“'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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robot Zot! • Picture book

Robot Zot!
by Jon Scieszka  illustrated by David Shannon
From best-selling authors Jon Scieszka -- the 1st ever US Children's Book Ambassador -- and David Shannon comes a tale of a quixotic robot determined to conquer the earth....
Story: ... the only problem is that the earth he lands on is a suburban kitchen and he is three inches tall. Robot Zot, the fearless and unstoppable warrior, leaves a trail of destruction as he encounters blenders, toasters, and televisions. But when he discovers the princess...a pink cell phone...his mission takes a new course. Robot Zot must learn how to be a hero - in the name of true love.
Story behind the story:  Jon Scieszka is the creator of Trucktown and the author of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, the Time Warp Trio series, Caldecott Honor Book The Stinky Cheese Man, and many other books that inspire kids to want to read. He has worked as an elementary school teacher, is the founder of a literacy initiative for boys (www.guysread.com), and just finished his term as the first ever US Ambassador for Children's Books.  David Shannon has written and illustrated numerous award winning picture books including Duck on a Bike, the Caldecott Honor Book No David!, How I Learned to be a Pirate, and Good Boy Fergus. He is also one of the collaborative illustrators in Jon Scieszka's Trucktown series.

"This book has everything that kids like: robots, heroics, humor, action, a little bit of destruction (inanimate objects only), and even a touch of romance....the most important message of this lighthearted tale is that reading really is fun." -- School Library Journal, starred review

A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Public Library Top 100 Title for Reading and Sharing

Publisher Simon and Schuster has created Robot Zot! activities to share with young readers including a Spot the Difference sheet, find your way through the maze, and more.

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, January 19, 2010

Big Doings in Boston

My hometown played host to the American Library Association Midwinter conference this weekend and showed big love to some Picnic Basket authors:

Already honored by the National Book Award, Deborah Heiligman brought home two of the top awards.  Her CHARLES AND EMMA:  THE DARWINS’ LEAP OF FAITH was the WINNER of the first ever YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Excellence in Nonfiction Award.  “Charles and Emma represents a perfect union between author and material and stands out for writing that is gorgeous and evocative of the era it depicts,” said Award Chair Angela Carstensen.

She’s pretty happy:here Deborah (right) shows off the plaque and award, helped by her editor, Laura Goldwin, of Holt.

And, if that wasn’t enough, Deborah showed that her book wasn’t only the best nonfiction book for teens, but one of the best books for young adults across the categories, earning her a PRINTZ HONOR award for overall “excellence in literature written for young adults.”

Another nonfiction Picnic Basket offering, ALMOST ASTRONAUTS:  13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Stone, also took home two big awards (this feels a little bit like the Picnic Basketers on the Olympic podium, doesn’t  it?):  the Siebert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for children.  “Stone has a less-is-more approach that really packs a wallop,” said Sibert Committee Chair Vicky Smith. “Readers will come away with their blood boiling. It’s a heckuva story.”  Plus, the book was a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.

And it’s not just nonfiction in the Picnic Basket/ALA Awards spotlight: ALL THE WORLD, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee, was awarded a Caldecott Honor as one of the most distinguished picture books of the year.

Congrats to all!  Many of you had the chance to preview these books when the sample copies were available – and we so appreciate your thoughtfulness when considering these books for your readers.  There are so many books deserving of awards -- and so many other incredible books for children and teens that didn't get an award but are still so worthy.  Here’s hoping that more of you check them out or, more importantly, that your students and readers check them out of your libraries and classrooms!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do! • Picture book

by Gita Wolf, Ramesh Hengadi, and Shantaram Dhadpe 
Just out Tara Books Ages 3-8 
An introduction to basic verbs, aided by the elegantly minimalist pictograms of Warli art.
Story:  Do! is a set of action pictures, rendered in the Warli style of tribal art. It introduces basic verbs to the young reader through a series of brilliantly drawn pictograms, which illustrate the verb and tell a story.  "Do! is handprinted in white on brown kraft paper – simulating original Warli art that is painted on mud walls, using lime and chalk. Each page of the book houses a verb, with all images on that page illustrating that one action," writes V. Geetha, Director and Editor of Tara Books.
Story behind the story:  Warli art is done by people belonging to a tribal community that lives in Maharashtra, in western India. Ramesh Hengadi, Rasika Hengadi, Shantaram Dhadpe and Kusum Dhadpe are the artists featured in this book.

I've worked in publishing for a long time now and have seen lots of beautifully made, innovative books -- this is just that and more and I am absolutely thrilled to have discovered Tara Books, an independent publisher of picture books for adults and children based in Chennai, South India. Per their website, "Now in our fifteenth year, we remain a collective of dedicated writers, designers and artists who strive for a union of fine form with rich content. We continue to work with a growing tribe of adventurous people from around the world. Fiercely independent, we publish a select list that straddles diverse genres, offering our readers unusual and rare voices in art and literature."  How true.  Just holding and touching Do! is a special experience. V. Geetha writes about the book's "brilliant simplicity, the almost hieroglyphic style of Warli art that allows people across cultures to decipher its images as their own, and the fact that it links art with learning in an entirely unselfconscious way have made for its universal appeal."  Such universal appeal that it was chosen by the government of Mexico to be given to every public school in the country.  (Read more about the process and why here.)

Don't miss the video "How Do! Was Done"; do share it with your students and readers.

Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal's Fuse #8 Production blog writes:  "Every year almost all the children's book publishers put out a whole lotta picture book schlock alongside some tiny gems. If you are a librarian, your job is to find those gems and to direct parents and teachers to them. Think of it as a game. It's like wading through muck to find a glint of gold. You can find it, but you have to be patient (and try to remember what gold looks like too). Particularly here in America, we children's librarians see lots of junk that looks exactly the same. So when I find myself handling a book like Do! I am almost at a loss to comprehend what I have before me. Tara Books is the only publisher in America that puts out handmade picture books straight out of places like Chennai, India. In Do! you have a fun concept book from the Warli tribal community. It's the kind of book that serves to remind us that there's more to literature for children than pretty sparkles and tales we've heard many times before. Do! I guarantee, is like nothing you'll find on your library shelves right now."  Be sure to read her entire blog post as she spends a great deal of time with this book and shares wonderful resources as well.

Plus Do! has won the Bologna Ragazzi "New Horizons" award for 2010.

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.