If you’re familiar with the fabulous Amelia Bedelia chapter book series, then we have some exciting news for you: Chapter Book #3 is now available!
And here’s the even-better news: You can download a teaching guide for the whole series, complete with fun reproducible activities and aligned with the Common Core, right here.
Happy school year to those of you who’ve started already, and good luck to those still preparing!
Looking for a fun, interactive picture book to use for story time (or any time)? Christie Matheson’s debut picture book, TAP THE MAGIC TREE, fits the bill perfectly. TAP THE MAGIC TREE combines the magic of the changing seasons with the magic of turning a page as the reader taps, pats, claps, and wiggles to make leaves grow, blossoms bloom, apples appear, and leaves swirl away with the autumn breeze.
In the summer after my junior year of high school, I attended the Georgia Governor’s Honors program, a kind of voluntary summer school for nerds that boasted classes in everything from the history of meta-fiction to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Students had majors and minors, just like in college, and we participated in imaginative extra-curriculars because we wanted to, not because they were required for our college resumes.
With six-hundred bright students on a college campus, away from their parents and their hometown identities, friendships were made fast and set in stone. People tried on new selves as if they were trying on clothes, with some kids reinventing themselves multiple times over the summer. You could feel the energy created by people breaking away from their old lives, like nuclear fission. In retrospect, I suppose we were lucky all that energy was channeled in a positive direction.
Dan, Abby, and Jordan, the three teen stars of Madeleine Roux’s Asylum, find themselves at a similar summer program: New Hampshire College Prep, or NHCP as the cool kids call it. Dan is eager to reinvent himself this summer. We get the sense that he may not have many friends back at school, and that the reasons for this run deeper than your typical shyness. When Dan first meets Abby and Jordan, the three click instantly, even if the puzzle pieces have a few jagged edges.
But the more time they spend together, the more these three teens realize they don’t really know one another at all. They’re all holding secrets from their former identities, and the new selves they’re trying on don’t always fit quite right.
That universal teen drama – of who we have been rubbing up against who we want to be – is what really drew me to Asylum. Of course, I’m a genre guy at heart, so I love that this conflict is amped up to eleven and run through the kaleidoscope of a terrifying horror story.
Did I mention that Dan, Abby, and Jordan’s dorm for the summer is a retired insane asylum?
Like all the best genre stories, Asylum uses that setting – and all the creepy trappings that come with it – to really drive home its central metaphor. Dan, Abby, and Jordan aren’t just running from their high school selves, they’re running from secrets that go much further back in their families, and they’re running from the knowledge that in a bygone era, these three teens might not been students in the asylum, but patients.
My own summer at the Governor’s Honors Program changed my life for the better. Whether Dan, Abby, and Jordan will be able to say the same about their time at NHCP is a different question. One you’ll just have to read Asylum to answer…
Andrew Harwell is the editor of Asylum.
The lovely Jane Kurtz was kind enough to write some thoughts on her new book, ANNA WAS HERE, for us. ANNA WAS HERE is a beautifully-written middle-grade novel about a young girl whose family moves from Colorado to Kansas, in the middle of Tornado Alley, because of her father’s job as a preacher. As Anna tries to find a way to make this strange new place her home, she must unravel a family mystery in the process.
Jane has some things in common with Anna, including the fact that they’re both preachers’ kids. Here, she tells us a bit about her upbringing and her own life and how they’ve informed her writing.
I—like Anna—am a preacher’s kid. My dad, like Anna’s dad, was mostly a lot of fun—he loved to belt out songs and ham it up. When we were camping on the Ethiopian savannah, he would tell stories that could put me back to sleep even with lions rumbling in the distance, and he was always willing to be the donkey when my sisters and I acted out Old Testament scenes. But sometimes when Papa Duck had world change on his mind, he could seem to forget the ducklings running along behind. And sometimes I was really, really, really sure he was preaching about me.
Preachers’ kids often have to move, to face agonies of new neighborhoods and schools and kids. I’ve lived in Oregon, California, Idaho, Illinois, Colorado, North Dakota, Kansas…and I grew up in Ethiopia, where my mom and dad worked for the Presbyterian Church for 23 years. In Ethiopia, I, like Anna, learned to wonder: if God watched over sparrows and us, why did bad things sometimes happen to good kids? Why were there even such things as plane crashes and crocodiles? Why didn’t my Ethiopian friends (who were girls) get to go to school or have books to read?
I was discussing Anna Was Here with a friend one day and she said, “When we read about the Ice Age in fourth grade, I was instantly making survival plans for my family in case another one came along.” It made me laugh…and understand Anna a little better.
My husband, Leonard Goering, grew up on a wheat farm in Kansas, in a small Mennonite community. For him, the family stories were about how his ancestors—clinging to their German language and their peacemaker beliefs—moved from France and Switzerland and Germany to Russia and how, a hundred years later, these Germans from Russia packed up their red winter wheat and their poppy seeds and settled up and down the Great Plains. When Leonard left Kansas for Northwestern University in Chicago, he sang in the choir of a Presbyterian church and eventually became a Presbyterian minister. So our three children, too, are preacher’s kids.
One day we left Colorado, where two of our kids were born, and headed toward Kansas (with our cat huddled under the seat). For us, the farm community of Kansas was only a week’s stop on our way to North Dakota, where Leonard was a campus minister and university professor for twelve years. When the Red River flooded in North Dakota and we had to evacuate from our house for six weeks, our daughter was about Anna’s age, suddenly separated from her best friends, her books, and her cat. After a summer of grimy cleaning up, we ended up in a FEMA trailer while her house and elementary school were torn down, and she was confused and sad.
At some time or another, most humans ask life’s big questions. Some people come to answers of great certainty. I envy them.
What I know about for sure is what one friend calls the “messy glory” of families and the comfort of a good cat or dog. Emus and chickens and lavender. Communities cleaning up together, after disasters whirl everything around and dump things upside down. What I finally know for certain is that we can’t stop change or natural disasters, but that telling our stories almost always helps, and that forgiveness and kindness sometimes can heal the disasters of the human heart.
Thank you so much for these timely and uplifting words, Jane!
ANNA WAS HERE will be available 8/27/13.
Who’s ready for September? No one yet? That’s alright. We still have plenty of summer left. Whenever you’re ready, though, we want to help you start the school year off right with a little bit of inspiration. There are so many great back-to-school books out there that it’s difficult to choose just a few, but here’s a small sampling of some of our favorites!
This follow-up to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s bestselling debut picture book WHEN I GROW UP will get your students (and you, too) laughing out loud. The irrepressible Billy returns in this hilarious back-to-school tale filled with wordplay and energetic rhyme.
How could you not love Amelia Bedelia and her charmingly mixed-up view of the world? We bet you can guess what happens when Amelia Bedelia is told on her first day of school to “hop on the bus.” And it only gets funnier from there! You can visit www.ameliabedeliabooks.com for all kinds of fun downloadable activities and teaching resources.
Kids will love this clever spin on a starting-school story by Jane O’Connor (yes, THAT Jane O’Connor, author of the beloved Fancy Nancy books!). First published in 1990 and just released with adorable new illustrations by debut illustrator Bella Sinclair, this is a perfect book for any kid who might be a little nervous about heading off to school for the first time.
Kevin Henkes’s newest novel, due out September 17, is a humorous, heartwarming school and family story for young middle-grade readers. Kids will see a lot of themselves in Billy Miller, whose second-grade year includes such universal experiences as homework (dioramas!), school shows (original poetry performed at microphones!), canceled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. Visit www.kevinhenkes.com for more information, teaching guides, and more!
Are your students hungry for more of Dan Gutman’s wacky My Weird School stories? Book #8 in the My Weirder School series, DR. NICHOLAS IS RIDICULOUS!, is the most recent installment, and you can look for book #9, MS. SUE HAS NO CLUE! this October. Don’t forget, you can always head over to the My Weird Classroom Club website for all kinds of great teaching resources, including downloadables, for all of the My Weird School books!
Coming soon: Back-to-school books for older readers . . . stay tuned!
This is a story about how a little boy grew up to be a President. It’s a story of hope and courage. It’s a story about the power of words. And it is a story that has been told many times, in many voices.
Acclaimed picture book biographer Jonah Winter offers his own voice and memories about JFK and his significance in this heartfelt personal profile, illustrated in vibrant detail by AG Ford.
Today, even more next-in-series that are just about to publish! We pinky-swear that it was worth the wait. And check out part one HERE.
DECEPTION, by C.J. Redwine
The sequel to DEFIANCE puts Rachel and Logan on a collision course with their greatest enemy while testing the bonds of their love for each other. With the world they once loved forever destroyed, they must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight. Perfect for fans of Graceling and The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
DESCENDANT, by Lesley Livingston
The last thing Mason Starling remembers is the train crossing a bridge. An explosion…a blinding light…then darkness. Now she is alone, stranded in Asgard—the realm of Norse legend—and the only way for her to get home is to find the Spear of Odin, a powerful relic left behind by vanished gods. DESCENDANT, the sweeping follow-up to STARLING, raises the stakes in this epic trilogy of star-crossed romance, thrilling action, and dark family secrets—perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.
A RADIANT SKY, by Jocelyn Davies
The final installment in the BEAUTIFUL DARK series, (did you read A BEAUTIFUL DARK and A FRACTURED LIGHT ?) Skye leads the Rogues as an apocalyptic war looms, and realizes that the fate of the world isn’t the only thing to fight for–she’ll have to fight for love, too.
Which next-in-series teen book are you most excited for? There’s a little book called ALLEGIANT not so far away…
We love everything about books in series… except for waiting for the next one to hit the shelves! Torture! Thankfully, for those who have been waiting (im)patiently, we have your reward– so many great next-in-series Harper books are publishing oh so soon…
ONCE WE WERE, by Kat Zhang
In this riveting sequel to WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, Addie and Eva struggle to share their body as they each fall in love with a different person, but it is their rebellion against the government that may tear them apart forever. There was so much buzz for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, we know fans have been dying to read more!
THE FALL OF FIVE, by Pittacus Lore
This is the fourth installment in the thrilling, action-packed Lorien Legacies series that launched with the #1 New York Times bestsellers I AM NUMBER FOUR (and a movie starring hunk Alex Pettyfer!). Reunited with Sarah and now joined by Number Eight, Number Four and the remaining Garde are desperate to find Number Five and Sam before it’s too late.
DON’T LOOK NOW, by Michelle Gagnon
The second book in the thrilling DON’T TURN AROUND trilogy, which Kirkus called (in a *starred* review, no less!) “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens.” DON’T LOOK NOW finds Noa still on the run, with her and Peter’s alliance threatened and the stakes higher than ever. And fans, did you read the e-only NO ESCAPE?
We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to awesome continuing series: heck back later this week for round two!
We’re so excited about Robyn Schneider’s debut novel THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING, coming out at the end of August, and we couldn’t be happier that reviewers feel the same way! Check out what the journals are saying:
“This thought-provoking novel about smart kids doing interesting things will resonate with the John Green contingent, as it is tinged with sadness, high jinks, wry humor, and philosophical pondering in equal measures.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Smart writing and a compelling narrator raise this book above ordinary depictions of high school drama. . . . Efficient use of language, evocative descriptions and subtle turns of phrase make reading and rereading this novel a delight.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Teens won’t want to put this one down.”—School Library Journal
And check out the book itself, of course! We have a feeling your teens will thank you for it.
September Girls, by Bennett Madison, is creating quite a sensation in certain circles. Oh, THAT book, some of you will nod knowingly. The book that is causing so much controversy on the blogosphere, which is addressed wonderfully in this interview with Bennett.
Hopefully others will also nod knowingly but say yes, THAT book, that book that has received five starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, BCCB, and School Library Journal and glowing praise from authors E. Lockhart, Jenny Han, Sara Zarr, and Nova Ren Suma.
I happen to agree with Maureen Johnson, who praised Bennett as “one of the best YA writers around” for his last book The Blonde of the Joke. I’m biased, of course—I’m his editor. I’m also a woman, and I grew up with three brothers—two details about myself that speak to my belief that September Girls is actually quite feminist, and that it pretty accurately portrays teenage boys.
September Girls took Bennett longer to write than he expected. He said in this interview with The Rejectionist that his editor was skeptical of the idea. To be fair, I wasn’t skeptical of his ability to write an amazing book (even though I didn’t really know what it was about!). I had faith in him.
What I MIGHT have been skeptical of were the delivery dates he kept promising me, especially since he kept sending me drafts with notes like this along the way:
infinite caveats apply. there’s a lot of stuff i already know i want to work on, change, recast, etc etc etc. but i wanted to get you a draft, and this is a draft. i’m pretty sure it’s free of TK’s and sentences that trail off without an ending but i could be wrong about that.
THE POINT IS, there’s still a lot of work to do on this and I hope it’s complete enough at this stage that you’re able to see where it’s going and give me some thoughts on what is most important to handle. There will be another draft, so read it with that in mind I guess. Basically I can barely bring myself to send it but I could keep working on it forever so here goes nothing.
And my favorite:
I looked over your letter and I’m in total agreement with 90% of it.
I’m so proud of September Girls––it’s been called mesmerizing and lovely and haunting and surprising and intoxicating, and even though some readers clearly haven’t gotten it, I’m thrilled that the book is creating conversation, and inciting readers like Emily May to speak up and talk about it in such an eloquent, thoughtful manner. I hope you have a chance to read it, and that it works its magic on you.
Tara Weikum is the editor of September Girls by Bennett Madison.« go back — keep looking »