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September 2015 Newsletter for Parents September 2015
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If Kidsreads Designed Your Kids' Schedules...

I hope that your kids' first few weeks of school are off to a terrific start! While I’m all for learning the names of the colors in Spanish and the gory details of the Civil War, I’m obviously a little biased --- if I could design their schedules, it would be all reading, all the time. How would that work, you ask? Well, take a look:

History: Our first unit of the year will focus on the Holocaust, where we’ll read SOMEWHERE THERE IS STILL A SUN: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Michael Gruenbaum and Todd Hasak-Lowy (which came out on August 25). Hasak-Lowy adapted the diary of a real boy who was deported from his Prague home to the Terezin concentration camp during World War II, and the present-tense, youthful voice will help you imagine what this dark period was really like. Next we’ll take a slightly artsier angle and devour RHYTHM RIDE: A Road Trip Through Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (September 29), which explores how one of the biggest musical movements in history began in a garage in Detroit, Michigan.

English: While we could read pretty much read any book in our English class, I’m going to start us off with NOAH WEBSTER: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef (August 25). This biography shows us the remarkable life of the man responsible for the first American dictionary, and it will make you look at words in a whole new way. Then we'll read the fast-paced, riddle-filled novel BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (June 2), in which the two main characters must find a famous publisher --- and literary game creator --- before some conniving villains. A book about books? What could be better?

Math: How are we going to read in math, you ask? Don’t worry --- it turns out that numbers have worked their way into lots of awesome books. First we’re going to delve into EDGAR ALLAN POE’S PIE: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems (Paperback: March 31), where author J. Patrick Lewis gives Edgar Allan Poe’s poems a mathematical twist. Talk about interdisciplinary! Then we’ll try THE ROOKIE BOOKIE by Jon Wertheim and Tobias J. Moskowitz (Paperback: November 3), who show how one kid took his love of statistics and turned it into a sports betting ring at school (although things didn’t exactly go as planned).

Social Studies: Chelsea Clinton may no longer be in the White House, but the former first daughter still cares deeply about some of the biggest issues our society is facing today, from homelessness to climate change to access to education. She introduces us to these topics in IT’S YOUR WORLD: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! (September 15) and gives real-life examples of kids who worked to make a difference. Definitely an inspiring way to start the school year! However, we'll also make sure to study the social workings going on in our very own hallways with A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO BULLYING: Written By A Teen by Aija Mayrock (paperback: June 30). With interactive quizzes and survival tips, this will definitely help you navigate your classmates on a daily basis.

Science: We’d start off the year with a nutrition unit and delve into THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan (August 4). Originally written for adults, this exploration into the food chain makes you think twice about the food you eat, how it got to your table and the effects it has on both your body and the world. Next we’d delve into THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin (Sept 22), a beautiful book that explores death, hope and love. Where’s the science, you ask? Well, protagonist Suzy loves the subject, and the entire book is arranged like a report (hypothesis, procedures, etc). A great way to learn proper formatting, no?

P.E.: When taking a break from sprints, we’ll pick up A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME by Phil Bildner; illustrated by Tim Probert (August 18); where two best friends with a penchant for basketball discover that a new teacher (and coach) can turn everything upside-down. Are you more into nonfiction? Then you’ll love the next pick --- LEGENDS: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Football by Howard Bryant (September 8). This volume is jam-packed with Super Bowl facts, from the biggest upsets to the most memorable moments, and will definitely make you eager to perfect a spiral of your own.

Art: What's cooler than capturing the world around you with a camera? First we'll pick up NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS GUIDE TO PHOTOGRAPHY: Tips & Tricks on How to Be a Great Photographer from the Pros & Your Pals at My Shot (August 4) by Nancy Honovich and legendary photographer Annie Griffiths. By the time you’re done, you’ll have more than enough pictures to share in your school’s art show. We'll follow with an origami unit, helped along by DRAGONS AND OTHER FANTASTIC CREATURES IN ORIGAMI by John Montroll (March 19, 2014). This is definitely the perfect way to blend your loves of art and fantasy novels!

So, want to sign your kids up to go to my school? I’m accepting applicants now! Just kidding. Really, though, check out these books to supplement your children's class reading this fall --- they’re “educational,” after all! For more recommended reads, read the reviews later in the newsletter, as well as tons of features, information on our upcoming "series books makeover," contests for you and more!

Happy reading,

--- Shara Zaval (


Special Feature: THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin

Next time you're at a museum, a zoo, an aquarium or any kind of cultural institution, pay might just find the thing that sparks the idea for a book! That's what happened to debut novelist Ali Benjamin --- she was visiting the JELLIES exhibit at the New England Aquarium and couldn't get the haunting, translucent creatures out of her head. Eventually, they became a very prominent theme in her new middle grade novel THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, in which Suzy, a seventh grader, is determined to prove that her best friend died from a rare jellyfish sting.

Click here to find out more about THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH in our interview with Ali.
Click here to read the excerpt.
Click here to check out the review.

Coming Soon: Series Update!

We know that series are huge for our readers --- once kids find characters and a fictional world they love, they don't have to leave --- they can just move from one adventure to another to another.

That's why we've decided to give our series feature a major makeover. We're updating the feature so that you'll find almost every major series from the past several years --- as well as the classics --- on You can learn about your kids' favorite series, the author and, most importantly, discover which book comes after the one they've just finished!

We'll also be including periodic "series updates" in our newsletter, so you'll know if we added a new series we think you should check out.

The feature isn't ready quite yet, but we'll officially introduce it as soon as it on the lookout!


Side by Side: Imaginary Friends
Nothing's wrong with a little alone time --- you can draw pictures, read graphic novels or master that book of magic tricks your grandfather gave you. But sometimes, if you're the social type, it can get a little lonely. So what should you do? According to three new (and upcoming!) picture books --- IMAGINARY FRED by Eoin Colfer with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers, WE FORGOT BROCK! by Carter Goodrich and MAPLE & WILLOW APART by Lori Nichols --- there's a simple answer: just imagine a friend!

In IMAGINARY FRED, Fred floats like a feather in the wind until he finds his real-boy match, an adorable young'un named Sam. Phillip and his imaginary friend Brock are inseparable in WE FORGOT BROCK!...until Phillip forgets him at a fair, that is. And when Maple leaves for school in MAPLE & WILLOW APART, her little sister, Willow, has to find a new friend --- and he may just be tiny creature with an acorn for a hat.

Click here to read the Side by Side!

On the Kidsreads Blog

Keep Your Eye off the Ball - Guest Post by Charles Curtis --- The author of STRANGE COUNTRY DAY talks about how his career as a sports writer influenced his book in some unexpected ways.

Who Can See Magic? - Guest Post by Adam Shaughnessy --- Every author whose story is tinged with magic must face a decision --- who can see magic, who can't, and why? The author of THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB takes us through his thought process.

How to Write Cinematically - Guest Post by Eric Pierpoint --- The author of THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK shows us how he uses his background as an actor to bring his book to life.

Baking Bookshelf: 10 Books That Will Make Your Mouth Water


Mmm, something smells good...what's baking?

September is a month filled with baking holidays. September 14th was Cream-Filled Donut Day. On the 18th, get out your marshmallow fluff for Rice Krispie Treats Day. And on the 28th, help yourself to some pie for Strawberry Cream Pie Day.

To celebrate all of these delectable holidays, we rounded up 10 of the most delicious books about baking, from the Cupcake Diaries series to THE BAKING LIFE OF AMELIE DAY. Baking, according to these authors, can make or break friendships, bring families together, remind us of times gone by and help us express ourselves as we grow and change --- all in a single book!

So what are you waiting for? Help yourself and dig in!

Click here to see our baking bookshelf!

September's Cool & New Books Roundup

This month's roundup includes the eagerly anticipated THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick, which follows two connected stories in illustration and prose, leaving readers unraveling the mysteries; THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin, a heartfelt journey exploring life and other wonders of the world; and CHILD SOLDIER: When Boys and Girls are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys with illustrations by Claudia Davila, the gripping true story of Michel's experience growing up in the Congo and being turned into a child soldier at age five.

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

September's New in Paperback Roundup
In this month's roundup, we have SECRET CODERS by graphic novel superstars Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes, where the students at Stately Academy are faced with a mystery they can’t wait to decode; WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus, a tale following two sisters as they escape their home in the Norwegian mountains for America; and THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK by Eric Pierpont, where William goes on an epic adventure to deliver a message that might just change the course of the Civil War.
Click here to visit our September New in Paperback feature!

September's New in Picture Books Roundup

This month's roundup includes SADAKO'S CRANES by Judith Loske, the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who folded 1,000 paper cranes in order to be granted a wish; GANESHA’S SWEET TOOTH by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes, a vibrant, colorful tale of the Hindu deity Ganesha’s desire for sweets; and ALPHABET SCHOOL by Stephen T. Johnson, which teaches kids the alphabet with letters hidden in a school setting.

Click here to see September's Picture Books roundup!

Now in Stores: CONFESSIONS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND by Michelle Cuevas

CONFESSIONS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND by Michelle Cuevas (Youth Fiction)

The whimsical "autobiography" of an imaginary friend who doesn't know he's imaginary --- perfect for fans of THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE and Toy Story.

Jacques Papier has the sneaking suspicion that everyone except his sister Fleur hates him. Teachers ignore him when his hand is raised in class, he is never chosen for sports teams, and his parents often need to be reminded to set a place for him at the dinner table. But he is shocked when he finally learns the truth: He is Fleur's imaginary friend! When he convinces Fleur to set him free, he begins a surprising, touching, and always funny quest to find himself --- to figure out who Jacques Papier truly is, and where he belongs.

Readers will fall in love with Jacques's sweet, quirky voice as he gives them a look at life from the perspective of someone invisible.

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: THE BLACKTHORN KEY by Kevin Sands

THE BLACKTHORN KEY by Kevin Sands (Fantasy, Mystery)

Following a series of murders, an apothecary’s apprentice must solve puzzles and decipher codes in pursuit of a secret that could destroy the world in this suspenseful debut novel.

“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn --- with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

In his stunning debut novel, Kevin Sands brings readers on a heart-stopping adventure rich with suspense, mystery, and unforgettable characters.

Click here to learn more about the book.

Now in Stores: THE BAMBOO SWORD by Margi Preus

THE BAMBOO SWORD by Margi Preus (Historical, Adventure)

Set in 1853 in Japan, this novel follows Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai. Unfortunately, as part of the serving class, Yoshi can never become a warrior. He is taken up by Manjiro, the protagonist of Preus’s HEART OF A SAMURAI, and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Commodore Matthew Perry and his USS Susquehanna squadron of steamships arrive in Edo Bay demanding “diplomatically” that Japan open its ports to foreign trade. Aboard the commodore’s flagship is a cabin boy, Jack, who becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogun’s samurai.

Click here to read more about the book.


New Reviews

New! A CURIOUS TALE OF THE IN-BETWEEN by Lauren DeStefano (Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Fantasy)

Pram Bellamy is special --- she can talk to ghosts. She has her books, she has her aunts and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix. Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram's power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost. --- Reviewed by Alyssa Luis.

New! THE SECRETS OF BLUEBERRIES, BROTHERS, MOOSE & ME by Sara Nickerson (Youth Fiction, Family Life)

Determined to make some extra money, 12-year-old Missy and her older brother Patrick get summer jobs picking blueberries at a local farm. For Missy, though, blueberry picking quickly becomes about more than just money --- it's the perfect distraction from the fact that her two best friends have gone off to summer camp without her and that her dad is getting remarried. Why can't everything go back to the way it used to be? --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! FEARSOME CREATURES OF THE LUMBERWOODS: 20 Chilling Tales from the Wilderness by Hal Johnson with illustrations by Tom Mead (Youth Fiction, Horror, Mystery)

Meet the fearsome creatures of the lumberwoods! The Hodag, like a spinybacked bull-horned rhinoceros packing 3,000 pounds of carnivorous fury. The Snoligoster, the reptilian beast that feeds on the shadows of its victims. And deadlier than a rattler, copperhead or cottonmouth combined, the Hoop Snake, which can chase prey at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and then, with one sting of its venomous tail, cause the victim to turn purple, swell up and die. For every kid who loves a good scare, here are 20 spooky, macabre yet whimsical tales about the most fantastical beasts in American folklore. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! CHILD SOLDIER: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys (Graphic Novel, History, Biography)

Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! SIRON RAIL, IRON MEN AND THE RACE TO LINK THE NATION: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad by Martin W. Sandler (History)

It was the tens of thousands of workers who, against all odds and working almost entirely by hand, built the great road. They labored for more than six years blasting the longest tunnels that had ever been constructed, building the highest bridges that had ever been created, battling enormous snow drifts and blistering heat. And when the nation was finally linked by two bands of steel, America was changed forever. --- Reviewed by Maya Berman.

New! THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick (Historical Mystery, Youth Fiction)

Two seemingly unrelated stories --- one in words, the other in pictures --- come together with spellbinding synergy. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

New! BRILLIANT by Roddy Doyle with illustrations by Emily Hughes (Fantasy, Fiction)

When Uncle Ben's Dublin business fails, it's clear to Gloria and Raymond that something is wrong. So when the children overhear their granny saying that the Black Dog has settled on Ben's back and he won't be OK until it's gone, they decide they're going to get rid of it. But they aren't the only kids on the mission. Together, the children manage to corner the Black Dog…but will they have the courage and cleverness necessary to destroy the frightening creature? --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

Contests for You on and

We know you're looking for books for your kids, but that doesn't mean that you don't deserve to win some awesome reads for yourself, too. Make sure to enter some of our contests on and below!

Fall Preview 2015: Fall is known as the biggest season of the year for books. The titles that release during this latter part of the year often become holiday gifts, and many are blockbusters. To celebrate the arrival of fall, we are spotlighting a number of outstanding books that we know people will be talking about in the days and months to come. We will be hosting a series of 24-hour contests for these titles on select days in September and October, so you will have to check the site each day to see the featured prize book and enter to win. We also will be sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here.

THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory: We are celebrating the release of THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN --- #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory's riveting new Tudor tale featuring King Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Kateryn Parr, the first English queen to publish under her own name --- by giving away five copies of the book. To enter, please fill out this form by Wednesday, October 7th at noon ET.

MARRIED SEX by Jesse Kornbluth: We are celebrating the release of Jesse Kornbluth's MARRIED SEX --- a sharply observed erotic tale about the challenges of modern marriage --- by giving three groups the chance to win 12 copies of the book. We're also giving away 25 single copies. We ask that all winners be available to submit comments on the book by the selected deadline. To enter, please fill out this form by Monday, September 28th at noon ET.

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