“'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, June 25, 2009

Chantel's Quest for the Enchanted Medallion •

Chantel's Quest for the Enchanted Medallion
To be published September 2009 • Simply Read Books • Ages 8 - 12
Explore the worlds of Imagination, Friendship, Enemies and Hope with Book Two in the fantasy series about Chantel, who must brave evil-doers and muster her courage to defeat an evil power that's killing nature and corrupting minds.
Story: In this second book in the widely praised fantasy series, a mysterious vengeful spirit threatens the Four Lands and twelve-year-old Chantel must recover four ancient relics in order to stop it. Her quest for the second relic, the Enchanted Medallion, takes her into the unforgiving desert, where the Warlord of the South is waiting to capture her. Will Chantel outwit this Warlord, save the Wise One of the South, and fine the elusive Etam Luos, who can reveal the hiding spot of the Medallion? Meanwhile, Chantel’s toughest battle lies within herself, as she discovers a secret ability that tempts her to stray to the side of the evil spirit. Luckily, her old loyal companions, a warrior mouse and a fox bat, as well as some new friends, help her on this daring adventure.
Story behind the story: Picnic Basket readers found much to like in the first book in the series, Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword, as did their kid readers. Highly recommended by Curriculum Materials magazine, teachers planned on using Book One for prediction activities, to help students examine their worlds -- as well as the world of fiction; the female protagonist was a plus, and they felt it was full of suspense and excitement. Students were lined up to read Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword -- and those who did need not wait much longer (Sept.) for this next adventure.

Order your reviewer's copy now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Owly Books • Graphic novels

Owly: A Time to be Brave
Owly: Tiny Tales
by Andy Runton
Spring 2009 • Top Shelf • All ages
"One of the best comics for kids around. Period."
-- Wired.com
"Charming ... reminiscent of children’s literature in the style of Frog and Toad, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet."
-- Publishers Weekly
Story: Owly is a kind, yet lonely, little owl who knows what it means to be human. Relying on a mixture of symbols and expressions, Andy Runton's animated and heartwarming style makes Owly a perfect read for everyone.
Story behind the story: I'm going to cut right to the chase and let OWLY creator Andy Runton give you the OWLY background as well as some info on how the books are being used:

Hello there. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the Owly books I write and illustrate, and how they help promote literacy.

Owly is a kind little owl who knows what it means to be human. Introduced to comics readers in 2004, his adventures are narrated in the nearly wordless Owly series of graphic novels. Owly has become incredibly popular in schools, libraries, and homes throughout the country and around the world. Non-violent subject matter, natural settings, straightforward yet emotionally complex stories, and endearing characters appeal to many different readers and makes this series the perfect choice for students of all ages. Because there are very few words, younger readers can read Owly books without being overwhelmed by text. This can spark an interest in books, instill cognitive and comprehensive skills at an even earlier age, and motivate students to move comfortably toward more advanced reading. In addition, more advanced readers can digest the Owly stories quickly, absorbing the subtextual plots easily without realizing that they are learning. They can enjoy a wonderful change in perspective that can facilitate more interest in education.

It may seem that a student could read a wordless comic quickly (and without much effort). One soon realizes, however, that he or she must apply further evaluation and observation skills to be able to follow the story line. This helps develop strong visual skills as the student has to carefully examine the panels in order to understand what is happening, rather than just quickly skip over them and only read word bubbles. The Owly books are primarily wordless and, while the ability to create a story without text is challenging, the resulting books appeal to all ages and all reading proficiencies, including reluctant and challenged readers. Learning accelerates as readers pick up the books without being told to do so, and their confidence grows with each story.

The Owly books rely on the characters’ facial expressions, actions, and gestures in addition to the background setting depicted in each panel to explain what is happening. Speech and thought balloons convey additional messages to assist with understanding. Unknowingly, the students begin to realize the significance of symbols, reading the book in a traditional style and following the panels in order to determine the story‘s progression and meaning.

Although Owly is a series, each book is self-contained and all-ages friendly. While there is the portrayal of emotion and action, the books are devoid of anger or violence, making them suitable for even the most timid or sensitive student. Reading Owly aloud in a classroom setting requires a slightly different approach. When you’re reading Owly, be sure to identify the animal and say the character’s name. For instance, when Owly interacts with his worm friend, ask the students what type of animal it is and state the character’s name: “Wormy.” Additionally, when Owly says something, translate the symbols into words based on the context of the action (for example, a simple “!” may become a “Thanks!” or a “Be Careful!”). You can also ask the students what they think the characters are doing, saying, or feeling to help get them more involved. Owly lets readers comprehend a story without requiring that they understand text. Language skills are developed through visual observation that provides clues to the meaning of words. Struggling students can develop confidence in their abilities when they are able to read the Owly books without help.

We've even provided a whole assortment of
free lesson plans to help give teachers ideas and help them in their efforts.

Thank you for your support! Owly and I really appreciate it.

Take care,
Andy :)

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.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Escape Under the Forever Sky • Middle-grade fiction

Escape Under the Forever Sky
by Eve Yohalem
Spring 2009 • Chronicle Books • ages 10 and up
You'd think that being the daughter of the American ambassador to Ethiopia would be one adventure after another, right? Wrong.
Story: Thirteen-year-old Lucy Hoffman never gets to see anything beyond the walls of the embassy compound. All she can do is read about the exotic and exciting world outside and imagine what it would be like to be part of it. Until she gets kidnapped. All alone in the Ethiopian wild, Lucy has to use her knowledge of African animal life along with her inventiveness, will, and courage to escape and find her way to freedom.
Story behind the story: Eve Yohalem explains how she got the idea for ESCAPE UNDER THE FOREVER SKY: "... from a news story I found online when I was staying up way past a decent bedtime, surfing aimlessly. There I was, hunched at my desk in tattered old pajamas, slack-jawed, eyes glazed over (you know the look), when I saw this news headline: “Ethiopian Girl Kidnapped, Saved by Wild Lions.” From that moment on, I was possessed. It didn’t matter that I knew nothing about Ethiopia or lions or how to survive alone in the bush with no food and an injured foot. I heard Lucy’s voice in my head everywhere I went and I had to bring her to life on the page." She adds that "the girl was saved and returned to her family, but beyond that I don’t know. The news article never gave her name or even the name of the village where she lived."

Watch/share this trailer to get the sense of what Lucy was feeling, seeing, hearing, while alone in the African wild.

"Teens itching to read about life on another continent will relish Yohalem’s exciting debut novel set in Africa.... Yohalem’s tale weaves together the beauty of the African wildlife with the harsh realities of a poor and unstable region. Scenes depicting Lucy’s resourcefulness are riveting, and the author’s descriptions of Ethiopian culture will pique young readers’ curiosity about life abroad."... -- Booklist

"Lucy's past and present are gracefully woven together, through well-integrated flashbacks, into a powerful picture of the life of a foreigner in Ethiopia. The story should appeal to all with a sense of adventure."-- Publishers Weekly

"Yohalem effectively conveys the immediacy of Lucy's terror and fear as well as her deep love for the natural beauty around her. How stalwart Lucy escapes and survives makes this an engrossing journey from innocence to experience."-- Kirkus Reviews

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent. Please check the comments link to read what your colleagues have to say.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems • Anthology

Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems
by Linda Booth Sweeney • illustrated by Guy Billout
designed by Milton Glaser
Just out! published by SEED • distributed by Chelsea Green
The ancients understood sustainability -- a new illustrated book reveals the lessons of living systems through folktales.Connected Wisdom gathers twelve stories from different cultures that each reveal a unique example of a living system and an approach to problem solving that focuses on interconnections, rather than on parts in isolation. A Balinese folktale tells the story of a gecko who cannot sleep because of the sparks from a firefly. He traces the cause of his complaint from one animal to another to the mosquitoes he depends on for his survival. Like this gecko, young readers will understand that all life is inter-related, and will be able to grasp the concept of the living system of "interdependence." In a Burmese folktale, a king spills a drop of honey on his windowsill, too little to bother cleaning up. Yet the drop draws a fly, which attracts a lizard, which is followed by a cat, then a dog, and the owners of the cat and the dog, each armed with a stick. When civil war erupts, the king and readers understand the living system of "linearity," in which an effect is disproportionate to its cause.

Says author Linda Booth Sweeney, "If kids understand living systems, they're more likely to think and act in informed ways and less likely to jump to blame a single cause for the challenges they encounter. As kids appreciate and learn about living systems, they see that connections in nature, people, problems and events bind us all."

"The moment you touch and open this book, its wisdom is evident. This is the wisdom of wholes, of belonging, and connecting the dots to see the richer tapestry of life." —Raffi, singer and author

"Wow! I love how [Linda Booth Sweeney] talks about each concept and uses the folktales to illustrate/expand. The book could easily be used as the basis for a curriculum on the interconnected-ness of our world (in a variety of content areas from science to social studies)--the concepts can be talked about and applied at so many different levels. I feel like it could be adapted and used in the whole range of grade levels--kindergarten through high school."
—Rachel Rosner, Professional Educator

"Beautiful…The writing so seamlessly tied together [the author's] ecological concepts with the stories … chosen. And such handsome bookmaking! I am doing a keynote on tales of kindness for the National Storytelling Network Conference in Hawaii and will add this to my bibliography."
—Margaret Read MacDonald, Author and storyteller

Read an article about systems learning and the why and how of teaching it to children in Solutions magazine.

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.