Category Archives: Reviews
This video is stunning – watch how Kadir Nelson created the breathtaking art for his upcoming book HEART AND SOUL. It’s particularly moving when he talks about telling not just an African-American story; he’s telling an American story…from an African-American perspective.
If you’re able, watch this video in full-screen – you won’t regret it:
“As in WE ARE THE SHIP, Nelson knits together the nation’s proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history. He handles this vast subject with easy grace. [Nelson's] jaw-dropping portraits radiate determination and strength. A tremendous achievement.” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)
With villain names like Professor Von Evil and the Flaming Eyeball, how can you not be dying to read Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon’s debut picture book THE ASTONISHING SECRET OF AWESOME MAN, illustrated by Jake Parker? With short text and plenty of derring-do action (take a peek inside), this picture book will be a favorite of kids who love comics, as well as kids in your storytime programs.
In its starred review, School Library Journal said “the depiction of a showdown between Awesome Man and his nemesis-the Flaming Eyeball-is priceless. Readers may notice that there’s a moral peeking out from Awesome Man’s cape, but they’ll still grab this story in their ‘ginormous Awesome Power Grip’ and not let go.”
From reading your Pulitzer Prize-winning adult novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, fans probably know you have a long-term relationship with superhero comics. Can you give us a taste of your own childhood introduction to them and how that might have inspired this story of Awesome Man?
Well, of course I remember seeing Batman and the first animated Spider-Man show on television when I was very small… but my first true plunge into the world of superheroes came through the comic books that my father began to bring home for me, as soon as I could read. He had grown up reading them himself, and felt they were an important part of a kid’s education.
You clearly revel in language and names — Professor Von Evil, Moskowitz the Awesome Dog, positrons, and…pooped (and what kid doesn’t like saying “pooped!”). As an adult author known for reveling in words and language, how did you manage to balance that with the need to keep things relatively simple for a picture book audience?
I was really thinking about the parents here–how much it meant to me, when I was reading a book aloud to my children for the 33832nd time, if there was a little verve or snap to the language. Probably the all time champ, in that regard–to me, at least–is William Steig. Nobody used English, in kids’ books, the way he did.
You have children of your own — were they helpful in the creation of this book?
I wrote this book for my younger son (I have two, and two daughters), Abe. He was the direct inspiration, in every way, for the main character of AWESOME MAN.
Are you a reader of children’s books yourself and if so, what are some of your favorites?
One of the greatest, and most lasting, pleasures of having children, for me, has been the excuse and the opportunity that bedtime reading has given me to revisit, and re-relish (usually), so many of the books I loved as a kid, from The Hobbit to The Secret Garden to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Are there any plans for more adventures of Awesome Man or another book for children (even perhaps a sequel to your middle grade fantasy Summerland)?
Yes, the next book I write, when I am done with the novel I’m finishing, will be for the same readership as Summerland.Not a sequel, though.
Thanks so much to Michael and Monica for the interview!
It’s been an eventful couple of days: earthquakes! hurricanes! But even Mother Nature can’t put a stop to Book Birthdays! Today is the birthday for WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy (of Decemberists’ fame) and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. We’re so thrilled that it’s out there for everyone to read now!
Check out the reviews:
“Meloy has an immediately recognizable verbal style and creates a fully realized fantasy world…. Ellis’s illustrations perfectly capture the original world and contribute to the feel of an instant timeless classic.” ~ School Library Journal (starred review)
“A satisfying blend of fantasy, adventure story, eco-fable and political satire with broad appeal; especially recommended for preteen boys.” ~ Kirkus
Get to know Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis:
And take a look at the book trailer to whet your appetite:
Happy publication day to WILDWOOD!
For better or for worse, as parents, librarians, and teachers, we rely a lot on series to get reluctant readers to keep reading. Heck, even very strong readers love the predictability and familiarity they have with characters and storylines they’ve encountered before. To that end, there are some #2 books coming out in new series this fall and they just might be the perfect recommendation for the kids in your library or classroom (or home):
THE FAMILIARS #2: SECRETS OF THE CROWN by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING EVERYTHING by Ben H. Winters
- In its starred review, Publishers Weekly called THE SECRET LIFE OF MS. FINKLEMAN, “funny, fast-paced, and highly original.”
MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND by Tricia Springstubb
THE MAGNIFICENT 12: THE TRAP by Michael Grant
- Receiving two starred reviews, Kirkus said that THE MAGNIFICENT 12: THE CALL was “a lighter-than-usual fantasy action-adventure that is sure to win many fans and fly off the shelves.” And don’t forget to check out the outstanding website that includes a section of educators!
What other series are your kids excited about?
We hope you have all had a chance to read KICK, the outstanding YA novel co-written by debut teen author Ross Workman and New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers.
When Ross Workman, then 13, emailed his favorite author, he hardly knew that he would have the opportunity to write a story collaboratively with him, in alternating chapters. What’s so wonderful about the story of these two authors is that it has broadened the conversation about the writing process, not to mention that it’s inspiring for teens considering writing to their favorite author.
Below, Ross Workman poses 5 questions about their writing process to Walter Dean Myers:
1. We did a lot of thinking about the story before we even started writing. You had all these techniques you’d developed to help you figure out your characters and plot—using photographs of the characters to help you think of them as real people and keep them consistent, doing character timelines, and creating a detailed outline. How did you come up with these? Did you ever try to write without them? How did that turn out?
Ross, I started writing without the outlines and without time-lines, etc. My understanding of literature was that the writers were all geniuses and the words just flowed from their pens or typewriters. I kept getting stuck in the middle of a manuscript. Developing the prewriting techniques help me to understand if I really have a book in mind or just the germ of an idea. Now, having said that, I still occasionally jump into a book too quickly. When I do, there’s usually a price to pay in starting over or replotting.
2. At times, I got discouraged, especially when I was worried that my writing wouldn’t be good enough. Did you ever get discouraged when you were writing or revising KICK? Did you ever get discouraged while working on another project? What do you do when you get stuck?
I enjoyed working on the book so much that I didn’t get discouraged. In fact, I’m rarely discouraged. If I do get stuck, I simply revisit my outline to see what I’ve overlooked.
3. Was it easier to edit my chapters or your chapters?
It was easier to edit your chapters because I can’t always see what mine are missing. My wife reads my chapters and reminded me to put in descriptions. Then you would point out my inconsistencies and, finally, our editor Phoebe made suggestions. I get the core feelings right most of the time but I often fall down when it comes to details.
4. You introduced me to the poem “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. What made you think of that poem and its relevance to KICK?
As I understood the character you created, he seemed always eager to do the right thing. He wanted to help his friend, Christy, when she was troubled. He was very sympathetic and concerned with Dolores, who worked for McNamara. He was even hoping that Mr. McNamara wouldn’t get into too much trouble. I liked Kevin’s character and his willingness to get involved. In “The Second Coming” Yeats describes the end of the world, made easy by the lack of conviction of good people:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
I believe that the end of the world as we know it can only come about if “the best” lack the conviction to change it. Kevin, in my mind, has that conviction.
5. What was different about working with a collaborator? Did my age make a difference – besides having to stay up later for our phone calls? (You are a very early riser, and I go to bed late and get up late–at least on the weekends!)
You understood what we were trying to do and stayed on task, which made the whole project easier. But I had to consider what you were doing and how you saw the story so as not to invade your space. Your age did make a difference because you matured over the period in which we worked on the book. Your writing was considerably better during the last rewrites.
And be sure to check out these links for more information:
- Download the teaching guide to use in your classrooms and libraries.
- Watch a video of the authors.
- Read an interview with the authors over at Cynsations
- Edge Book Reviews says “Teens will enjoy a complex story in this intelligent novel with themes of courage, accountability, and tenacity.”
- One of Monica Edinger‘s students at Dalton submitted a review!
- Kirkus interviewed Walter and Ross. And check out the interview at SLJ!
THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB, by award-winning author Robert Sharenow (My Mother the Cheerleader), has been given THREE STARRED REVIEWS! Here is what everyone is raving about:
Robert Sharenow’s editor, the fabulous Kristin Rens, recently shared with us what it is about the story and Robert’s writing that drew her to the story when she first read it:
It’s hard to talk about just one thing that struck me about BERLIN BOXING CLUB, because when I read the first draft I was struck by something new on almost every page: there’s Rob’s writing, which is eloquent and moving; there’s the way he beautifully marries the political and social upheaval happening around Karl with the life-altering events that take place in his own family; and there’s Karl’s quest to find his own unique talents through boxing and art—a quest to which any teen can relate. Most of all, though, I was struck by the fact that Rob was writing about this place and time from a point of view that I hadn’t seen before: that of a teen boy whose heritage is Jewish, but because his parents haven’t raised him in the Jewish faith, he doesn’t consider himself Jewish. In fact, at the beginning of the story he identifies more with boys in the Hitler Youth than he does with his Jewish classmates. And his struggle to understand why he’s being bullied for a faith that he doesn’t really embrace as his own is absolutely heartrending.
Pick up THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB to see what the buzz is all about! And check out the following links for more info:
- Robert Sharenow’s website, which includes a discussion guide, tips for writing historical fiction, and more.
- Ms. Yingling Reads’ review
- A wonderful review from Huntington News
- THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB is a Junior Library Guild pick!
It’s Vacation Time around the office lately, especially now that ALA is over. But one of the delights of being offline is getting to catch up once you’re back online: it’s always fun to see that the electronic world has continued to spin even in your absence. Here are some of the posts I’ve read and loved since being back in the office:
- From Abby the Librarian: first, I loved her discussion of summer reading clubs – she’s had a phenomenal turn-out for hers…further evidence that libraries and librarians provide vital and popular services. I also enjoyed her post on ALA’s Emerging Leaders program. I was an ALA Emerging Leader (Class of 2008) and agree with everything Abby had to say – it really is a great program and I encourage librarians who meet the qualifications to apply (you still have a little time left – the deadline is August 1st!).
- Jenny Brown (of Shelf Awareness fame) over at twentybyjenny wrote a lovely reflection of Kevin Henkes’ JUNONIA: “For a child, sometimes the small shifts can feel like tectonic plates realigning their world. That’s certainly the case for Alice. And with Alice as a companion, children know that if she can survive all these changes, they can, too.“
- The Reclusive Bibliophile created a booklist “if you like cooking, baking, and candy making…” Some of my favorite foodie books are on there, and I’d love to add THE KING’S TASTER by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and just wait until you read our upcoming BLISS by Kathryn Littlewood (February 2012)!
- Jennifer Hubert Swan over at Reading Rants reviews Candace Bushnell’s SUMMER AND THE CITY, the sequel to THE CARRIE DIARIES. It’s the perfect summer beach read (both Jen’s blog and SUMMER AND THE CITY)!
- Melissa Rabey at librarian by day has a fun cover comparison post that involves Chris Crutcher’s DEADLINE, and she also posted a review of P.J. Converse’s SUBWAY GIRL.
- A lovely review of THE SIX CROWNS: TRUNDLE’S QUEST by Allan Jones over at Literate Lives
What are you reading and loving? And how are your summer reading clubs going? Have you seen more or less sign-ups? We’d love to hear from you!
Christopher Myers and Walter Dean Myers have recently launched their website Who Is America in celebration of their gorgeous nonfiction picture book WE ARE AMERICA, which has already received two starred reviews. We recently had the chance to talk to Chris and Walter about the book, and here is what they shared:
This book started out as a journey to rediscover America, and what it means to be an American. I traveled abroad after 9/11, and was struck with the desire to redefine what America means to me. I set out to re-read the texts that built this country–the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and more, some of which I haven’t read since high school–and to re-understand these ideas and apply them to what America was, what America has been, and what America is. And I didn’t want to just start and end the conversation with my re-imagining–I wanted to start a conversation that continues once you’ve read the language and seen the images.
One of the themes that I think comes across in the book is that of inclusion–it’s not “I am America,” but rather, “We Are America.” I find that kids respond to the theme of inclusion, which has been a part of many of my books. We are all America and we all participate in the conversation defining our country, whether we realize it or not. The new website gives kids a chance to actively participate in this conversation by describing what America means to them, and we have found that they are so talented and poignant in their descriptions.
America brings together many different histories, cultures, languages, and that is where my mind was at when I started with the illustrations for WE ARE AMERICA. One particular painting doesn’t just portray one moment in America’s history; rather I tried to blend various figures, time periods, happenings, to show the pieces of the American puzzle. America is really a collection. This book is our love letter to America, and it isn’t complete without adding more voices to the conversation.
When Dad and I presented in Naperville, IL to young students, we found that they were eager to be included in the conversation about what America means to them. It’s so interesting to watch kids embrace and relate to America, sometimes in ways many of us would never have thought to do. That’s why we started the website–so kids can express what being an American means to them by uploading a video. They can sing a song, recite a poem, or just speak from the heart. It’s very moving to hear these kids speak about America in this way.
Don’t listen to us gab about the newest picture book from Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace…check out the three starred reviews for THIS PLUS THAT!
“Teachers could use the book, perhaps paired with Betsy Franco’s picture book Mathematickles! (2003), to introduce math equations or to inspire students to create their own verbal equations. But first, just read this unusual book aloud and let it work its magic.” ~ Booklist (starred review)
“Corace’s tidy figures echo with prim grace the gentle theme of the book, that life can be parsed into the simplest terms that recombine to create something joyous.” ~ Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
Check out the adorable book trailer:
Next week (May 8-11) we’re off to another conference: the International Reading Association Annual Convention in sunny Orlando! We have a stellar line-up of authors and illustrators – for a complete list of authors and signing times, click here.
One such author is Gail Carson Levine, author of some of the best-known books in children’s literature, such as ELLA ENCHANTED and WRITING MAGIC. She’ll be featured on a panel called “Engaging Readers K-5″ with Kristin Clark Venuti, Laurie Friedman, and Ethan Long. The fabulous Kate Messner will be moderating. If you’ll be at the conference, this panel will be on Tuesday, May 10 from 11:00am-12:00pm.
Gail will also be signing her new book, A TALE OF TWO CASTLES, from 12:30-1:30 after her panel. In its starred review, Kirkus said that this is a “thoroughly delicious romp” and we couldn’t agree more. Stop by booth #1220 and say hi to Gail!
We hope to see you in sunny Orlando!