“'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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Milo & Jazz Mysteries: The Case of the Stinky Socks (Book 1) • Chapter book

The Milo & Jazz Mysteries: The Case of the Stinky Socks (Book 1)
by Lewis B. Montgomery • illustrated by Amy Wummer
Spring 2009 • The Kane Press
• Chapter book
Ages 7-11
Milo and Jazz team up to solve their very first mystery! The Wildcats’ star pitcher is missing his lucky socks, and his pitching is going to pieces. Can detective duo Milo and Jazz find the thief—before the big game?
Story: Milo and Jazz are real detectives—in training, that is! And they’re determined to find the star pitcher’s lucky socks and save the day. There’s just one problem. Who would steal a pair of stinky socks? Could it be the jealous team mascot? The conceited tennis champ? A player from the rival team? Milo and Jazz are on the case! With a little help from world-famous private eye Dash Marlowe, the two friends track down clues, stake out suspects, and become top-notch super sleuths.
Story behind the story: Written for kids ages 7–11, the Milo and Jazz Mysteries are "clever, entry-level mysteries ... true-page turners, zooming along at skateboard speed to solutions that are never obvious. And -- they're funny!" (Stephanie Spinner, author of Aliens for Breakfast). Readers will enjoy the ride as Milo and Jazz hone their detecting skills (like observing, thinking logically, and looking for patterns) and pick up new ones along the way. Super Sleuthing Puzzles (Spot the Clue, Hidden Picture, and more) at the end of each book add to the fun. And don’t miss Milo & Jazz’s second mystery: The Case of the Poisoned Pig.

Early praise for the Milo & Jazz Mysteries:
"The Milo & Jazz Mysteries are a perfect blend of humor and suspense. Realistic characters and kid-friendly mysteries will make this series a favorite among young readers. Very refreshing! -- Marcia Thornton Jones, author of the Adventures of the Bailey School Kids Series.

"The combination of humor and skillful detecting work well together. The stories move fast and make kids think and reason while having fun reading." -- Madeline Gilbert, librarian/teacher, Mamaroneck Avenue School, Mamaroneck, NY

FYI: all the review copies for this title are being sent (Kane Press is working to catch up with the requests which came in while they were moving!) 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, January 27, 2009

Lincoln Through the Lens • Non-fiction (middle-grade/YA)

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shared an Extraordinary Life
by Martin W. Sandler
Fall 2008 • Walker & Company • Non-fiction (middle-grade/YA)
A stunning photo-essay that celebrates the remarkable life of an American original.
Story: More than one hundred images of Lincoln’s life and times provide a complete portrait of our most revered president, and the events that defined him. From the only confirmed existing picture of Lincoln before the historic Gettysburg Address to his second inauguration—where he is unknowingly surrounded by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators—to the execution of his murderers, this eye-opening, inspiring visual journey provides a fresh take on one of the most documented and beloved figures in American history.
Story behind the story: Martin Sandler is the author of more than sixty books, two of which have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Among his other books are The Story of American Photography, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book; he's also a respected television writer/producer with five Emmy Awards to his credit and has taught American history and American Studies at the University of MA and Smith College. He says, "When photography first burst upon the scene in 1839, it was regarded as a miracle. Never before had it been possible to record things exactly as they were. Most important, human likenesses could be recorded." And adds, "By the time Abraham Lincoln reached the White House, he had learned to use photographers and their cameras to his own advantage....At the beginning of his political career he had often deliberately mussed his hair before allowing his photographic portrait to be taken, so that the folks from the frontier who saw the picture would understand he was one of them." That bit of info, coupled with a look at some of the book's photographs, can stir up some interesting class conversations, no?

★ "Although it’s the pictures that provide the “wow factor,” Sandler’s perceptive words have their own elegance. Well sourced and offering numerous ways to learn more, this will be an excellent tool for history classes; and browsers, too, will be caught up in Lincoln’s story.”—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Lincoln Through the Lens includes information about places to visit with special exhibits and programs of special interest to young readers, suggested further reading and surfing, and source materials. See the online reading group guide offering tips on holding a mock election, staging a debate, creating presidential posters story webs and much more.
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, January 26, 2009

The Oscars of Children's Literature

This morning, the American Library Association announced their annual picks for best children's and young adult books, videos, and films for a variety of awards and two (and perhaps many more) of this year's winners will be familiar to you Picnic Basket followers. May I have a round of applause for the Andersons!

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Chains which so many of you sampled and wrote about here, received the Margaret Edwards award for "significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens" for her books Speak, Catalyst and Twisted, among many others. This award "recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world." FYI, she's got a new book for teen readers out mid-March called WINTERGIRLS.
M.T. Anderson (no relationship to Laurie) received a Printz Honor Award for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, "a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature." Yes, indeed, and so many Picnic Basket reviewers seem to agree.

Congratulations to both authors. For the full list of award winners, see the American Library Association website.
Since I wasn't in Denver to be at the press conference, I had Twitter up and running to get instant reports. (I know, there are so many deserving books for kids and teens as we well know... this is but one list of awards, but still, it's our Academy Awards and I'm always a-twitter announcement morning to see what committee members select). How many of YOU followed the ALA's Youth Awards Twitter messages? How many of you are Twitter users? Your thoughts on this year's awards? Either comment here or send me a tweet at www.twitter.com/dsloanandco.
What an exciting Monday morning! - Deborah

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our White House • Anthology

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance • September 2008 • Candlewick Press • All Ages
A creative tour-de-force that’s history in the making.
Story: The wonderful thing about Our White House is that it has more than just a single story to tell. In fact, over 100 award-wining authors and illustrators – people like M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Brian Selznick, Peter Sis – donated their talents to create this incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, and poetry about America’s history through the prism of the White House. You’re guaranteed to find a story you love within its pages.
Story behind the story: When the extraordinarily talented David Macaulay drafted the cover for Our White House, one of his sketches looked very much like the final cover – the White House looming large in the background, people on the lawn, the gate closed, and ladders pushed up on the fence. Nothing too subversive, right? But with the right amount of imagination and mischief, the reader can imagine those folks carrying ladders to the locked gate, climbing over the fence, and now standing on the front lawn of the White House. Oh no, they’re trespassing!!

Thankfully, McCauley opened the gate and the people are law-abiding visitors (not trespassers). It’s funny what a little thing like that can do. And even though us everyday folk aren’t exactly allowed on the lawn – except perhaps if there’s an Easter Egg roll – at least it captures the idea that The White House is Our House, too.

To listen to conversation with Our White House contributors, click here.
History resources, too.

★“Powerful…. Fascinating…. Challenging.” – School Library Journal, starred review
★“A blue-ribbon choice for family sharing during an election year.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
★“Unique bits and pieces . . . create a browser’s dream as readers explore the nooks and crannies of American history.” – School Library Journal, starred review
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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Revelations • Young Adult Fiction

Revelations: A Blue Bloods Novel
Melissa De La Cruz
October 2008 • Disney-Hyperion • YA Fiction • Ages 12 and up.
Romance, glamour, and vampire lore collide in the highly anticipated third book in best-selling author Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series.
Story: Have you ever wondered what secrets lurk behind the closed doors of New York City’s wealthiest families? They're powerful, they're famous... they're undead. Schuyler Van Alen’s blood legacy is questioned—is the young vampire a Blue Blood, or does sinister Silver Blood running through her veins? As controversy swirls, Schuyler is left trapped under the same roof as her cunning nemesis, Mimi Force, and her forbidden crush, Jack Force.When one of the Gates of Hell is breached by Silver Bloods in Rio de Janeiro, the Blue Bloods will need Schuyler on their side. The stakes are high; the battle is bloody; and through it all, Carnavale rages on. And in the end, one vampire’s secret identity will be exposed in a revelation that shocks everyone.
Story Behind the Story: Melissa De La Cruz shares one of her writing secrets—“How do you write a page-turner? By making each chapter end with a cliffhanger. What’s a cliffhanger? A cliffhanger is when the action reaches a feverish pitch and then the chapter ends with the protagonist hanging on a limb or about to kiss the boy or about to open the secret safe—but not revealing what is inside. It has to keep people reading to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.” For more of Melissa’s advice to young writers, visit her hilarious
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent/are being 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.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chasing Lincoln's Killer • Non-fiction

Chasing Lincoln's Killer: The Search for John Wilkes Booth
February 2009 • Scholastic • YA fiction • Ages 12 and up
From the New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt comes a fast-paced nonfiction thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth.
Story: Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, Chasing Lincoln's Killer presents the wild twelve-day chase to find the killer of the 16th President of the United States. "This story is true. All the characters are real and were alive during the great manhunt of April 1865. Their words are authentic....What happened in Washington, DC, in the spring of 1865, and in the swamps and rivers, forests, and field of Maryland and Virginia... is far too incredible to have been made up." -- author James L. Swanson.
Story behind the story: "Born on February 12, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, my fascination with our 16th president began when I was a young boy. On my tenth birthday, my grandmother gave me an unusual present: an engraving of the Deringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, framed by a newspaper article published on the day after the assassination. The newspaper article described some aspects of the assassination, but was cut off before the end of the story. I knew I had to find the rest of the story. This book is my way of doing that."

The publisher, Scholastic, provides terrific materials to supplement class discussions and/or those interested in learning more: Q&A with the author, poster, and a map showing Booth's escape route. Plus, watch this video of the author speaking about chasing Lincoln's killer.
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.

Lincoln and His Boys • Middle-grade fiction

Lincoln and His Boys
by Rosemary Wells • illustrated by P.J. Lynch
January 2009 • Candlewick Press • Middle-grade fiction
Historians claim him as one of America’s most revered presidents. But to his rambunctious sons, Abraham Lincoln was above all a playful and loving father.
Story: Here is Lincoln as seen by two of his boys: Willie, thrilled to be on his first train trip when Lincoln was deciding to run for president; Willie and Tad barging into Cabinet meetings to lift Lincoln’s spirits in the early days of the Civil War, Tad accompanying him to Richmond just after the South’s defeat. With the war raging and the Union under siege, we see history unfolding through Willie’s eyes and then through Tad’s -- and we see Lincoln rising above his own inborn sadness and personal tragedy through his devotion to his sons.
Story behind the story: While researching Red Moon at Sharpsburg, a historical novel about the Civil War, award-winning author Rosemary Wells came upon a 200-word fragment by Willie Lincoln about a trip taken with this father; this was the beginning of Lincoln and His Boys. To illustrate the book, award-winning artist P.J. Lynch traveled with Wells to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL and assembled hundreds of contemporary images of Lincoln. "It was great to see the exact carpet or curtains or wallpaper that Lincoln and his family knew. Unfortunately the fashion then was for very garish colours and extravagant patterning," says Lynch. "I was able to do lots of other really useful research, including a visit to the Railway Depot that has been preserved as it was the day that Lincoln and his family departed Springfield for Washington." See PJ Lynch's blog for more about the making of the book and how his thoughts about how it relates to the current President-elect.
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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abe's Honest Words • Nonfiction picture book

Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln
Doreen Rappaport • illustrated by Kadir Nelson
October 2008 • Disney-Hyperion • Nonfiction picture Book • Ages 8 and up
Caldecott Honor winner and New York Times best-selling illustrator Kadir Nelson brings his talents to this stunning biography of Abraham Lincoln, the next biography in Doreen Rappaport's inspiring "Big Words" series.
Story: CELEBRATE LINCOLN’S 200TH BIRTHDAY IN 2009. Two hundred years after Lincoln’s birth, the story of his humble beginnings, tenacity, honesty, compassion and incredible vision remains as inspiring and timely as ever.

Story behind the story: The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln’s life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Doreen Rappaport's Martin’s Big Words and John’s Secret Dreams. Told in Rappaport’s accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe’s Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president. "'I went on a pilgrimage to step into Lincoln's shoes,' says Nelson, 34, who traveled to the 16th president's home state of Illinois and to Washington, D.C., to prepare to illustrate the book. 'I wanted to get a feel of the path he traveled, to paint this great American journey. I wanted to humanize him but still pay homage to him as an icon....It comes down to the pursuit of truth,' Nelson says. 'That's why I love history.' Nelson's work has amassed a formidable following. Both Spike Lee and Will Smith have collaborated with Nelson on children's books. Collectors of his paintings, which sell for up to $30,000 each, include Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah, Shaquille O'Neal and Venus Williams. " (USA TODAY)

Author Doreen Rappaport "has long been interested in history and its effects on individuals and groups, especially children. 'History is as exciting as fiction,' she says, 'and it can open a child's eyes to the drama in their own lives as well as the lives of their ancestors.'" (BOOKPAGE). Her books have been named to the New York Times and American Library Association Notable lists, and have received awards from the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, among many others. To help teachers and readers, Rappaport provides a learning guide with suggested questions, vocabulary, and research info.

★ “This collaboration between Rappaport and Nelson provides a sweeping arc of Lincoln’s life, jumping from his humble beginnings and his early political career through his struggles to preserve the union and to help abolish slavery. Rappaport writes in a very free verse, and on each page echoes her narrative with prescient samplings of Lincoln’s words.. This exceptional art, along with Rappaport’s and Lincoln’s words, makes this a fine celebration of a man who needs little introduction.” --Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
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 for reviews from your colleagues.

Our Abe Lincoln • Picture Book

Our Abe Lincoln: An Old Tune with New Lyrics
by Jim Aylesworth • illustrated by Barbara McClintock
January 2009Scholastic • Picture book
As the curtain rises in a school auditorium, the audience waits with excited anticipation. Soon a cast of spirited schoolchildren will portray the life of Abraham Lincoln through a simple, delightful musical biography.
Story: Wise Abe Lincoln said, "No More!" to slavery/"No More!" to slavery/"No More!" to slavery/Wise Abe Lincoln said, "No More!" to slavery/Many brave days ago. Aylesworth adapted a song used during Lincoln's president campaign to the tune of "The Old Grey Mare" to tell Lincoln's story to the very youngest readers. Includes musical score. Be prepared for lots of singing along! Author's note provides facts/timeline of Lincoln's life.
Story behind the story: Jim Aylesworth is the well-loved author of more than 30 books for children -- and his 25 years as a first-grade teacher have taught him exactly what children love best in a book. Aylesworth tells his stories with generous doses of loud sounds, rhythms and rhymes. Barbara McClintock -- honored four times by The New York Times for Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year -- got her inspiration for these 19th-century style illustrations from her costume and set designs for the Minneapolis Children's Theatre Company.

★"With a fresh approach to Lincoln that is both delightful and accurate, Aylesworth sets history to the tune of “The Old Gray Mare” and the derivative song “Our Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness,” which was popular during the 16th president’s campaign. Lincoln’s life is depicted in the singsong verse through the framing devise of students performing a grade-school play....McClintock captures the exuberance with charming visuals that outline significant aspects of the leader’s life and lore. As an introduction for young children, this is a perfect resource, for the engaging images and catchy phrasing as well as for the larger story that it so deftly summarizes." -- School Library Journal, starred review
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.

It's all about Lincoln this week...

Given the buzz about Lincoln's 200th birthday next month and the new titles being published for children of all ages, this week it's all about Abe. Today we're featuring two new picture books and tomorrow two books for older readers that explore aspects of the 16th president's life. Plenty of Lincoln literature to go around for teachers of all grade levels and both children's and young adult librarians. Enjoy! -- Deborah