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February 2015

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Forward to a friend Newsletter for Parents February 2015 Gets Meta - Books About Books


I would say that I hope you're having a good February, but considering the weather so many of you have been contending with --- particularly you New Englanders --- I feel like I might get a lot of eye-rolls and involuntary shivers in response. New York hasn't been too awful, comparatively, but I did visit my family in Boston last weekend and was shocked to see my childhood backyard transformed; trees had no trunks, the patio furniture was completely hidden under mounds of white and the snow literally reached my waist. I forced my dad to explore this winter wonderland with me --- see the picture of us frolicking on the right.

Weather like this may have you daydreaming about vacationing in Hawaii (aside from you lucky readers who actually live there), or, considering your literary leanings, escaping to a fictional universe. Personally, I would leave behind NYC's slushy streets for a day at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione, a personal tour of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory or an island adventure with the brothers from THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON.

If you and your kids care to indulge in this book-themed escapism this month, you might want to explore STORY THIEVES by James Riley and FINDING SERENDIPITY by Angelica Banks (really, author team Heather Rose and Danielle Wood), which explore this very theme (I know, we're getting meta, here). In STORY THIEVES, Owen discovers one of his classmates can travel in and out of books and convinces her to lead him into the world of his favorite series. Riley said he wrote STORY THIEVES because “[he’s] been waiting to be that person [his] whole life,” and as a child he’d wonder, “when am I going to be the next future orphan king?” Apparently his parents weren’t too thrilled about that, which I’m sure you can understand.

FINDING SERENDIPITY is another "fiction squared" tome: Tuesday McGillycuddy's mother --- a famous author --- disappeared, and Tuesday attempts to find her by venturing into the world where stories are made as well as her mother’s own series, where she learns to sail an enchanted boat and has to contend with dastardly pirates. Heather and Danielle wrote the book to “express the magic [they] experience as readers and writers,” and it really shines through --- reviewer Sarah Egelman called it “sweet and boisterous, enjoyable and uncanny” and said it shows how authors “live in [the worlds they create] as they bring them to life.”

Picture books are also celebrating…themselves…with some focusing on the text, others zeroing in on the beautiful illustrations inside and a couple that are dedicated to the literal picture book form. I particularly love A PERFECTLY MESSED-UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell --- where Little Louie is distraught because everything from jelly to mud splats is destroying his tale --- and THIS BOOK JUST ATE MY DOG! by Richard Byrne, where a hungry picture book swallows Bella’s pet…and the fire truck, police car and friend who try to save him. Only a good shake from the reader can rescue this unfortunate bunch!

On the art front, MY PEN by Christopher Myers is stunning. Using beautiful ink drawings, it shows that drawing alone can allow a boy sail to Africa in a newspaper boat (see above) and make the impossible possible. DRAW! by Raúl Colón has a similar message ---- even you’re just in your bedroom, art supplies can you transport you to an unforgettable safari.

And if you have older readers at home, be sure to keep an eye out for the romantic YA read OFF THE PAGE by Jodi Picoult and daughter Samantha Van Leer (coming out May 2015), where a fictional prince and real boy switch places and a hilarious series of events ensues.

Do your kids have any favorite books about books, or picture books about pictures? Let me know at --- I’d love to hear about them! And if you want to hear more about STORY THIEVES and FINDING SERENDIPITY, read our joint interview with the authors here. They also share the books that they would most want to visit…and avoid.

So happy reading (about reading…and other things), and enjoy the rest of the newsletter!

All best,

Shara Zaval ( Survey

In 1998, we launched on AOL's "Kids Only" channel. The site was called Bookworm and children were our primary visitors.

Now, 17 years later, we know that a lot has changed! We want to know more about our readers --- why you go to the site and what you think of our newsletters --- so we can give you more of what you want to see!

Ten (10) people who complete the survey can enter to win a $25 gift card for the brick-and-mortar or online bookstore of their choice. The survey will be open until Friday, March 20th.


Click here to take the survey!


Anything can inspire a great book idea --- even making up a crazy name! That's what happened to N. Griffin, the author of SMASHIE MCPERTER AND THE MYSTERY OF ROOM 11, a new book about a pair of best friends who must find the missing class hamster and contend with a particularly self-involved, hair gel-obsessed substitute teacher. To learn more about the book --- which our reviewer said was full of "fun, charm and cleverness" --- be sure to check out our special feature.

Click here to read the review.
Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to read the excerpt.
Click here to read the interview with N. Griffin.

In our interview, N. Griffin tells us more about Smashie's memorable name, her favorite books growing up and what we can expect next for the students in room 11!


Click here to read the special feature! Visits the Studio of Some of Your Favorite Picture Book Illustrators!

Are you one of those teens who can't attend a class without doodling all over your notebook? Or maybe your best efforts look more like scribbles, but a beautiful painting takes your breath away.

Either way, we think you'll love our "sneak peek" into the shared studio of five of the most beloved picture book artists in the publishing business: Sophie Blackall, Brian Floca, Edward Hemingway, John Bemelmans Maricano and Sergio Ruzzier.

You'll see their wildly different art spaces, get a behind-the-scenes look at some of their recent and upcoming projects, and just revel in the whimsical energy of it all.


Click here to read the article!

Contests for You --- Sign Up for the Spring Preview Newsletter on’s Spring Preview contests are right around the corner! Here, we’ll be spotlighting a number of hot new books releasing in the spring that you will want to consider adding to your reading list. Starting Tuesday, March 10th at noon ET and continuing through Thursday, April 16th, Bookreporter will be hosting a series of 24-hour contests for these books. You’ll have to check the site each day to see which title is being given away --- or you can sign up here for our Spring Preview newsletter to be notified when contests go live.

What's New on and Bets on: With thousands of books published each year and much attention paid to the works of bestselling and well-known authors, it is inevitable that some titles worthy of praise and discussion may not get the attention we think they deserve. The most recent books that made us say "just read this" are MY SUNSHINE AWAY by M.O Walsh and CRAZY LOVE YOU by Lisa Unger. To see all of the Bets On picks, click here. Suggestions: Are you in a book club? Check out our most recent Featured Guides to help you pick your next read, including THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah, THE EVENING CHORUS by Helen Humphreys and SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler. You can also check out our Most Requested Guides list here.


February’s Cool & New Books Roundup

In February’s Cool and New roundup, we have FISH IN A TREE by ONE FOR THE MURPHYS author Lynda Mullaly Hunt, where Ally discovers that she has dyslexia and that there’s a lot more to her than just a label; ECHO by bestselling author Pam Muñoz Ryan, where four seemingly dissimilar stories from around the world are connected by a very special harmonica; and PAPER THINGS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, a moving story that will make readers look at homelessness in an entirely new way.


Click here to see February's Cool & New Books roundup!

February's New in Paperback Roundup

In paperback this month we have SAVING KABUL CORNER by N.H. Senzai, the companion novel to SHOOTING KABUL that follows 12-year-old Ariana after her cousin moves into her house from Afghanistan and changes everything; THE NETHERGRIM by Matthew Jobin, a fantasy in which Edmund and his friend must come together to uncover why children are disappearing from their enchanted town; and DEREK JETER'S ULTIMATE BASEBALL GUIDE 2015, where the sports legend shares cool trivia about all 30 of baseball's Major League teams.



Click here to visit our February New in Paperback feature!

New Picture Books

Our February roundup includes RED: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall, a bright, rollicking picture book featuring a blue crayon in a red wrapper who must come to terms with his true identity; ABC OF FANTASTIC PRINCES by Willy Puchner, which features 26 fantastically outfitted frogs who range from dashing to absurd; and NAPTIME WITH THEO AND BEAU by Jessica Shyba, a photographic journey of a boy and his dog napping and growing up together, based on the internet sensation.


Click here to see February's Picture Book Roundup!

Now in Stores: WHY'D THEY WEAR THAT? by Sarah Albee

WHY'D THEY WEAR THAT? by Sarah Albee (Nonfiction)

This winter, sashay down the runway with best-selling author Sarah Albee and National Geographic in WHY’D THEY WEAR THAT?: Fashion as the Mirror of History. From the invention of needles made from woolly mammoth tusks in 10,000 B.C., to the evolution of armor from chain mail to modern-day bulletproof vests to the controversy surrounding contemporary outsourcing, Albee looks at history through the lens of fashion as a way to engage teen readers.

Each chapter focuses on a major period of world history, from the Neolithic era to the present day, and explores the evolution of fashion as a reflection of the politics, class hierarchies, religion and economics of the time. This highly visual collection is full of colorful sidebars that answer questions that are not usually addressed in the classroom: How did people keep their clothes on before zippers or buttons were invented? How did soldiers go to the bathroom when wearing their heavy armor? Pictures, paintings and artifacts further illustrate the concepts discussed in each chapter, while funny anecdotes and a focus on cultures of interest, such as the Vikings.

Snappy headlines, a stylish layout and a foreword by “Project Runway” fan favorite Tim Gunn make this extensive and entertaining guide perfect for both in-depth study and casual browsing. WHY’D THEY WEAR THAT? is ideal for fashionistas, theater aficionados and history buffs of all ages.

Click here to read the review.

Click here to read more about the book.


Now in Stores: THE ONLY GAME by Mike Lupica

THE ONLY GAME by Mike Lupica (Sports)

Can a young baseball star maintain his love of the game after the loss of his brother? Find out in this start to the Home Team series about a small town with high hopes, from New York Times bestselling author and sportswriting legend Mike Lupica.

Jack Callahan is the star of his baseball team and sixth grade is supposed to be his year. Undefeated season. Records shattered. Little League World Series. The works. That is, until he up and quits.

Jack’s best friend Gus can’t understand how Jack could leave a game that means more to them than anything else. But Jack is done. It’s a year of change. Jack’s brother has passed away, and though his family and friends and the whole town of Walton thinks baseball is just the thing he needs to move on, Jack feels it’s anything but.

In comes Cassie Bennett, star softball player, and the only person who seems to think Jack shouldn’t play if he doesn’t want to. As Jack and Cassie’s friendship deepens, their circle expands to include Teddy, a guy who’s been picked on because of his weight.

Time spent with these new friends unlocks something within Jack, and with their help and the support of his family and his old friends, Jack discovers sometimes it’s more than just the love of the game that keeps us moving --- and he might just be able to find his way back to THE ONLY GAME.


Click here to read the review.

Click here to read more about the book.


Now in Stores: MOONPENNY ISLAND by Tricia Springstubb

MOONPENNY ISLAND by Tricia Springstubb (fiction)

Moonpenny is a tiny island in a great lake. When the summer people leave and the ferries stop running, just the tried-and-true islanders are left behind. Flor and her best, her perfect friend, Sylvie, are the only eleven-year-olds for miles and miles --- and Flor couldn't be happier. But come the end of summer, unthinkable things begin to happen. Sylvie is suddenly, mysteriously, whisked away to school on the mainland. Flor's mother leaves to take care of Flor's sick grandmother and doesn't come back. Her big sister has a secret, and Flor fears it's a dangerous one.

Meanwhile, a geologist and his peculiar daughter arrive to excavate prehistoric trilobites, one of the first creatures to develop sight. Soon Flor is helping them. As her own ability to see her life on this little lump of limestone evolves, she faces truths about those she loves --- and about herself --- she never imagined.

Click here to read more about the book.


The ALA Announces Their 2015 Prize-Winning Books

On Monday, February 2nd, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of the biggest children's book awards of the year! In case you missed our dedicated newsletter, click here to see the list of winners and finalists. We're sure you'll discover some new gems to add to your to-be-read list!
New Reviews!
NEW! LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai (Youth Fiction, Culture)

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! PAPER THINGS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Youth Fiction, Realistic Fiction)

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when 19-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. --- Reviewed by Brianna Robinson.

NEW! TOMBQUEST BOOK 1: Book of the Dead by Michael Northrop (Youth Fiction, Fantasy)

Nothing can save Alex Sennefer's life. That's what all the doctors say, but his mother knows it's not true. She knows that the Lost Spells of the Egyptian Book of the Dead can crack open a door to the afterlife and pull her son back from the brink. But when she uses the spells, five evil ancients --- the Death Walkers --- are also brought back to life. --- Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge.

NEW! BENEATH by Roland Smith (Youth Fiction, Action Adventure, Suspense)

Pat has always idolized his older brother, Coop. He's even helped Coop dig a tunnel underneath their neighborhood in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Coop is...different. He doesn't talk on the phone, doesn't use email and doesn't have friends. So it's no surprise to anyone that after a huge fight with their parents, Coop runs away. When Pat receives a package containing a digital voice recorder and a cryptic message from his brother, he follows the clues to New York City and discovers that Coop has joined a self-sufficient society living beneath the streets. Now it's up to Pat to find his brother --- and bring him home. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! STORY THIEVES by James Riley (Youth Fiction, Fantasy)

When Owen sees his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library, everything changes. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character. Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father…or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Youth Fiction, Social Commentary)

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? But her teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright kid underneath the troublemaker. With his help, Ally learns that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her --- and to everyone --- than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! DINOSAUR BOY by Cory Putman Oakes (Youth Fiction 9-12, Social Commentary, Science Fiction)

Everyone knows the dinosaur gene skips a generation. So it wasn't a complete surprise when Sawyer sprouted a tail and spikes before he started fifth grade. Sawyer is a bully magnet, befriended only by BFF Elliot and the weird new girl. When the bullies start disappearing, Sawyer is relieved --- until he discovers a secret about the principal that's more shocking than Dino DNA. Now it's up to the unlikely trio to rescue their tormentors from a galactically horrible fate. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

NEW! FINDING SERENDIPITY by Angelica Banks (Youth Fiction, Adventure)

When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday’s mother --- the famous author Serendipity Smith --- has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh (Youth Fiction, Family Relationships)

Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy 12-year-old GiGi and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi. Add a million dollars in prize money from a cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the Gold Coast of New York. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends, a first crush and a sprinkling of family secrets. --- Reviewed by Brianna Robinson.

NEW! THE ZODIAC LEGACY: Convergence by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore (Youth Fiction, Graphic Novel)

When 12 magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-America teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He'll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac. --- Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge.

NEW! THE COTTAGE IN THE WOODS by Katherine Coville (Fiction)

Ursula is a young she-bear who has come to work as a governess at the Vaughn estate. Although she is eager to instruct her young charge, Teddy, she is also frightened, especially when inexplicable things happen in the huge house after dark. Ursula is sure she has heard footsteps in the hallways at night, and that something is following her during her walks in the Enchanted Forest. Then there is Mr. Bentley, a young bear also employed by Mr. Vaughn, whose superior disposition is enough to drive Ursula to tears...and yet why does he also make her heart race? As Ursula works to unravel the mysteries of the Vaughn manor, she will have to be very, very careful. After all, true love, justice and a girl with golden locks are at stake. And in the Enchanted Forest, not every fairy tale is destined for a happily ever. --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! MARS EVACUEES by Sophia McDougall (Fiction)

When Alice Dare finds out that she's being evacuated to Mars to join the youth defence force, she isn't sure what to expect. But it sure wasn't being shot at, chased by invisible aliens, befriending a robot goldfish --- and then having to save the galaxy! Reviewed by Corinne Fox.

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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