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March 2015 Newsletter for Parents March 2015
Spring into Spring with
By Agustin Rafael Reyes, from
By Agustin Rafael Reyes, from


Whether you and your children live in a place like Miami, where it has been sunny and beautiful for months, or in New York City, where the sky is threatening to dump buckets of snow on the city any minute now, you can't deny the facts: today, March 20th, is the first day of spring! And if your kids are anything like me, they are more than ready to put aside their boots in favor of skirts without tights, flowers, endlessly long walks, ice cream cones, light jackets and pure, unadulterated sunshine.

We decided to help them celebrate this much-needed seaonal transition at in a few different ways. See below for some spring-themed books you can share!

1) Middle grade book titles that capture the seasonal spirit – This month, there are plenty of middle grade books whose titles ring in spring (even if the content doesn’t, exactly). The first is THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, the conclusion to the beloved Penderwicks series about four sisters. The changing season brings surprises for the whole family, including a neighbor returning from war and a hilarious dog-walking venture. I also love the bright yellow and green cover...before you even open the first page, you feel like you’re going on a sun-soaked picnic. There’s also BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose, a novel in verse about two young girls --- a British settler and a member of the Roanoke tribe --- who start an illicit friendship in 1587 Virginia. The girls don’t speak the same language, but the birds that flutter whenever they meet allow them to connect through nature. Reviewer Anita Lock called it “beautifully written” and “bound to be a classic!” Another work with an aviary title is NIGHTBIRD, Alice Hoffman’s first middle grade book about a young girl who must protect her brother’s secret --- because of a family curse, he was born with wings. Reviewer Aimee Rogers said it felt “believable” and was a “beautifully told story.” Be sure to check it out!

2) Our spring-themed picture book bookshelf --- If you have younger children, we think they'll love these 20 titles that capture spring from a variety of angles, whether they feature growing gardens, adorable animals or all types of March/April/May weather. Most featured titles are fairly new --- including my favorite, FINDING SPRING by Carin Berger --- but there are also a couple of beloved classics, like MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney. Click here to see the feature!

And, even though they aren't exactly "bookish," I couldn't help finding some great examples of spring delights floating around the internet. The website Digital Photography School collected these gorgeous floral photos (I included one by photographer Agustin Rafael Reyes above, because I couldn’t stop staring it), and I guarantee they’ll inspire you to pick up a camera of your own. If animals are more your thing, check out this link, and then email me for a spirited debate on what’s cuter --- piglets or baby raccoons.

And with that, enjoy the rest of the newsletter, select a book that we recommend, and go read it with your kids on the nearest park bench in sight!

--- 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 Tuesday, March 31st.


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!

Children's Choice Book Awards --- Vote Today!

The Children's Choice Book Awards is the only national book awards program where the winners are selected by children and teens of all ages. Make sure that your kids make their voices heard by casting their votes for author, illustrator and book of the year at by May 3, 2015! See the finalists below:

Children's Choice Debut Author
Cece Bell for EL DEAFO (Abrams/Amulet)
Natalie Lloyd for A SNICKER OF MAGIC (Scholastic Press)
Katherine Roy for NEIGHBORHOOD SHARKS: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands (Roaring Brook/Macaulay Studio)
Piers Torday for THE LAST WILD (Viking)
J.A. White for THE THICKETY: A Path Begins (HarperCollins/Tegen)

Illustrator of the Year
Chris Appelhans for SPARKY by Jenny Offill (Random House/Schwartz & Wade)
Steve Light for HAVE YOU SEEN MY DRAGON? (Candlewick)
Yuyi Morales, with photography by Tim O'Meara for VIVA FRIDA (Roaring Brook/Porter)
Christian Robinson for GASTON by Kelly DiPucchio (S&S/Atheneum)
Brian Won for HOORAY FOR HAT! (HMH)

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year
DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illus. by Noah Z. Jones (Disney-Hyperion)
EVA AND SADIE AND THE WORST HAIRCUT EVER! by Jeff Cohen, illus. by Ellana Allen (HarperCollins)
HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDMA by Jean Reagan, illus. by Lee Wildish (Knopf)
A PET FOR FLY GUY by Tedd Arnold (Scholastic/Orchard)

Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year
CLAUDE AT THE BEACH by Alex T. Smith (Peachtree)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABYMOUSE by Jennifer L. Holm, illus. by Matt Holm (Random House)
KALI'S STORY: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis, illus. by John Gomes (Arbordale)
SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix)

Fifth to Sixth Grade Book of the Year
ICE DOGS by Terry Lynn Johnson (HMH)
PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS by Rick Riordan, illus. by John Rocco (Disney-Hyperion)
TEMPLE RUN: Race Through Time to Unlock Secrets of Ancient Worlds by Tracey West (National Geographic)
THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER! by Jimmy Gownley (Scholastic/Graphix)


Click here to cast your votes for the Children's Choice Book Awards! Interview with James Patterson; He's Donating $1.25 Million and 100,000 Books!

This month, James Patterson made a couple of major announcements --- he's donating 100,000 copies of his newest book, PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO, to schools and youth programs around the country, and he's teaming up with Scholastic to donate $1.25 million in grants to school libraries.

Read our interview with Patterson here, where he tells us more about his newest book, why he thinks that school libraries are so important and what influence his young readers have on the content of his books. And if you want to nominate your school library to receive a grant from James Patterson and Scholastic, click here!


Features on Our Other Sites --- Spring Preview and Ultimate Teen Reading List

There are a few features on our other Book Report Network websites that we're particularly excited about this month.

Spring Preview: is hosting a number of 24-hour contests for great, recently published titles through April 21st. 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. The next title will be announced on Tuesday, March 24th --- make sure to visit to enter!

Ultimate Readling List: The Ultimate Reading List is one of our favorite features on --- it's a list of more than 400 titles that we think make perfect pleasure reading for teens. Our criteria: We looked for books that were compelling, beautifully written, pure fun, thought-provoking or edge-of-your-seat gripping; books that we would hand to someone and say, “read this!” We hope that you share the Ultimate Reading List with your older children when they're selecting books for independent reading! To read the 2015 list, click here.

ReadingGroupGuides Contests: We have a couple of contests on ReadingGroupGuides this month for books that we think you'll love. The first is for THE PRECIOUS ONE by Marisa de los Santos, where Taisy Cleary's father gets back in touch with her after 17 years, and she's hesitant about his intentions. The second is for THE POCKET WIFE by Susan Crawford, in which Dana is terrified to learn she was the last person to see her neighbor alive...and that she has some troubling gaps in her memory about that day. Visit to enter!


March’s Cool & New Books Roundup

In March’s Cool and New roundup, we have THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING by Jeanne Birdsall, the last book in The Penderwicks series; THE IMAGINARY by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett, the story of Amanda and her imaginary friend, Rudger; and BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose, a tender story of friendship and the meaning of family on the historic island of Roanoke.

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

March's New in Paperback Roundup
In paperback this month, we have A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle and illustrated by Hope Larson, the new graphic novel version of the classic science fiction story; THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger, the first case file in the blockbuster bestselling Origami Yoda series; and THE FINISHER by David Baldacci, about a town called Wormwood where nobody is allowed to leave.
Click here to visit our March New in Paperback feature!

New Picture Books

Our March roundup includes THE GREEN FAIRY BOOK edited by Andrew Lang, a beautiful rendition of classic tales like “The Story of the Three Bears” and “The Three Little Pigs”; SPECIAL DELIVERY by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, about a girl on her way to deliver an elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine; and MY PEN by Christopher Myers, which uses rich black-and-white illustrations to bring a sketchbook to life.

Click here to see March's Picture Book Roundup!

Now in Stores: CATCH YOU LATER, TRAITOR by Avi


Brooklyn, New York, 1951. Twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? At the same time, Pete’s class turns against him, thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher; even Kat, Pete’s best friend, feels the pressure to ditch him. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood --- and even their freedom --- at risk.

Click here to read more about the book.


Now in Stores: THE THICKETY: The Whispering Trees by J. A. White

THE THICKETY: The Whispering Trees by J. A. White (Fantasy)

After Kara Westfall's village turns on her for practicing witchcraft, she and her brother, Taff, flee to the one place they know they won't be followed: the Thickety. Only this time the Forest Demon, Sordyr, is intent on keeping them there. Sordyr is not the Thickety's only danger: unknown magic lurks behind every twist and shadow of the path. And then they discover Mary Kettle, an infamous witch with a horrifying past. She offers to lead them out of the Thickety while teaching Kara how to cast spells without a grimoire. The children are hesitant to trust her...but this could be their only chance to escape. Or the first step down a dark and wicked path.

Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read a review of the first book in the series, THE THICKETY: A Path Begins.
New Reviews!

NEW! WAITING FOR UNICORNS by Beth Hautala (Youth Fiction, Family Relationships)

When 12-year-old Talia --- still reeling from the recent death of her mother --- is forced to travel with her whale-researcher father to the Arctic, she begins to wonder if the broken pieces inside of her will ever begin to heal. Everything about life in Churchill feels foreign, including Sura, the traditional Inuit woman whom Talia must live with. But when Sura exposes her to the tradition of storytelling, she unlocks something within Talia that has long since been buried: her ability to hope, to believe again in making wishes come true. --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO by James Patterson (Youth Fiction, Action Adventure)

Kenny Wright is a kid with a secret identity. In his mind, he's Stainlezz Steel, super-powered defender of the weak. In reality, he's a chess club devotee known as a "Grandma's Boy," a label that makes him an easy target for bullies. Kenny wants to bring a little more Steel to the real world, but the question is: can he recognize his own true strength before peer pressure forces him to make the worst choice of his life? --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! IF YOU FIND THIS by Matthew Baker (Youth Fiction, Adventure, Mystery)

Nicholas is a math and music genius with no friends and a huge problem: His father has lost his job, and they'll have to sell their house, which holds the only memory Nicholas has of his younger brother. Just in time, Nicholas's senile grandfather arrives, filled with tales of priceless treasure he has hidden somewhere in town --- but where? With the help of misfit classmates, two grandfathers, a ghosthouse, hidden messages, séances and an uncanny mind for numbers, Nicholas stages a nursing home breakout, tangles with high schoolers in smugglers' tunnels and gets swept up in a duel with the biggest bullies in the neighborhood. Will it be enough to find the treasure and save his house? --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! DR. CRITCHLORE'S SCHOOL FOR MINIONS: BOOK 1 by Sheila Grau, illustrated by Joe Sutphin (Youth Fiction, Mystery)

Welcome to Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, the premier trainer of minions for Evil Overlords everywhere. No student is prouder to be at Dr. Critchlore’s than Runt Higgins, a 12-year-old werewolf. After a series of disasters, each worse than the next, it’s clear that someone is trying to shut the school down. It’s up to Runt, who knows the place better than anybody, to figure out who’s behind the attack...and to save his home, and Dr. Critchlore himself, from total destruction. --- Reviewed by Charles Payseur.

NEW! RED BUTTERFLY by A.L. Sonnichsen, illustrated by Amy June Bates (Fiction, Novel in Verse)

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now 11, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has...but what if Kara secretly wants more? --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman (Fiction, Fantasy)

Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And 200 years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! MARK OF THE THIEF (Praetor War) by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Fiction)

When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods --- magic some Romans would kill for. In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire's most powerful and savage leaders. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! WISH GIRL by Nikki Loftin (Youth Fiction)

Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts --- and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves. When his family moves, though, Peter finds a tranquil valley where he can, at last, hear himself think. There, he meets Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. But the treatment may cause serious damage to her brain. Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley --- and life --- may have other plans for them.
--- Reviewed by Kathy Purcell.

NEW! ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Youth Fiction)

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. --- Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

NEW! BONE #1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith (Graphic Novel)

In 2005, Scholastic launched the Graphix imprint with the publication of Jeff Smith's BONE in full color. To celebrate ten years of publishing, we offer this special tribute edition of OUT FROM BONEVILLE, where readers can meet or rediscover Fone Bone's, Phoney Bone's and Smiley Bone's incredible journey. Inside there are also minicomics and artwork inspired by BONE, created by 16 bestselling, award-winning artists. --- Reviewed by Matt Lazorwitz.

NEW! A DRAGON'S GUIDE TO THE CARE AND FEEDING OF HUMANS written by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder with illustrations by Mary GrandPré (Fantasy)

Crusty dragon Miss Drake has a new pet human --- precocious Winnie. Oddly enough, Winnie seems to think Miss Drake is her pet --- a ridiculous notion! Unknown to most of its inhabitants, the City by the Bay is home to many mysterious and fantastic creatures, hidden beneath the parks, among the clouds and even in plain sight. And Winnie wants to draw every new creature she encounters: the good, the bad and the ugly. But Winnie’s sketchbook is not what it seems. Somehow, her sketchlings have been set loose on the city streets! It will take Winnie and Miss Drake’s combined efforts to put an end to the mayhem...before it’s too late. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose (Fiction)

It’s 1587 and 12-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! FINDING THE WORM by Mark Goldblatt (Fiction)

Trouble always seems to find 13-year-old Julian Twerski. First it was a bullying incident, and now he’s been accused of vandalizing a painting. The principal doesn’t want to suspend him again, so instead, he asks Julian to write a 200-word essay on good citizenship. Julian writes 200 no’s instead, and so begins an epic struggle between Julian and his principal. --- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

NEW! MASTERMINDS by Gordon Korman (Action/Adventure)

Eli Frieden lives in the most perfect town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Honesty and integrity are valued above all. The 30 kids who live there never lie --- they know it's a short leap from that to the problems of other, less fortunate places. Then one day Eli bikes to the edge of the city and something unexpected happens. Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one --- least of all their own parents. --- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

NEW! FIRSTBORN written by Tor Seidler with illustrations by Chris Sheban (Fiction)

Blue Boy, the alpha male of his pack, is the largest wolf many have ever seen, and his dream is to have a firstborn son who will take after him in every way. But Lamar is not turning out the way his father hoped. Lamar likes to watch butterflies. He worries if his younger siblings fall behind in the hunt. He has little interest in peacocking in front of other clans. Blue Boy grows increasingly dismayed at Lamar’s lack of wolf instincts, and then Lamar does the intolerable: he becomes attracted to a coyote. While the other infractions can be begrudgingly tolerated, this one cannot, and the unity of the pack is in jeopardy. Lamar wants to make his family happy, but is doing what is expected of him worth losing the only true friend he’s ever had? --- Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

NEW! THE KEEPERS: The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders (Fiction)

When Horace finds the Box of Promises in the curio shop, he quickly discovers that ordinary-looking objects can hold extraordinary power. From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his newfound abilities to his encounters with Chloe --- a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own --- Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. --- Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

NEW! THE IMAGINARY written by A. F. Harrold with illustrations by Emily Gravett (Fiction)

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup's imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger --- until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he's found Rudger. --- Reviewed by Corinne Fox.

NEW! WITHERWOOD REFORM SCHOOL written by Obert Skye with illustrations by Keith Thompson (Fiction)

After a slight misunderstanding involving a horrible governess, oatmeal and a jar of tadpoles, siblings Tobias and Charlotte Eggars find themselves abandoned by their father at the gates of a creepy reform school. Evil mysteries are afoot at Witherwood, where the grounds are patrolled by vicious creatures after dark and kids are locked in their rooms. Charlotte and Tobias soon realize that they are in terrible danger --- especially because the head of Witherwood has perfected the art of mind control. --- Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.

NEW! FLUNKED by Jen Calonita (Fiction)

Gilly's sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen and Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its heroic mission. There's a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: Can a villain really change? --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

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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