“'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

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Secret Life of Walter Anderson • Nonfiction picture book

The Secret Life of Walter Anderson
Hester Bass illustrated by E. B. Lewis
September 2009
Candlewick Press Nonfiction picture book Ages 6 - 10
Enter the fascinating world of reclusive nature-lover Walter Anderson -- perhaps the most famous American artist you've never heard of.

There was once an artist who braved storms, mosquitoes, alligators, and more to speak the language of nature in pencil and paint. His name was Walter Anderson. Residents along the Mississippi Gulf Coast thought he was odd, rowing across twelve miles of open water in a leaky skiff to reach Horn, an uninhabited island without running water or electricity. But this solitary artist didn't much care what they thought as he spent weeks at a time on his personal paradise, sleeping under his boat, sometimes eating whatever washed ashore, sketching and painting the natural surroundings and the animals that became his friends. Here Walter created some of his most brilliant watercolors, work he kept hidden during his lifetime. In a beautifully crafted picture book biography, writer Hester Bass and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis pay homage to an uncompromising American artist.

Story behind the story: Hester Bass has been enchanted by Walter Anderson's work for over 25 years, and after Hurricane Katrina threatened to destroy so much of his cultural legacy, she felt compelled to share his story:

For me, I especially admire the way Anderson seemed to depict life as well as the likeness of his subjects. His paintings resonate like a chord, a sympathetic string vibrating with the interconnectedness of all living things. I find his art and writings, like nature itself, endlessly refreshing. My hope is that others will too. -- Hester

"A gorgeous chronicle of a versatile Southern American artist... Superb..." -- Kirkus Reviews, 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, August 19, 2009

All the World • Picture book

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon illustrated by Marla Frazee
September 2009 Beach Lane Books Picture book Ages 3 - 7
From the author of A SOCK IS A POCKET FOR YOUR TOES and the Caldecott Honor medalist of A COUPLE OF BOYS HAVE THE BEST WEEK EVER comes a story for all of us.
Story: All the world is here. It is there. It is everywhere. All the world is right where you are. Now. Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.
Story behind the story: From author Liz Garton Scanlon: "The connective tissue that makes up All the World is the stuff that is meaningful to me—on a personal and global level. Stones and sky and soup and shadows stretching way out in late afternoon light...it’s comforting to think that the path to peace and beauty in a messy and complicated world might really be this simple. And more comforting still to think that if we all do what comes naturally, on our own and together, the disparate pieces of our lives might fall into place and make sense, once and for all."

And from illustrator Marla Frazee: "Illustrating a book titled All the World was a daunting proposition. I mean, it’s supposed to be about all the world. I was totally overwhelmed. Then I considered the times when I’ve felt the most connected to the world at large, and remembered that none of us ever inhabit all the world but merely our own small place in it. So I focused on one of the places I love the most—the central coast of California—and set the book there.

Many of the illustrations in
All the World are inspired by grace notes in my life. The grandfather under the oak tree is an homage to my own immigrant grandfather, who had enough patience and faith in the future to grow oaks from acorns—trees he knew he would never live to see taller than himself. The little tree in front of the cafe is a mulberry tree he planted seventy years ago to remind him of his childhood in Lebanon. After he died, we carefully transplanted the tree to my parent’s house, and its berries have sweetened many summers and stained eight great-grandchildren’s clothes. The cafe itself was inspired by my hike to the Phantom Ranch cantina, which sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I drew my zippy orange 2007 Honda Fit, and my faithful dog, Rocket, in its front seat, pulling out of the farmer’s market. The tulips, the Mediterranean architecture, the pink house, the purple-and-yellow sunset, the beach ball—all of it means stuff to me. I hope that readers will find many things in All the World that mean stuff to them, too.

I love Liz’s text because it celebrates the small things, the big things, children, and grown-ups in equal measure. And I love how it is all mixed up and jumbled together and interconnected and personal
and universal."

PS: You just must check out Marla's website to find photos of her studio, thumbnails of her work, information on how she develops characters, how she works with color, listen to podcasts, read interviews and more. I'd love to work in her studio... maybe she can just come paint mine?!

"This is perhaps my favorite picture book published in the last few years .... Great picture books subscribe to the Sendak school of thought, '...that there's something living underneath it... When you hide another story in a story, that’s the story I am telling the children' (source: Rosenbach Museum Video). All the World,with its subtle message to enjoy the beauty in the everyday and magnificently complementary illustrations, hits the beach ball squarely in Sendak’s court....Recommended for all elementary classroom & library purchases as well as for art and language arts instructors in all grade levels. No higher recommendation will come from this reading educator." -- Reading Rumpus

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, August 6, 2009

Once a Witch • Young adult fiction

Once a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough
September 2009 • Clarion • YA fiction  Ages 12 and up
She's the only witch in the family with no apparent talent -- so how is she supposed to save them from the powerful forces allied against them?

Advance praise from favorite and best-selling teen authors:
"A fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart." -- Cassandra Clare, New York Times best-selling author of CITY OF BONES

"Family secrets and sibling rivalry, time-travel and magical "Talents" all brew together to create a superlative -- and supernatural -- coming-of-age story. Add an epic battle of good versus evil and an enchanting first kiss and this bewitching novel commands a sequel." -- Megan McCafferty, New York Times-best-selling author of the Jessica Darling series.

Family misfit Tamsin Greene is glad to be far away at a Manhattan boarding school. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, she goes for it—and promises to find his lost family heirloom. Unfortunately, the task (and the stranger) prove far more sinister than she expected, and she’s forced on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful it could destroy them all.

Story behind the story:

Here's what author Carolyn MacCullough has to say about how ONCE A WITCH came to be, the writing, the setting, teen talent, and her favorite authors:

The spark: All of my stories start with a character telling me something urgent. With Once a Witch, I heard Tamsin’s voice in my head saying she was born into a magical family—and yet she herself had no magical talent whatsoever. I wondered: How would she cope in a family like that? What kind of person would that make her be?

Conjuring voices: When I’m writing, I channel my inner teen. The outer trappings may have changed, but the emotional turmoil is still relevant. It’s a little like getting to redo your high school years: I try to write characters who are better, smarter, funnier, quicker, and possess more character strength than I felt I was / had as a teenager.

Lured by the city: The seeds of where to set the story came when I took up running—for about two weeks. I would run through Brooklyn Heights, and to distract myself I would try to appreciate beautiful architectural details. One house had a little gargoyle statue. He always seemed to be grinning. I used to wonder what stories he would tell if he could talk.

A board decision: I wanted Tamsin to be separated from her family—both emotionally and physically. Being in boarding school is her chance to escape the sometimes smothering arms of her family and shine on her own. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by boarding school because I never went to one myself.

Who’s got Talent?: I think everyone feels inadequate and left out at times from family or friends. So I always offer this advice: find your talent. Whether you’re a really amazing singer, or a genius at math (two things I sort of wish I were and am so clearly not), whatever it may be, just follow that talent and see where it takes you.

A-musing the author: I love fantasy, so some of my favorite writers are Patricia McKillip, Tamora Pierce, Robert McKinley, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling (of course!), Guy Gavriel Kay, Susan Cooper, and Neil Gaiman. Sometimes I listen to music when I’m writing, but it has to be something I know pretty well so it’s not distracting. For this book I listened to Loreen McKennitt and Govinda a lot.

The Once a Witch website offers an excerpt, facts and misconceptions about witches, quizzes, a reader's guide and more.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

84 books and 1,637 reviews. Happy 1st Birthday, Picnic Basket.

Happy Birthday to the Picnic Basket! How did this blog start? It was book convention season, just after the BookExpo America and American Library Association shows, and I was thinking about how helpful it is for those who work with children -- those who help kids and teens find out about books that fit their interests/needs -- to get book samples. You've just got to read a book to know whether you want to recommend it to your students or book group. Convention exhibit halls bustle with book people waiting to get the latest book by their favorite author or illustrator or an advance copy of the one by that first-time author that everyone's buzzing about. But what about the teacher or librarian who can't attend the show and doesn't get that book to read and consider? One year ago today, I started this blog to give teachers and librarians a sneak peek at some of the glorious books published each season for children and teens. Actual free books. For reading and reviewing. Because we trust what our colleagues have to say about books. Teachers and librarians want to hear from fellow teachers and librarians. Their take on books count. So a blog was born to share information, books, and reviews. It's about sharing resources. When it started, I didn't know how long the picnic would last. Now we're celebrating the first birthday of the Picnic Basket and I couldn't have done it without you.

84 books and 1,637 reviews and comments. Thousands visiting the site each month. Many receiving free books to discover and share. Others coming to the site to read about what's being recommended.

Thank you for the care and thought you put into each write-up.
Thank you gracious publishers for sharing these books with us.
And thank you to the creative authors and illustrators who are feeding kids with stories.

Check out the delicious treats already served and I hope you're hungry: because there's more to come!

Monday, August 3, 2009

14 Cows for America • Picture book

14 Cows for America
by Carmen Agra Deedy
• Illustrated by Illustrator Thomas Gonzalez · In collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
August 2009
Peachtree Publishers • Picture Book Ages 6-10
The big gift of compassion one small Kenyan village made to the American people

14 Cows for America
is a true account of hope and compassion in the presence of tragedy. It tells the story of a young Maasai warrior named Kimeli who was a student at Stanford University in California and visiting the United Nations on September 11, 2001. Deeply saddened by the events of that day, he carried the story to his village in Kenya the next spring. The villagers decided to donate their most precious possession as a gift of healing to the United States. Author Carmen Deedy -- winner of the Pura Belpre Medal award (for Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) -- collaborated with Kimeli to tell this story from his perspective.
Story behind the story:
Carmen was stirred to write this story after reading a newspaper account of the ceremony that took place in June 2002 when the Maasai tribe presented fourteen cows to the American ambassador. She worked on the story for several years thereafter, and finally completed it in 2007.

Carmen then sought out the principal character of the story—Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah—to ask for his blessing before proceeding. Kimeli gave his blessing and accepted the offer to join the project as a collaborator working closely with us in the development of the picture book. He made many important contributions to the work, especially to its authenticity.

Book trailer available here: http://www.14cowsforamerica.com/

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.

Note: for some reason, beyond my technological know-how, the cover of 14 Cows is reproducing with a blue cast, instead of the glorious orange sun-reflecting sky. My apologies! Please see Peachtree Publishers or the 14 Cow for America website to see the true cover.