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February 2014 Newsletter for Parents February 2014
Take Books Beyond the Page with!

Hello Readers!

I hope that you’re doing well, and are surviving the very snowy winter! For many of you, these last few weeks have been all about juggling changed school schedules and keeping your children occupied. One of my co-workers told us that her friend's children are having e-classes at home as makeup days, which gave her new respect for teachers (and reminded her why she never home-schooled her children). On Monday, I spent a semi-entertaining 15 minutes trying to drag a rolling suitcase through Chicago sidewalks in the middle of a storm; it turns out that mounds of snow rendered the wheels pretty useless. Luckily, I made it back to New York with only a two-hour delay --- a winter miracle.

While it’s pretty easy to become a cold-weather curmudgeon, I have to admit that the past month has had its fair share of bright moments, too. First, with the Olympics: nothing beats cheering for the best figure skaters or holding your breath as snowboarders perform multiple flips while you are sipping from a warm drink under a towering pile of blankets.

At the office, we thought that a book-themed Olympics would be fun. Events would include seeing who can lift the heaviest bags full of books, who can walk the farthest while reading without bumping into anyone, who can make up the best interpretive dance based on a book and who can find all of the books on their TBR list in the library and get them to the check-out desk the fastest. If your children did any literary/Olympic-themed events at school or their local library, we would love to hear about them. Shoot me a note at or post on our Kidsreads Facebook page.

For me, another thing that helped chase the winter blues away was attending the American Library Association Midwinter conference in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. There were plenty of great moments: hearing Philadelphia-area teens talk about the books they loved --- and which they weren’t huge fans of --- at the Best Fiction for Young Adults session, watching authors and editors talk about their strong relationships at the Random House dinner and discovering new publishers and books (SURPRISE by Mies Van Hout is a new picture book obsession). One of very best moments, though, was watching Reader’s Theater at the Scholastic brunch on Saturday morning.

In Reader’s Theater, people read books aloud like a script --- generally someone plays the narrator and others play different characters in the book. For Scholastic’s Reader’s Theater, all of the actors were authors! My favorite segment might have been when Cynthia Lord, Rodman Philbrick, Jon J. Muth and Julia Donaldson performed parts of Julia's new picture book SUPERWORM in full costume. Cynthia wore wings and antennae and jumped rope with a giant worm stuffed animal, and Rodman wiggled on the floor as if he fell down a well, and the Superworm had to save him. The "actors" also performed a scene from Rodman's ZANE AND THE HURRICANE (which our reviewer called “realistic, relatable and touching”). Just as they were reading about the howling winds during Hurricane Katrina, an incredibly loud siren started blaring outside. It was as if Philadelphia’s emergency vehicles wanted to play a role, too!

If Reader’s Theater is something your children would be interested in doing, you should talk to their teacher or a local librarian about setting up a Reader’s Theater event! If they do, we would love to hear about it.

And now, here's what's happening on this month!

First, we're excited to share news about a contest in honor of the 50th anniversary of HARRIET THE SPY! Whether your kids have read the book or seen the movie, we bet that they were influenced by the famous character in some way. For instance, Emily, who co-runs our 20SomethingReads website, loved the book so much as a kid that she bought her own spiral notebook and started writing notes about the kids in her class and her neighborhood. She even punched a hole through it and attached a lock so nobody could read it. I'm pretty sure she wasn't alone.

In honor of this celebration of America's favorite spy, we're giving away five copies of a special 50th Anniversary edition of HARRIET THE SPY, which not only includes the story but also a map of the Harriet's New York City neighborhood and spy route, tributes by such authors as Judy Blume and Lois Lowry and copies of letters between the editor and author! Look below for details on how your kids can enter to win!

We also have a few author interviews that we're incredibly excited about! The first is with Kate DiCamillo. Not only is she the 2014 Ambassador for Young People's Literature, but her book FLORA AND ULYSSES just won the 2014 Newbery Award. She's clearly a HUGE influence in children's literature, so we talked to her all about her plans for her two years as Ambassador, what she wanted to be when she grew up (hint: it wasn't an author!) and the amusing poems she wrote as a kid.

For our other interview, we talked to Natalie Lloyd, the author of A SNICKER OF MAGIC. I read the book a few weeks ago and fell in love with the mystical town of Midnight Gulch and the vibrant Felicity Pickle. I actually got to meet Natalie at the Reader’s Theater brunch and was just as captivated by her personality and stories, and I think you will be too! In the interview, Natalie talks about her inspiration for the book, her favorite books growing up, the important role that music and words plays in A SNICKER OF MAGIC and more.

I think that A SNICKER OF MAGIC particularly struck me because Felicity sees words wherever she goes, sitting on people's shoulders and coming out of cars' exhaust pipes. Sometimes they sparkle and sometimes they're different colors. This reminds me of synesthesia a bit, which means that people's senses become crossed --- sounds have colors, etc. I actually have this --- voices and words have tastes for me, as crazy as that sounds! --- so the book hit close to home. If you're interested in synesthesia, you should also check out the picture book THE NOISY PAINT BOX, which talks about how the famous artist Vasya Kandinsky had synesthesia, and how it influenced his paintings.

Anyway, we also have a roundup of books perfect for celebrating Black History Month. These include fiction and nonfiction, and range from picture books to middle grade. There's definitely something for everyone on this list.

Lastly, we think your kids will laugh out loud at our special guest post where Mrs. Bunny (star of MR. AND MRS. BUNNY— Detectives Extraordinaire! and the new LORD AND LADY BUNNY—Almost Royalty!) writes about her transition from ordinary bunny to an actual Lady. Author Polly Horvath helps translate from Rabbit, of course.

As always, you and your kids can also find our other great features: Quirky Celebrations, Cool & New, Reviews... so many things!

So read on, stay warm, and have a lovely rest of the month!

--- Shara Zaval (

Harriet the Spy 50th Anniversary Contest

There are plenty of great spies in fiction --- The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, just to name a few. But one of our very favorites is Harriet M. Welsch from HARRIET THE SPY, the girl who walks around her New York City neighborhood every afternoon with her top secret spy notebook, recording her neighbors' activities and thoughtfully munching on a tomato sandwich.

Although Harriet herself will forever be 11 years old, the book HARRIET THE SPY is actually turning 50 this February! At Kidsreads, we're celebrating by giving away FIVE copies of HARRIET THE SPY: 50th Anniversary Edition, which includes the original story, a map of Harriet's New York City neighborhood and spy route, tributes by such authors as Judy Blume and Lois Lowry and copies of letters between the editor and author.

For this contest, your kids have until March 19th at noon to answer the question "what literary character would you spy on, and why?" The winning answers will get a copy of the book, and we'll post our top 10 favorites on the site.

Good luck!

Click here to enter the contest!

Shel Silverstein 50th Anniversary Contest

While Kidsreads is hosting the HARRIET THE SPY contest, we also think you'll be interested in another great contest on 20somethingreads --- The Shel Silverstein Anniversary contest, which runs from until March 18th at noon ET !

Like HARRIET THE SPY, some of Silverstein's books are celebrating important anniversaries this month, including THE GIVING TREE(50) and WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (40). To win a copy of these two books, along with DON’T BUMP THE GLUMP! 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, A GIRAFFE AND A HALF 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION and LAFCADIO, THE LION WHO SHOT BACK 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, you or your kids just have to write a short poem. The top two poems + our 10 favorites will be posted on the site. So gather your kids, and start rhyming!

Click here to enter the Shel Silverstein Anniversary contest!

Interview with Kate DiCamillo

There's no denying it --- Kate DiCamillo has one of the best "children's book author" resumes out there. She's written 17 children's books, has won the Newbery Award (more than once!) and was recently named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. In this interview, Kate tells us where she was when she found out she won the 2014 Newbery Award for FLORA & ULYSSES, what she wrote about as a child, a particularly amusing plane ride and her plans as National Ambassador.



Click here to read the interview!

Interview with Natalie Lloyd, Author of A SNICKER OF MAGIC

What do you get when all of the magic leaves a town, except for a tiny bit? A snicker of magic, of course! And that’s what runs through Midnight Gulch, a small southern village that used to be known for its enchanted residents like the Brothers Threadbare --- whose music made clouds change shapes and inspired the whole community to dance in the streets --- but now has just the smallest snicker of magic left. Debut author Natalie Lloyd delves into this fascinating town in A SNICKER OF MAGIC, where Felicity Pickle --- a 6th grader who sees words wherever she goes --- tries to bring Midnight Gulch back to its original glory and hopes that her wandering family can finally settle down. In this interview, Natalie tells us about her inspiration for A SNICKER OF MAGIC, the real people who inspired her characters and her favorite pair of cowboy boots.



Click here to read the full interview!

Guest Article: Mrs. Bunny from LORD AND LADY BUNNY Tells Kidsreads About Her Transition to Royalty

In MR. AND MRS. BUNNY: Detective's Extraordinaire!, everyone's favorite rabbit couple spent their time hunting for lost parents and controlling their hatred for marmots. In LORD AND LADY BUNNY, they decide they want new, more "royal" professions, and travel to England to make it happen. In this article, Mrs. Bunny (translated by author Polly Horvath) tells Kidsreads how her life has changed since becoming a Lady, from wearing fancy hats to chiding Mr. Bunny for talking to the furniture.



Click here to read the article!

Quirky Celebrations --- Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day

February is full of great quirky celebrations! February is National Hot Breakfast Month and National Haiku Writing Month, February 17th is National Crab Racing Day, February 28th is National Tooth Fairy Day and the entire last week is dedicated to Bird Health Awareness. At Kidsreads, however, we've decided to highlight the greatness that is February 7th --- Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day!

So celebrate by showing your neighbors some love...and by picking up some recently published books that feature great neighbor relationships! The first is OPERATION BUNNY by Sally Gardner and illustrated by David Roberts, where Emily Vole discovers the wacky but loveable Miss String and her talking dog, Fidget, just over the squirrel-shaped hedge next door. Even though her horrible parents have always complained about them, they become Emily's first friends and mentors. In HERE'S HANK: Bookmarks are People Too! by Henry Winkler, Hank is very friendly with two kids in his apartment building, Frankie and Ashley. They do their homework together, and convert an old storage closet into a clubhouse.



Click here to read the whole feature! Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month! In honor of this important month, we at decided to round up some new picture books, novels and nonfiction books that celebrate African Americans past and present. With stories about African American inventors, America's first black paratroopers, a young Malcolm X and a 13-year-old girl who travels back in time to a Louisiana sugar plantation, there's something for everyone.



Click here to read our Black History Month Roundup!

Spring Preview Contest on

At Kidsreads we have some great books to share with your young ones, but we know that YOU probably want some books to read too --- especially if they're free! Therefore, see below for information on the Spring Preview Contest on, which is currently in full swing! If you're interested in learning more about what's happening on Bookreporter, you can sign up for that newsletter here.

Spring Preview
Spring is in the air (or will be in a few weeks)! We’ve already caught the fever --- and it’s being fueled by a list of great upcoming books! Here are some picks that we know people will be talking about over the next few months. We will be hosting a number of 24-hour contests for these titles on select days through March 20th. You will need to check the site to see the featured book and enter to win. We also will be sending a special newsletter to announce each title, which you can sign up for here.

Our first prize book was THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert. The next prize book will be announced tomorrow, February 25th at noon ET here.

This year's featured titles include the following (with more to come!):

THE COLD SONG by Linn Ullmann
THE COTTAGE ON JUNIPER RIDGE: Life in Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts
FAR GONE by Laura Griffin
A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams
by Douglas Preston
THE OTHER TYPIST by Suzanne Rindell
THE SHELF: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose

by Elizabeth Gilbert
THE SNOW QUEEN by Michael Cunningham

WHIRLWIND by Rick Mofina

Click here to enter the Spring Preview contest!

The 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards

A couple of weeks ago we sent out a special newsletter because the American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of the biggest children's book awards of the year! Carol Fitzgerald, who runs The Book Report Network, was lucky enough to be in the audience at the award ceremony in Philadelphia, and said that it was a madhouse...the awards started at 8AM but some attendees arrived as early as 6AM! The rest of us were cheering for our favorites from our office.

In case you missed it, click here to learn about all of the award winners, and add their books to your TBR lists!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Whether your child was a huge fan of THE CAT IN THE HAT or more of a GREEN EGGS AND HAM kind of kid, there's no denying it --- Dr. Seuss created some of the most entertaining, magical and utterly imaginative children's books ever written. Dr. Seuss is also famous for his strong philosophy on children's books --- he knew that kids shouldn't just read to learn; they should enjoy doing it!

For these two reasons, The National Education Association (NEA) celebrates Read Across America on his birthday, March 2nd, every year. You can celebrate, too --- all you have to do is read a book with your child! There are also some great reading events happening at libraries and schools across the country --- if your local library is hosting something, be sure to check it out!



Click here to learn more about Read Across America!

February's New Picture Books Roundup

In our February picture books roundup, we have plenty of books whose amusing wordplay and deft illustrations --- whether quirky or stunning --- are sure to take you out of your winter doldrums. THE NOISY PAINT BOX by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Mary Grandpré delves into the childhood of Vasya Kandinsky, and shows children how his synesthesia helped him see music, hear color and create some of the world's most amazing paintings. In HI, KOO written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Jon J. Muth, an endearing panda bear named Koo takes young readers through the seasons in his fall, winter, spring and summer-themed Haikus. Children will also be entranced by two very different search-and-find books --- they can find follow a rabbit family's busy afternoon in BUSY BUNNY DAYS by Britta Teckentrup, or go on a gruesome zombie hunt in the tongue-in-cheek WHERE'S THE ZOMBIE from Michael O'Mara Books.

Click here to see February's New Picture Books roundup!

February’s Cool & New Books Roundup
February's roundup of Cool & New books includes THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING by Shelia Turnage, the sequel to Newbery Honor winner THREE TIMES LUCKY, which follows best friends Mo and Dale as they try to uncover the identity of a ghost haunting a local inn; JUST JAKE by 13-year-old Jake Marcionette, which follows a 12-year-old boy trying to fit in at a new school and is filled with doodles and memorabilia; and POEM DEPOT: Aisles of Smiles by award-winning author Douglas Florian, which shares 170 nonsense poems in the same vein as Shel Silverstein.

Click here to see February’s Cool & New Books roundup!
February's New in Paperback Roundup

February’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes National Book Nominee A TANGLE OF KNOTS by Lisa Graff, which takes place in a slightly magical world where everyone has a talent; STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY by Newbery Honor author Grace Lin, which follows a young boy named Rendi, who notices the moon is missing in his remote village; and KEN JENNINGS’ JUNIOR GUIDES: Maps and Geography by Ken Jennings, where the “Jeopardy” champion shares a host of fun facts and trivia about all things geography.



Click here to visit our February New in Paperback feature!
New Reviews!

Check out these reviews that we just put up on!

FOUNDING MOTHERS: Remembering the Ladies written by Cokie Roberts, illustrated by Diane Goode (Youth Biography)

FOUNDING MOTHERS highlights the female patriots of the American Revolution and reveals the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes. Readers follow the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others. Details are gleaned from their letters, private journals, lists, and ledgers. The bravery of these women’s courageous acts contributed to the founding of America and spurred the founding fathers to make this a country that “remembered the ladies.” This compelling book supports the Common Core State Standards with a rich time line, biographies, an author’s note, and additional web resources in the back matter. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY by Karen Foxlee (Children's Fantasy)

A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help. Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

ZANE AND THE HURRICANE: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick (Children's Fiction)

Zane Dupree is a charismatic 12-year-old boy of mixed race visiting a relative in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. Unexpectedly separated from family, Zane and his dog experience the terror of Katrina's wind, rain, and horrific flooding. Chaos ensues as storm water drowns the city, shelter and food vanish, and police contribute to a dangerous, frightening atmosphere in this page-turning tale. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

SEA TURTLE SCIENTIST by Stephen R. Swinburne (Children's Nonfiction)

When only one in a thousand turtle eggs for this critically endangered species will grow into an adult sea turtle, the odds are stacked against mother turtles and their offspring. Join the renowned author and photographer Steve Swinburne on a journey through history to learn how sea turtles came to be endangered, and what scientists like Dr. Kimberly Stewart are doing to save them. Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell.

LUNCH LADY AND THE SCHOOLWIDE SCUFFLE by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Youth Fiction)

Lunch Lady and Betty have been unceremoniously cut from the school budget, and the timing couldn't be worse --- the villains from all nine of her previous adventures are worming their way back into Thompson Brook with a masterfully devious plan. Will the Breakfast Bunch still be able to count on Lunch Lady's superhero gadgets and abilities to save the school, or are they on their own? Don't miss Lunch Lady's swashbuckling finale! Reviewed by John Hogan.

OCEANS OF FIRE: The Burning of Columbia, 1865 by T. Neill Anderson (Historical Fiction)

Supported by thorough research, narrative accounts of actual historical persons as well as fictionalized characters comprise this historical novel. Follow 17-year-old Emma, her family, and potential Confederate spy Charles Davis as a chaotic community tries to survive a blazing firestorm, the actual fire that swept through Columbia, South Carolina, after the city surrendered to General Sherman. Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts.

THE MINIATURE WORLD OF MARVIN AND JAMES written by Elise Broach with illustrations by Kelly Murphy (Children's Fiction)

James is going on vacation for a week. His best friend, Marvin the beetle, has to stay at home. Without James to keep him company, Marvin has to play with his annoying cousin, Elaine. Marvin and Elaine quickly find themselves in all sorts of trouble --- even getting trapped inside a pencil sharpener! But more importantly, will James still be Marvin's friend when he gets home or will he have a new best friend? Reviewed by Sheena Kowalski.

HERE'S HANK: Bookmarks Are People Too! by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver (Children's Fiction)

Hank is a kid who doesn't try to be funny, but he somehow always makes the kids in his class laugh. In the first book in this new series, Hank's class is putting on a play, and Hank wants the lead part: Aqua Fly. But he freezes in his audition and can only buzz like a fly. His teacher creates a special part for Hank, a silent bookmark. This may seem like an insignificant role, but when his enemy, Nick McKelty, freezes during the performance, it's up to Hank to save the play! Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

WHAT'S FOR DINNER, MR. GUM? written by Andy Stanton with illustrations by David Tazzyman (Children's Fiction)

Mr Gum's back! But what's he up to this time? Seems he's found himself a brand new treat --- rancid kebabs just dripping with dirty grey sauce. And he just can't get enough of them. But not everyone's too happy about Mr Gum's new dinnertime arrangements and soon the town of Lamonic Bibber is gearing up for war. Can Polly and her friends save the town from being torn apart? Reviewed by Sheena Kowalski.

HEARTS by Thereza Rowe (Children's Fiction)

When Penelope the Fox drops her heart into the sea, she’s swept off on a perilous journey, dodging sharks and royal cat-guards until a cartwheeling chicken leads her to the land of lost things. Young readers will fall in love with Thereza Rowe’s bold and playful designs. And as they follow Penelope (and her heart!), they will learn what is truly precious. Reviewed by John Hogan.

OPERATION BUNNY written by Sally Gardner with illustrations by David Roberts (Children's Fiction)

When Emily Vole inherits an abandoned shop, she discovers a magical world she never knew existed. And a fairy-hating witch, a mischievous set of golden keys, and a train full of brightly colored bunnies are just a few of the surprises that come with it. With the help of a talking cat called Fidget and a grumpy fairy detective called Buster, it is up to Emily to save the fairies and get to the bottom of Operation Bunny. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

JUNGLE OF BONES by Ben Mikaelsen (Children's Fiction)

Deep in the steamy jungles of Papua New Guinea, there's a WWII fighter plane named SECOND ACE that's been lost for years, a plane that Dylan's own grandfather barely escaped from with his life. In all this time, no one has ever been able to track down SECOND ACE --- but now Dylan and his uncle are going to try. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

TIPPY AND THE NIGHT PARADE by Lilli Carré (Children's Fiction)

When Tippy wakes up, there’s a peacock in her bedroom, a bird in her hair, and mice dancing on the headboard. Yet all Tippy remembers is falling asleep! In her first book for children, award-winning cartoonist Lilli Carré takes Tippy on a nocturnal adventure up a mountain, down a hole, and back home again. Reviewed by John Hogan.

KEN JENNINGS' JUNIOR GENIUS GUIDES: Maps and Geography written by Ken Jennings with illustrations by Mike Lowery (Children's Nonfiction)

With this guide to maps and geography, you’ll wow your friends and teachers with clever facts: Did you know that the biggest desert in the world is actually covered in snow? Or that Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first to think that the Earth was round? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time! Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING by Sheila Turnage (Children's Fiction)

When Miss Lana makes an Accidental Bid at the Tupelo auction and winds up the mortified owner of an old inn, she doesn't realize there's a ghost in the fine print. Naturally, Desperado Detective Agency (aka Mo and Dale) opens a paranormal division to solve the mystery of the ghost's identity. As Mo and Dale handily track down the truth about the ghost, they discover the truth about a great many other people, too. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd (Children's Fiction)

Before a curse drove the magic away, Midnight Gulch was a magical place. As a "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere, and Midnight Gulch is "home," where there's Jonah, whose words make Felicity's heart beat faster. Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell on the town...and her mother's broken heart. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

A MEDAL FOR LEROY by Michael Morpurgo (Children's Fiction)

When Michael’s aunt passes away, she leaves behind a letter that will change everything. Michael’s grandfather Leroy, a black officer in WWI charged into a battle zone not once but three times to save wounded men. His fellow soldiers insisted he deserved special commendations for his bravery but because of the racial barriers, he would go unacknowledged. Now it’s up to Michael to change that. Reviewed by Molly Horan

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