Category Archives: Books
Math is everywhere! That’s a message I always try to get across to kids, teachers and parents in my MathStart books and presentations. Too often, when students leave math class, I hear them say, “I’m done with my math.” Yet they never say “I’m done with my words” after reading and language arts. Well, just like words, you can’t do much without math. Math is an integral part of sports and music. You need math to go shopping, check on the time and count the number of candles on your birthday cake!
“Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?”—that was the eye-opening question posed in a recent New York Times editorial headline. Several improvements to math education were listed in the article, with early exposure to mathematical concepts singled out as a particularly rich area for improvement. In fact, new research suggests that children as young as three may be math-ready. It turns out we are wired for math!
The interest in early math is part of a larger movement to support universal Pre-K in the US—a rare non-partisan issue with the President and Congress as well as governors and mayors in dozens of states declaring their support. Over just the last year, 30 states have increased funding, while Congress has budgeted $1 billion for programs. The US military is also on board in a big way through Mission Readiness, an effort spearheaded by a who’s who list of retired generals and admirals.
THE COMMON CORE
Another important trend in education is the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) currently being implemented in 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense schools. Teachers, librarians, parents, and caregivers of children are clamoring for ways to effectively address the broad-reaching goals of the CCSS. These goals require elementary school educators to develop a new mind-set regarding their role in advancing mathematics education, as well as a new skill set for facilitating the teaching and learning of mathematical concepts.
Visual learning describes how we gather and process information from illustrations, diagrams, graphs, symbols, photographs, icons and other models. Since visual learning strategies build on children’s innate talent to interpret visual information, they can play an important role in reaching the goals of the CCSS for Mathematics. Visual models help students understand difficult concepts, make connections to other areas of learning and build mathematical comprehension. They are especially relevant for the youngest learners, who are accomplished visual learners even as pre-readers.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
“Math Skills are Life Skills!” That’s the motto of the kids in the Main Street Kids’ Club a musical based on six MathStart stories.
A good grounding in math from an early age is critical and visual learning strategies can play an important role. Children who are comfortable with mathematical concepts and understand that they use math all the time are more likely to do well in school and in everything else, too. It is a formula for success!
Stuart J. Murphy is a Boston-based visual learning specialist, author and consultant. He is the author of the award-winning MathStart series (HarperCollins), which includes a total of 63 children’s books that present mathematical concepts in the context of stories for Pre-K through Grade 4. (Over 10 million copies sold.) He is also the author of Stuart J. Murphy’s I SEE I LEARN (Charlesbridge), a 16-book series of storybooks for children in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 that focus on social, emotional, health and safety, and cognitive skills. Most of all, Stuart is an advocate of helping our children develop their visual learning skills so that they become more successful students.
The recently-published FOUNDING MOTHERS, by Cokie Roberts, presents the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes.
In this vibrant nonfiction picture book, Roberts traces the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others through their personal correspondence, private journals, ledgers and lists, and even favored recipes. The extraordinary triumphs of these women created a shared bond that urged the founding fathers to “Remember the Ladies.”
Here are some Common Core objectives that FOUNDING MOTHERS can help meet:
- Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- Describe the overall structure of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
- Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
And here are some questions you can use and build on for a Common Core-ready lesson:
- How does the structure of nonfiction text affect how we understand the material? RI.5.5
- What composite structure does the author use to shape events, ideas, concepts and information? RI.5.5
- What is the author’s purpose for writing this book? Do you think the author is a reliable source? Discuss. RI.5.8, SL.5.1d, SL.5.4
We’ll be highlighting lots more titles and how they can be used to support the Common Core in the coming months, so be sure to check back often for our Common Core Spotlight feature!
We’re so proud of our award-winning authors, and we’d love for you to be able to use these great books in your classroom right away (if you aren’t already, of course)! Read on for some teaching resources to help jump-start discussions and lessons centered around these stellar titles . . .
Here are a handful of images from NELSON MANDELA that you can use as visual inspiration for lessons or projects on history, politics, biography, or even just to print and hang in your classroom or library.
Don’t forget to check out our Common Core Resources page for lots more teaching guides, discussion guides, lesson ideas, and more!
Working in children’s books, there are few days that can compare to the Monday morning of the ALA Midwinter conference, when the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced. Cheers and gasps follow the announcement of every award named, and hugs and happiness end the conference on the highest of notes. What a great day for authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, publishing professionals, and book lovers all over the world! We are so honored that awards committees named the following HarperCollins Children’s Books titles amongst the best and the brightest this year:
Coretta Scott King Author Award to Rita Williams-Garcia, for P.S. BE ELEVEN
Newbery Honor to Kevin Henkes, for THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER.
Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grade to Merrie Haskell, for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS
Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor to Kevin Henkes for PENNY AND HER MARBLE
Coretta Scott King Author Honor to Walter Dean Myers, for DARIUS & TWIG
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor to Kadir Nelson, for NELSON MANDELA
Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor to Rafael Lopez for TITO PUENTE, MAMBO KING (written by Monica Brown)
We’re grateful to publish these books, written and illustrated by the most creative, dedicated folks we know, and put them into your hands, the teachers and librarians who give them to children and promote a life-long love of learning. What a fine day to do what we do!
We’re thrilled to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2014! We absolutely loved these four debut novels, and we think you will, too. Be sure to click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and if you’re hungry for more, comment and we’ll send you a galley (while supplies last).
And now, without further ado . . .
SALVAGE, by Alexandra Duncan, is a sweeping, epic, literary science fiction story with a feminist twist. Teenaged Ava has lived aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata her whole life. When a passionate mistake causes Ava’s people to turn against her, she faces banishment and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean. Her struggle to survive outside the insular world of her childhood is harrowing, full of surprises, and constantly thrilling. You’ll be rooting for Ava all the way! Read the first chapter here!
FAKING NORMAL, by Courtney C. Stevens, is a powerful, moving story about a teen girl struggling to forget a traumatic experience from her recent past. Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does. When Bodee Lennox—”the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up. Read the first chapter here!
CRUEL BEAUTY, by Rosamund Hodge, is a dazzling twist on the story of Beauty and the Beast. Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart. Read the first chapter here!
SCHOOL OF CHARM, by Lisa Ann Scott, is an enchanting story full of spirit and hope, with a hint of magic. Eleven-year-old Chip has always been her daddy’s girl, so when he dies she pins her hopes on winning a beauty pageant to show her family of southern belles that she still belongs. The problem is, she’d rather be covered in mud than makeup! Can a rough-and-tumble girl ever become a beauty queen? SCHOOL OF CHARM tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time? Read the first chapter here!
Stay tuned for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!
Well, fellow readers, today is Friday the 13th. And while I know that the real twelve days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas day, I’m going to go out on a yule log here and say that with twelve days until December 25th, this Friday the 13th must be some kind of fluke celestial alignment. What better way to celebrate a fluke celestial alignment than reading an awesome middle grade series?
Well, just in case that (admittedly tenuous) segue isn’t clear, here are 13 more reasons to read Case File 13 by J. Scott Savage, a series I love first and just happen to edit second:
13. Our heroes, Nick, Carter, and Angelo, are obsessed with all things monster. At nearly thirteen(!) years of age, they’re probably a little too old to be dressing up for Halloween, but don’t tell them that—they fly their geek banner proudly, even going so far as to call themselves the Monsterteers.
12. In a starred review of book one, Kirkus said, “It’s hard to imagine that readers won’t enjoy every minute of hair-raising fun.” In their review of book two, Kirkus said, “The addition of the girls not only broadens the book’s appeal, but adds a humorous layer of boy-girl interaction that preteen readers will get a kick out of. Another thoroughly satisfying thrill ride.”
11. About those girl rivals: If anyone knows more about monsters than Nick, Carter, and Angelo, it’s Angie, Tiffany, and Dana. Seriously—when’s the last time you read a book where a trio of girls willingly raced through cemeteries, morgues, and haunted castles-slash-private schools?
10. If you think Doug Holgate’s art on the covers is something, wait until you see what he’s done with the interiors. The frontispiece in book two (pictured above) is frame-worthy, although please note I don’t advocate tearing out pages to put in a frame unless you buy another copy to keep intact.
9. The books are scary and funny, yes, but they also pack some remarkably satisfying mysteries and adventures. Don’t let the under-300-page-count fool you—these books are epic.
8. This is one of those rare middle grade adventures where even though the kids star the show and save the day, the adult characters are fully formed and believable, too. For example, Nick’s dad has that sense of humor all hip dads and embarrassed sons will recognize, and Carter’s oversized family is the clear origin of Carter’s oversized personality.
7. Each book features a new monster villain and pays homage to a different kind of classic horror movie. Book one was all about zombies—the real kind steeped in Louisiana voodoo magic—while book two is the mad scientist caper a la Frankenstein. In book three, which comes out next summer, the kids go on a camping trip to rival Blair Witch and come back with a creature far scarier than Gizmo. I’d tell you what happens in book four, but I’m afraid it might unlock some kind of ancient curse on you…
6. The boys film a monster movie to enter into their class assignment on “Building a Brighter Tomorrow.” How on earth is that an appropriate entry? Um, they’ll have to get back to you on that.
5. This Amazon customer review of book one: “My 10-year-old son is a good reader who prefers graphic novels and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”-type books to chapter books. I ordered this book for him specifically because it looked like his type of story— but without pictures. The day I gave it to him, I told him he could read 30 mins before “lights out.” Well, he begged to stay up and keep reading. Then last night, he asked me if I would wake him up early so he could read the last 20 pages before getting ready for school. I’d say asking to be roused early on a school morning to read indicates a darn good book.”
4. A mysterious narrator who may or may not be a librarian makes occasional appearances throughout the series. In ominous warnings and funny asides, “B.B.” introduces each book and each chapter with notes like, “What do Abraham Lincoln, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Queen Elizabeth I have in common? And no, I’m pretty sure the first two didn’t wear crowns.”
3. Book one, Zombie Kid, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Whitney Award Finalist.
2. Did I mention the hardcovers are only $14.99? That’s like, stocking stuffer prices right there.
1. And the number one reason to read Case File 13 on Friday the 13th is…Nick, Carter, and Angelo. These guys are awesome. They’re like if the Buffy gang and the Goonies passed their combined torch onto some kids today. They have one another’s backs and they feel like your new best friends. They don’t always get things right but they always mean well, and they keep stumbling into danger, which is why we love them. Author James Dashner put it best: “Nick and his friends are my new favorite people.”
So, what are you waiting for? Shamble, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore, or just start reading online right now. You’ll be glad you have a book when this celestial alignment goes south and fast!
We’re packing up and heading up to Boston tomorrow for the Annual Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. We’ll be in HarperCollins Children’s Books Booth #1008 every day, handing out materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (like posters and teaching guides) and galleys galleys galleys!
Come say hello to the amazing authors who will be signing copies of their books:
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd:
12:00–1:00pm, Jarrett Krosoczka
1:00–2:00pm, Anne Ursu
2:00–3:00pm, Hilary T. Smith
3:00–4:00pm, Rita Williams-Garcia
4:00–5:00pm, Kevin Emerson
*5:00–6:00pm, 50 Years Later C.S. Lewis Legacy Celebration! Come by for hot chocolate, cookies, a free copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a free CCSS-aligned Narnia series Teaching Guide!*
Hope to see you there!
November 19, 2013 will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. A few years ago I wrote and drew my first graphic novel: Gettysburg, The Graphic Novel, a non-fiction account of the famous civil war battle and the speech that followed. Creating that book was an intense and incredible challenge for me as I really wanted to do justice to the epic events I was depicting. This anniversary has me revisiting the memories of the process of creating that book.
When I set out to write Gettysburg, The Graphic Novel I had a couple of key goals I really wanted to achieve. The first and foremost I wanted this book to be a work of sound non-fiction history. This can be a difficult challenge for any book but I found it especially challenging when working in the medium of sequential art. Sequential art or as it’s more popularly known, comics, is an inherently subjective art form. The challenge for me was to bring the events and people of Gettysburg to life on the drawn page as closely to how they actually existed. In order to do this I decided that I would mainly rely on primary sources: letters, newspaper stories, speeches, and journals to construct everything from the images, text, and even the conversations. In the “Author Notes” section of the book I list references.
I was also keenly aware that my drawings would also require as much research and attention to detail as with text. In this case I was very fortunate, because by the time of the American Civil War photography was common and much of the war and its related events were captured on film. This primary resource gave me the ability to more accurately depict people, places, and events as they really existed. I even depict photographer Timothy O’Sullivan as he photographed the aftermath of the battle.
The second goal that I wanted to realize was to depict the incredible gravity of the events of the battle and the speech that would follow. In my research I often found that most books either focused solely on the battle or the address. I wanted to depict both, in a single book and by doing so illustrating to the reader the extraordinary heavy price of that battle and how it directly applies context to the speech.
In my pursuit of realism it was very important to me as wrote and drew this book that I did not glorify this battle. There were some amazingly heroic soldiers in this battle on both sides and incredible moments of valor but civil war combat was absolutely horrific. In 1863 you still had cavalry on horses fighting with swords charging against men with repeating rifles and early machine guns. Military tactics had not adjusted to the rising industrial age, and wouldn’t sadly until after World War I. Generals would use methods as old as the roman legions to attack entrenched cannons; more often than not it was an absolute massacre.
In telling the complete story of the battle to the speech also allowed me to touch upon and often overlooked part of the story of Gettysburg: what happened after the battle until the address? What happened to the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg after the two armies departed? I was able to illustrate how that small town dealt with the eight thousand dead and nearly thirty thousand wounded left by the two armies and the construction of the Soldiers National Cemetery on the grounds of the battlefield.
I ended the graphic novel with Lincoln’s immortal address. This I chose to illustrate subjectively, attempting to bring his words to life through images inspired by the text. After 150 years this address is still relevant: a testament that the American experience is not a stagnant or fixed ideal but one of change and growth.
C. M. Butzer is editor-in-chief of Rabid Rabbit, a magazine anthology of comic artists. This is his first book. Butzer lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
The high is 82 degrees today in New York City, and yet it’s already time to talk holiday books! I’m soaking up this warm weather, because Winter will make its appearance the way it always does: abruptly and with no mercy… but when it does, books that evoke feelings like these–nostalgia, gratitude, love for family and friends, the magic of the holiday season– are what make it all worthwhile.
Check out new sure-to-be classics from the HarperCollins Children’s Books list:
THANKSGIVING DAY THANKS
by Laura Malone Elliot, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
ISBN: 9780060002367, $17.99
On sale now!
Thanksgiving is almost here and Sam’s class is excited for their Thanksgiving feast! Mary Ann is going to dress up like Squanto. Winston’s building a popsicle-stick Mayflower. Jeffrey’s organizing a pumpkin pie-making contest. Everyone already knows the one special thing they are thankful for—everyone but Sam, that is. When something goes wrong with Sam’s surprise project, will the class be able to save it? Will Sam discover what he’s thankful for? From the author/illustrator combination of A STRING OF HEARTS.
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers
ISBN: 9780062066152, $17.99
On sale now!
Splendidly rendered in Susan Jeffers’s breathtaking panoramic spreads, this jovial interpretation of a holiday classic will have readers of all ages singing their way through the holidays.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPLAT!
by Rob Scotton
ISBN: 9780062124500 $9.99
On sale now!
It’s the night before Christmas and Splat wonders if he’s been a good enough cat this year to deserve a really big present. Just to make sure, Splat offers some last-minute help to his mom—but messes up completely! That night Splat stays awake hoping to see Santa Claus, only to miss him. Splat is sure his Christmas is ruined along with his hopes for a really big present. It turns out that Splat may have been on the nice list after all!
SANTA CLAUS AND THE THREE BEARS
by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
ISBN: 9780061700231 $17.99
On sale now!
One snowy night, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear decide to go for a winter stroll while their Christmas pudding cools. Unbeknownst to them, a white-bearded, black-booted, jolly interloper happens upon their cottage. When the bears return, they are shocked to find their pudding eaten, their chairs broken, and their cozy beds slept in! And it looks like he’s still there! Clad in a bright red jacket and completely covered in soot, there’s something awfully familiar about this guy…. Who could he be?
THE SNOW QUEEN
by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
ISBN: 9780062209504 $17.99
On sale 10/8/13
Bagram Ibatoulline illustrates a storybook version of the classic tale about an evil queen and the ordinary girl who triumphs over her.
written and illustrated by Anne Mortimer
ISBN: 9780062089281 $12.99
On sale now!
It’s Christmastime and Mouse has lots to do! The tree needs decorating, lights need hanging, and carols must be sung. There are presents to leave for special friends, treats to nibble on, and stockings to hang by the fire. When everything is ready, Mouse makes a Christmas wish before snuggling down to sleep. A final spread shows a very happy (and very full) Mouse lounging near his Christmas wish come true—a giant piece of cheese all his own. Anne Mortimer’s cozy story celebrates the little things we do that make Christmas a magical time for all.
There’s nothing like falling into the spell of a new voice, a striking view of reality, and into the life of a character you know you’ll never forget. Falling in love with a book is sometimes a thing that happens gradually over the course of a story, but sometimes the first words on a page signal that the feelings are going to come tumbling out of a book and straight into your heart. The very first words of Not a Drop to Drink have that spark for me: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”
The books I’ve always loved most are those that show me something that I’ve never even imagined and make it real, make me feel. And I love wild books – ones where characters, especially strong girls, have to work to squeeze a good life from a harsh world. I started young with those books, as in Laura Ingalls in the Little House books and Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love books that challenge me, along with the characters, to rise above difficulty, limitations, and to become more than we knew we could be. And Lynn, the heroine of Not a Drop, is such a strong character. Not a doubt there. She’s strong in a way that is more than physical or emotional. She’s real. She’s a product of her circumstances, stubborn and rough, but she discovers her heart. And her story pushes every one of my “appeal” buttons: that strong and distinctive heroine, a gripping survival story, beautiful, sometimes poetic writing, a vivid setting in a fully-realized world, and plot twists like WOAH. Oh, and it has some good kissing.
One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had with Mindy and with my colleagues here at HarperCollins is about how to categorize this book – is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? But I’m kind of proud to say that it really defies genre. While Not a Drop has plenty to offer fans of hugely popular dystopian fiction, what I appreciate is that it’s more than that. It’s different and special because it’s not about challenging a world gone wrong, but it’s about challenging people to be stronger in their own lives and hearts. And when the trends have come and gone, I think Mindy’s book – Lynn’s story – will persist in grabbing readers’ hearts and imagination, the same way that the frontier or desert island books many of us loved as children and teenagers are still perennial favorites.
I’m so proud to have helped bring Mindy McGinnis and Not a Drop to Drink to an audience. Almost two years after I first read a draft, this book still makes my heart pound, my spine tingle, and my fingers itch to turn pages, and I hope all readers will feel the same when they get their hands on it.
Sarah Shumway is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.