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January 2014 Newsletter January 2014
Ring in 2014 with Some Great New Books!

Hello readers, and Happy (belated) New Year!

I hope that your 2014 is off to a terrific --- and book-filled --- start! I know that I've been hiding out from the cold weather by doing lots of reading. I'm currently in the middle of HOLLOW CITY: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I loved the first book in this series, and am so excited to get my hands on the sequel! I'm also reading THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer, which follows a boy named Luc who travels into the depths of the Gabon jungle with a foreign professor to study a clan of chimpanzees. It's nice to escape to a steamier climate, even if it's all in my head!

I'm trying not to be a total hermit, though, and have gone to some great book-themed events since the year started. My very favorite was the New York Public Library's exhibit The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter and I definitely recommend it. It was amazing to see original copies of my favorite books and learn trivia about the way they came to be.

For instance, did you know:

  • When writing MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, Robert McCloskey kept live ducklings in his studio apartment bathtub so he could sketch their movements and anatomy
  • FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER made New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art so popular that they had to set up a special hotline for children, who continuously called to ask if they could sleep over in Marie Antoinette's bed, just like Claudia Kincaid (The answer, sadly, was no)
  • WINNIE THE POOH was based on stuffed animals that A.A. Milne gave his son (and that the original teddy bear was actually named Edward)
  • One of the reasons Dr. Seuss started writing was because he was sick of the overly stodgy, perfect depictions of children in books like FUN WITH DICK AND JANE, which was popular in the 1950s

If you live in New York City or plan on visiting before March 23rd, I definitely recommend that you check it out! You'll learn a lot about how children's literature has changed over the years, and it will definitely make you grateful that you were born at a time when kid's books are celebrated for their gorgeous illustrations, fascinating plotlines, well-developed characters, thought-provoking ideas and pure entertainment value. Check out the photos on the top --- the photo on the right features the original WINNIE THE POOH stuffed animals, and the photo on the left highlights some stunning illustrations from the 1972 edition of AESOP'S FABLES by Nancy Southworth.

And now what you're all wondering...what we're featuring on Kidsreads this month! First, you can read a great guest article by Karen Foxlee, about how she created the monsters in her new book, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY (review coming soon!). Karen says that she thinks about monsters all the time, even when looking at the clump of trees at the bottom of her garden! "It always looks like the perfect place for some leafy green mythical creature to live." Be sure to check out her article, and then have some fun conjuring some of your own magical --- and potentially terrifying --- beings.

We also have an interview with Maira Kalman, whose new picture book THOMAS JEFFERSON: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything comes out this month. We love this book because not only does it cover the things Jefferson is most famous for --- writing the Declaration of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase --- but is also filled with fascinating facts about his love for growing peas, violin skills and penchant for collecting. And it's bursting with Maira's vibrant illustrations. Be sure to check this one out before President's Day!

We also introduced a new feature we're excited about called Quirky Celebrations, where we talk about an "off-beat" holiday each month --- like Moldy Cheese Day (October 9) or Everything You Think is Wrong Day (March 15) --- and share a few books with the same theme. January is National Train Your Dog Month, so be sure to get into the spirit by reading ONE DOG AND HIS BOY by Eva Ibbotson and LUCKY DOG: Twelve Tales of Rescued Dogs !

You can still check out our 2013 Reviewer Picks if you want to add to your TBR (To Be Read) pile, and, as always, we have plenty of new reviews, picture books, books to screen and more.

So have a wonderful month, and we'll talk again in January!

--- Shara Zaval (

Our Reviewers Select Their 2013 Favorites!

Sure, 2014 has already started, but that doesn't mean you should forget about all of the great reads that came out last year! If you're looking to add to your TBR list, click here to see what books our reviewers loved the most in 2013 and why.


Click here to read our Reviewer Picks 2013 feature!

Guest Article: Karen Foxlee Tells Kidsreads How She Creates Monsters

Ophelia encounters quite a few monsters in the museum where her father works in OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY. There's the threadbare taxidermy wolves that chase her through the galleries, the Great Magical Owls who seek out delicate morsels of innocence and the taloned, sharp-beaked Misery Birds. So how did Karen Foxlee come up with these fearsome beasts?

Karen wrote an exclusive article for Kidsreads where she gives us the inside scoop on her creative process and the grizzly creatures that lurk inside her head.

She writes, "I find monsters are usually born out of general sense of uneasiness in a scene, a blank space, where I know something scary should fit."


Click here to read the whole article!

New Feature: Quirky Celebrations!

Sure, there are the traditional holidays that everyone knows about --- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah --- but there are a lot of wackier holidays, too. For instance, February 24th is National Tortilla Chip Day, September 5th is Be Late for Something Day and June is officially Turkey Lovers Month!

With our new feature "Quirky Celebrations," we highlight one or two slightly off-kilter holidays each month, along with a couple of new books you should read to get in the spirit.

For January, we picked National Train Your Dog Month, which promotes "training the family dog with everyday manners," according to its official website. So celebrate by teaching your pup to roll over...and by picking up two new canine-inspired books! ONE DOG AND HIS BOY by Eva Ibbotson follows Hal, a boy who runs away with a puppy from the rent-a-pet agency. LUCKY DOG: Twelve Tales of Rescued Dogs shares a dozen fictional stories about dogs from the Pawley Rescue Center. Each tale is written by a different author, including Marlane Kennedy and Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.

Click here to read January's Quirky Celebrations feature!

Interview with Maira Kalman, Author and Illustrator of THOMAS JEFFERSON

Everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson did some extraordinary things for the United States --- he was a Founding Father, the principal writer of The Declaration of Independence and the third President. But did you know that he also played violin three hours every day, collected everything from maps to Native American artifacts and loved growing vegetables in his garden, especially peas? We didn’t! Maira Kalman explores all sides of this fascinating man in her gorgeous new picture book THOMAS JEFFERSON: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything, including his interests, his contributions to the United States and even his monumental flaws. In this interview, Maira takes us behind the scenes and talks about her influential visit to Jefferson’s Virginia mansion, Monticello, some of her artistic decisions, and the one question she’d ask Jefferson, given the chance.


Click here to read the full interview!

Featured Review: THE LOST PLANET by Rachel Searles

THE LOST PLANET by Rachel Searles (Children's Fiction, Science Fiction)
This is what the boy is told:
- He woke up on planet Trucon, inside of a fence line he shouldn't have been able to cross.
- He has an annirad blaster wound to the back of his head.
- He has no memory.
- He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
- His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:
- He has a message: "Guide the star."
- Time is running out.

Click here to learn more about the book

Click here to read the review!

Books on Screen

Happy New Year, books on screen lovers! If The Desolation of Smaug whet your appetite for epic creatures, then go watch Dr. Frankenstein's creation, Adam, as he finds himself in the middle of a world-destroying battle in I, Frankenstein. If you’re in the mood for lighter fare (or want to stay inside your home instead of venturing into January’s frigid temperature) pick up Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD. However, make sure you have plenty of snacks by your side, or you're sure to get hungry!

In Theaters:

I, Frankenstein
Cast: Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighty, Caitlin Stasey, Aaron Eckhart, Jai Courtney, Miranda Otto, Kevin Grevioux
Director: Stuart Beattie
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: January 24th
Based On: I, Frankenstein, graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux

Two hundred years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind. From the co-writer of the hit supernatural saga, Underworld, comes the action thriller I, Frankenstein, written for the screen and directed by Stuart Beattie, screen story by Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie, based on the Darkstorm Studios graphic novel "I, Frankenstein" created by Kevin Grevioux. The story is brought to life by a cast that includes Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, and Aden Young as Victor Frankenstein.


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal
Director: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: January 28th

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 picks up where Sony Pictures Animation's mouth-watering comedy left off. Inventor Flint Lockwood thought he saved the world when he destroyed his most infamous invention --- a machine that turned water into food causing cheeseburger rain and spaghetti tornadoes. But Flint soon learns that his invention survived and is now creating food-animals --- 'foodimals!' Flint and his friends embark on a dangerously delicious mission to battle hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheespiders and other foodimals to save the world --- again!

Click here to view our January Books on Screen!

January's New Picture Books Roundup

We’re starting off the year with a great collection of picture books! First we have WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL by Eric Carle and Friends, in which a collection of beloved children’s book artists --- including Mo Willems, Erin Stead and Rosemary Wells --- illustrate their favorite animals and explain why they love them. Pictures range from breathtaking to whimsical, and will surely make young ones appreciate snails, elephants and even the mysterious Tink-Tink in a whole new way. There’s also CARS, TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO by Richard Scarry, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary; and MALCOLM LITTLE by Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, which delves into the childhood of one of the most important figures in the 20th century.

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

January’s Cool & New Books Roundup
January’s roundup of Cool & New books includes THE SITTIN’ UP by Sheila P. Moses, in which Bean attends a special wake after the last former slave in his town dies; WANDERVILLE by Wendy McClure, where three boys jump off an orphan train at the turn of the century and start their own community; and THE BLOSSOMING UNIVERSE OF VIOLET DIAMOND by Brenda Woods, which follows a mixed-race little girl who, after turning 11, decides to learn about the African American side of her family.
Click here to see January’s Cool & New Books roundup!
January's New in Paperback Roundup
January’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes the latest in Penguin’s Who Was…? Series --- WHO WAS NELSON MANDELA by Meg Belviso and Pamela Pollack --- which shares the life and legacy of one of the world’s most inspiring leaders; THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLD COIN by Harper Paris and Marcos Calo, the first installment in the Greetings from Somewhere series about twins who travel the world; and MONSTERS! & OTHER STORIES by Gustavo Duarte, a collection of wordless tales that feature monsters, aliens and a pair of hopeless business partners.
Click here to visit our January New in Paperback feature!
New Reviews!

Check out these reviews that we just put up on!

ANGEL ISLAND: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman (Children's Nonfiction)
Angel Island, off the coast of California, processed around one million immigrants from Japan, China, and Korea between 1892 and 1940. Drawing from memoirs, diaries, letters, and "wall poems," Russell Freedman describes the immigrants; the immigration process; detention and deportation; changes in immigration policy; and the renaissance of Angel Island as a historic site open to visitors. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

THE COPERNICUS LEGACY: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott (Children's Fiction)
Wade, Lily, Darrell, and Becca fly from Texas to Germany for the funeral of an old family friend. But instead of just paying their respects, they wind up on a dangerous, thrilling, mind-blowing quest --- packed with puzzles, intrigue, and action --- to unlock an ancient, guarded secret that could destroy the fate of the world. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLD COIN by Harper Paris (Youth Fiction, Mystery)
In the first book of this new chapter book series about mystery, travel, and adventure, twins Ethan and Ella must find a missing coin before they move away from their hometown! Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

SECRETS OF THE TERRA-COTTA SOLDIER by Ying Chang (Children's Fiction, Historical Fiction)
Thirteen-year-old Ming lives in a small village in 1970s Maoist China. From a mysterious surviving terra-cotta soldier, Ming learns their history, experiencing the mysterious tomb firsthand, braving deadly traps and witnessing the terra-cotta army in action. Most importantly, he learns how he can save the terra-cotta soldiers and his father from the corrupt Political Officer and his Communist cronies. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! by Tim Federle (Youth Fiction)
Armed with a one-way ticket to New York City, small-town theater geek Nate is off to start rehearsals for E.T.: The Broadway Musical. But as thrilling as Broadway is, rehearsals are nothing like Nate expects. Now, as the countdown to opening night is starting to feel more like a time bomb, Nate is going to need more than his lucky rabbit’s foot if he ever wants to see his name in lights. He may even need a showbiz miracle. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

When Miss Penelope Lumley is asked by the Swanburne Academy board of trustees to demonstrate the academic progress of her three wolfish students so the board can judge the true worth of a Swanburne education, the future of her alma mater --- and of her job as governess to the Incorrigibles --- hangs in the balance. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

ODD, WEIRD & LITTLE by Patrick Jennings (Children's Fiction)
When the new kid joins his class, Woodrow agrees with his schoolmates --- Toulouse is really weird. But Woodrow isn't exactly Mr. Popularity, and he thinks maybe all Toulouse needs is a chance. When the two are put together in gym to play volleyball, they make quite the team. But when the teasing switches back to Woodrow, he learns that the new kid is great at something else: being a friend. Reviewed by Sheena Kowalski.

JOSEPHINE: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell (Children's, Illustrated)
An extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine's powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself. Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

THE SITTIN' UP by Shelia P. Moses (Children's Fiction)
When Bean's adopted grandfather and the last slave man around dies in the summer of 1940, Bean and his very best friend Pole are some kind of hurt. Despite their grief, they are proud and excited to be included in their very first Sittin' Up --- a wake for the dead. Bean and Pole know this special week will be one to remember, especially if the coming storm riles up Ole River enough to flood the Low Meadows. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

ATLANTIS RISING by T.A. Barron (Fantasy, Mythology)
In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world. Reviewed by Carly Silver.

THE DIRT DIARY by Anna Staniszewski (Youth Fiction)
Rachel Lee didn't think anything could be worse than her parents splitting up. She was wrong. Working for her mom's new house-cleaning business puts Rachel in the dirty bathrooms of the most popular kids in the eighth grade. Which does not help her already loser-ish reputation. But when the hottest guy in school pays her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel decides to get her hands dirty. Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell.

ENGINES OF THE BROKEN WORLD by Jason Vanhee (Fiction, Paranormal Mystery)
Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just pulled their dead mother into the kitchen. They wanted to bury her, but they won’t be able to dig into the frozen ground. The Minister, who preaches through his animal form, doesn’t make them feel any better. Merciful calms her guilty feelings until she hears a voice. It’s her mother’s voice, and it’s singing a lullaby. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

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