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August 2014 Newsletter August 2014
Sliding Into the School Year with Kidsreads

Hey Kidsreaders!

I hope you have had a terrific summer so far, and are starting to get excited about going to back to school (or being back in school, if you’ve started already). I know what you’re thinking…excited? But seriously, I always think there’s a slight thrill to a new year --- you get to see your friends every day, maybe make some new ones, possibly meet a teacher or take a class that will push you in a whole new direction, and have a chance to start fresh. Plus, there is seriously no greater joy than buying new school supplies. Eight different colors of highlighters, elastics shaped like animals, new folders for your binder…what could be better? (I personally was a big fan of Lisa Frank as a kid --- see the picture on top to get an idea of the blindingly neon contents of my backpack).

But anyway, if that annual trip to Staples (or whatever store you use for buying school supplies) doesn’t get you in the mood, I’ve rounded up a few upcoming books that strike me as a great way to ease into the new school year:

THOMAS JEFFERSON: President and Philosopher by Jon Meacham --- This was a bestselling book for adults, and Jon adapted it for a younger audience. Thomas Jefferson was truly inspiring --- not only was he a former President and co-author of the Declaration of the Independence, but he also was an inventor, scientist and expert pea-grower! Reading about him could definitely inspire you to do great things this year. Plus, we know that many school projects require you to research an important historical figure --- maybe Thomas Jefferson will be your man!

KIDS WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD by Anne Jankeliowitch --- Sure, plenty of education happens inside the classroom, but a lot of it happens outside of school grounds too. Author Anne Jankeliowitch delves into the lives of 45 extraordinary kids who are making the difference, whether they’re drawing birds to raise money to save animals hurt by an oil spill in the U.S. or securing the protection of a pond in Hungary. This book will definitely make you think twice about the way you treat the environment this year, and could motivate you to start your own impactful project!

THE BRILLANT WORLD OF TOM GATES by Liz Pichon --- School notebooks are for math equations and Civil War dates, but as middle-schooler Tom Gates knows, they’re also a great place to doodle, dream up band names and let your mind wander. THE BRILLIANT WORLD OF TOM GATES --- the first of the Tom Gates series, which has been a best-seller in the UK for years --- has finally made it to the U.S., and we think that those of you who love to scribble not-so-school-related-notes in your own workbooks will relate to Tom’s thoughts, trials and quirky adventures…and maybe even his love of sweets and grumpy older sister. Also, we have an interview with author Liz Pichon on the site this month --- be sure to check it out, here! You can see the two of us together on the top left...Liz is wearing one of her hand-painted dresses, and I'm holding one of Tom's favorite desserts: caramel wafers!

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION FOR KIDS: The People and Technology That Changed the World, With 21 Activities by Cheryl Mullenbach --- The For Kids series dips into tons of important places, time periods, figures and concepts, from Frank Lloyd Wright to American Folk Art, and makes them incredibly hands on. This latest book focuses on the major changes that occurred in the United States at the turn of the 19th century, and invites you to transport yourself into the time period by making an assembly line sandwich, weaving a placemat and more. While you learn a ton by reading, you learn even more by doing.

So that’s that! What books are you reading to get yourself into the school spirit? Let me know at

Happy reading,

--- Shara Zaval (

Interview with Liz Pichon --- Author/Illustrator of THE BRILLIANT WORLD OF TOM GATES
Tom Gates loves to write and doodle, and his school notebook is evidence --- along with class notes you'll find him brainstorming band names, drawing not-so-nice pictures of his moody older sister and dreamily sketching his favorite dessert: caramel wafers.

As it turns out, Tom's creator, Liz Pichon, loves art just as much --- not only did she hand-write the font for THE BRILLIANT WORLD OF TOM GATES and make every picture, but she even draws and paints on her own clothes!

Read our interview with Liz --- which we conducted in-person at the BookExpo America conference at the end of May --- to learn more about Tom, her writing and drawing and process, and her truly "brilliant" fashion choices.

Click here to read our interview with Liz Pichon!
Quirky Celebrations --- National Dollar Day
If you buy a pack of peanut M&M's or a bottle of water this month, make sure to take a second to think about that dollar you're handing the cashier. Why? Because August 8th was National Dollar Day!

This holiday honors the day that the Continental Congress established America's monetary system --- August 8th, 1786. So how should you celebrate this month --- without going broke? By reading some great money-themed books, of course! There are two great new releases this month: THE HISTORY OF MONEY: From Bartering to Banking by Martha Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura and CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO MAKING MONEY by Tommy Greenwald.

Click here to read the full special feature!

Guest Article by Mike Curato --- Author/Illustrator of LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY
Mike Curato's debut picture book LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY features a very small elephant --- and an even smaller mouse! Read Mike's guest post to see just how Mouse found his way into this book, and to get a sneak peek at some early sketches of the character!
Click here to read Mike's guest post!

August’s Cool & New Books Roundup
Our August roundup includes 365 DAYS OF WONDER by R.J. Palacio, the follow-up to the bestselling novel WONDER that shares words of wisdom from beloved character Mr. Browne; THE BADGER KNIGHT by National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine, which follows an albino boy’s epic journey through England and Scotland at the height of Medieval times; and PORTRAITS OF HISPANIC AMERICAN HEROES by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raúl Colón, a visually stunning tribute to Hispanic Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism and athletics.
Click here to see August's Cool & New Books roundup!

August's New in Paperback Roundup
Among the paperbacks this month we have THE MUSEUM BOOK by Jan Mark and illustrated by Richard Holland, a mixed-media ode to museums and the practice of collecting; the graphic novel SISTERS, the companion to SMILE that highlights the complexities of author Raina Telgemeier’s relationship with her younger sister, Amara; and the AMELIA BEDELIA Chapter Books Boxed Set by Herman Parish and illustrated by Lynne Avril, which includes all four AMELIA BEDELIA chapter books along with 60 exclusive stickers.
Click here to visit our August New in Paperback feature!

August's New Picture Books Roundup
Our August picture book roundup includes BONJOUR CAMILLE by Laia Aguilar and Felipe Cano, which follows young Camille’s whirlwind morning and boundless imagination in bold colors and collage-style illustrations; QUEST, a wordless picture book about friends who must rescue an enchanted king by Aaron Becker, the illustrator behind the Caldecott Honor book JOURNEY; and DAY DREAMERS by Emily Martin, a wistful ode to letting one’s mind wander.
Click here to see August's New Picture Books roundup!

31 Days of Harry Potter Contest Winners!

We had so much fun with our "31 Days of Harry Potter" feature!

The lucky contest winners are:

James from Anaheim, CA
Jenee from Phenix City, AL
Katie from Minster, OH
Sarah from Lakewood, CO
Seronica from Jefferson, GA

If you missed it and want to look back at our blog posts --- which ranged from a guest post by Stephanie Burgis, author of KAT, INCORRIGIBLE to merchandise for Muggles to recipes for butterbeer --- click here!

Click here to see our 31 Days of Harry Potter feature!

Books on Screen--Legends of OZ: Dorothy's Return

After a long day at the beach or the swimming pool, what's better than putting on your pajamas, making some popcorn and popping in a DVD? Not much! For the month of August, we recommend LEGENDS OF OZ: Dorothy's Return! See this latest twist on a children's literature classic!


Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Cast: Lea Michele, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre
Distributor: Clarius Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: August 26th

Dorothy wakes up in post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man and Glinda from a devious new villain, the Jester. Wiser the owl, Marshal Mallow, China Princess and Tugg the tugboat join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City.

Click here to read Books on Screen!

Now in Stores: COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS by Kara Harrington


Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she'd magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a "hipster." She'd be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she'd certainly be able to change her family's secret.

Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read the review.


Now in Stores: BECAUSE THEY MARCHED by Russell Freedman

BECAUSE THEY MARCHED: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights that Changed America by Russell Freedman

For the 50th anniversary of the 1965 march for voting right from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Newbery Medalist Russell Freedman has written a riveting account of this pivotal event in the history of civil rights. Illustrated with more than 40 photographs, this is an essential chronicle of events every American should know.

Click here to read more about the book.

Now in Stores: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK Graphic Novel: Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

Inventive, chilling and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson and Stephen B. Scott lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman's luminous novel.

Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read the review.

New Reviews

Check out our latest reviews on!

NEW! ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman (Fiction)

Meet Gladys Gatsby, New York’s toughest restaurant critic...just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade. Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s 11, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world. Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

NEW! FOUND THINGS by Marilyn Hilton (Youth Fiction)

One morning, River Rose Byrne wakes up talking like nobody else, and she doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s because her beloved older brother, Theron, has abruptly vanished. Maybe it’s because that bully Daniel Bunch won’t leave her alone. Or maybe it has everything to do with the eerily familiar house that her mind explores when she’s asleep, and the mysterious woman who lives there. River has to puzzle through these mysteries on her own until she makes a strange new friend named Meadow Lark. But when she brings Meadow Lark home and her mother reacts in a way that takes River by surprise, River is more lost than before. Reviewed by Lily Philpott.

NEW! EARTHQUAKE: San Francisco 1906 by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale (Fiction)

Brendan O’Connor is delivering pastries to the bustling businesses and elegant hotels of San Francisco, dreaming that someday he will be part of that life. Li Dai Yue is running from the isolated security of Chinatown, distraught over the marriage her uncle has arranged for her. Chance throws them together on the day of the San Francisco earthquake. Can two strangers from such different worlds work together to survive the terror of crumbling buildings, fire, looting and chaos? Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts.

NEW! FAMILY TIES by Gary Paulsen (Fiction)

Kevin Spencer is the glue that holds his family together. When his wacky relatives decide to have a double wedding in the backyard, Kevin takes charge. Planning two weddings is a great way to impress his girlfriend, Tina Zabinski, the Most Beautiful and Best-Smelling Girl in the World, but things don't go exactly as planned. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World by Nancy Castaldo (Nonfiction)

Anyone who has ever spent time with a dog knows that dogs love sniffing! They sniff out hidden food, dirty socks and the visitor who comes to the door. But some dogs work with police officers, soldiers and even scientists to put their "sniffers" to work. Sniffer dogs make use of the amazing biology behind their noses to protect people from bombs, catch criminals smuggling drugs or help researchers locate a hard to find snail in a forest. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES by Kimberley Griffiths Little (Fiction)

When Larissa Renaud starts receiving eerie phone calls on a disconnected old phone in her family's antique shop, she knows she's in for a strange summer. A series of clues leads her to the muddy river banks, where clouds of fireflies dance among the cypress knees and cattails each evening at twilight. The fireflies are beautiful and mysterious, and they take her on a magical journey through time, where Larissa learns secrets about her family's tragic past --- deadly, curse-ridden secrets that could harm the future of her family as she knows it. Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.

NEW! SHIPWRECK ISLAND by S. A. Bodeen (Fiction)

Sarah’s dad and stepmom decide to take the whole family on a special vacation in order to break the ice and have everyone get to know one another. They’ll fly to Tahiti, charter a boat and go sailing for a few days. It’ll be an adventure, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! STAR WARS: Jedi Academy #2: Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown (Fiction)

After surviving his first year at Jedi Academy, Roan Novachez thought his second year would be a breeze. He couldn't have been more wrong. Roan feels like he's drifting apart from his friends, and it's only made worse when Roan discovers he's not the amazing pilot he thought he'd be. When the school bullies take him under their wing, he decides they aren't so bad after all --- or are they? Reviewed by Charles Payseur.

NEW! FROSTBORN by Lou Anders (Fiction)

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns and an assortment of trolls and giants. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! THE RETURN OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL by Ben Hatke (Graphic novel)

Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy's greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination. Reviewed by Charles Payseur.


Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats and scary tales told in the dark! Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! IF: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers Written by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams (Nonfiction)

IF is an endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). By simply reducing everything to human scale, Smith has made the incomprehensible easier to grasp, and therefore more meaningful. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! BEWITCHED IN OZ by Laura J. Burns (Fiction)

Even though sorcery is forbidden in Oz, Zerie Greenapple is determined to use her magic. When the Flying Monkeys find Zerie and her friends using magic, one of their gang is captured. Three friends go on the run through the wild landscapes of Oz to try and find Glinda the Good, who they hope will save them from the evil Princess Ozma. But will magic be enough to lead these three friends to safety? Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell.


Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions --- the robots Klink and Klank --- to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! Reviewed by Charles Payseur.

NEW! WILD THINGS! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson (Nonfiction)

Told in lively and affectionate prose, this treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, parent or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter children’s book biz brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

NEW! EVIL FAIRIES LOVE HAIR by Mary G. Thompson (Fiction)

Ali and her middle school classmates are raising flocks of fairies to make their wishes come true. But growing a flock is harder than it sounds: the fairies eat only human hair, and the rules for dealing with them are confusing, misleading and subject to change. As Ali and her friends struggle to earn their wishes, mistakes are made, spells go awry and soon Ali is up against hundreds of two-inch-tall imps who have very big plans --- to replace all the parents in town! Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! BACKWARDS MOON by Mary Losure (Fantasy)

Bracken and Nettle are the last young witches in the valley. Their mothers disappeared years ago in search of the secret Door to a world without humans, leaving the girls in the care of 13 ancient witches. When the magical veil that protects their valley from humans is broached and the Wellspring Water needed to repair it is polluted, it is up to the girls to save the coven. A wishing necklace, seeking stones, a wily raccoon, human Witchfriends and their lost mothers' help Bracken and Nettle on their quest. Reviewed by Sally Tibbets.

NEW! EMPEROR PICKLETINE RIDES THE BUS (Origami Yoda) by Tom Angleberger (Fiction)

After successfully fighting to save their field trip in PRINCESS LABELMAKER TO THE RESCUE!, Tommy and the gang prepare for a well-earned day of fun and adventure in Washington, DC . . . but of course it won’t be that easy! This trip to the nation's capital will be full of shifting alliances and betrayals, carsickness and sugar rushes. Trouble starts even before the buses leave school, when Principal Rabbski decrees the field trip an “origami-free zone.” Dwight secretly folds a Yoda from a Fruit Roll-Up, but will Fruitigami Yoda be a match for Harvey's sour, hate-filled pickle of darkness? Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! THE MUSEUM BOOK: A Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections by Jan Mack and Richard Holland (Nonfiction, Education)

Why do people collect things? With vivid examples from all around the world, this book puts museums --- and the many artifacts lovingly stored there --- on display in a whole new light. 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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