“'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, July 14, 2010

The Basilik's Lair (Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist, Book Two) • Middle-grade fiction

The Basilisk's Lair
by R. L. LaFevers illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Just out! June 2010 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Ages 7 - 11
Pack your goggles, rue, and an extra pair of gloves and join Nate on another unbelievable adventure—there’s no rest for the world’s youngest beastologist-in-training!
Story:  Nate Fludd, Beastologist, is back in the camel saddle in hot pursuit of a missing, deadly Basilisk—the King of Serpents. As if saving an entire Dhughani village from the Basilisk’s poisonous gaze isn’t difficult enough, Nate and Aunt Phil must begin to piece together the mystery of his parents’ disappearance and protect the lone copy of the Fludd Book of Beasts from a sinister man who always seem to be one step ahead of them.  There's no rest for the world's youngest beastologist-in-training!
Story behind the story:  Last month, author R.L. LaFevers was in town and I had the chance to sit down with her AND illustrator Kelly Murphy AND their editor, Kate O'Sullivan AND their publicist, Jennifer Taber.  What a group.  Who better to give you the story behind the story than those involved in the creation of the book?!  Over to them, but first a photo from the lunch that Houghton hosted to bring everyone together:

OK, so Kate and Kelly aren't in the pic, sorry!, but from left to right: librarian and Everyday Reading blogger Janssen; Jennifer Taber; author R.L. La Fevers, and Margaret Aldrich from Wellesley Booksmith). Here goes on the story: Kate O'Sullivan, Senior Editor, Houghton Mifflin: "When Robin first told me about her idea for the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series, it was so genius, so irresistible and perfect for emerging readers who were hungry for fantasy but not quite ready for longer books, that I was surprised that no one had beaten her to the punch. I love how Nate’s far-flung adventures are easy to read and to follow, with pacing that makes the story zip right along. 

The stories begged to be illustrated and it happens that one of my favorite parts about my job is matching artists to projects. I knew that Kelly Murphy would be the dream illustrator to work on the Nate series, and she has brought such visual warmth and charm to the books—as only the best artists can do. Robin and Kelly are an unstoppable team, and their Nate collaborations are some of my very favorite books. I especially like how this series has a nicely underscored message of conservation. It’s wrapped up in a delicious fantasy adventure about magical beasts, but I don’t think readers will miss the call to value life of all species, magical or not."

Author R. L. LaFevers : "When Kate first sent me the names of a few illustrators to consider for Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, it was pretty much love at first site with Kelly Murphy [in this photo, Kelly's on the left]. For one, the home page of her old website was a map, and Nate Fludd came from a long line of cartographers and explorers, so I felt kismet was at work right from the beginning. But when I read that her favorite reading material was atlases? I KNEW we had found the person meant to illustrate these books.

That feeling only grew as Kelly worked on the project. When I saw her first sketches of Nate, I was completely bowled over. She had captured every bit of his uncertainty and vulnerability. It was as if she had reached inside my brain and snatched my own mental images of him right from my head. Her uncanny ability to do that continued with nearly every drawing she did.

I also remember early on, visiting her blog when she’d posted some of her initial sketches. When she talked about the books, she said, “I could not have written a story myself that includes all of the things I love: birds (dodos!), atlases, explorers, sketchbooks, compasses, dirigibles, Bedouin, post World War One era...” And I remember thinking how unbelievably lucky I was that we share such similar interests. If I hadn’t been convinced before, I was then: My editor to had found the single most perfect person to illustrate these books!"

Illustrator Kelly Murphy: "I think every illustrator loves the opportunity for the freedom of creativity. But to have that freedom combined with a variety of character, location (which is my favorite), and beasts is an absolute dream project. Ever since I was very young, I would treasure the family subscription to National Geographic. Each month brought new animals, new cultures, and new ideas I had not seen yet. Another childhood favorite of mine was the giant sized National Geographic Atlas my father received as a present on Christmas. I would spend HOURS laying on the floor, thinking of what this distant lands might look like. As time passed, these volumes became stacked in the basement, not knowing how or where to put them. 

Eventually, when it became time to move, these treasures were almost lost. Thank goodness I had the sense to grab them all (and they were heavy), protect them in a plastic storage box, and wait till one day I had an apartment with some bookshelves to use them. Literally, a month before receiving Robin's text from Kate... I finally dusted off National Geographic and displayed them on my own shelves. They have been such an amazing resource while making these illustrations. The way Robin describes the settings, I truly thought they were magical. I am astounded when I get to do my own research that they are all based on real places."

A Junior Library Guild Selection
Praise for the series:
“A solid start to a new series. . . . A quick and enticing read that will appeal to a wide variety of children.” -School Library Journal

“A fastpaced story that successfully combines fantasy and history into an entertaining, believable world.”  -Booklist

“Straightforward sentences, chronological narrative, short chapters, and Murphy’s plentiful black-and-white illustrations make this appropriate for middle-grade readers looking for a series to grow with.” -Kirkus Reviews

“LaFevers gets the Nathanial Fludd, Beastologist series off to a sprightly start with this wry story. . . [a] quick-paced adventure, which should entice kids to return for Nate’s next escapade.” -Publishers Weekly

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. 

Monday, July 12, 2010


By Jonah Winter • illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Available now  • Atheneum / Simon & Schuster  • Ages 4-8
You never know what can happen.
Uno nunca sabe lo que puede suceder.
Story:  Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx.  Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed – her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination.  With bravery she became the person she wanted to be.  With hard work she succeeded.  With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
This picture book is written in both English and Spanish – every part of it:  from the flap copy to the Author’s Note.  Author Jonah Winter is the New York Times bestselling author of many books for children, including Barack (about President Obama), Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude (about Gertrude Stein) and The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan, to name a few.  Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana and is the creator of Sergio Makes a Splash! and Sergio Saves the Game!, as well as the illustrator for Mama Does the Mambo and Float Like a Butterfly.
Story behind the story:  In his author's note, Jonah Winter explains: “In America, we like to believe that anyone – regardless of their background – can achieve great things.  It’s called the American Dream, and Sonia Sotomayor is a wonderful example of it, rising from humble beginnings to become the first Latin-American Supreme Court justice….Not only is she the first Latin American to have a seat in America’s highest court, she also came to the position with more legal experience as a federal judge than any current Supreme Court justice at the time of their nominations.  Pretty impressive!”  Did you also know, Winter adds, that “some things haven't changed since her childhood in the South Bronx.  She still takes shots for her diabetes every day, and she still goes to see her beloved New York Yankees.  She still likes to listen to meringue music, and she still loves her family more than anything in the world.”'

A Children's Book-of-the-Month Featured Selection
Americas Award Commended Title

"Sotomayor's story can inspire children of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds to work hard and pursue educational and professional success." -- School Library Journal

"Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich." -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor "Aunque me crié en circunstancias muy humildes y desafiantes, considero que mi vida es inmensamente rica". -- Magistrada de la Corte Suprema Sonia Sotomayor

"[A]s impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor's sterling credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey." -- President Barack Obama

"Tan impresionante y significativa como las credenciales legales de la juez Sotomayor es su extraordinaria jornada". -- Presidente Barack Obama

"This is an important book because it teaches us that no matter what our race is, we can still make a difference.I would recommend this book to anyone. -- reviewed by Grace, De Anza Elementary, Baldwin Park -- via the Los Angeles Times

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. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer spice

Need some new reads to spice up your summer?  Looking to meet some new authors and possibly win free books?  This week's KidsBuzz introduces you to some new authors and one you might know from The Picnic Basket:

Mitali Perkins (@mitaliperkins) says this about her just-released novel BAMBOO PEOPLE, for kids 11-14: "I hope this novel opens a window into modern-day Burma while mirroring the power of courage and compassion. That's why I was thrilled when Publishers Weekly starred it as "a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship." 

"He spends a lot of time looking out the window," read one of my seventh grade report cards," says author Robert L.Forbes.  " I still do.  And I have a feeling I'm not alone. (I wonder if my favorites Silverstein, Gorey, Nash, and Lear didn't spend time daydreaming by the window a bit?)."  Find out more and get a chance to win a signed copy of this collection of poetry for kids of all ages, illustrated by New Yorker artist Ronald Searle.

Author Sarah Albee (@sarahalbee) asks readers, "Ever wonder how a knight in armor went to the bathroom? What about a lady wearing a hoop dress as wide as your teacher's desk? How does an astronaut "go"?"  She knows that kids are curious and includes all sorts of disgusting facts and more in POOP HAPPENED!  A HISTORY OF THE WORLD FROM THE BOTTOM UP, for children ages 8 and up.

Sandra Alonzo (@sandyalonzo) tells us that her "unique YA novel is written in journal format in the voice of Yancy Aparicio, a 15 year old boy who runs away on his horse to escape his mentally disturbed brother. The story is partly told through illustrations and comic panels, drawn by Nathan Huang, a fabulous illustrator. Kids are connecting to Riding Invisible because it's a fast read and pretty much 'speaks' to them through the contemporary format, language, subject matter, and very cool art."  

So drop by KidsBuzzThere's still time to enter to win free books and arrange for the authors to speak with your classes, book groups, and more.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trickster: Native American Tales, a Graphic Collection

Edited by Matt Dembicki
Available now  • Fulcrum Publishing  • Ages 10 and up
Featuring more than 20 tales by Native American storytellers illustrated by various artists, this graphic collection is the first of its kind.
Story: From the co-founder of the DC Conspiracy,this extraordinary graphic collection has received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus and Booklist, and was featured in a segment on NPR's Weekend Edition. It's "a graphic novel anthology collecting tales of North America's first adventure heroes -- trickster figures like Coyote, Raven, and other "animal humans," who both transformed the world around them, and were often transformed by it (in spite of themselves).... The book pairs up Native American storytellers with comics artists, and provides a great batch of reading that is, well, both thrilling and yes, transformative. As you'd demand from any encounter with a trickster!"(Guys Lit Wire)

Story behind the story:  I've been reading and listening to some really interesting interviews about graphic novels and why this collection. Dembicki told NPR that "he collected tales from Native American storytellers and matched them with illustrators. It was an intense project. 'It's rather easy to put together a comics anthology if you're working with people who are familiar with comics,' he says. But the storytellers were skeptical. 'It wasn't easy convincing everybody,' Dembicki says. 'Some people really couldn't see it being done this way. Other people had some cultural issues. They were very adamant — these were mostly oral stories; they were told orally, and they should be told orally.' Some storytellers went to their tribe and got approval. 'With all the competing media for people's attention, I think they felt they were losing a hold of their storytelling tradition, and they wanted to preserve some of these stories in a different format. 'It wasn't the ideal format for them, but they wanted to make sure that it was there to preserve for their own children, and for everyone else as well.'"  Listen to the entire interview at NPR's Weekend Edition or read more about the making of the collection at Washington City Paper, and Guys Lit Wire.

PS: Last night, I mentioned on Twitter that I'd be writing about this book and I got the following response from @moonb2 (Barbara Moon, Youth Services Library Consultant, Suffolk County Library System, NY):  "Trickster has been earning high marks! Nominated YALSA Great Graphic Novel. Author @ ALA. I LOVE this book Glad U R featuring."  And, she added in another tweet: "Voice of each Nat Am storytellr effectively paired with unique art equals a stellar showcase of Nat Amer culture!"  I agree.  Can't wait to hear if you do, too...

★"Realistic, impressionistic, painterly, and cartoon styles of art are employed to echo and announce the tone of each tale and telling style, making this a rich visual treasure as well as cultural trove. Contributors include well-known author Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo storyteller Eldrena Douma, cartoonist and Smithsonian Institution employee Evan Keeling, and many who have not worked in comics heretofore as well as cartoonists with no previous allegiance to telling Native stories with their art. The total package is accessible, entertaining, educational, inspiring, and a must-have for all collections." -- School Library Journal, starred review

★"This graphic-format collection of Native American tales featuring an old folk favorite—the trickster—hits an impressive trifecta of achievements. First, it’s a wildly successful platform for indie-comic creators and an excellent showcase for their distinctive styles. From David Smith and Jerry Carr’s heroic, animation-inspired “Trickster and the Great Chief” to the Looney Toons zaniness of “Rabbit’s Chocktaw Tail Tale,” by Tim Tingle and Pat Lewis, there’s a bit of visual panache here for every taste. Second, this is one of the very infrequent graphic novels to focus on Native American themes and events, a surprising absence that this book—along with Shannon and Dean Hale’s Calamity Jack (2010)—remedies with respect and imagination. Lastly, as Native American folklore is so directly tied to the culture’s spirituality, this proves the rare graphic novel that handles such issues without specifically attaching them to standard religious practices. With stories that vary in emotional tone, matching the ever-shifting appearance and character of the trickster himself and the lessons he teaches and learns, this collection is an ideal choice for dipping into over and over. A dandy read for those interested in history, folklore, adventure, humor, or the arts, and a unique contribution to the form". -- Booklist, 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.