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December 17, 2013

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Close Out 2013 with Books, Books and More Books!

Hello readers!

I'm Shara Zaval, the new Editorial Manager at I've been working at the Book Report for about a month, but it's great to finally "meet" all of you in my first for Parents newsletter! It feels a little strange to be talking about "firsts", though, when you and your children's minds are thoroughly entrenched in "lasts" --- the last few days of school before winter break (I hope you're coming up with activities to keep your kids busy), the last, completely hectic week of buying presents for those on your holiday list (I am sure there is at least SOMETHING on the list, which is a "tough to find" item) and the last couple of weeks until 2013 comes to a close.

So, to get more on your wavelength, I'm have a "last"-themed introduction to me. Here it goes!

Last book I read: THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE. I had to write interview questions about this book, so it was a great excuse to read it and get transported to ancient Egypt (and the set of an old Hollywood movie). However, the last book I started was THE RIVERMAN by Aaron Starmer which comes out in January. I'm about halfway through and loving it so out for this one!

Last food I ate: Rum cake. One of our authors sends a homemade rum cake to the office every year, and it's drizzled with glaze and covered with walnuts. It may have been only 10:30am, but it was definitely a good choice.

Last place I lived: Chicago. I've only lived in New York City for three months. I don't miss the wind and the prejudice against ketchup, but I definitely miss the people, Lake Michigan and having an elevated train system (phones don't work underground...).

Last job I had: Before becoming Editorial Manager at Kidsreads and Teenreads, I was a book publicist at iPg/Trafalgar Square Publishing. I worked with kids books and adult books that were pubilshed in the UK and Australia, and tried to get them attention in the US media. (Secret confession: I've definitely tried to get some of the books that I worked on reviewed on!)

Last play I saw: Matilda. They made a musical of the Roald Dahl book and it's playing in NYC right now. This is my favorite book so it was incredible to see it come to life. I thought the sets were amazing (they reminded me of a really cool, colorful Scrabble board) and all of the choreography complemented the songs, perfectly. I would definitely suggest it if you're in the NYC area!

Last place I traveled: Scotland. My best friend went to graduate school there, so we traveled around Edinburgh and north to a tiny, isolated island called the Isle of Skye. It was lambing season so all of the hills were covered in baby sheep, and it was so windy that a waterfall looked like it was going backwards, and falling up instead of down. I promise that I'm not making this up.

Last thing I did before I went to work: Fed my cat. This might sound incredibly boring, but my roommate got a pet cat two days ago so I am still ridiculously excited about it. She's gray and white and named Zora (like the author Zora Neale Hurston). She is The Best.

Alright alright, enough about me! Now onto what you really care about...books! We have a lot of fun features for your kids to check out on the site this month.

First, we asked our team of reviewers to tell us their favorite children's books of 2013. We know that with some time off from school, your children will have plenty of time to read this month, so consider picking up some of these recommendations. Our reviewer Anita said that she liked AFRICA IS MY HOME: A Child of the Amistad so much that she thanked the author for writing the book, and our reviewer Ben said THE SHADOWHAND COVENANT is “the next best thing to Harry Potter. Yes, it's that good.” Click here to read the full list.

We also got to get up-close-and-personal with a few authors this month. I attended a middle-grade and YA panel at the Jefferson Market Library in Manhattan, and was immediately captivated by Maryrose Wood as she read a chapter from the latest volume in her The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, THE INTERRUPTED TALE. You could tell that Maryrose has a background in theater, because she gave such great voices to her characters, especially the three children who were raised by wolves --- their playful, mischievous and earnest spirits definitely shone through.

When an audience member asked the authors how they balanced action and emotion when writing YA, they each gave very thoughtful answers. Matt De La Pena told a great story about meeting a young basketball player who read his basketball-themed book BALL DON'T LIE eight times, but his favorite part had nothing to do with the sport. "You get them with action, and kill them with emotion," he said. Maryrose said that she thinks that every book has an "outside story" (action) and an "inside story" (emotion), and that they have to work together. I thought it was such an interesting idea that I asked her to write a guest article about it --- you can see the results here!

Our other author spotlight is THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE author Bianca Turetsky. Bianca has already written two other novels featuring Louise --- a girl who tries on vintage clothing that transports her throughout history --- and now she's taking the endearing middle-schooler to the heart of Ancient Egypt: Cleopatra's court. We asked Bianca to take us behind the scenes of the book, and she shared some cool Egyptian facts (Cleopatra was Greek, not Egyptian!), her favorite middle grade books (The Nancy Drew series and The Babysitter's Club series), and her favorite era (the 20's!). Read the full interview here.

We also updated our historical fiction round-ups with some excellent 2013 titles, and found some picture books that we're hugely excited about. I LOVE the Minedition version of HANSEL & GRETEL, which uses paper-cutting and transparent flaps to make a completely atmospheric version of the tale. There's also LOVE MONSTER, which the editor showed us in a meeting last week and I thought was the cutest thing in the an ugly-cute way. Keep it in mind for Valentine's Day if your kids are tired of pink hearts and fluffy bunnies (or even if they're not).

And we can't forget about the book based on one of the most popular YouTube videos of all time. That's right, What Does the Fox Say? now has its own picture book! The spreads include all of the lyrics, and the illustrations capture the eerie yet silly tone of the video. How do you think the book compares? And can you get the song out of your head?

Further in this newsletter you'll find information on the Children's Book Week bookstore, which is a perfect place to shop for the young bookworms in your life. Gifts range from mugs to posters to bags and feature designs by well-known children's book illustrators. We also have the Cool & New round-up, New in Paperback round-up, Books on Screen feature, poll AND a whole bunch of new reviews, including THE ROYAL RANGER by John Flanagan and HOW THE WORLD WORKS by Clive Gifford. Whew! That is a lot to keep on reading!

And lastly, we wanted to quickly call your attention to the Infinity Ring: Secrets series, a new e-short spin-off of the Infinity Ring series. There are seven books in all, and starting on Christmas Day, you can get new one each day for only 99 cents! That should be some fun reading and definitely will be enough to captivate the young Infinity Ring fan(s) that you know until the next book, THE IRON EMPIRE by James Dashner, comes out in February 2014.

For fun in the photo on the upper right, see a holiday tree that was constructed from books. We know the person who built it and it looks a LOT easier to build than it was, in case you are inspired to try this at home!

OK, OK, no more from me! Happy holidays, and I look forward to sharing more books with you and your children next year!

--- Shara Zaval (

Our Reviewers Select Their 2013 Favorites!

There's no better way to start an argument with self-proclaimed book nerds than to ask "what is the best children's book of 2013?" We decided to get our lovely reviewers involved in the debate by asking them to list their favorites and explain why they like them. Click here to view their choices, and see if you agree!

Guest Article: Maryrose Wood on the Inside Story vs. the Outside Story

Maryrose Wood has captured our hearts with The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, which follows Penelope Lunley, a 15-year-old girl who graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and now works as a governess for three children who were raised by wolves. In conjunction with the release of the fourth book in the series, THE INTERRUPTED TALE, Maryrose gives us some insight into how she finds the right balance between plot and action (the "outside" story) and her characters' emotional development (the "inside" story) while writing.

She says, "The Incorrigible Children books are filled with daring schemes and clever sleuthing, comically wolfish hijinks and plenty of howling, too. But all the while, as they share adventure after adventure, Penelope and the three Incorrigible children are slowly but surely becoming a family. That’s the inside/outside dynamic at work."

Click here to read the whole article!

Historical Fiction Reading Lists - 2013 Update

History class making you think the past is dusty and dull? Make history come alive with a little help from the historical fiction reading lists!

We just did an update and added some great 2013 books to our two historical fiction lists --- Before the 20th Century and 20th Century and Onward. Including stories of the World War II Kindertransport (MY FAMILY FOR THE WAR by Anne C. Voorhoeve), a friendship between a Native American boy and a settler in Indiana Territory in 1812 (SALT by Helen Frost) and a troupe of traveling Vaudeville performers (BLUFFTON by Matt Phelan), there is sure to be something for everyone.

Interview with Bianca Turetsky on Writing, Time-Travel and Fashion
We've seen plenty of ways to travel through time in books and movies --- you can ride a car across the space-time continuum like Marty McFly in Back to the Future or climb into an enchanted tree house like Jack and Annie in The Magic Tree House series. But how about time-traveling by visiting a fabulous vintage store, and trying on clothing that whisks you away to the Titanic in 1912, Marie Antoinette's palace or Cleopatra's court? That's what happens in Bianca Turetsky's The Time-Traveling Fashionista series --- and it sounds thoroughly delightful to us! We interviewed Bianca about the latest book in the series, THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE, and she shared the most interesting fact she learned while researching Cleopatra, revealed her own fashion tips, and told us where she'd go if she were lucky enough to be a Time-Traveling Fashionista, herself.
Click here to read the full interview!

Shop the Children’s Book Week Store This Holiday Season!

We know that holiday shopping is getting down to the wire. Instead of grabbing the first thing you see at Toys "R" Us just so you have something give, consider going to the Children's Book Week store online to get the perfect gift for your favorite bookworm! Click this link to learn how to purchase prints, posters, t-shirts, mugs, calendars and more featuring designs created for Children’s Book Week by well-known children's book illustrators, including Maurice Sendak, Tomi dePaola, Rosemary Wells, Lane Smith, Ian Falconer, Kevin Henkes, and more. It also offers an easy opportunity to do some good, as proceeds from the Children’s Book Week store benefit Every Child a Reader (ECAR), the 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children.

Happy shopping!

How Many Books Have You Read This Year?

Have your kids had an insanely busy year, and only been able to cram in those books assigned for class? Or have they read every spare (and not so spare) moment, hidden under the covers after you put them to bed or at the dinner table? Have them take our poll to let us know whether they read less than 10 books, more than 100, or anywhere in between! Here is the link.

Holiday Books Roundup 2013
Whether you are looking for stocking stuffers or just some new books to curl up and read on a cold, snowy day, this is the list for you. Here is a list of holiday books that we are sure will warm the hearts of readers both young and old.

Click here to view our 2013 Holiday Books roundup.

Books on Screen

It has been far too long since we've had any hobbits, wizards or dwarfs in our lives! Starting December 13, you can travel back to Middle Earth with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy. This time, Bilbo, Gandalf and a host of other creatures journey across the continent to restore surly leader Thorin Oakenshield to his throne, and Legolas joins the group to help fight an epic battle.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry

Director: Peter Jackson
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 13th (wide)
Based On: THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company continues East, encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all --- a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself --- the Dragon Smaug.

Click here to view our December Books on Screen.

December's New Picture Books Roundup

Although there aren’t many new picture books published in December, we’re really excited about this select bunch! Reversing the book-to-movie trend, WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? actually started out as a YouTube video --- and it got more than 275 MILLION views! The picture book pairs the lyrics with playful, almost otherworldly illustrations. There are also a couple of adorable animal-centric love stories that made our list --- PAUL MEETS BERNADETTE and PENGUIN IN LOVE. Who knew that goldfish and penguins could be so sweet? And we found a pair of stunning, paper-cut editions of classic tales --- PINOCCHIO: A CUT-PAPER BOOK from Tango Books and HANSEL AND GRETEL from Minedition. PINOCCHIO actually came out in October, but it makes fantastic use of texture and contrast and brings a timeless, stirring quality to the story. The cover of HANSEL AND GRETEL doesn’t do it justice --- check out the German video of someone flipping through the pages here.

Click here to see December's New Picture Books roundup.

December’s Cool & New Books Roundup
December's roundup of Cool & New Books includes WISE ACRES: The Seventh Circle of Heck by Dale E. Basye, where Milton and Marlo Fauster are sent to the circle of Heck reserved for the cleverest, snarkiest, put-downiest kids; the penultimate book in the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, HOW TO BETRAY A DRAGON'S HERO, where Hiccup the Viking is faced with a personal dilemma while preparing for an impending battle; and HUNT FOR THE HYDRA, the first installment of The Jupiter Pirates series by Jason Fry, which features the adventures of three siblings who battle space pirates and vie to be the next spaceship captain.
Click here to see December’s Cool & New Books roundup.

December's New in Paperback Roundup
December's roundup of New in Paperback includes Newbery Honor winner THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage, where a girl who washed ashore a small North Carolina town 11 years ago must save the only family she's ever known from an accusatory lawman; FANCY NANCY: JUST MY LUCK! I CAN READ by Jane O'Connor, where the fanciest girl in literature discovers a list of what's lucky and what's not, and it sends her head spinning; and MAGICALIMITY by Kate Saunders, which follows a boy named Tom who has to save his dad from a pair of killer fairies.

Click here to visit our December New in Paperback feature.

New Reviews!

Check out these reviews that we just put up on!

THE CREATURE DEPARTMENT by Robert Paul Weston (Fantasy)
Elliot Von Doppler and his friend Leslie think nothing ever happens in Bickleburgh, except inside the gleaming headquarters of DENKi-3000 --- the world’s eighth-largest electronics factory. And no one except Uncle Archie knows what’s behind the second-to-last door at the end of the hall. Until Elliot and Leslie are invited to take a glimpse inside. It is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Reviewed by Sheena Kowalski

HOW THE WORLD WORKS: Know It All, From How the Sun Shines to How the Pyramids Were Built by Clive Gifford (Science)
This essential book is brimming with information about pretty much everything! Encyclopedic in scope but fresh and exciting in presentation, this is a great-value, information-packed book about the workings of the world. Detailed and eye-catching illustrations are paired with succinct, to-the-point text that explains the phenomena, processes and systems that affect our world and way of life.
Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell

THE JUPITER PIRATES: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry (Science Fiction)
The Hashoone siblings might be crew members together aboard the Shadow Comet, but only one of them can be the next captain. So when the Hashoones find themselves in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy, each sibling is desperate to prove his or her worth. The only trouble is if they don't work together, none of them may make it out alive. Reviewed by Sheena Kowalski

THE MESMER MENACE: Gadgets and Gears by Kersten Hamilton and James Hamilton (Adventure)
Welcome to the Amazing Automated Inn, home of 12-year-old inventor Wally Kennewickett, his genius scientist parents and his dashing dog, Noodles. The inn is a wonderful place for a curious boy and his loyal dog to live. That is, until President Theodore Roosevelt himself calls the elder Kennewicketts away, leaving Wally and Noodles to face the evil Mesmers, horrible hypnotists bent on controlling the minds of powerful people. Reviewed by Cyndie Stetson

THE ROYAL RANGER: The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 12
by John Flanagan (Fantasy)
As an apprentice Ranger under Halt, Will Treaty grew into a legend --- the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected. Fighting his personal demons, Will has to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion --- a task that at times seems almost impossible. Reviewed by

THE SHADOWHAND COVENANT by Brian Farrey (Youth Fiction)
With more twists and turns than a palace vault and one unforgettable family of thieves, this second book in Brian Farrey's epic Vengekeep trilogy will leave you breathless. Now, in this exciting sequel, Jaxter Grimjinx is back. Trouble is brewing in the Five Provinces. With the help of a few new friends, Jaxter will have to delve deep into some long-buried and dangerous secrets. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche

SOPHIE HARTLEY AND THE FACTS OF LIFE by Stephanie Greene (Social Issues)
Sophie Hartley, age 10, does not want to be a teenager. No, Sophie likes being who she is right now, helping out at home, doing art projects and hanging out with her two best friends. And next year Sophie's class will see the movie about body changes, and her classmates are already buzzing about it. Sophie doesn't want to know about that embarrassing stuff yet. Does that mean she's immature? Reviewed by Caroline Osborn

by Tone Almhjell and Ian Schoenherr
Something is wrong in the house that Lin's family has rented. When a secret key marked "Twistrose" arrives for her, Lin finds a gate to the world of Sylver. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. Together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche

TAKIO and TAKIO, VOL.2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming (Graphic Novel)
The team behind POWERS creates a new spin on all-ages superhero comics with TAKIO, a fun-filled series about two bickering sisters just trying to a) save the world, and b) avoid getting grounded. Reviewed by John Hogan

Remember to be safe online. NEVER tell anyone personal information --- which includes your real name, age, address, phone number or school. Hey, pretend you are undercover when you go online and protect yourself at all times!

Keep reading!

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