“'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, September 30, 2011

The Great Hamster Massacre • Middle-grade fiction

by Katie Davies   illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Available now   Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers  • Ages 8 - 12
"A top pick for slow or reluctant readers" (Kirkus) and "the first in a series that will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith." (Booklist)
Story:  Anna and her brother, Tom, have always wanted a pet. And after their latest pestering campaign, their mother finally gives in and lets them choose a pair of hamsters from the local pet shop. But their happiness soon turns to horror when the hamsters are found mysteriously dead in their cage. Anna and Tom launch a full-scale investigation to determine who—or what—is behind the hamster homicides. Can they solve the case of the Great Hamster Massacre? 

Katie Davies' irresistibly funny mystery and Hanna Shaw's spot-on illustrations combine for a quirky, delightful read that is part detective tale, part diary, and altogether hilarious.

Story behind the story: 
Author Katie Davies has experience with hamster disasters. When she was twelve years old, after a relentless begging campaign, she was given two Russian Dwarf hamsters for Christmas. She is yet to recover from what happened to those hamsters. The Great Hamster Massacre is her first novel. Katie lives in North London with her husband, comedian Alan Davies, and their baby daughter. They do not have any hamsters.

Illustrator Hannah Shaw was born into a large family of sprout-munching vegetarians. She spent her formative years trying to be good at everything, from roller-skating to gymnastics, but she soon realized there wasn't much chance of her becoming a gold-medal-winning gymnast, so she resigned herself to writing stories and drawing pictures instead! Hannah currently lives in a little cottage in the Cotswolds with her husband, Ben the blacksmith, and her rescue dog, Ren. She finds her overactive imagination fuels new ideas but unfortunately keeps her awake at night!

Read an excerpt or, better yet, read and see this designed excerpt.  Here's just one sample spread below but there's much more to enjoy...

"Inspired use of simple words, straightforward syntax and effective repetition make this a top pick for slow or reluctant readers...Under the plot’s frothy surface lie serious depths...An auspicious debut." --Kirkus Reviews

"A flippy, fun and extremely fast-paced journey into the world of a very likable brother and sister--and their amusing family and friends. Intermittent silly pencil sketches fill the pages diary-style, creating a whimsical mood and adding comic relief.... Giggles are frequent among the kids in this book, and they will infect readers as well." --BookPage

"Whimsical, cartoonish pen-and-ink illustrations accompany the story and help lighten the seriousness....This is the first in a series that will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith." --Booklist

"For young readers who can handle a bit of the macabre with their giggles, this strange little tale will be perfectly appealing." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"An interesting take on how children deal with grief and shock.... Anna’s voice is engaging, and portrayals of various pets and neighbors (with accompanying hand-drawn side notes and cartoons) will entertain...give this dark comedy to reluctant readers, mystery lovers, and fans of narrator-illustrated fare like Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books or Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (2010, both Abrams)." --School Library Journal

Order your reviewer's copy now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Estie the Mensch • Picture book

Estie the Mensch
by Jane Kohuth  illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger
Available now   Random House Books for Young Readers  Ages 4 - 8   
Story:  Estie does not always like people. So when her grandmother reminds her to be a mensch (what's a mensch?), she'd rather not. She'd rather be a dog. Or a turtle. Or a seagull. Being a monkey can even make another kid laugh! But it can also make another kid cry, and that's when Estie and her grandmother find out what a mensch Estie can really be.  If being a meansch means helping a new friend, then maybe it's not so bad after all? 
Story behind the story: Jane Kohuth (also the author of DUCKS GO VROOM, a Ready to Read book) says, "I had been thinking, for some reason, about the Yiddish term, "mensch," which literally means "person," but which is always used to mean a truly exemplary person of high moral character.  It occurred to me that there might be a story in a child's coming to understand the difference between being a person (as opposed to being an animal) and being a "real mensch," a person of good character, generosity etc.  So many children love pretending to be animals, and I began to develop a picture of a child who deals with shyness and social awkwardness by avoiding being a person at all and instead pretending to be different creatures.  I felt like I understood this child, having been a shy imaginative child myself, and having had a similar but zanier little sister.  I didn't want the book to be preachy.  My character had to stay true to herself while uncovering in herself a mensch in the deep and most important sense of the term.  In my first draft my main character was a boy, but it didn't feel right.  The story only came to life for me when I invented Estie, who was a little bit me, a little bit my sister, and a little bit a person and a mensch all her own. My editor, Christy Webster, helped me to flesh out the second half of the story, which created  a better rhythm and pace to he story as a whole, and let me play up the story's humor."


"Litzinger's chalky illustrations have a tender, earnest quality, and Estie's red hair and green eyes give her animal impersonations pep in an offbeat story of gentle misbehavior, budding friendship, and close-knit family dynamics.- Publishers Weekly

"Estie’s six. Maybe. She doesn’t like people. She doesn’t like not being the way she wants to be. And when you’re six, that’s exactly where it’s at. When you’re six, you’re doing your thing. You’ve figured out that putting small stuff in your mouth is bad, but you probably, sometimes, accidentally-on-purpose still color the wall with crayons. And Estie? She would rather be anything but a person or a Mensch, and so she is every animal under the sun instead.  I love Estie." - Anne Tynham Blog

PJ Library Book

FYI:  All the review copies for this title have been sent.  Please check back and see the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say...