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A Post About “BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS”………and an announcement

October 1, 2013

Hello RAoR Readers! Today we’re sharing the final post on this Random Acts of Reading Blog–we’ll be transitioning over to the blog run by our amazing Random House Children’s Books Marketing Team. You can look forward to MORE book information, author features and thematic content, and you may even see us over there posting regularly.

We have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog, working with our authors, editors and marketing team for the last three years and it’s bittersweet to be writing this last official RAoR post for all of you. It seems only appropriate to bring you this special post about “books about books”, both fiction and non-fiction, today.

Look A Book

Look Another Books

For many of us “it all begins with books”, and that’s where Bob Staake’s Look! A Book! takes off:

Look! A book! A hook! A cowboy cook!
Weird and kooky things that go!
Some go fast and some go slow! 

Can you find the squawking crow?

Filled with wacky fun and hidden visual treats, this is the perfect book for reading together, it’s truly got something for everyone young and old. And don’t miss the sequel Look! Another Book!And we are very excited about Bob Staake’s new book that will be published by Random House in 2014 My Pet Book!

Dog Loves Books

Louise Yates has written and illustrated a book for all of the book and bookstore lovers! In Dog Loves Booksour hero indeed loves books so much that he opens his own Independent Bookstore. Initially business is a bit slow, and people come in looking for everything except books, but once Dog spends some time re-discovering the joy of books and stories, the customers flow in and all is well.

It's a Book

It’s a Book by Lane Smith is fun, funny and topical. Two friends, a jackass and a monkey are reading, one an ebook and the other a traditional paper book. The spare dialogue and art makes this the simplest ode to print books and their relevance. Great for kids and parents!

Miss Brooks Loves Books

Miss Brooks is the teacher every kid would love to have, clever, creative and costumed for every story hour. In Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don’t)this amazing teacher helps all of the kids in the class to find just the right book, except Missy, who just doesn’t think she likes to read. But with the help of her mother, and the patience of Miss Brooks, and an assist from William Steig’s Shrek! Missy finds the right book too.

We Are in a Book

Mo Willem’s familiar characters Elephant and Piggie are the stars of We Are in a Book! and are hilarious when they realize that they are not only in the book but the reader can see them. The pressure is almost too much for them, until they realize that there is as much pleasure in being read as in reading.

The Ink Drinker

Odilon’s Dad owns a bookstore, heaven on earth, right? Until the day he sees the strange man with a straw “drinking” the stories out of the books. He’s fascinated and soon finds himself drinking from the books too. The Ink Drinker is quirky and charming, and is followed by two more equally quirky volumes A Straw for Two  and The City of Ink Drinkers.

The Emerald Atlas       The Fire Chronicle

“The Books of Beginning” trilogy by John Stephens is a book lover’s dream, starting with The Emerald Atlas we meet three orphan siblings, Kate, Mike and Emma, who have found themselves in the latest of many “homes”, but in this one there is a book, a magical book. Of course they must first learn to harness the power of the book’s magic, and maybe save the world. Followed by The Fire Chronicle and the forthcoming (2014) The Black Reckoning this is a grand adventure.

Endymion Spring

One of my favorite middle grade/YA books is Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton. In an Oxford Library a young boy picks up a book which only he can open and in which words appear only to him, and there are dark forces who would love to get their hands on this very old and very valuable book. A terrific story with an unlikely hero, and a magical book.

Inkheart

When Meggie’s father reads from the book Inkheart, in the book Inkhearta villain steps out of the pages and into their home. Thus begins Meggie’s adventure to figure out how to use magic to save her world. A wonderful tale about the power of magic, imagination and books.

Unbearable Book Club

For older readers The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Shumacher is just the book for book lovers.  Four girls are thown together by their mothers who think they need to have a Mother-Daughter Book Group, and well , let’s say they’re not happy about it. Somehow they muddle through, viewing their lives in the light of the books they are reading, and maybe evening forging new friendships. A perfect choice for your real-life Mother-Daughter Book Club, too!

The Book Thief

And of course, we must include the book of all books about books The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The extraordinary and unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul. Beloved by readers young and older, book clubs around the world, and soon to be a major motion picture. Read it before you go!

And for those of you who are interested in a non-fiction look at books about books, here are a few of my favorites:

Everything  Anita Silvey

In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Bookrenowned children’s book expert Anita Silvey presents “Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life” in this marvelous collection of remembrances of the children’s books that inspired them and had an impact on their lives.

Family of REaders

A Family of Readers by Roger Sutton & Martha B. Parravano, editors of The Horn Book Magazine, is filled with recommendations, discussion and debate from children’s book authors–the perfect guidebook to finding the right book for any young reader, and getting them started on the path to a lifetime of reading.

Children's Book-A-Day Almanac

Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac is one of my favorite books about books (when I was a child I had a book called 365 Bedtime Stories and I think this is my grown-up version)–Every date features a book that ties in with a historic event that took place on that day, and it included birthdays of authors and illustrators, holidays, and fun facts about that day in books too. So addictive you’ll surely want to read more than one a day.

Golden Legacy

Another favorite, possibly because “Golden Books” were such a part of my childhood, is Golden Legacy by Leonard Marcus, an amazing look at the history of Golden Books and how they “Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way”. The complete history of these books that have been in every household since 1942, the artists and authors and executives, is a remarkable look at the times of our lives through the evolution of children’s books. I dare you to open this book and not get lost in it.

And last but certainly not least is the just published Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. Fun and nostalgic, and the perfect gift for your grownup friends.

Everything LGB

Thank you to all of our readers and contributors for reading, commenting and inspiring us at RAoR. You’ve all made blogging truly fun!

Please share your thoughts one last time in our comments section , and please follow us to the Random House Children’s Books Blog here.

Our Editors Share Some of Their Favorite Books!

September 26, 2013

Recently our Field Sales Manager Alan Mendelsohn and I were brainstorming ideas for Random Acts of Reading, and he suggested we ask our Editorial colleagues to share some of their favorite books with us–books that you may or may not know about but are each special in their own way . I thought it was a great idea, and as you can see, they enthusiastically contributed!

Here’s what they have to say:

Beswitched

From the author of The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, Kate Saunder’s Beswitched is a charming mystery/adventure story that will be loved by readers of The Penderwicks and The Mysterious Benedict Society.     

Speaking French at Breakfast? Wearing hideous baggy bloomers? Sleeping in a freezing dormitory? This has now become twelve-year-old Flora Fox’s reality when on the train ride to Penrice, her new posh boarding school, she awakens from a nap to find herself transported to St. Winifred’s circa 1935. Flora’s roommates cast a spell that brought her back in time and the’ve pledged to help her get back to the present—but only after she completes the task she was summoned for.-Krista Vitola, Assistant Editor. Delacorte Press.

Black Radishes

Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer is a gripping middle-grade WWII adventure about a Jewish boy living in Occupied France. Black Radishes received a Sydney Taylor Honor Award given by the Association of Jewish Librarians, and Kirkus stated that the book “raises important questions about nationalism, equality and identity and fills a void in Holocaust literature for this age group.” Accessible and layered for a variety of comprehension levels, Black Radishes has more potential than ever, as it is a perfect selection for Common Core reading lists and includes an author’s note that explains the real-life story that inspired the author, who continues to speak at conferences and schools!  -Rebecca Short, Assistant Editor

Here Comes the Garbage Barge

Why do I love HERE COMES THE GARBAGE BARGE! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio? Let me count the ways…. I am big on introducing kids to the idea of taking care of our planet, but I hate anything with even a whiff of didacticism.  I love quirky illustrations that make a strong first impression, but can be pored over time and time again.  I adore a great read-aloud, with wacky dialogue that invites me to use my over-the-top acting skills. And I’m a fan of books that are based on a true but little-known piece of history—there’s nothing like learning something new!  How Jonah Winter and Red Nose Studio have managed to satisfy all of these requirements in a single title is truly a marvel.      –Anne Schwartz, VP & Publisher

Clever Jack

One of my favorite Schwartz & Wade backlist picture books is CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. There is something old-fashioned yet completely fresh about this modern fairy tale, and I can’t imagine any kid not being completely entertained by it.  It’s definitely an adventure story complete with a troll, sinister woods and a princess, but what I love most about it is that, at its core, it is a story about the importance and joy of story telling. When poor, but resourceful, Jack arrives at the princess’s birthday party with nothing but a truly exciting story to give to her, readers wait in anticipation to see how the spoiled princess will respond.  When she exclaims, “A story! And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift!” I for one, feel like cheering. -Lee Wade, VP & Publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books

Princess Hyacinth

One of my favorite picture books from Schwartz & Wade is PRINCESS HYACINTH by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Lane Smith. First of all, I am completely smitten with Smith’s eye-catching illustrations and hilarious character treatments. (I was, admittedly, already a huge fan of Smith, having grown up during the reign of the Stinky Cheese Man, which was all the rage in my second grade class.) But what really draws me to this book is the oh-so-appealing and absolutely irresistible story of a little girl with a peculiar problem: She floats. I’m not usually a huge fan of princesses and their ilk, but Heide’s rendition is notably and refreshingly un-princess-like. Princess Hyacinth is adventuresome and spunky, eager to shed the heavy royal garments designed to weigh her down. Even a non-royal like me can relate. Brava! —Stephanie Pitts, Assistant Editor

Spanking Shakespeare

My first few weeks here at Random House Children’s have been filled with delighted oohs and aahs about numerous backlist discoveries. Today’s moment of joy was realizing that SPANKING SHAKESPEARE by Jake Wizner was here, a book we all loved for its fresh, subversive humor and geek-chic boy appeal. (It’s not just a brilliant title…!) -Michelle H. Nagler, Associate Publishing Director

Bulu

I love true dog stories, so it’s so big surprise that BULU: AFRICAN WONDER DOG is one of my favorite books. That said, BULU is much more than your typical true dog story. It’s a true adventure story about a British couple who move to Zambia to open a wildlife education center in the bush. Besides grappling with crocodiles, lions, poisonous snakes, charging elephants, tsetse-flies, and rainy seasons that keep them isolated from civilization for months at a time, they must battle armed poachers, intense poverty, and a lack of medical supplies that will make American readers thank their lucky stars. Author Dick Houston has been a safari leader for more than 30 years, and he writes about modern Africa as it really is. Dog-loving teens and adults looking for a gripping true story that will have you thinking about a lot more than just dogs need look no further! -Alice Jonaitis, Senior Editor

Cowboy Small

I considered myself a big Lois Lenski fan when I acquired the rights to reissue over a dozen of her out-of-print picture books back in the late 90s. Now that I have a 19 month old son to share the Mr. Small books with…well, this is LOVE! Charlie is particularly fond of COWBOY SMALL (the board book version, which is easier to read with a child on your lap). The big attraction has to be the clean, spare design, and the wonderful sound effects: “cloppety, cloppety, clop!” and “Yipp-pee! Yip-pee!” as Cowboy Small rides Cactus in the round up. Yep, a “horsie” is a big draw. Charlie even tries to join in on “Home on the Range” when Cowboy Small serenades his fellow cowpokes ’round the campfire. I say, trot this one out when you a need a baby shower gift that a new mom is unlikely to have! -Heidi Kilgras, Editorial Director

Book of the Maidservant

In her medieval historical novel, The Book of the Maidservant, Rebecca Barnhouse tells the story of a serving girl whose pious mistress abandons her on a pilgrimage, forcing the maidservant to find her own way to Rome. This can be paired with the nonfiction primary source that inspired it, The Book of Margery Kempe, to support common core standards. -Diane Landolf, Editor

Brain Jack

In Brian Falkner’s truly chilling sci-fi thriller, Brain Jack, a brilliant teen computer hacker gets his hands on the latest tech—the neuro-headset, Internet at the speed of thought. But it doesn’t take long for him to realize that if his computer is vulnerable to a hack, nothing good can come from his mind being linked to the system. As we inch closer to these kinds of devices with products such as Google Glass, this thought-provoking page turner will make you think twice about hurrying out to buy the latest tech. -Chelsea Eberly, Associate Editor

Pirate Mom

Deborah Underwood became well known for The Quiet Book, but before that, she wrote Pirate Mom, which is the complete opposite of quiet. It’s a laugh-out-loud beginning reader about a boy named Pete whose mom gets hypnotized into thinking she’s a pirate, and then wears an eyepatch, flies a pirate flag over their house, and chases the mailman with a wooden spoon. Plus Stephen Gilpin’s illustrations are dead funny—I crack up every time I see the Amazing Marco’s twirled mustache and his baby son’s matching top hat. -Jennifer Arena, Editorial Director

Maude March

If you’ve ever wished for a girl power wild west adventure, this is it! The Misadventures of Maude March is just plain Fun with a capital F-it’s the  rip roaringly fast paced, hilariously funny story of Maude and Sallie March-two orphaned sisters who become unwitting outlaws on the lamb! Written by  Newbery Honor winner Audrey Couloumbis, it’s one of my all-time favorite reads and guaranteed to appeal to fans of Little House on the Prairie, strong, sassy heroines, and anyone who ever had the urge to gallop off on a rollicking adventure! -Shana Corey, Executive Editor

Sylvie

Sylvie written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler is both goofy and magical and who can resist that spindly flamingo? The mystery of color has always fascinated me and I love the imaginative premise of this book.  In a children’s book world of mice, rabbits, and bears, this flamingo deserves to be front and center. -Maria Modugno, Editorial Director, Picture Books

saving francesca

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta will always be a personal favorite on the Knopf list. The characters are genuine and frank; their troubles relatable and their intentions true. While following Francesca through a year as one of only 30 girls at a traditionally all boys school, the reader is privy to witty quips with classmates, strained interaction with family, and awkward conversation—and kisses—with a crush. Yet this is much more than the usual high school fare. It incorporates timeless issues like depression and peer pressure with nuance and humor. Honest, funny, and sparkling with personality, Francesca is a charmer, and a book I always hand to friends of any age. -Kelly Delaney, Assistant Editor

Tender Morsels

Tender Morsels is my gold standard for what literary YA should be—and I’m in good company: the book won a Printz Honor, a World Fantasy Award and was named Best of the Year by at least 6 review journals. Margo is a challenging author to read, but the payoff is immense. Those who invest the time tend to emerge from her novels sobbing and singing her praises to the moon. It’s a shame that her critical acclaim hasn’t translated to bigger sales. I feel like there’s an untapped audience of adult crossover readers—fans of Ursula LeGuin, Garth Nix, Margaret Atwood even!—who would fall head over heels for Margo’s writing if they found her. -Katherine R. HarrisonAssistant Editor

A Little Wanting Song

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley (also the author of the fantastic Graffiti Moon!): This is the story of one spectacular summer and two very different girls—shy, introspective Charlie and outspoken, restless Rose—who find themselves drawn into an unexpected friendship.  I adore this book for so many reasons: the strong, distinct alternating voices; the music references and Charlie’s aching, honest song lyrics sprinkled throughout; the way the characters pull you into their lives; and the way Cath Crowley explores grief, longing, and electrifying first love.  This novel was an ALA-YALSA BFYA and received a starred review from SLJ that sums it up beautifully: “Charlie’s voice is unforgettable: every page sings. . . . Give this incredible, satisfying book to fans of Sarah Dessen, Karen Foxlee, Melina Marchetta, Ellen Wittlinger—actually, give it to any teen girl who longs a little and feels too much.”  -Allison Wortche, Editor

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

Kimberly Newton Fusco is a luminous writer. Her books make young readers feel both the pain in the world and the beauty—and show them the healing power of friendship.  THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE is the tender, generous story of an interracial friendship between two young girls during the Depression.  It was acclaimed by many reviewers, and I love these lines from a starred review in Kirkus that capture its spirit: “Good humor, kindness and courage triumph in this warm, richly nuanced novel that cheers the heart like a song sweetly sung.”  I know kids would respond to this gem of a book, if it could find its way into their hands.  And because Kim’s writing is spare and lyrical, it goes down fast and can reach a broad audience of both confident and more reluctant readers. -Michelle Frey, Editor

The American Story

The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by Roger Roth:  This terrific collection of stories really makes history come alive.  Each story is only 3 or 4 pages, but it’s hard to read just one—there’s a note at the end of each story pointing to other stories on related topics, and I love flipping back and forth in the book that way, seeing how all these big moments in history connect.  This is my go-to gift for families with children—there’s something here for everyone! -Nancy Siscoe, Senior Executive Editor

Kitten Tale

A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann: This wonderful book about how three timid kittens and one very curious one first experience snow came out several years ago.  Eric Rohmann has so many outstanding books, but I really think this one is spot-on about kid-worries, and the power of a positive attitude.  The illustrations are some of my favorites, and it reads aloud like a dream! -Nancy Siscoe, Senior Executive Editor

Many THANKS to our editors for these lovely book recommendations, and for all of the wonderful books they bring us all year long!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Happy Reading!

Author Jane Kohuth Joins Us

September 24, 2013

Today we welcome Jane Kohuth to RAoR.  Jane is the author of the early reader Ducks Go Vroom, and the picture book Estie the Mensch. Her newest early reader is Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree, a non-fiction book that offers young readers, and adults too, a fascinating perspective on the young girl and this period in history. 

Anne Franks Chestnut Tree

I want to say thank you for inviting me to Random Acts of Reading to talk about my new book. Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree comes out today!.

I could probably go on for pages about my experience writing this book, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s my first non-fiction book. Second, it was a HUGE challenge to write. I’ve been following developments with the Common Core, but a couple of years ago I had no plans to write non-fiction. I had written two books for Random House — the Step Into Reading book, Ducks Go Vroom and the picture book Estie the Mensch. Then my editor, Christy Webster, got in touch and asked if I would like to write an addition to the Step Into Reading series of biographies. They wanted to add more books about women and non-Americans and had in mind a Step Three book about Anne Frank. I had the background in writing early readers, and Christy knew that I had studied Jewish history in graduate school. But I was floored. Write about Anne Frank? For elementary school students? In one thousand words and simple sentences? I would be hard-pressed to come up with a more challenging assignment.

I have a vivid memory of the first time the Holocaust was taught in my third grade Hebrew School classroom. It was an upsetting experience — it could not have been otherwise — but perhaps it could have been more graspable if the teacher had had access to children’s books on the subject. Instead there were disturbing facts and horrible black and white photos.  Since the 1980s, many fine books about the Holocaust for children have been published, so I would certainly not be the first one to face the harrowing task of presenting this material in both an honest and age-appropriate way. But could I really do it? Reading The Diary of a Young Girl when I was in middle school was one of my formative reading experiences. Suddenly those facts, those photos, were transformed into a voice, the voice of a real girl like me, speaking directly to me, it seemed, out of the darkness of history. How could I do justice to Anne Frank the person and Anne Frank the writer in an early reader? How could I say anything about Anne that she had not said better herself? Yet, I said yes. Yes, I would write about Anne Frank. It might be a challenging subject, but it was also one of the worthiest. Who better to talk to children about such a terrible time than a child, an intelligent, soulful, articulate child, who had lived through it?

So I embarked on research. My first task was to find an angle or lens through which to structure Anne’s story. Step Into Reading biographies focus not on their subjects entire lives, but on particular aspects of their lives which help illuminate the person for the reader. This is fortunate, as having a focus enabled me to hone my material and sculpt it into something that could fit into early reader guidelines. I read the Definitive Edition of Anne’s Diary and looked at the Critical Edition, which shows all versions of Anne’s text side by side: her original text, the text she edited herself with a view to publication, and the version published originally by her father Otto Frank. I read biographies, memoirs by Anne’s friends, articles, and all the other children’s books I could find that had been written about her. There were so many things I wanted to say about Anne Frank! So many things I discovered that I wanted to share with young readers! But I had to choose a focus, and in the end, my editor and I decided to write about Anne’s ideas about nature and the story of the chestnut tree that grew outside the Secret Annex.

In my research, I was struck with how much nature had meant to Anne. Stuck inside for years, she developed a philosophy of the power of nature to calm suffering and bring peace. She wrote short stories on the topic as well as diary entries. And the tree she had watched from the attic window had a story of its own. People had rallied to save it when it became sick in the mid-2000s, but in 2010 it fell in a  storm. Now saplings from the tree were traveling to various corners of the world to carry on Anne’s legacy. Here was a way in to Anne’s story for children. Children, I thought, could conceive of what it might be like to be trapped inside and how difficult that would be. Children would be able to think of a favorite tree or a favorite place in nature and how it made them feel.

RAoR Anne Frank CT first spread

My initial draft of the book was four times longer than it needed to be. It was only by, finally, thinking of the book as a poem (and through heroic work by my editor), that I was able to bring it down to the required thousand words.  It is not a comprehensive biography of Anne Frank, but I hope it is a compelling introduction to her life that prompts readers to want to know more. I wanted to add more back matter for students, parents, and teachers, to help them find more context, but the Step Into Reading format just didn’t allow it. I’m hoping to be able to provide some material online.

Some people have argued that Anne Frank is only one of a million murdered children, others that she been turned into a symbol rather than the real girl she was. It is true that Anne’s is one of many stories that should be told. It is also true that we can over-idealize Anne. She was a complicated and sometimes difficult teenager. But she was also an extraordinary writer. I was struck, reading her work as an adult, how intentional and polished her prose is, how eloquent. Like any great writer, Anne deserves to be known and read. Her ideas about nature also deserve to be considered. In an age when we must think carefully about how we will treat our planet going forward, Anne’s idea about the importance of nature to our inner lives and its connection to the divine are worth hearing more than ever. The trees being planted around the world in her honor are one small way to spread her legacy. I hope that my book is another.

In addition to writing, I also visit schools (in person and via Skype) to talk about my books and give writing workshops. I would be happy to visit with you to talk about Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree. To learn more about my visits, or me, or my other books, please visit my website at www.janekohuth.com and feel free to get in touch!

Ducks Go Vroom

Estie the Mensch

Many Thanks to Jane Kohuth for joining us and sharing the story of how she wrote Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree, and for all of your books!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Hooray for New Books – September Highlights!

September 19, 2013

It’s almost Fall here in the northeast, my neighborhood even had a little frost last night, so that means it’s time for a special crop of new titles. In today’s post you’ll find just a sampling of the new titles you’ll find in your favorite bookstore or library this month, just in time for being back in the classroom, or a little holiday gift shopping, it’s never too early for that!

Dog Loves Counting by Louise Yates

Dog Loves Counting

We LOVE Dog! He’s opened a bookstore, and learned to draw his very own adventures, and now he’s helping us to count! Totally charming, entertaining and a little bit educational, you’ll want to read these books again and again. Totally enjoyable reading with the little ones, or for your grownups on your own too!

Making Contact! by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Richard Rudnicki

making contact

One of our favorite non-fiction authors, the writer who makes history fun, Monica Kulling, brings us that latest volume in the Great Idea series–featuring Marconi, the father of “the wireless”. Did you ever marvel about your cell phone, or how your computer connection is always available, with no wires? Well, none of that would be possible without Guglielmo Marconi, and thanks to his persistence, on December 12, 1901, for the first time ever, a wireless signal traveled between two continents. And the rest is history, really interesting history. Great for young inventors, teachers and mom and dad too!

Everything I Need to Know I learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow

Everything LGB

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book–it’s funny, sweet, nostalgic, and the best gift ever! ” A humorous “guide to life” for grown-ups! One day, Diane Muldrow, a longtime editor of the iconic Little Golden Books, realized that, despite their whimsical appearance, there was hardly a real-life situation that hadn’t been covered in the more than 70-year-old line of children’s books—from managing money, to the importance of exercise, to finding contentment in the simplest things. In this age of debt, depression, and diabetes, could we adults use a refresher course in the gentle lessons from these adorable books, she wondered—a “Little Golden guide to life”? Yes, we could! Muldrow’s humorous yet practical tips for getting the most out of life (“Don’t forget to enjoy your wedding!” “Be a hugger.” “Sweatpants are bad for morale.”), drawn from more than 60 stories, are paired with delightful images from these best-loved children’s books of all time—among them The Poky Little Puppy, Pantaloon, Mister Dog, Nurse Nancy, We Help Mommy, Five Pennies to Spend, and The Little Red Hen. The Golden greats of children’s illustration are represented here as well: Richard Scarry, Garth Williams, Eloise Wilkin, J. P. Miller, and Mary Blair, among many others. Sure to bring memories and a smile, this book is a perfect gift for baby boomers, recent grads, lovers of children’s literature—or anyone who cherishes the sturdy little books with the shiny cardboard covers and gold foil spines!”

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman

Sky Jumpers

Hope lives in a town of inventors struggling to recover after World War III, and worst of all she’s not a very good inventor. She would rather spend her time “diving” into the potentially deadly Bomb’s Breath left by the green bombs, she’s very good at that. This is a terrific story filled with intrigue and peril and ultimately we find that Hope and her friends Aaron and Brock might be the only ones who can save their world from the bandits determined to the bandits.

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

The Great Trouble

I often say that I re-learn all of the history I’ve forgotten when I read children’s books. Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble is a book for readers like me, it’s inspired by history and told in a way that history becomes a thriller. “Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, The Great Troubleis a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic.” Historical fiction at it’s best.

Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin Van Draanen

SK Killer Cruise

I still remember reading my very first Sammy Keyes Mystery, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. I loved Sammy and her green hightops and her Grandma and her quirky collection of friends. It’s hard to believe that this is the last Sammy Keyes mystery, but in this one she is definitely going out in style. This last adventure is a locked room mystery, on a cruise ship, that only Sammy can solve. And if you’ve never experienced these books then you’re in for a real treat. Hop on board and enjoy the ride!

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

The Waking Dark

A horror novel in the spirit of Stephen King that will keep you up late into the night. Sure it will totally creep you out in all the best ways, and it will leave you looking over your shoulder for a day or two after you finish it, but most of all you’ll keep reading this because this story of a town in Kansas where “something is wrong” will make you want to know what’s coming next, and next and next. Impossible to put down, “Great dialogue and intriguing subplots add to the action-packed story . . . the suspense doesn’t let up until the final pages.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review Perfect for your teen horror fan and adult readers too!

Thanks for joining us today at RAoR, I hope you have a long list of new titles to pick up at the bookstore or library!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Joshua Dread: He’s Back!!!

September 17, 2013

Today our colleague Bobbie joins us with a review of Lee Bacon’s JOSHUA DREAD series. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, you’ll be adding them to your must read list after you’ve read what she has to say!

Almost a year ago, I introduced you to a new series in a post called Joshua Dread: The Next Great Superhero/Villain? You can check it out here. I was brimming with excitement after reading the first installment of Lee Bacon’s Joshua Dread series and anxious to share it with the world.

Joshua Dread

Here we are, ten months later, with the release of Book 2 just around the corner and my love for the series continues! The first book captivated an audience of young readers craving a smart, funny, and energetic story about a new kind of hero. Joshua isn’t tough. He isn’t big. But he is a good friend, a normal kid—someone any other kid can relate to. The only thing different about Joshua is, well, he has superpowers…

We learn in Book 1 that unlike his super-villain parents, Joshua wants to use his super powers for good rather than evil. If you haven’t read the first book yet, I will not ruin anything for you—it’s a treat to read. Suffice to say that we end book one with the understanding that Joshua’s parents may be putting their villainous powers to rest, if only for a little while.

The beauty of Book 2, The Nameless Hero, is that you don’t need to be familiar with Book 1 to enjoy or understand the read. Bacon does a good job of setting things up and creating a fresh story that stands on its own, while still serving the overarching story that moves the series forward.

Joshua Dread Book 2

In The Nameless Hero, Joshua Dread receives an invitation to Gyfted & Talented, the mysterious program for kids with superpowers and his plans for a normal summer turn upside down. Evil maniac Phineas Vex is still alive—and he wants Joshua dead. So if G&T can help prepare Joshua for battle, he’s all in. And so are his friends Sophie and Milton, the two sidekicks that see him through the first book.

Unbeknownst to them, Joshua and his friends have been chosen to form the greatest superhero team of all time, as long as they make it through G&T’s rigorous training. Suddenly Joshua is thrust into the media spotlight, and it’s not as glamorous as people think. And more than that, what if his supervillain parents find out that the new celebrity superhero is . . . Joshua?

As you can guess, the second book doesn’t disappoint. It’s as funny, genuine, and as high-impact as the first. I’d recommend it to readers of comics, action-adventure stories, humor, and just about anything in between.

I will be sitting down with author Lee Bacon at the end of September to discuss his inspiration for and thoughts on the Joshua Dread series. I’m sure it’ll prove to be a fun and whacky conversation! Look out for a future post that will include the link to the taped interview!

And enjoy The Nameless Hero when it hits stores next Tuesday, September 24th.

Many Thanks to Bobbie for this great post, and thank you to all of our readers for joining us at RAoR today!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Author Deborah Hopkinson Joins Us!

September 12, 2013

We’re joined today by award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson, author of the recently released THE GREAT TROUBLE, a terrific new middle grade novel based on the London cholera epidemic of 1854.

The Great Trouble

Deborah, you’ve written some incredible historical fiction over the years — Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; Sky Boys; Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek; A Boy Called Dickensto name a few. What prompted your interest in writing about different time periods? And which is your favorite or most memorable era to write about?

I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t actually realize how much I loved history until I began writing children’s literature.  In part, I’m just not very good at fantasy, humor, or science!  But, as I tell students during author visits, one of the best things about being a writer is being able to discover things I never knew and share them with others, and that is what writing about history enables me to do.

I’m especially interested in the 19th century because so much happened then.  I grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution in America, so perhaps it was always part of my world view.  And the period is so rich it’s hard to run out of subject matter to explore – from the Civil War, to women’s rights, Westward expansion, and the emergence of modern science and medicine, it’s a treasure trove of stories waiting to be told.

I have to admit, though, as much as I love writing about 19th century America, one of the best things about working on The Great Trouble was being able to immerse myself in the London of Dickens. My own favorite books are set there, and I’m especially excited that Listening Library found Matthew Frow, a talented young British actor, to bring the voice of Eel to life for listeners.
THE GREAT TROUBLE is part medical mystery, part survival story, part Dickensian adventure based on a real public health scare — the 1854 London cholera epidemic. What drew you to this subject? And how much did you know about Dr. Snow before you started your research?

 I think I have to give credit to NPR, not just for a story that prompted me to write the historical fiction story that became my first book, Sweet Clara, years ago, but also for covering Steven Johnson’s 2006 adult nonfiction title, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed, Science, Cities, and the Modern World.  I can’t recall exactly when I heard a review, but it prompted me to get a copy, which is how I first learned about Dr. John Snow, who is considered the father of public health.

The Common Core Standards are now calling for fourth graders to read 50% fiction and 50% nonfiction, but in this case I felt that telling the story through historical fiction and being able to put Eel and Florrie at the center of the action would help the time period come alive for young readers.  (And the book will, I hope, be useful for the Common Core.  We have an Educator’s Guide and my wonderful editor Allison Wortche allowed me to  include more than 16 pages of back matter.

What’s especially striking to me now, of course, is that cholera is in the news today, with the recent outbreak in Haiti.  Dr. Snow hoped that, “the time will arrive when great outbreaks of cholera will be things of the past.”   We still have much to do to prevent future outbreaks.

The hero of the story, besides Dr. Snow, is a young orphan named Eel. How did you perfectly channel the story from a 13-year-old boy’s point of view?

Well, I’m not sure about that, but thank you for the compliment!  I’m fortunate enough to be the parent of both a daughter and a son, and I love asking both boys and girls at school visits what kind of books they like to read.  Also, when I was growing up, I read a lot of disaster and adventure stories, along with books about World War II. When I was a girl, there weren’t as many adventure books with female heroines.  I’m not sure that makes it easier to imagine being a boy in London in 1854, but I did my best – and having a great narrator like Matthew Frow for the audio version helps a lot.

I assume the research is part of the fun in writing. Can you describe your process?

 Research is definitely fun, and learning new things is one reason I love historical fiction and nonfiction.  I read extensively, and also peruse the bibliographies of academic works to find new sources. With The Great Trouble, I also was incredibly lucky to be able to spend a week in London.  This gave me the chance to walk along what was now Broad Street, see the actual location of the pump, sit in Golden Square park, and trace a path to the street where Dr. John Snow lived.

Of course, a lot has changed since 1854, but as I tell students during author visits, there is something special about being able to see things with your own eyes.

If you could go back in time to visit and/or live, what time period would you choose and why?

 How is your writing process different when you create a middle grade novel such as THE GREAT TROUBLE as opposed to a picture book? Which do you prefer and why?

When you’re not writing or researching, what do you like to do in your spare time?

In addition to writing, I serve as vice president for Advancement at Pacific Northwest College of Art, a college of art and design here in Portland, Oregon.  It’s sometimes challenging to have two careers, but I believe strongly in education, and find it rewarding to be working to help make a college education affordable for students.  And when I do have spare time, I like to work out at the gym, which gives me the energy to meet all my deadlines!

What can we next expect from you that you can share with us today?

I’m working on a new middle grade novel set in the late 1800s in New York City, along with three upcoming picture books from Schwartz and Wade.   One of them is set in Great Britain – and I’m saving up my miles so that I can go back to London again!

Hopkinson2011a

Thank you so much, Deborah, and we look forward to reading more of your engaging and fascinating work.

And thank you to my colleague Susan who suggested this post and worked on the brilliant questions!

Thanks to you, our readers, for joining us, and please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Author Trudy Ludwig Joins Us

September 10, 2013

Trudy Ludwig is a children’s advocate and bestselling author of eight books that help children cope with and thrive in their social world. Her newest release, The Invisible Boya Junior Library Guild Selection, will be available this October. Today, as we approach the 50th Anniversary of  the Birmingham Church Bombing on September 15th, and we’ve just passed the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I HAVE A DREAM speech, Trudy joins us to share her thoughts about dreaming big, and the idea that it’s never too early to teach our children to value and respect all of their fellow human beings.

I have a dream

Dreaming  Big

by Trudy Ludwig

All it takes is a quick perusal of current national and international news headlines to make the biggest dreamer in us all take stock and truly question whether Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of  “a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” will ever become a reality. After all, history has a nasty way of reminding us, time and again, that hatred has no borders. But does that mean we should give up dreaming big? More to the point, should we give up hope that our children and our children’s children can do better and be better in how we treat others—regardless of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political or religious beliefs? Absolutely not! As Dr. King sagely advised us, we must have the faith to “…be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Time for a Reality Check

America has made some significant headway in civil rights since Dr. King gave his landmark speech 50 years ago. But the reality is that we can always do more. And we can always do better. Take, for example, the poor role modeling going on in the media and business world, as well as in our local and national government, schools, and homes. That and our own emotional baggage can easily skew how we view and treat those we encounter in life. Instead of judging individuals by “the content of their character,” as Dr. King aptly put it, we judge them by how we choose to see them, ignoring the fundamental truth that there are the kind and the cruel in every group of people. If we expect our kids to address and prevent hatred, prejudice, and stereotyping, we need more adults to step up to the plate and be better role models for them.

The reality is that our children aren’t just our future. They’re also our present. By encouraging them now to notice, care, and respond to the injustices they see out there in the world, we’re reinforcing the core notion that every person has value and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  In so doing, we continue to lay the groundwork for a more just and compassionate society.

I truly believe in the power of our words and actions to plant the seeds of change in the world.  It is every generation’s responsibility to refrain from passing their prejudices on to the next generation. And if we can do this, perhaps, in time, we’ll finally achieve Dr. King’s dream of a promised land.

Trudy Ludwig is a children’s advocate and bestselling author of eight books that help children cope with and thrive in their social world. Her newest release, The Invisible Boy, a Junior Library Guild Selection, will be available this October wherever books are sold. For more information about Trudy and her books, visit http://www.trudyludwig.com.

Invisible Boy

Confessions of a Former Bully

My Secret Bully

Many Thanks to Trudy Ludwig for joining us at RAoR today!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.