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.
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!
Louise Yates has written and illustrated a book for all of the book and bookstore lovers! In Dog Loves Books, our 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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
When Meggie’s father reads from the book Inkheart, in the book Inkheart, a 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.
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!
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:
In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, renowned 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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 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. Harrison, Assistant Editor
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
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: 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.