ever."
Horn Book

"Readers will be drawn into Lucy's struggle to defeat the ancient evil spirit of the Elfin Knight by trading in her logical nature for innate instincts and keeping her independent spirit while trusting in her loved ones." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Modern logic and methodology mesh splendidly with fairy lore... a lovely whole." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Book groups/book clubs: Nancy Werlin will call in! Request a video chat or a phone call event with Nancy, and she'll be happy to talk with your book club. E-mail for more details.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thoughts on a Tuesday night

National Reading Program Provides Free Year-Round Programming for Schools and Public Libraries: Get kids excited about reading with the national Great Scavenger Hunt Contest TM reading program. Adopted by more than 250 school and public libraries, The Hunt provides a monthly trivia contest for readers ages 8 – 19, based on over 300 young adult and middle grade novels. Readers select a book and answer ten trivia questions accompanied by a special note from the author. Plus readers with winning entries are entered into the monthly drawing to win a $50 gift card to the bookstore of their choice; and when a reader wins, their library wins too: a tote bag filled with a choice of Hunt books for its collection.

Founded by young adult author Kay Cassidy, The Hunt was created to assist librarians as they face severe budget cuts. “As an author and proud owner of a well-worn library card,” says Cassidy, “I wanted to give back to all the librarians whose book recommendations have fed my imagination over the years and helped me grow as a writer.”

Debbie Henricks, from the Evergreen Community Library in Metamora, OH, expresses thanks that “in these tough economic times when we are all trying to cut back, it is great to know that there is someone out there that encourages teens to use their public libraries.”

“I LOVE the Great Scavenger Hunt Contest TM! It is a great way to introduce books to teens and it is free. Who doesn’t love trivia?” adds Jennifer Nash of the Wallingford Public Library in Wallingford, CT.

Bonnie Mickler, of the Dubois Middle School in Dubois, IN, likes the immediate gratification that the program provides readers and says “the students just print off the trivia challenges to answer and return to me. Using the 'answer key' link I am able to give them immediate feedback as to whether their hunt was successful or not. Great program!"

“These books are flying off the display I created,” adds Sarah DiLorenzo of the McAlester Public Library in McAlester, OK.

To get books to fly off your shelves, register online at The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM website.

* * *

And, if you're looking for books for readers 9-12 and 12 and up, see the latest offerings from KidsBuzz. You'll get the inside scoop on what inspired the authors to write their books -- plus a chance to win a signed copy or two.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

African Acrostics • Poetry

African Acrostics
by Avis Harley • illustrated by Deborah Noyes
July 2009 • Candlewick Press • Ages 8–10
 Look carefully! In this book wild animals of Africa spring to life in clever, lighthearted poems and compelling, evocative photographs.
Story:  Avis Harley, who has written and illustrated several books of poetry for children, has created acrostics that range from quirky to poetic. The hornbill is too hot to hoot and the ostrich looks condescendingly at the poor humans with their tiny toes. The rhinoceros has boulders for shoulders and the giraffes, who are “cloud friends,” spend their time eavesdropping on the wind.

But this book of acrostic poems about African animals is more than it seems. While every acrostic contains a secret message, often lurking in the first letter of each line (read top to bottom), these acrostics also take the form to a whole new level. Here you’ll find the elusive double acrostic, cross acrostic, and multiple acrostic. Illustrated with gorgeous full-color photographs and complete with a list of facts about each animal, this collection is sure to send poetry buffs and animal lovers on an armchair safari they’ll never forget.

Story behind the story:  To capture the spectacular images that appear in the book, writer, photographer, and former zookeeper Deborah Noyes traveled to wildlife preserves and game parks in Namibia.

“There's a world of difference between seeing these animals in the wild and observing them in a zoo,” Deb says.  “The level of alertness is amazing. I hope I was able to capture just a little bit of that for kids in these pictures.”

One of her most vivid memories happened when her guides took her to photograph a rhinoceros on a game farm.  As she waited on the porch, admiring the sunset, the rhinoceros, as was his custom, appeared in the clearing behind the farmhouse.  They tiptoed down, hopped in the open jeep, and very slowly drove as near as they could get without spooking him. Despite being a couple of hundred yards away, Deb still wasn’t able to get the right shot, so her guide suggested they walk closer.

“This idea seemed, to me, suspect at best, but then I thought, ‘Why not? You won't get another chance,’” recalled Deb.  “I managed to keep my hands steady enough to make do without a tripod. Then we turned tail, hopped in the jeep again, racing the sunset so we didn't end up stranded in the dark in the middle of the bush. Standing in the wind, holding on to the back bar of the jeep while we bounced along on that rocky bush road, I imagined hidden wildlife all around waking up to feed, and thought, ‘This is one of those moments you live for.’”

“This belongs in every collection—for the poetry, for the photographs, for the information.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Useful as an entree to writing an unusual and enjoyable type of verse, this short collection offers pleasurable reading, with a nature lesson thrown in as well.” – School Library Journal, starred review
FYI:  all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.

Monday, November 23, 2009

January's Sparrow • Nonfiction picture book

January's Sparrow
written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Just out! Philomel, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group Nonfiction picture book Ages 8 and up
A tour de force of such emotional and dramatic impact that young readers will be forever changed in their understanding of the forces that led to the Civil War and the humanity and courage of the days before it.
Story:  In the middle of the dark night, the Crosswhites -- including young Sadie -- flee the Kentucky plantation they slave on, leaving everything they own behind, including the wooden sparrow January carved for Sadie.  Dear January  has been beaten and probably killed by the plantation master.  They fear they may be next.

Across the Ohio River and traveling the Underground Railroad, they make the slow and arduous journey north to Marshall, MI, where finally they are free!  Or are they? 

How the Crosswhite family and the whole town of Marshall face slave catchers in their midnight attack and stand up heroically for what is right is brought to life in art and words by the great storyteller Patricia Polacco.

Story behind the story:  Patricia Polacco is known for looking to real life for inspiration for her books -- and here she looked no further than her own backyard; she lives only twelve miles from Marshall, MI, where the Crosswhite saga took place.  Her very own home was once an inn and a safe haven along the Underground Railroad. Patricia Polacco is known throughout the country for her books that ask children to think of themselves as heroes, and to be courageous in life, as well as her motivating speeches.

Related topics include history, understanding differences, cause and effect, decision making, family relationships.

And be sure to see the curriculum guide -- featuring curriculum connections, discussion questions and classroom activities -- for January's Sparrow and all of Patricia Polacco's book at her publisher's website.


"Polacco at her best...undeniably vivid." -- The Horn Book

"Rooted in history, this is a masterly narrative that horrifies, moves and informs." -- Kirkus Reviews

"[T]his moving account effectively highlights a significant instance of nonviolent community resistance to injustice." -- School Library Journal

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chaucer’s First Winter • Picture book

Chaucer’s First Winter
by Stephen Krensky illustrated by Henry Cole
Just out! Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Picture book Ages 2 – 6
Chaucer knows that bears are supposed to sleep through the winter. But it's much more fun to stay up and play.
Story:  Celebrate the joys of the season and friendship as Chaucer experiences his first snowball fights, sledding, skating, and all of the most exciting parts of winter.  The winter setting provides a natural lead into discussions about the seasons and hibernation, but can be used year-round in units and displays on bears and animals, relationships and families.
Story behind the story:  Stephen Krensky is the author of more than eighty books for children, including How Santa Got His Job (an ALA Notable Book) and Big Bad Wolves at School. He and his wife, Joan, live in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Henry Cole is an award-winning illustrator whose quirky, sensitive illustrations have graced more than two dozen picture books, including Jack's Garden, which he also wrote; And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein; and Moosetache and Bad Boys, both by Margie Palatini. He lives in Washington, DC.

Cole provides wonderful insight and behind-the-scene examples of his artistic process via his detail-, process- and version-ometers which show how he works to find just the right character, how he fine-tunes that character, and how small details can make a big difference in picture books.  

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Here's what I'm thinking about this first November Wednesday:

THE GREAT ALA KID/YA LIT TWEET-UP:  Coming to Boston for the American Library Association's Midwinter conference? If you're a tweeting librarian (or author, illustrator, publisher, agent, editor, reviewer, blogger, bookseller -- anyone interested in children's and YA lit), join us:

Saturday, January 16, 2010
4-6 pm
at the Birch Bar in the Westin Waterfront hotel
(connected to the convention center)!

Talk social media, chat about books, share program ideas, meet fellow Picnic Basket reviewers and the people you've been re-tweeting, listing, and following, see old friends.

We'll have a BOOK SWAP too so the great Kid/YA Lit book community can continue interacting after our tweet-up's over.  Mingle with children's lit authors, librarians, magazine editors, agents, bloggers, publishers.  And I'd love to see you there, too.  Say yes.  Check out who's in for the fun (just think, you can meet Mitali Perkins, author of SECRET KEEPER which so many of you enjoyed) and register (free) here.

BOOKS FOR TEEN BOOK GROUPS AND BOOK CLUBSThe November 1st issue of Kidsbookclubbing features book giveaways for your teen book groups as well as the inside story from these authors:

- Award-winning author Gayle Forman who writes about how everything changes in a single moment for her seventeen-year-old character in If I Stay.
- New York Times bestselling author Jay Asher, who worked as a bookseller and a librarian, before writing his debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why.

- Laurie Halse Anderson, winner of the 2009 Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult readers, as she talks honestly and speaks up loudly about her novel Wintergirls, and
- Amy Efaw, graduate of West Point Military Academy and mother of five, whose spent hours observing juvenile offenders while researching her book After.

Read more of their stories and find out about inviting them to your book group -- in person or by phone or Skype -- here.

RECENT PICNIC BASKET BOOKS GETTING LOTS OF COMMENTS: Did you take a peek at what's being said about THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE, WHO WANTS TO BE A POODLE? I DON'T, and HOW DO YOU WOKKA-WOKKA?. Even though the review copies have been sent, the comments from teachers and librarians who've read these are worth a look.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles • Picture book

Spot the Plot:  A Riddle Book of Book Riddles
by J. Patrick Lewis • illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
July 2009  Chronicle Books • Ages 4-8
Story:  The book's jacket flaps tell it all:
Quickie tricky
book reviews
are intended
to amuse
readers who enjoy a little quiz.

So put on
your riddle cap --
don't fall in
a riddle trap.
You could be a
little riddle whiz.

Witty and wacky poems pose riddles that challenge readers to "Name That Book." With a glass slipper here and a spiderweb there, these thirteen fun-filled poems lead young readers to the solutions. From Goodnight Moon to Madeline, children and parents alike will delight in recognizing their most cherished stories.  A great read-aloud -- kids (and adults too) can't help but call out their answers!
Story behind the story: While reading about SPOT THE PLOT, I came across a terrific piece from Sylvia Vardell on her Poetry for Children blog (a wonderful resource for all things children's poetry).  She spoke with author J. Patrick Lewis "about his choices of poem forms and he shared this nugget:"

"Prior to SPOT THE PLOT, I'd written four books of riddles on various themes. I love the form, the challenge of coming up with the obliquely perfect definition—telling the truth, but telling it slant. Riddles are inherently interactive, so they make great read-alouds at school visits. In SPOT THE PLOT, I was trying most often to tell the book riddle in as few words as possible, as in, “Her hair’s/The stairs.” Or, a new one, “This trail becomes/A trail of crumbs.” The fewer words, the better, that is, the cleverer, to my way of thinking. Just as often, though, I had to rely on a tercet or a quatrain to tell the tale, but with a hint of confusion, as in “Pre-teen plays/a starring role/as she surveys/ a rabbit hole.” But, you see, perhaps that “rabbit hole” gives too much away. Writing riddles, especially for children, which means making them all equally but not too perplexing, is damnably difficult.”

J. Patrick Lewis has written more than 60 books for children; his poetry and nonsense verse have appeared in dozens of magazines and more than 70 anthologies.  He knows poetry and what works with kids.

Lynn Munsinger is a popular illustrator of dozens of children's books, including the beloved TACKY THE PENGUIN books by Helen Lester.  

FYI:  all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back and click on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say. (that was fast!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Night I Sang to the Monster • YA fiction

Last Night I Sang to the Monster
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
September 2009 •  Cinco Puntos Press •  Ages 14 and up
"I cried with Zach all the way through this book: tears of rage and sorrow—sometimes laughing—and finally, tears of hope and joy. Thanks to Ben Saenz’ pitch-perfect writing, Zach will stay in my heart for a long time." -- Linda Sue Park, winner of the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard

Story:  Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic, and he’s is in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad.
 I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser. It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.
Story behind the story:  Sáenz is the author of two highly praised young adult novels, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood and He Forgot to Say Goodbye, and with Last Night I Sang to the Monster, Sáenz continues exploring the lives of young men in the most difficult of circumstances. He's received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Lannan Fellowship and an American Book Award and has taught at the University of Texas at El Paso for the past twenty years; Benjamin Alire Sáenz lives, writes, loves, hates and breathes on the U.S. / Mexico border.

John Byrd, from Cinco Puntos Press, writes:  "I’ve read Last Night I Sang to the Monster a number of times in the editing process. Even after these repeated readings, I am surprised at the sense of calm that comes as I read this book. I’m surprised because this isn’t an easy book. Last Night tells the story of Zach, an alcoholic, a senior in high school. Only he’s not in high school, he’s in a rehab center and he doesn’t remember how he got there. He is pretty sure that he doesn’t want to be there. He doesn’t know if he has anywhere else to go. And the thing that he is being asked to remember is so horrible, he’s afraid it will kill him if he so much as tries, so he doesn’t try. He doesn’t want to remember, ever. It’s the sort of story that you wish wasn’t possible, had never happened....But it does happen. Benjamin’s book won’t change that. But his compassion creates a road to a place where recovery and healing can take place. That’s when Zach is finally able to sing to the monster."


"Benjamin Alire Saenz’s new novel is a gift of honesty and poetry and heart. Zach is a beautiful young man who desperately wants to forget the unforgettable. In order to deal with his addiction he must first deal with his lost childhood. Saenz has created one of the most unique and heartfelt friendships I’ve ever encountered in literature, and it’s through this friendship that Zach ultimately discovers his voice. This novel sang to me from the opening page and never once hit a false note." -- Matt de la Peña

"I cried with Zach all the way through this book: tears of rage and sorrow—sometimes laughing—and finally, tears of hope and joy. Thanks to Ben Saenz’ pitch-perfect writing, Zach will stay in my heart for a long time." -- Linda Sue Park

"Sáenz weaves together Zach’s past, present, and changing disposition toward his future with stylistic grace and emotional insight. This is a powerful and edifying look into both a tortured psyche and the methods by which it can be healed." —STARRED REVIEW, School Library Journal

"It is also a celebration of life and a song of hope in celebration of family and friendship, one that will resonate loud and long with teens." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS

"…there is never a question of either Sáenz’s own extraordinary capacity for caring and compassion or the authenticity of the experiences he records in this heartfelt account of healing and hope".-- BOOKLIST

Meet Benjamin Alire Sáenz in this video as he reads from LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER.

And read an interview with the author from School Library Journal.

FYI:  all the review copies for this book have been sent; please check back and click on the comments link to read what your colleagues have to say.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish • Picture book

Opuestos:  Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish
by Cynthia Weill • wood sculptures from Oaxaca by Quirino and Martin Santiago
August 2009 •  Cinco Puntos Press • Ages 2 - 7
Learn about opposites - in both English and Spanish - using colorful Mexican folk art wood carved animals.
Story:  Cynthia Weill’s book of Mexican folk art teaches kids about opposites in Spanish and English.  "At the turn of each page, readers see brightly painted wood characters set against equally vibrantly colored background pages that effortlessly convey the concept the author sets out to teach. On each spread, the English and Spanish words for a single concept face the opposing concept. This attractive volume conveys the concept in a unique and inviting fashion and provides youngsters with an introduction to some Mexican art in the process." (School Library Journal) Together/Juntos; Apart/Separados.  Alike/Iguales; Different/Differentes.  Asleep/Dormido; Awake/Despierto.  And more.  These whimsical little animals from Oaxaca, carved and painted by hand, make learning about opposites fun. Up and down, tall and short, left and right—all inside a beautiful book.
Story behind the story:  Cynthia Weill is an educator and art historian whose expertise is the work of indigenous artisans from all over the world; she was introduced to Martin and Quirino Santiago while in Mexico researching Oaxaca's famous folk arts.  A friendship formed and Cindy decided to use the brothers' charming figures in a children's books.  Over the years, she met other woodcarving family members.  Each one made a special figure to be included in Opuestos.  (See also her very successful ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in Spanish and English.)

“OPUESTOS means opposites—right and left, up and down, asleep and awake,” says Cynthia, who explains that she traveled to La Union Tejalapan to collect work from brothers Quirino and Martin Santiago and others to illustrate the opposites that kids -- and adults -- experience in their every day lives. “I was fascinated by the whimsical carved alebrijes and instinctively knew children would be too; these colorful carvings have the power to delight both the new learner and the collector of Mexican folk art,” says the author.  Today, she says crafts are an economic lifeline for many Oaxacans, and she’s proud and delighted to have found an educational use for the work.  “Ideally, my books will help promote the sustainability of the craft and aid in the overall economic well being of the artisans,” she says.

FYI:  I've just discovered Cinco Puntos Press and so glad I did.  They're making their mark as a publisher of authentic voices in multicultural children's literature, priding themselves in bilingual children's books and the traditional folktales from various cultures in our books.

For more information about wood carving in Oaxaca, see this fabulous resource featuring photos of the area, info about the wood used to carve the animals, and the talented artisans who make the carvings.

"It's hard to take one's eyes off this book, the wood sculptures are so appealing, so re-readings are probable." -- Chicago Tribune

"Direct and charming."—Publishers Weekly

"A great selection for bilingual storytimes at preschools, elementary schools and public libraries. As a work of art, its display will enhance art exhibits and cultural programs as part of Hispanic Heritage Month or Children's Day/Book Day celebrations." —Kirkus Reviews

FYI, all the review copies of OPUESTOS have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday's thinkings...

Here's who and what have been on my mind this week (besides Laura Rennert's dinosaur book):

My friend Deborah Heiligman -- because her incredibly well-researched and well-told biography CHARLES AND EMMA:  THE DARWINS' LEAP OF FAITH (for ages 12 and up) was nominated, yesterday, for a National Book Award.  There's been so much written about this book, but I love this quote from a review from the Chicago Tribune:  “Suppose you, the reader, are 12 or so and don’t know if you care about the history of science or whether British naturalist Charles Darwin, author of “The Origin of Species,” was controversial in his time or in ours. In “Charles and Emma,” Deborah Heiligman will make you care…. Great for young readers to watch scientific work as a personal project: no lab assignments given, no deadlines other than self-imposed.”

If you've read CHARLES AND EMMA, let Deborah know (no writer ever hears it often enough) by sending her a tweet (@dheiligman) or drop her a line on her blog as she loves to hear from readers and is happy to talk with students, teachers, librarians... bookies of all types.

...this week's KidsBuzz authors Kathleen Benner Duble, author of QUEST; Carolyn MacCullough, author of ONCE A WITCH (which has gotten fantastic reviews here at the Picnic Basket); Susan Kuklin, photographer for BEAUTIFUL BALLERINA; and Suza Scalora, author/photographer of EVIDENCE OF ANGELS.  They're sharing the stories behind-their-stories -- and offering some signed copies, too.  Get 'em while they're available via KidsBuzz.

And, if you're looking for books for book groups, check out the latest edition of Kidsbookclubbing, too. Info on how to invite authors Amy GordonCarolyn MacCullough, and Kathleen Benner Duble to speak with your readers -- plus discussion questions, reviews, and more.

... plus INKTHINKTANK.COM, a new website/database that connects nonfiction books for children and teens to national curriculum standards.  So if you're looking for books to teach a particular subject or supplement what you're doing, this site is chock-full of suggestions about titles and authors to fit any subject.  Also includes additional resources like helpful articles and studies, and bios on each of the award-winning writers with info on their availability for presentations.  "INK THINK TANK fills an important gap in the world of reading and kids. Whether you are an educator, librarian or parent looking for engaging non-fiction books for kids, this is the place! And the incredible part is that the information in each listing can be presented to your students by the authors themselves. You can find books to feed a child’s passion, or thought-provoking information about the world of non-fiction books, including lots of suggested titles, for Pre-K through 12th grade in this one place." —Cathy Puett Miller, President, TLA, Inc. AKA The Literacy Ambassador®.  I couldn't agree more!

Plus let's lift a glass and toast to all the National Book Award finalists, children's and adult books. I know my to-read pile is growing and growing... 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Buying, Training & Caring for Your Dinosaur • Picture book

Buying, Training & Caring for Your Dinosaur
by Laura Joy Rennert • Pictures by Marc Brown 
October 2009 • Random House Children's Books •  Picture book •  Ages 5-8
A hilarious guide to having a dinosaur . . . as a pet!  Illustrated by the creator of the beloved ARTHUR of picture book and PBS-TV fame.

Story:  Dogs are delightful. Cats are cute. And fish are fun. But the best pet of all is . . . a DINOSAUR! But how do you pick the dino that’s right for you? Spiky? Armored? Humongous? Pea-brained? Plant-eater? How do you take care of him once he’s (gulp!) home? How do you feed him, exercise him, take him to the vet, and give him a bath?! Not to mention train him, since he might like to chew on—er, swallow—Mom’s new shoes.
Full of little-known info and sage advice, this definitive guide to dino ownership is sure to thrill and delight kids everywhere!
Story behind the story: Author Laura Joy Rennert, a literary agent in California (this is her first book!) says:  "I went through a dinosaur phase when I was about six and still haven't grown out of it.  If I weren't in the book business, I would definitely be a paleontologist.  The dinosaur I'd most like to own is a Triceratops -- but I'm not sure how well a Triceratops would get along with my pet Chihuahua, Lola, or ...the furniture.  Plus Triceratops are herd animals, so like potato chips, it might be hard to stop at just one." 
Illustrator Marc Brown tells us:  "Having been born in the Jurassic Period, I could really illustrate this book with authority.  The paintings are done with a printmaking technique called monoprinting, and using gouache gave me vibrant colors.  I have been waiting for thirty years to use this style in a picture book.  It was important to me for the art to have a playful freshness that honors the honesty of children's art.  I was inspired a great deal by Picasso's thoughtful words:  'It took me fifty years to be able to paint like a child.' I now have one of the most extensive libraries about dinosaurs in the free world.  As an artist, it was interesting to learn how colorful many scientists speculate dinosaurs may have been."

"This starter guide will copy in handy, whether kids are in the market for a new fantasy pet, or just a fun read-aloud...Youngsters will quickly become absorbed in this enjoyable mix of facts, fantasy and fossils." -- Booklist

"From dino descriptions to basic commands—"STAY (Ha!)"—to exercising your dino and taking it to school, it's a cheery descendant of Bernard Most's classic If the Dinosaurs Came Back (1978)."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"The opening spread, filled with smiling dinosaurs and children's faces, sets the tone for this tongue-in-cheek guide .... [Marc] Brown helps the cause with vivid monoprint with gouache artwork—some of his best illustrations to date. His overly enthusiastic, sweet-faced, humongous patterned dinosaurs are—in defiance of natural history—irresistibly delicious."
-- School Library Journal

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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Meet favorite and new authors with KidsBuzz

This morning I was at a meeting at the Boston Public Library (what a building!) for volunteers for the Boston Book Fest (Saturday, 10/24 for any of you in the area) and am so energized knowing in a few weeks, I'll meet and hear from some of my favorite authors.  Who wouldn't be?  Too bad that authors can't always be on the road meeting with us and our students and readers (but then again, we do want them doing what they do best:  writing!), but there's still a way to hear directly from them:  KidsBuzz

Every other week, different kidlit authors will share their story and tell you about what inspired them, how they do what they do, how they do their research, let you know about contests, reviews, book group availability (in person and by phone), Skype visits, Facebook chats to sign up for and more.  Feel free to use their notes in your newsletters/blogs and for your general information. Just click on the book covers here and discover what these authors have for you.  

This week, you'll hear from:  Mitali Perkins, author of SECRET KEEPER (reviewed here by many of you!); Tanya Lee Stone, author of ALMOST ASTRONAUTS:  13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM; Mary Pearson, author of THE MILES BETWEEN, and Catherine Murdock Gilbert, author of FRONT AND CENTER.

If you're looking for books for your book group, you might also want to check out the Kidsbookclubbing e-newsletter.  Next month's the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, so Deborah Heiligman's CHARLES AND EMMA may be just the right choice!

I'll alert you when the next authors are KidsBuzzing.  Until then, discover and enjoy.