“'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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Need some ideas? Kidsbookclubbing's got 'em!

The latest issue of Kidsbookclubbing features giveaways and behind-the-scenes stories from these top kids' authors:

- Printz Honor Award winner Ellen Wittlinger as she broaches the topic of war in THIS MEANS WAR!, a work of fiction for middle-graders

- debut writer Inara Scott who mixes superpowers and friendships in a boarding school setting in her teen novel DELCROIX ACADEMY, BOOK ONE: THE CANDIDATES

 - Julie Berry, author of THE SPLURCH ACADEMY BOOKS, a new comic novel series for reluctant readers and disruptive kids (do you know any of those?!)

...and Chelsea Rae Swiggett who shares her un-put-downable and brave teen memoir, RAE:  MY TRUE STORY OF FEAR, ANXIETY, AND SOCIAL PHOBIA 

Check 'em out here, ask for a freebie, and maybe invite the author to visit your book club?!  Happy reading!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crow • Picture book

written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
September 2010 Clavis Books Ages 3-5
Be yourself! A tragicomic story about four birds under high voltage.
Story: Crow is black.  Pitch-black.  Everyone is afraid of him.  So Crow devises a plan to fit in by painting his feathers multicolored in order to look more like the other birds, but the plan backfires and he ends up scaring everyone away. This beautifully illustrated tale shows young children the importance of acceptance and “not to judge a book by its cover.”
Story behind the story:  Author-illustrator Leo Timmers lives in Belgium and is the recipient of the Book Feather Award as well as three-time winner of the Children’s and Youth Jury Award.  His Deep Sea Doctor Dean has been translated into twelve languages; other titles include Brum!, I Am the King, and Vroom! Leo’s style is immediately recognizable by its clear shapes, color and humor.  All of his illustrations are painted by hand in acrylic paint.

“Thoughtful…Timmers tells this be-yourself story with disciplined visual clarity…polish and style.”  – Publishers Weekly, boxed review

I found a video of Leo Timmers and, though it's in Dutch, it's fun to take a peek nonetheless as you can get a sense of his studio and style. This video below, though, is wordless, and a wonderful trip through the artist's sketchbook.  You'll see some pencil sketches of CROW, too:

Publisher Clavis Books believes in "raising readers by publishing books for children of all ages that stimulate their imaginations"; take a peek at their latest catalog to see more books by Leo Timmers and the rest of their publishing line-up.

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, August 23, 2010

Ruby's School Walk • Picture book

Ruby's School Walk
by Kathryn White  • illustrated by Miriam Latimer
August 2010  • Barefoot Books  • Ages 4 - 7
Will Ruby find the courage to reach her classroom?
Story:  Ruby's morning walk with her mom is far from ordinary.  On their way, Ruby experiences a world her mother cannot see, and imaginative dangers in her path.  With a tiger on the prowl and mighty beasts that loom and lurk, getting to school seems an impossible task. Young readers will enjoy joining Ruby as she faces her fears and learns how to keep them in check.  "A cheery reminder of the fun to be had—and fears overcome—with a little imagination…" writes Publishers Weekly in a review of Ruby's School Walk.
Story behind the story: Kathryn White wrote the book Ruby's School Walk based on her own experiences starting school."Every child experiences some trepidation about starting a new chapter of their lives, and beginning school is no exception," says Kathryn White. "When you encourage children to use their imaginations to face their fears, they can overcome them and look forward to a new adventure, such as starting school." 

Publisher Barefoot Books has created a book discussion guide to help parents encourage their child's independence and send them off to school with confidence.  Kids will enjoy the downloadable Barefoot maze activity sheet, while you'll enjoy meeting author Kathryn White and illustrator Miriam Latimer as they give us a behind-the-scenes look at creating Ruby's School Walk in this video:

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, August 19, 2010

Playing Time: What Kids Really Think About Kids' Sports • YA nonfiction

Playing Time: What Kids Really Think About Kids' Sports
by Quinn Cotter
Just out! Apprentice House Young Adult nonfiction
By the age of 13, 73% of kids drop out of youth sports. Teenage author, Quinn Cotter, will help kids play better, play longer and have more fun!

Story:  Somewhere between The Bad News Bears and Field of Dreams, the realities of being a young athlete play out every day on fields across America. Almost everyone has experienced scoring the game winner, riding the pine, struggling with peer - as well as coach - and parent - pressure.
Young writer Quinn Cotter explores the dynamics of school and athletics, but from the unique perspective of the student-athlete. Playing Time: What Kids Really Think About Kids’ Sports returns focus to the players themselves. Cotter exposes the issues and adult behaviors that trouble kids and cause them to quit playing altogether. Playing Time helps adults lighten up; in return, kids will “play better, play longer, and smile more.”

“Quinn will teach you, provoke you, challenge you, and guide you to become a better parent, coach, teammate—even a better sports fan,” said former Orioles ace and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer. “And he’ll make you laugh at familiar situations.”

Cotter touches all the bases. For coaches he warns that when they lose their temper, they also lose their players’ respect. Regarding parents, over-zealous folks should leave their own dreams of longed-for glory at home. And players themselves are advised to keep their priorities straight: school before sports.

“When parents get too involved, they reveal a lack of confidence in their kid, both on and off the field,” said Cotter. More than fifty million children participate in some form of youth sport, but nearly 73% will drop out by the time they are thirteen years old. “Any parent, coach, fan, or participant in youth sports should have this book in their library,” said Bob Bowlsby, Athletic Director at Stanford University. “Quinn’s real life experiences establish the foundation from which every youth sports program should be evaluated.”
Story-behind-the-story: Cotter wrote the first draft of Playing Time when he was just fifteen years old, but with ten years of experience as a student-athlete behind him. Now a seventeen-year-old senior at the Gilman School in Baltimore, Cotter plays varsity and Metro League baseball.

For years, Quinn would come home from games and practices with a lot on his mind. His mom gave him a shoebox and a pack of index cards and told him to jot down his thoughts and feelings. His dad said, “Quinn, you ought to write a book.” So he did.

By Christmas 2008, the note cards in the shoebox had become a manuscript. Proudly protected in Santa Claus wrapping paper, Quinn placed his manuscript under the tree as a Christmas gift for his parents.

Who is Quinn Cotter and what are his credentials?  The author explains:  "I've ridden the bench so the coach's klutzy kid could play and I've been a star. I have struck out with the bases loaded in the last inning and I have won a homerun derby. I have missed free throws that would have won a basketball game and pitched a two-hit shutout against one of the best teams in the country with Cal Ripken, Jr. watching in the stands. I've gotten home after practice at 9:30 pm and had to face four hours of homework. I have been abandoned by jealous friends. I have been cheered for my accomplishments and cursed out and called foul names by coaches. Kids may be inexperienced in sports and life, but we're not stupid. I've learned a lot from what I've seen and done in kids'sports."


Quinn Cotter Video: Game Winning Hit

Quinn Cotter media links: video, radio and print

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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zebrafish • Middle-grade fiction (illustrated), Graphic novel

by FableVision Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
May 2010 Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Ages 10 - 14
How do five kids with nothing in common make it better? A vibrant and slyly witty graphic novel about how a small group of kids can make a big difference.
Story: Purple-haired singing queen Vita has big plans for her rock group, Zebrafish. Luckily, her new-found bandmates have some unique talents. But when Tanya starts missing a lot of rehearsals, Vita realizes that the band has a new goal for their upcoming concert: it’ll be a fundraiser to help support Tanya’s battle with leukemia. As the kids band together, they realize that it truly is possible to “get by with a little help from my friends” (to quote the Beatles).
Story Behind the Story: This line from the book trailer says it all:  "The start of something big usually starts out of something small." A portion of the proceeds from this book goes to Children’s Hospital Boston. Peter H. Reynolds includes an inspiring endnote to get readers involved in making a difference. The listed website features games, webisodes, and stories of hope and action. Plus here's a reading group guide.

ZEBRAFISH will rock your world.  Check out this inspiring video:

Take a peek, too, at this video with illustrator Peter Reynolds as he talks about working with Children's Hospital Boston.

"This book will speak to children about fighting for a cure/treatment for cancer and shows the value of involvement in this important issue."–School Library Journal 

Let's change the world! 

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, August 16, 2010

Scream Street: Fang of the Vampire • Middle-grade fiction

Scream Street: Fang of the Vampire
by Tommy Donbavand
Just out! August 2009 • Candlewick Press • Ages 8-10
Welcome to Scream Street – a hilarious middle-grade series that will spook kids silly.
Story:  When Luke Watson turns into a werewolf for the third time, the Government Housing of Unusual Lifeforms (G.H.O.U.L.) moves his family to Scream Street – a frightful community of vampires, zombies, witches, and sundry undead. Though Luke quickly makes friends, he vows to find a way to take his terrified parents home. The secret to opening the exit, he learns, is collecting six powerful relics the founding fathers left behind. But with a sinister landlord determined to thwart Luke at every turn, will he even get past the first hurdle alive?
Story behind the story:  To celebrate the publication of books five and six of the Scream Street series (Skull of the Skeleton and Claw of the Werewolf), author Tommy Donbavand is embarking on a virtual tour of the United States – Skyping with one school in each of the 50 states for free! Schools from Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin have already signed up. Each school will get a free 15-20 minute session in which he introduces the series and then students and teachers can ask him any questions they have about the series.

Tommy’s already been doing this successfully with schools in his home country of England. To see a video of his Skype session, visit his website. If you’d like him to Skype your class, email Tommy.

Praise for Scream Street:
“Exactly the sort of grisly, gross and hilarious stuff that kids will love!” – Eoin Colfer, author of Artemis Fowl series

“Lighting-paced, blood-curdling fun. I wish I’d been able to visit Scream Street as a kid!” – Darren Shan, author of Cirque Du Freak series

“Gags, gore, guffing goblins – Scream Street’s got the lot! Grab onto your gizzard, you’re in for a wild ride.” – Sam Enthoven, author of The Black Tattoo

Click here to download an Activity Kit, view an inside spread, or watch the Scream Street trailer. Visit www.screamstreet.com for even more fun stuff.

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, August 12, 2010

WHEN I WAS JOE Young adult fiction

When I Was Joe
JUST OUT! September 2010 Frances Lincoln Publishers Ages 12 and up
A completely irresistible YA thriller that explores youth crime and the nature of identity.
Story: When 14-year-old Ty witnesses the knife murder of another teen, he identifies some very dangerous people as the culprits. The police put him and his mother into a witness protection program, telling Ty that, to protect his identity, he must now go by the name “Joe.” Shy loner Ty gets a new name, a new look and a cool new image – life as “Joe” is good. But the criminals will stop at nothing to silence him. And as details of the crime he witnessed begin to emerge, we wonder just how innocent Ty really is. But though flawed, Ty is an enormously appealing character who faces his changed life with anger and sadness, as well as a degree of wit and intelligence.
Story Behind the Story: Debut British novelist Keren David asks what does a name mean? And if you change everything about yourself – your hair, color of your eyes, even your name – do you become a different person? What happens to your ‘self’ and how do you stop lying? David brings the world of East London to life in the book The Daily Telegraph called “an ice-cold thriller about identity, pain and veracity.”  But you need not be an Anglophile to understand and appreciate the bustling, working class setting in which the story takes place. The characters and their emotions are real and relatable, even if the subject matter is both brooding and intense. A great choice for advanced middle school as well as mid-level high school readers, When I Was Joe is a fast-paced novel your students won’t likely be able to put down.
Want to know more?  Read these author interviews:

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, August 10, 2010

Extraordinary • YA fiction

Coming September 7th! Dial / Penguin Ages 12 and up
What does it mean to be extraordinary?  Find out in National Book Award Finalist Nancy Werlin's new book.
 Story: Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school. Soon the two girls are as close as sisters . . . until Mallory’s magnetic older brother, Ryland, appears. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe—but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.
Soon she’ll discover the shocking, fantastical truth about Ryland and Mallory, and about an age-old debt they expect Phoebe to pay. Will she be strong enough to resist? Will she be special enough to save herself?
In the vein of Nancy Werlin’s previous novel Impossible (featured here at the Picnic Basket), Extraordinary is a tale of friendship, romance, and the faerie realm.
Story behind the story:  Author Nancy Werlin shares the behind-the-scenes of how Extraordinary came to be:  "So, there I was, watching  the musical Wicked, and we’d gotten to the final scene where the two witches sing their goodbye duet to each: 

Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?

By the time they got to “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good,” I was in tears. In my life, I too have experienced that hugely important friendship, and so I knew that I was witnessing that aim of all art: emotional truth.

But I left the theater also wondering why it was that so few books talk about women’s relationships and friendships in this way, acknowledging their developmental and emotional importance. I thought of how many books that are ostensibly for girls and women are really about their relationships with boys and men, and can’t even pass the Bechtel Test:

1.  It has to have at least two women in it
2.  Who talk to each other
3.  About something besides a man.

And I knew I wanted to try to write a book about an enormously important friendship between two girls, a friendship that would test them both to the very limits of themselves, and that would force them to grow, not just into maturity, but into a better version of themselves than they could ever have imagined, or achieved, on their own."  All I can say is, WOW!

Nancy's been good enough to supply us with additional resources such as:
- a video of a rehearsal of “For Good,” from a PBS documentary about Wicked, with Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth.  Take a peek here:
- a link to more information about The Bechtel Test

- a reader's guide to EXTRAORDINARY 
- and a fascinating article on the behind-the-scenes of how book covers are designed.

A Top Ten IndieNext Pick, Autumn, 2010

·    "Medieval Jewish history, ethical questions, faeries, modern romance. Whew! In the hands of a less-talented author, this would be a hot mess. Happily, Werlin crafts her characters so deftly and unrolls the story so cleverly that readers will be under the spell till the end.” – Ilene Cooper, Booklist

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.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter and Beyond • Fiction

Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter And Beyond
Just out!  June 2010  A Broken Levee Books title from Chin Music Press Ages 11 and up
"Dedicated to Mother Earth and all her keepers," Buddy’s story is both zany and contemplative, and the lessons learned are profound ones that resonate in New Orleans like nowhere else.
Story: Buddy Zooka brings the New Orleans French Quarter to life like no one since Ignatius Reilly.  Buddy is a happy-go-lucky young musician. But one day he goes fishing and catches an alligator, Mardi Gator, who quickly decides to take up residence in Buddy’s giant top hat. Thrown off his usual carefree routine, Buddy loses his smile and begins to take a closer look at his world, learning about humanity’s often-destructive effects on the environment. Buddy’s journey then turns inwards, as a colorful cast of characters show him how the secret to saving both his community and the planet resides within each of us.
Adding to the incredible storytelling, the book itself is beautifully designed to resemble a Ragtime-era paperback, complete with fake advertisements and French flaps. From the moment you pick it up, you know that you're in for something special. 
Story behind the story:  Author Tracey Tangerine is a singer, visual artist, author, and performer who has spent much of her time teaching in schools on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Tracey left New Orleans with her family the day before the levees broke on August 29, 2005, and settled briefly in Hillsboro, OR, where she began to write Buddy Zooka. She continued to write throughout her visit to Seattle, WA, relocation to Lafayette, LA, and upon her return to the Crescent City.  Tracey now teaches at Edna Karr High School in the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans.

This September, the entire student body at Edna Karr High School will read Buddy Zooka together, and stage a musical based on the novel.

Tracey is available for readings and events in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast area.

Bookslut recently reviewed Buddy Zookabecause mind-blowing originality is such a precious commodity in the YA world in particular that it must be celebrated whenever a reviewer comes across it.” Reviewer Colleen Mondor continues, “this book is a wake-up call about the environment. But it never preaches or becomes didactic, and Tangerine clearly is more determined to paint an accurate picture of her home city’s quirkiness than anything else… Listed as “a novel for all ages,” it’s hard to know just exactly who is the best audience for Buddy Zooka, as it’s more about the reader then their age. You have to like your stories offbeat, and your characters larger than life, but even with those caveats, this is a very charming novel with an element of sweetness tempered by humor and occasional silliness (the hot sauce incident) that makes it broadly appealing. The design is also impressive -- Chin Music has gone out its way to give the book a vintage feel with everything from the cover illustration to end papers to closing “advertisements.” To say that Buddy Zooka will stand out on the shelves is an understatement, and further proof of just what an indie press has to offer that the big publishers (so fond of their black and purple photo illustrated covers) have yet to embrace.”

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, August 3, 2010

Scumble • Middle-grade fiction

by Ingrid Law
Coming soon - August 17th! Dial Books for Young Readers Ages 8-12
The companion to the Newbery Honor winner and New York Times Bestseller SAVVY!
Story:  A fantastic, All-American tall tale, SAVVY was a hit with audiences everywhere.  Ingrid Law's debut novel received a Newbery Honor and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, was selected as an Al Roker's Book club title, and has appeared on 18 state award master lists (and still counting).  Now, the saga of the special-powered Beaumont clan continues in SCUMBLE.  In this family, every kid gets a special gift on their thirteenth birthday, and Ledger Kale comes into his right before the family reunion, but he isn't so certain that he likes his gift.  He wanted to have a savvy for speed, but Ledger's talent is a bit more unusual...and he can't go home until he learns to "scumble" with savvy.  Here, Law delivers another great homespun adventure and a magical read.
About the author: Ingrid Law has sold shoes, worked in a bookstore, helped other people get jobs, and assembled boxes for frozen eggplant burgers. She and her twelve-year-old daughter live in Boulder, Colorado, in a lovely old mobile home that they like to believe is a cross between a spaceship and a shoe box. They enjoy writing on its walls and painting on its ceiling, and have two harps, a flute, and a ukulele, as well as a fondness for muffins.

I think you'll find SCUMBLE an excellent choice for literature circle discussions, cross curricular learning and journaling prompts,  discussion guide.

If SCUMBLE interests you as much as I think it will, here are a few web extras:  discussion guide for both SCUMBLE and SAVVY featuring discussion questions, a Q&A with Ingrid Law, ideas on how to use the books in language arts classrooms and more; and a little video with Ingrid on WHY SHE LOVES MIDDLE GRADE.  Plus, maybe you'll get a chance to meet her when she visits CO, TX, OR and GA this fall.

"This companion to Newbery Honor Book Savvy (2008) provides the same high level of satisfying plot, delightful characters, alliterative language, and rich imagery....While adult readers will see this all as a beautiful conceptualization of the drama and metamorphosis of adolescence, younger readers will delight in the tall-tale tropes and Ledge’s authentic physical, emotional, and artistic challenges." -- 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.