WINTER 2015 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK

Posted by | January 27, 2015 | No Comments

Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

The Girl in the Torch Cover Reveal!

Posted by | October 16, 2014 | No Comments

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We’re so excited to present to you the cover for The Girl in the Torch.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, thousands of immigrants are arriving in the promised land of New York City. Sarah has always dreamed of America, a land of freedom and possibility. From her small village she stares at a postcard of the Statue of Liberty and imagines the Lady beckoning to her. When Sarah and her mother finally journey across the Atlantic, though, tragedy strikes—and Sarah finds herself being sent back before she even sets foot in the country.

Yet just as Sarah is ushered onto the boat that will send her away from the land of her dreams, she makes a life or death decision. She daringly jumps off the back of the boat, and swims as hard as she can toward Liberty Island, and a new life.

Her leap of faith leads her to an unbelievable hiding place: the Statue of Liberty itself. Now Sarah must find a way to the mainland, while avoiding the night watchman and scavenging enough food food to survive. When a surprising ally helps bring her to Manhattan, Sarah finds herself facing new dangers and a life on her own. Will she ever find a true home in America?

From acclaimed author Robert Sharenow comes this heartfelt novel of resilience, hope, and discovering a family where you least expect it.

Robert was kind enough to swing by The Pageturn and answer some questions for us!

What inspired you to write this story? Do you know the story of how your ancestors came to America?  

One of my great-grandfathers came to this country with very little money or possessions.  But he was a button-hole maker and owned his own tailoring scissors.  It amazes me that he was able to forge a life for himself in a brand new country with such meager beginnings.  I was also fascinated by the fact that the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island was an Irish teenager named Annie Moore who was traveling with her siblings to meet her parents who were already in the U.S.   I couldn’t imagine sending my own children on such a daring journey.  And, of course, there is the Statue of Liberty itself, which has always loomed large as a powerful symbol of the positive promise of America around the world.  The exact moment of inspiration came when I re-read Emma Lazarus’ poem about the statue that described her as “Mother of Exiles.”   The idea of a motherless immigrant girl and the Statue of Liberty becoming like mother and child set the whole thing in motion.

 

What kind of research did you do for this novel?

I always read history books and novels set in the time period I’m writing about. But for this one, I was also able to walk the streets of Chinatown and the Lower East Side of New York and see many of the places described in the book.  Of course, I also visited landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, but there are also lots of ordinary 19th century factory buildings and apartments that have changed very little too.

 

Would you have wanted to live in New York at the time Sarah lived?  Why or why not?

I would be fascinated to experience life at that time, to see, touch and feel what it was like.  It was a time of great hope and progress, but also of great struggle.  Times were harder then.  Scores of children lived in poverty and on the streets.  There were brutal living and work conditions for poor people and much more overt and institutionalized prejudice than there is today.    So, I definitely prefer our modern New York.  The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan gives you a wonderful sense of what every day life was like for new immigrants at that time.  And it was not at all luxurious or easy.

 

Have you ever been to the Statue of Liberty?  If so, do you remember the first time you visited?

Yes.  I’ve been a couple of times.  My parents took me when I was 7 years old and it is one of the fondest memories of my childhood.  I remember being completely awed by her.  I still get a feeling of wonder whenever I see the Statue of Liberty, even from afar.  When I visited more recently during the writing of the book, I was amazed at the incredible variety of people from so many different countries, races and religions.  The power and reach of the Statue’s symbolism has only grown since Sarah’s time.

 

Do you have a favorite neighborhood or place that Sarah visits in the novel? 

I’ve always loved New York’s Chinatown.  And it remains a very distinct and exciting neighborhood.  You can walk the crowded sidewalks and not hear much English and feel like you are lost in a foreign country.  The streets are alive with sights and smells of the food vendors and shops, and the signs are written in colorful Chinese characters.   And, as described in the book, it’s very close to the Jewish Lower East Side and Little Italy, so you get a sense of just what a melting pot New York was and continues to be.

The Girl in the Torch will be on shelves May 26, 2015!

Robert Sharenow is an award-winning writer and television producer. His most recent novel, The Berlin Boxing Club, was awarded the Sydney Taylor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He is also an Emmy-award-winning television producer and serves as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Lifetime. He lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and their dog, Lucy. You can visit him online at www.robertsharenow.com.

CHELSEY PHILPOT: ON WRITING A RETELLING THAT BECAME AN HOMAGE

Posted by | October 9, 2014 | No Comments

EveninParadise HC CEVEN IN PARADISE, by Chelsey Philpot, is available next week! Read an excerpt here.

When asked to explain the plot of Even in Paradise, my first young adult novel, I start by saying, “Well it’s a realistic, contemporary story inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.”

Blank stares.

I foolishly try to shed light on my plot by describing the plot of Brideshead. “It’s a novel set in post-World War I England. The protagonist’s an artist named Charles Ryder, and his friendship with a fellow Oxford University student leads to Charles’s life becoming inextricably intertwined with the majestic and tragic Marchmain family.”

The quizzical expressions deepen, prompting me to wax poetic about Waugh’s classic.

Fifteen or so minutes later, my audience is usually still confused—if not a little bored and thinking about lunch.

At this point, I sigh and give the one-sentence pitch I should have delivered at the beginning—an explanation that is just as true as my convoluted original. “Even in Paradise is about a teen girl who falls in love with a Kennedy-esque family with a tragic secret.”

“Ah!”

I could just as easily say, “It’s a novel about different kinds of love.” Or “It’s about friendship and family.” Or “My story looks at class, sexuality, and the destructive nature of secrets.”

Though, Even in Paradise began as a modern retelling of Brideshead, it is now very different from Waugh’s novel. As I wrote deeper and deeper into my story, I found that I couldn’t keep within the confines of another’s—even if that story was written by a maestro. By moving Brideshead from the front of my imagination to the back, I made room for other sources of unexpected—but welcomed—inspiration, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and my own memories.

Even in Paradise turned out to be as much a deliberate homage to books and writers I adore as it is a collage of untraceable ideas. It took time and many drafts to realize that I could not have written my first novel any other way.

10 awesome books that imaginatively interpret, celebrate, and/or satirize classic stories:

  1. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes)
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
  3. March by Geraldine Brooks (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
  4. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf)
  5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling)
  6. Ash by Malinda Lo (Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm)
  7. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Grimm’s Fairy Tales)
  8. “His Dark Material” trilogy by Philip Pullman (Paradise Lost by John Milton)
  9. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen)
  10. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi)

–ChelseyChelsey Philpot

Chelsey Philpot grew up on a farm in New Hampshire and now works as a book reviews editor at School Library Journal. She’s written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate, and numerous other publications. Like her main character, Charlie, Chelsey attended boarding school in New England, and then earned a degree in English from Vassar College and a master’s in Journalism from Boston University. Visit her online at www.chelseyphilpot.com and on Twitter @ChelseyPhilpot.

THE COPERNICUS LEGACY: RELIC HUNT IN NEW YORK CITY!

Posted by | September 12, 2014 | No Comments

Looking for a fantasy read that’s great for the classroom this fall? One stellar recommendation is The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by bestselling author Tony Abbott – now in paperback!

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A perfect pick for kids who love Percy Jackson, Kingdom Keepers, or Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy is a Da Vinci Code-style story for young readers. The book follows four kids who stumble upon a powerful ancient secret of the famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. Protected by notables throughout history, it now falls to our young heroes to become guardians of Copernicus’s secret, racing across the globe, cracking codes, and unraveling centuries-old mysteries in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of a vast and evil shadow network called the New Teutonic Order.

It’s the worldwide adventure and historical scope that makes the series both page turning and educational, earning it many great reviews including a starred review from Kirkus: “With engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like. Equal parts edge-of-your-seat suspense and heartfelt coming-of-age.”

There’s even a downloadable Common Core-aligned activities guide and star map poster so you can bring the adventure into the classroom.

Veteran children’s book author Tony Abbott is no stranger to epic adventure series having written over a hundred books including The Secrets of Droon. The Copernicus Legacy will include six full-length novels and six shorter novellas, each told from the perspective of one of the kids. The first novella, The Copernicus Archives #1: Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, is available now and the next full-length novel, The Copernicus Legacy #2: The Serpent’s Curse, will be out on October 7.9780062194466_p0_v1_s260x420

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To celebrate the launch of the next books in this exciting series, on Saturday, September 13th, Tony Abbott will be leading a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where four lucky winners of a national sweepstakes will work together to find hidden clues amongst the exhibits, crack codes, and earn prizes. You and all readers across the country will have another chance to win a trip to New York for the second Relic Hunt starting October 7 at www.thecopernicuslegacy.com!

After the Relic Hunt, Tony Abbott will be signing copies of The Forbidden Stone at 2:30pm at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan.  The Barnes & Noble event is open to the public, and we invite you to join us there for a pizza party! It’s no mystery—the whole family will be in for good food and fun!

 

BOOK TALK AND COMMON CORE CONNECTIONS: THE TURTLE OF OMAN

Posted by | September 4, 2014 | No Comments

Naomi Shihab Nye‘s latest novel, THE TURTLE OF OMAN, came out last week, and our friend Connie Rockman, former librarian and all-around children’s lit expert, has prepared some treats for you. Keep reading for a book talk and some suggestions for using this powerful book to meet Common Core standards.

The Turtle of Oman

From Connie:

Aref is frightened to think about leaving home for three years and moving to the United States from his native country, Oman. Everything will be strange—the climate, the people, the food! Aref spends his last week before the move saying goodbye to friends and to familiar places. The three years he will spend in Michigan while his parents complete their graduate studies seems like an endless time to him. During the last week at home, Aref spends time with his beloved grandfather, Sidi, who leads him in subtle ways—with gentleness and humor—to pay attention to what the land and the animals have to teach him. Sidi gives Aref stones from various parts of their country to take with him and remind him of home. On an overnight trip to a desert camp, they encounter a falcon trainer and pass by a beach where the majestic sea turtles return to lay their eggs. They talk to people along the way in all walks of life, and, slowly but surely, Aref approaches his upcoming journey with a positive outlook. He knows now that like the birds, the butterflies, and the turtles, he will always come back home after migrating miles away.

This quiet and powerful story has great emotional depth for upper elementary students and, through the eyes of Aref and Sidi, they will become familiar with a faraway land and culture. Common Core connections include searching for actual pictures of Oman and the exotic place names that Aref visits and talks about with his grandfather. Drawing a map of the region will help students place Oman within its Middle East setting. Looking up the food that Aref eats will help them understand his culture and compare it to their own. Studying the wildlife that is mentioned in the book, they will learn why Aref draws connections between himself and the migrating reptiles, birds, and butterflies. Reading about Aref’s joy in making lists and collecting stones can lead to writing prompts about the activities that students enjoy in their own lives. Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetic prose provides a lovely insight into life in another part of the world.

—–

Thank you very much, Connie!

Rabbit Ears

Posted by | September 2, 2014 | No Comments

Rabbit-EarsWhen I was in my teens, I kept certain memories secret, even (as best I could) from myself; otherwise, they would scald me from the inside out, boil me up in my own shame. For instance, when I was seventeen some stuff happened in a car with a stranger. I didn’t mention that stuff to anyone—and I mean not a soul—for at least ten years.

In my new novel, Rabbit Ears, I give that one awful experience in the car to my character Kaya, who is largely based on my sister, Sarah. Sarah started running away from home when she was thirteen, and ended up selling sex to survive and struggling with addiction in Vancouver’s inner city. In 1998, she disappeared. In 2002, her DNA was found on a serial murderer’s property.

In the story, Kaya doesn’t tell about what happens in that car. Unlike me, but like my sister, she is already holding bigger secrets. Those secrets—that killing silence—led me to tell Kaya’s story.

A few years ago, a woman I knew only a little bit emailed to ask if she could meet with me. She had a secret, she said, a secret about my sister.

“Yes,” I said, dreading what she might tell me.

She came to my house, a friend in tow for support, and told me that when she was a kid, Sarah was sexually abused by a neighbor. It went on for years, she said. It went on until puberty. This woman knew, because it happened to her too.

It was shocking news, horrible to learn that Sarah had suffered in that way when she was small, and that she never told us, to realize that her suffering began so much earlier than we knew. I found myself haunted by this new information, trying to take it in, to understand this new part of my sister’s experience, and her silence. Rabbit Ears arose from that haunting.

The story is fiction, but the Sarah in the story is real.

It was a joy, for me, writing my sister to life so long after her death. There’s a scene on a swing set that is drawn straight from a story a woman told me about her and Sarah. I changed its location. The little grey house where Sarah lived, at Princess and Hastings, is in the story as is the corner where she, and, in the story, Kaya, worked. When Kaya goes into Sarah’s house, she sees spilled pudding that comes straight out of my memories. And a scrawny kitten. And, outside, a glorious garden.

My book was always called Rabbit Ears because the older sister loves magic. I’ve only recently made the association between the ears and listening, paying attention. Then, while I was working on revisions, I saw an old video of my sister, and, for the first time in my life, saw that she had a Playboy Bunny tattooed on the top of her left breast. Rabbit ears. Thank you, Sarah, for your blessing!

I wanted to tell a story about a girl who went through what my sister went through, but survived, a story about a girl who broke the silence that was holding her prisoner, a story about a group of girls who paid attention, who reached out.

I believe in these possibilities for Kaya and for each one of us.

 

Maggie de Vries’s latest novel, Hunger Journeys, won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize and was called “historical fiction at its best” by CM Magazine. She has written six other works for young readers, as well as one book for adults, Missing Sarah. A former children’s book editor and writer-in-residence for the Vancouver Public Library, she now focuses on teaching creating writing at the University of British Columbia and her own writing. She lives in Vancouver.

VIDEO: PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY

Posted by | August 5, 2014 | No Comments

Need a little dose of positivity and acceptance today? We’re here to help you out!

Watch this trailer for PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY, which is on sale today. We guarantee it’ll make you feel groovy!

And here’s another little bit of grooviness to take with you into the coming school year: a Common Core-aligned teaching guide to all of Pete the Cat’s picture books and I Can Read titles!

“Keep walking along and singing your song. Because it’s all good.”

MIDDLE-GRADE FANTASY (for the beach AND the classroom)

Posted by | July 29, 2014 | No Comments

Looking for some recommendations for a middle grader who loves fantasy? Well, we’ve got just the list for you!

Here are some stellar picks for the kid looking for magical powers, mysterious forests, heros, and villains to take to the beach with him.

The Thickety

THE THICKETY, by J. A. White, is the start of a new fantasy series set in a world where magic is forbidden but exists in the dark woods called the Thickety. This book would be a great recommendation for fans of the Septimus Heap series, and here’s a book talk prepared by librarian, author, and Common Core workshop presenter Kathleen Odean:

How would you like to have the power to summon amazing creatures to do your will? When Kara finds a book in the Thickety, a dangerous forest, it awakens her magical powers. Local villagers view magic as evil but for Kara, it’s a connection to her mother, who was executed as a witch. The spells thrill Kara until the magic starts to change her in frightening ways. Is Kara in control of the magic—or is it in control of her? If she doesn’t figure it out soon, she could lose everyone and everything she loves.

There’s even a Common Core-aligned discussion guide with activities written by the author, J. A. White—an elementary school teacher! (You may not want to send this to the beach, though. Maybe save it for September.)

 

The Castle Behind Thorns

THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, by Schneider Award winner Merrie Haskell, is a magical adventure set in an enchanted castle that will appeal to fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Shannon Hale.

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. Everything in the castle—from dishes to candles to apples—is torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. To survive, Sand does what he knows best—he fires up the castle’s forge to mend what he needs to live. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending, granted by the saints who once guarded this place? With gorgeous language and breathtaking magic, THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS tells of the power of memory and story, forgiveness and strength, and the true gifts of craft and imagination.

Thinking ahead to the new school year, Common Core applications include: Comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; and analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

The Dyerville Tales

THE DYERVILLE TALES, by M. P. Kozlowsky, tells the story of a young orphan who searches for his family and the meaning in his grandfather’s book of lost fairy tales.

Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and father in a fire when he was young. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was interned in a group home, dreaming that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. When a letter arrives telling Vince his grandfather has passed away, he is convinced that if his father is still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for the small town of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a fantastical story of witches and giants and magic, one that can’t be true. But as Vince reads on, he finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

If you’d like to bring this one into your classroom next year, Common Core applications include: Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text; analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone; describing how a particular story’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes; and describing how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw

THE HERO’S GUIDE TO BEING AN OUTLAW, by Christopher Healy, is the hilarious and action-packed conclusion to the acclaimed hit series that began with THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

And Common Core applications for this one include: Explaining how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text; comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; and analyzing how differences in the points of view of the characters and the reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Happy reading!

I AM A WITCH’S CAT

Posted by | July 24, 2014 | No Comments

We’re so excited to share with you I AM A WITCH’S CAT, available this week, written and illustrated by Harriet Muncaster.

I Am a Witch's Cat

We in the HCCB School & Library department are pretty huge fans of tiny things (dollhouse food, figurines, these amazing things . . . you name it), and we couldn’t be more delighted to have found a kindred spirit in Harriet Muncaster. Harriet’s book tells the story of a little girl who believes that her mother is a good witch and that she is a special witch’s cat, and it’s illustrated with photographs of handmade miniatures—characters, furniture, accessories, and details, all lovingly crafted and composed into scenes. We just love it to pieces.

Harriet was kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes looks at her process for creating the fantastic art from I AM A WITCH’S CAT.

Harriet Muncaster:

I have always been fascinated by tiny things. When I was young I spent my time making miniature houses and clothes and writing minuscule fairy letters. That love of tiny things has never left me, and so, when I took illustration as my degree at university, it felt almost natural to start making my pictures in 3D. I create dollhouse-sized scenes (or sets, as I call them) out of cardboard and fabric and then photograph them to make a flat picture.

In these photos, you can see some of the process I go through to make the scenes. If it is a room, I usually start with a box-like shape and then put in the flooring and wallpaper. I either paint the wallpaper on or make it on the computer and stick it on as you would proper wallpaper (like in the bedroom scene below)!

Beginnings of the bedroom scene

Beginnings of the bedroom scene

 

The furniture is made from card stock. It gives me a lot of freedom to make everything from card because I can literally make it into any shape I like. I can use the card to make something really fancy or really plain and in whatever style I like.

I also like the way one can use lighting when creating a 3D picture. It is possible to really set the mood by using different sorts of atmospheric lighting. My favourite bit of lighting in the book is the scene where Witch’s Cat is saying goodbye to her Mom at the door and the coloured glass in the door is shining against the wall in a rainbow pattern. I got this effect by using coloured cellophane sweet wrappers and then shining a light behind them.

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Experimenting with some lighting filters made from coloured cellophane chocolate wrappers as seen in the hallway scene

 

The hardest thing to make in the book was the trolley in the supermarket scenes. It took me absolutely ages and was extremely difficult and fiddly to make! It’s definitely the most delicate thing in the whole book.

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The checkout scene in full, with trolley

 

One of my favourite things to make in the book was the patchwork quilt on the bed. I just love the colours in it, which are quite autumnal. I tried to incorporate a lot of autumnal colours into the room scenes, as it is a Halloween book.

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Trying the mom character for size, with close-up of patchwork quilt

 

It feels very magical when a scene becomes finished and you can look right into it and touch it. It’s a real, tiny little world of its own with its own atmosphere and feel to it. I love how tangible it is!

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Kitchen scene in the early stages

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Food boxes all ready to be put into the scene.

Thank you so much, Harriet!

Check out Harriet’s great blog for a whole lot of miniature inspiration, including a post about how she created the cover art for I AM A WITCH’S CAT. And in case you haven’t quite had your fill of tiny for the day, here are some bonus photos:

Hallway wallpaper design

Hallway wallpaper design

Design for some of the the food boxes in the shopping scene ready to be printed, cut out and folded into 3d boxes

Design for some of the the food boxes in the shopping scene ready to be printed, cut out, and folded into 3D boxes

Mom character. Checking everything is good with her position and the way she is holding the vacuum cleaner

Mom character. Checking everything is good with her position and the way she is holding the vacuum cleaner

Characters, furniture and accessories all neatly boxed up to be transported for exhibition

Characters, furniture, and accessories all neatly boxed up to be transported for exhibition

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IDA B. WELLS

Posted by | July 16, 2014 | No Comments

Today we celebrate the birthday of Ida. B. Wellsactivist, educator, writer, journalist, suffragette, and pioneering voice against the horror of lynching. Born on July 16, 1862, Ms. Wells used fierce determination and the power of the pen to educate the world about the unequal treatment of blacks in the United States.

If you’re looking for an entry point into civil rights discussions with younger (or even older) readers, consider this picture book biography by the beloved Walter Dean Myers.

Ida B. Wells

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”Ida B. Wells

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