“'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


Friday, May 22, 2009

Recommendations from local booksellers

We know what you in the school and library community are recommending thanks to the comments posted beneath each book featured here at the Picnic Basket (plus you can also check reviews from your colleagues by genre, just scroll down in the sidebar to search).


But what are independent booksellers suggesting to their customers? The Summer '09 Indie Next Children's List is out, so take a peek to find "inspired recommendations for kids from indie booksellers." You'll see a few familiar faces:


(PS: THE CHOSEN ONE is in the top 10!) Plenty of other books to discover for summer reading -- and if you've read any of the books on the Indie Next list that are not Picnic Basket books, please tell us what you think of them, too. Enjoy the long weekend everyone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Denied, Detained, Deported • Nonfiction

Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration
by Ann Bausum • with a poem foreword by Naomi Shihab Nye
April 2009 •
National Geographic Kids • Ages 10 and up
With painstaking research, an unerring eye for just the right illustration, and her unique narrative style, Bausum makes the history of immigration in American come alive for young people.
Story: The patriotic stories of hope that shape most immigration books are supplemented here by the lesser-known stories of those denied, detained, and deported. Ann Bausum's compelling book presents a revealing series of snapshots from the dark side of immigration history. The St. Louis, a ship filled with Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany sought refuge in American ports and was turned away, condemning many of its passengers to ultimately perish in the Holocaust. Japanese-Americans were rounded up during World War II and placed in detention centers—regardless of their patriotism—for security reasons. Emma Goldman was branded a dangerous extremist and sent back to Russia in 1919, after living 30 years in the United States. These are must-hear stories -- and Naomi Shihab Nye's poem -- "Statue of Liberty Dreams of Emma Lazarus, Awakens with Tears on Her Cheeks -- might just leave you with tears on your cheeks.
Includes more than 75 archival photos and illustrations; extensive back matter, including a comprehensive time line of U.S. immigration history; research notes; citations; resource guide; bibliography; and index.
Story behind the story: Author Ann Bausum, daughter of a history professor, grew up with a love for American history and a passion for research, and she explains the story of this book in this letter:

Dear Reader:

Denied, Detained, Deported confronts the dark side of U.S. immigration. The United States has rightly earned praise for welcoming immigrants to her shores, but plenty of mistakes have been made along the way, too. We’ve learned by trial and error—and are still learning today—when to tighten our borders, who to exclude, how to handle suspicions of disloyalty, and who to send away. These are the stories of the denied, detained, and deported.

I have chosen to put a human face on this topic. The three title chapters of the book look at individuals and their families as they coped with immigration policy gone wrong, whether because of racism, concerns over national security, political posturing, or economic anxiety. Readers can better identify with the challenges created during these periods of history when they become emotionally invested in individuals who lived through the times.

One thing that fascinates me about history is the way it echoes and repeats itself. That vibrancy helps make history relevant to young people today. We can read about the 19th-century exclusion of Chinese from citizenship and employment and thus bring greater appreciation to the complexity of contemporary immigration debates. We can study the fears that accompanied past threats to national security and thus measure current events with greater sophistication. We can humanize the impact of immigration policy by looking at individual stories and thus have greater compassion for immigrants everywhere.

I wonder if one reason young people aren’t more engaged in studying history is that we may focus more on teaching facts while forgetting that the word “story” is embedded in the term history. Stories are most engaging when they have dimension, villains, heroes, challenges, surprises, and dramatic outcomes. Our nation’s history is rich with just those qualities, and these are the stories I love to research and present to young people.

I wrote this book because I am an optimist. I believe that if we know more, try harder, and educate better, we will become a stronger nation and a happier people. By writing about the dark side of history, I hope to inspire young people to set a higher bar for their own generation. I hope that by embracing our past, by championing what we’ve done well, and by learning from what could have been done differently, we will live better as individuals and as a nation.

Best wishes for happy reading,
Ann Bausum

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, May 12, 2009

The Horse Crazy Books • Chapter books (illustrated)

Horse Crazy
by Alison Lester illustrated by Roland Harvey
January 2009 • Chronicle Books • Ages 5-8
Bonnie and Sam (short for Samantha) are best friends, and they're horse crazy.
Story: They know every horse in Currawong Creek -- and there are a lot! When Bonnie whispers to horses, they listen, and Sam always knows how a horse is feeling. The girls ride together whenever they can, and they have the best adventures.Discover the charm and adventure of a small town in the Australian bush in the HORSE CRAZY books.
THE SILVER HORSE SWITCH (1): When Sam's dad's horse Drover disappears and a wild horse from the hills appears in her place -- a horse that could be Drover's twin -- the girls have to figure out how the switch was made...and how to keep the new horse's secret!

THE CIRCUS HORSE (2): The circus comes to town the same week as the talent show -- the talent show Bonnie and Sam can't be in. At least they get to make a new friend -- a trick rider their age who performs in the circus. Bonnie and Sam may still get to show off their talents -- if they can be ready in time!
Story behind the story: Alison Lester grew up on a farm in Australia with lots of horses and cows and dogs and cats. The first time she rode a horse she was a baby in her father's arms, and she cried when she had to get off. The horses and ponies in the Horse Crazy books are all based on horses she has ridden at one time or another. She still lives in the country and rides her horse, Woollyfoot, whenever she can. Roland Harvey did not grow up on a farm. He has discovered that horses are easier to ride and draw from a distance, because as soon as they know what you're up to they deliberately stand in funny ways. Roland would quite like to be a horse when he grows up, as long as he's a big one. He lives in the city but spends as much time as he can outdoors.
Lester explains, in Publishers Weekly's Children's Bookshelf, that "the idea for Horse Crazy came to her some years ago. “I was a horse-crazy little girl and have always had horses in my life,” she says. “For a long time I thought about setting a story in a small country town and that idea stayed in my head.” She decided to act on the idea after her friend Harvey sent her a card featuring a drawing of a horse. “I looked at that horse and told Roland he should do a book with horse illustrations, and he told me I should write a book for him to illustrate. And that’s how the series got started.”
Click here to watch a video and hear Alison and Roland talk about the series. Also, download a decoder activity sheet (pdf) or Download poster (pdf).
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent. Please click on the comments link to read what your colleagues have to say!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New York Times Book Review picks a few Picnic Basket titles

Some of our Picnic Basket selections/authors found friends with the book editors and reviewers from today's New York Times Book Review. Bruce Barcott calls Deborah Heiligman's CHARLES AND EMMA "a delightful book about the question at the heart of the Darwin's marriage" in the cover piece to the children's book section. Plus, did you know that Amy Krouse Rosenthal of LITTLE OINK and DUCK! RABBIT! fame has published four books between February and May of this year? Read about these two and the others in Bruce Handy's review. Plus there are reviews of the latest book by Laurie Halse Anderson, (author of CHAINS, which so many of you reviewed here), WINTERGIRLS, a novel about how "anorexia holds a young woman in a deadly grip." Lastly, take a peek at Lisa Von Drasek's take on Bird, Butterfly, Eel by the ever-interesting James Prosek. (OK, I have yet to feature James' work here at the Picnic Basket, but I find him so talented and I so like this book, I just had to add it in!). All of you helped get the conversation on these books and authors started; it's been wonderful reading your views of these titles and I'm thrilled that the talk continues in today's book section. Here's to even more!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Duck! Rabbit! • Picture book

Duck! Rabbit!
Just out! • April 2009 • Chronicle BooksPicture books • Ages 3 and up
From the author of Little Oink comes a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it.
Story: Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal's signature humor here—there's also a subtle lesson for kids who don't know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing—reading it again! Talk about fun!
Story behind the story: Editor Victoria Rock explains why Duck! Rabbit! is so special: "How often do you receive a picture book whose concept is rooted in a 19th century psychological drawing used to discuss issues of perception and reality (and the philosophy of Descartes)? Even more importantly, how often do you receive such a book that actually works as a children's picture book? Pretty much never, I am willing to wager. And yet, here is precisely that book. And whether you see a duck, a rabbit, an anteater, a braciosaurus, a zebra...or something else, entirely, I am willing to make another wager: I bet you'll enjoy it." (Purely a gentlewoman's bet. No money involved).

Do YOU see a duck or a rabbit? Take the quiz, vote for what you see, and then find out what it reveals about you. There are also e-postcards, a video, a teacher's guide and more.
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, May 5, 2009

Dessert First • Middle-grade fiction (illustrated)

Dessert First
by Hallie Durand • illustrated by Christine Davenier
May 19, 2009 • Atheneum Books for Young Readers • Middle-grade fiction (illustrated) • Ages 7 - 10
Life is sweet....Well, almost. Dessert Schneider has her very own personal style. For starters, she always signs her name with a drawing of a Maraschino cherry after the "t" at the end.
Story: Because all you really need in the world is a Maraschino cherry....Plus something to put it on top of, like a hot-fudge sundae or a corn-flake-cream-cheese cookie or a banana split. But sometimes walking to the beat of her own drum means walking right into a heap of mischief, especially when it comes to the legendary family recipe for Grandma Reine's Double-Decker Bars. As the oldest in a rambunctious, restaurant-owning family, with a four-year-old sister who is going through a "phase" and two little brothers called "the Beasties," Dessert seems to be better at getting into trouble than getting out of it. And that's because for this eight-year-old, saying sorry is definitely not a piece o'cake!
Story behind the story: Debut author Hallie Durand says "I guess it's fair to say that Dessert is a little bit like me (and I'm not always especially proud of that!). She's a little sneaky, she usually gets caught, and, she grows up a little more every time she has to say she's sorry. Dessert First sprang from delicious food and real friendship, two things that are very important to me." Librarians and teachers play an important part in Durand's life: "In large part, I owe my love of reading to Mrs. Carrier, my elementary school librarian. You see, in third grade, I was still carrying around Madeline. I had memorized Madeline. And one day I walked into the library and Mrs. Carrier said, 'I think I found a book you might like.' And she took my hand and led me over to Holly in the Snow, by Eleanor Francis Lattimore. And I took the book home, and I devoured it....Mrs. Carrier, with one small act of attention and kindness, changed my life.

Mrs. Howdy Doody, the teacher in Dessert First who walks around in slippers and who is someone who didn’t worry about what anybody else thought was inspired by a teacher I love, Mrs. Normana Schaaf. Mrs. Schaaf teaches the two year olds at a coop at which parents are helpers on a regular basis. I’m not somebody who fits into groups very well and I’m not an ideal “helping parent” either, but Mrs. Schaaf said to me when she met me, “You can do nothing wrong and your children can do nothing wrong.” Of course I liked this but more than that I love her passion and...that...she loves my children with such unbridled, unconditional passion. Mrs. Normana Schaaf marches to her own drummer, whether she is wearing her pajamas to school, or trying to teach two year olds how to make apple crisp."

Hallie Durand's favorite dessert is vanilla ice cream drowned in hot-fudge sauce. Illustrator Christine Davenier's favorite dessert is profiterole au chocolat. She is the illustrator of many books for children, including the Iris and Walter series by Elissa Haden Guest and The First Thing My Mama Told Me by Susan Marie Swanson, which received a New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award. She lives in Paris.
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.