Category Archives: Booktalks


Posted by | January 27, 2015 | 3 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!

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!


Posted by | December 17, 2012 | No Comments

We had a terrific time at NCTE and ALAN last month– dodging slot machines, searching for exits to the actual outdoors (fresh air! wow!), and ignoring the green glow of David Copperfield’s visage spookily projected onto the front of our hotel all night, every night.  In the midst of all of that, we had some real fun:

Chris Crutcher hangin’ with Amelia Bedelia, a pairing we thought we’d never see.  But it works, doesn’t it?

The always-lovely Rita Williams-Garcia signed galleys of P.S. Be Eleven, her sequel to One Crazy Summer.

After almost a week in Sin City, Penny got a little bit worn out, poor thing.

Leaving Las Vegas (yes, I’ll admit that my phone should have been totally turned off…)!

Thanks to all who stopped by our booth, said hello, picked up galleys, and talked books with us. Conferences are our favorite part of the job, and meeting the people who actually use our books with kids is the reason why!


Posted by | October 18, 2012 | No Comments

We’re back in the video spotlight again with our October book picks! (Did you miss September? Check them out here.) Our favorite thing about the conferences we attend is meeting YOU– teachers, librarians, specialists, readers, parents– and having those important conversations about what sparks interest in a reader.  We’re hoping to replicate that experience a little bit with these videos, and we hope you’re enjoying and finding them useful.  As always, we love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to comment away, ask for recommendations, and contribute your opinion!

Molly’s October Picks:

Picture Books:
SEED BY SEED, by Esme Raji Codell, illustrated by Lynne Rae

Chapter Books:
PENNY AND HER DOLL, by Kevin Henkes

Middle Grade:
THE SPINDLERS, by Lauren Oliver

TEN, by Gretchen McNeil



Posted by | September 20, 2012 | 1 Comment

We’ve teamed up with our brilliant Online Gurus here at HarperCollins Children’s Books to bring you something new on The Pageturn: monthly videos highlighting that month’s “picks,” featuring picture books, chapter books,  middle grade and YA.

They’ll be brief booktalks of titles that we feel are perfect for your use in libraries and schools, both brand new and old favorites, directly from our hearts to yours.  We don’t think we’ll be ever be YouTube stars (just wait for the blooper reel!), but our goal was to replicate as much as possible that great experience we have at conferences with you all, talking face to face, sharing what we love.

So here we go! Thoughts? Suggestions? We want to hear!



Molly’s September picks:

Picture Books:

Chapter Books:
FANCY NANCY: NANCY CLANCY, SUPER SLEUTH, by Jane O’Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Middle Grade:
THE PECULIAR, by Stefan Bachman







Posted by | June 12, 2012 | No Comments

I’m not sure I know anyone as knowledgeable about children’s books as my colleague, National Accounts Manager Heather Doss.  She’s our human encyclopedia at meetings, a whiz in the booth at conferences, and an all-around terrific lady.  And today you are the lucky recipient of her genius!  Heather pulled together a round up of Classics, Redone:

“I’ll admit it: I’m a fan of the twisted classic genre. Whether it’s a retelling of a fairytale, myth or novel from the past, I love when authors take something you think you know and turn it on its head to give it a new perspective. While I think there will always be a place in curriculum for those classics we all read in high school and college, a remake can bring a fresh audience to them, and help to create a new fan base. Lucky for me, our Harper lists are chock full of titles that have a classic background:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Bethany Griffin has reimagined Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic horror story “The Masque of the Red Death,” creating a breathtakingly real city that’s coming apart at the seams, a riveting romantic triangle, and a heroine faced with heartbreaking choices. Hauntingly dark & romantic at the same time!

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

TIGER LILY combines the rich mythology of Peter Pan and the lush setting of Neverland to create a truly unique teen romance; told from the point of view of Tinkerbell & focusing on the Indian Princess whose backstory is vague in the original story.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about the choice between protecting your heart and opening yourself to the one person who could break it; inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

In this retelling of the classic tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” the eldest princess must fight to save her family—and her heart—from an ancient dark magic within the palace walls; a romantic fantasy with a darker edge.

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, finally gets a chance to set the story straight in RADIANT DARKNESS. She wasn’t taken to the underworld against her will—she fell in love with Hades, and chose to be his queen and leave her overbearing mother behind.


Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Part dystopian, part sci-fi thriller, part romance, LOST GIRL is an electrifying YA debut about a clone fighting against the system that created her—and finding the courage to be true to her humanity; loosely inspired by FRANKENSTEIN.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

In this horror novel loosely inspired by Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, ten teens head to a house party at a remote island mansion off the Washington coast…only for them to be picked off by a killer one by one.

The Turning by Francine Prose

A mind-bending and chilling retelling of THE TURN OF THE SCREW for modern teens, by nationally acclaimed, former President of PEN and award-winning author Francine Prose!”

Thanks, Heather! We love this trend (if you can even call it a trend!), since it’s so helpful when booktalking and recommending new favorites. Any other great classics-with-a-twist that we should read?


Posted by | May 30, 2012 | 1 Comment

Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to Tim Carvell, debut author of the uproariously funy middle-grade novel PLANET TAD. You can read a FREE, NICE AND HEARTY EXCERPT HERE. Yesterday we gave you a few words from Tim’s editor, Rosemary, and today we hear from the man himself…


(I mean… how great is this? If that mottled blue/gray background doesn’t pull you right back to middle school, I don’t know what will!)

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

When I was 9 or 10, I loved “A Cricket in Times Square”, but I think I loved its sequel, “Tucker’s Countryside”, even more, because I’d much rather read a book whose hero is a talking mouse with a cricket sidekick than a book whose hero is a talking cricket with a mouse sidekick.

As for what I’m reading now, I just finished “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street”, by Michael Davis, which is pretty great — not just because it’s got weird tidbits like the fact that Oscar the Grouch was originally orange, but also because, for some reason, it’s got a whole chapter that’s just behind-the-scenes stories about Captain Kangaroo’s love-hate relationship with his writers.

What is your secret talent?

I can wiggle my ears. (It’s not so much a “secret talent” as “a talent I have that I’ve been asked not to do in public”.)

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

A talking animal. I don’t know why, but it does.

My current obsessions are…

Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time with Finn & Jake”, because it’s got such a simple premise, but it keeps finding new directions to go, and new sorts of jokes to tell. Jenny Slate’s “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” shorts, which are very, very funny but come from a place of pure sweetness. And Jon Klassen’s “I Want My Hat Back”, because the drawings are hilarious, and it manages to tell a perfectly-paced joke in book form.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Just keep writing — the more you write, and the more feedback you get, the sooner you’ll get better at it, and the quicker you’ll develop your own voice. Also, don’t write a book about an orphan who goes to a British wizarding academy. It’s been done.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Actually, that’s about 90% of what I’d hope for right there — that a person would read my book. But if I could ask for more beyond that, it’d be that a person reading my book would laugh.

Tell us more about how PLANET TAD was born.

The original idea for “Planet Tad” came back in 2005, when two editors at MAD suggested that it might be fun to do something in the voice of a young blogger; after I’d written the column for a few years, the book came about thanks to Rosemary Brosnan at HarperCollins, whose sons really liked the column. She asked if I’d be interested in expanding it to book length, an idea that really appealed to me, because it was a chance to explore Tad’s world a little more fully, and tell stories in a little more depth. Writing the book was a lot of fun, both because it was a chance to do writing that’s both a little more personal and a little lighter than my day job, and because it was a chance to revisit my awkward younger self. Tad’s pretty much a younger version of me, and I have really vivid memories of my middle school years — and not just the classrooms or the hallways of my school, although those are pretty much what I picture when I’m picturing Tad’s environment. What I remember even more vividly are the emotions of what it was like to be in, say, eighth grade — that weird mixture of not wanting to feel like a kid anymore, but being confused, daunted and hopeful about the adult world, all at the same time. Hopefully, a little of that — alongside the jokes about video games and lemurs — comes through in the book.

Thanks Tim, for sitting through our grueling, sweat-inducing, pulse-poundingly hard-hitting barrage of questions!


Posted by | May 18, 2012 | No Comments

This Wednesday, we plied our local librarian friends with coffee and treats to meet us very very very early in the morning to hear about our Fall 2012 titles, straight from the mouths of our truly masterful editors. Our attendees live-tweeted under the hashtag #harperfallpreview and it was really exciting for us to see those enthusiastic tweets roll in. Thanks, guys!

Everyone with their listening caps on.

Greenwillow Editor Martha Mihalick (follow her on Twitter @MarthaMihalick) and VP/Publisher Virginia Duncan holding up the f&g of Michael Hall’s September 2012 title, CAT TALE, one that prompted a lot of great discussion. We always learn something new from librarians!

Balzer + Bray Editor Kristin Rens and VP/Publisher Alessandra Balzer holding books from their fall list: DEFIANCE, by C.J. Redwine, and THE OTHER NORMALS, by Ned Vizzini.

Now, for some great This Meets That’s:

  • “Dan Brown for 10 year olds” — THE SECRET PROPHECY, by Herbie Brennan.
  • “Scott Westerfeld meets Lauren Oliver” — THE LOST GIRL, by Sangu Mandanna.
  • “The Goonies meets The Walking Dead” — GRAVEDIGGERS: MOUNTAIN OF BONES, by Christopher Krovatin.
  • “My So-Called Life meets Twilight” — DRAIN YOU, by M. Beth Bloom. (full disclosure… this one killed me!)

Can you believe that in a little more than a month, we’ll be at the ALA Annual meeting in Anaheim, California?  Because we sure can’t (cue folders flying, frantic packing).  But if you’ll be there too, please make sure to stop by, say hello, and grab galleys of the titles above.  Booth #2558– see you there!


Posted by | April 27, 2012 | No Comments

Even though it feels like we JUST got back from TLA (and more on that terrific show later), we’re heading to Molly’s hometown Chicago tomorrow to exhibit at the International Reading Association next week. Will you be there, too? If so, come by booth #2240 for our wonderful author signings (listed below) galleys, teaching guides, posters, bookmarks, booktalking, and friend-making.

1:00–2:00PM, Henry Cole

*9:30–12:00PM, I CAN READ GOES DIGITAL– swing by our booth Tuesday morning to take a photo with your favorite I Can Read costumed characters, see demos of I Can Read books on the iPad and Nook, and enter a sweepstakes to win your own ereader or tablet loaded with an I Can Read library!*

12:30–1:00PM, Jan Spivey Gilchrist

1:00–2:00PM, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter Reynolds

2:00–2:30PM, Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campos

2:30–3:30PM, Patricia McCormick

3:30–4:00PM, Stuart Murphy


9:30–10:30AM, Laura Numeroff (do you like donuts? If so, make a point to come to this one!)

11:00–11:30AM, Jody Feldman

11:30AM–12:30PM, Rita Williams-Garcia

See you there!


Posted by | February 14, 2012 | 1 Comment

Today we’re introducing you to Christina Meredith, debut author of KISS CRUSH COLLIDE and one of our Winter 2012 New Voices. Yesterday we shared an excerpt of the book (READ IT HERE!), and a few words from Christina’s editor, Virginia Duncan, on why and how this story spoke to her. Appropriately, this story is really about one girl’s summer of getting to know herself– so today, let’s Open the Book and get to know Christina…


Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

I am going to go with my favorite book, ever, for this — The Cheer Leader by Jill McCorkle. If you are anything like me and pick up the mood of what you are reading, be careful with this one… It is so good it makes me crazy. Right now I am finishing up my next novel and am so very, very close to the end that I am not reading much of anything. Which kills me. I am staying alive through a steady drip of magazine articles and Yahoo headlines. I scan the headlines and then make up the rest. My current favorite? Dog shoots man with own gun. There are so many places you can go with that.

What is your secret talent?

I do a killer Irish accent.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

A well-dressed monkey always makes me laugh.

My current obsessions are…

Fast zombies, Fincher movies, and fair-isle sweaters. And the letter F, apparently.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Make sure the loudest voice inside your head is your own.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

…is lit up. Awake and alive and ready for more.

Tell us more about how KISS CRUSH COLLIDE was born.

We all know it’s there.  We’ve felt it:  the spark, the heat, the magic. It rushed past me one day — a teenage girl on the back of a motorcycle.  She was hanging on tight to the dude in front of her, leaning in and looking past him toward the road that was rolling out before them.  Her parents must love that, I thought, immediately followed by, look how far and fast we will go sometimes to find ourselves. I started writing. I chased that idea down. I imagined a girl who had it all, but hadn’t made any choices for herself.  I remembered summers where nothing seemed to happen, but everything changed.  Then Porter came along, with his muscle cars and his sturdy silence, and the days became long and sunny.  He brought the poetry. I kept coming back to the alchemy of attraction and how ignoring it seems to lead to a life of robotic decay.  How the first guy a girl really, really falls for takes her away from her family and how they have defined her.  How sweet and scary it is to find your own way.  But, most of all, I loved the idea that someone can just show up and suddenly your life starts to sparkle.  I still do.

Thanks Christina!

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