“'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.