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January 2016 Newsletter January 2016
A Fabulous Weekend for a Children's Books Lover!

Hi Kidsreaders,

I hope you’re having a fabulous start to the New Year! I’d say that mine is off to a solid beginning --- one of my best friends came to visit to ring in 2016. I’ve convinced my friend to teach me some of her jewelry-making techniques and…I got to go to the American Library Association conference in Boston, Massachusetts!

I realize that the conference title alone might not grab you, but I promise: for book lovers everywhere, this is the place to be. I’ve outlined some of the coolest parts for all of you middle grade and picture book fanatics below:

Watching Sophie Blackall win the Caldecott Medal: To be clear, watching the Youth Media Awards (essentially the Oscars of children’s publishing) was amazing all around. Who doesn’t want to be among the first to know who wins the Newbery, the Coretta Scott King Awards, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award? And getting to hear the chatter of eager librarians, watch the unexpected standing ovations and witness the cheers from the publishers scattered throughout the room as winners are announced --- there’s nothing quite like it.

Still though, there was something extra special about seeing Sophie take home the Caldecott for FINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Why? Well, I had seen her creating the illustrations a year and a half before when I visited her studio for an article I was writing for Kidsreads! She told me the story of Winnie --- a baby bear who became a mascot for a World War Regiment and eventually befriended Christopher Robin at the zoo --- and showed off some illustrations in progress, including the one on the above right (it took her six hours to find the right shade of green for the train station!). Plus, I saw FINDING WINNIE at another juncture in its publishing journey: Sophie explained her research and illustration process to a group of librarians at a Little, Brown Books for Young Readers meeting, and she signed a FINDING WINNIE poster that is currently hanging above my nephew's crib. Since I'd seen the book's humble beginning, it was amazing to see its triumphant finish at the YMA's --- I had nothing to do with the book, but I still felt like I had a personal stake in her victory.

Going behind the pictures at the Scholastic Picture Book Lunch: I didn’t get to spy on Barbara McClintock in her studio as she worked on EMMA AND JULIA LOVE BALLET or watch married couple Sean Qualls and Selina Alko brainstorm for TWO FRIENDS: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, the book they illustrated together, but hearing these talented artists talk about their process was almost as good. As I devoured some melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, I got to see Barbara compare Emma’s costume-adorned bedroom from EMMA AND JULIA LOVE BALLET with the inspiration --- her friend’s daughter’s bedroom. She also told us how long it took to color the gorgeous scene where Juila dances on stage (two weeks!) and how an image from another famous picture book --- THE PHILHARMONIC GETS DRESSED by Karla Kuskin with illustrations by Marc Simont --- helped her plan the scope of the spread.

As I moved onto a brownie (this lunch had quite good caterers, as you can tell), I saw Sean and Selina take us through draft after draft of TWO FRIENDS. We saw Frederick’s and Susan’s heads become smaller and less abstract. We saw an image of hands breaking through chains transform into a smattering of broken chain links. We saw Susan’s smile disappear in order to better reflect her serious personality. I could have watched before-and-after pictures all day long --- seeing the work that goes into each drawing, and ultimately, each picture book, makes you appreciate the final products so much more. You can see them signing a copy of their book on the top left.

Hearing Kwame Alexander Speak at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Dinner --- Yup, another “eat delicious food and learn amazing things about books” event! (And aren’t those always the best events?). I had heard that Kwame --- whose book THE CROSSOVER won the Newbery Medal in 2015 --- was an excellent speaker, and let's just say that I was not disappointed. Kwame interspersed his own stories with related passages from his latest book, BOOKED. We learned that Kwame’s father made him read an entire encyclopedia set as a child, and, as a form of rebellion, he occasionally ripped pages out of the books (yes, everyone gasped at this). Then we discovered that 12-year-old Nick, the protagonist of BOOKED, also clashes with his highly academic father. We learned the power that the right book had in Kwame’s life, and in Nick’s, about sports, teamwork and powerful teachers. The whole room was silent as Kwame introduced us to his newest novel (aside from dissolving into laughter at all the right moments, of course), and all of us were left reflecting on the power of storytelling --- how fact and fiction roll together to create a narrative that is raw and true. I haven't read this novel yet, but I certainly plan to.

I'll begrudgingly end my report on the events now, but I promise you that amazing picture books and middle grade novels filled this conference, and we'll be sure to highlight them in the coming months. You can learn more about the ALA Youth Media Awards winners below, as well as see an awesome bookshelf of art-inspired picture books and discover a slew of new reviews.

Happy reading,

--- Shara Zaval (

The ALA Youth Media Awards --- Congratulations to the Winners!

As mentioned above, the Youth Media Awards are one of the biggest annual events in publishing, as they honor the best and the brightest books across age groups, genres and topics. Click below to read our special newsletter outlining all of the picture book/middle grade winners --- these gems have beautiful language, compelling storylines, important messages and breathtaking art, and they're absolutely not to be missed.

Click here to learn more about the winners of the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards!

All About Art: 20 Picture Books That Celebrate Painting, Drawing and the People Who Do It Best

We all know that you can't have a picture book without art --- it's built into the very name of this beloved literary form. But sometimes, this focus on visuals goes a step further: not only does the picture book's form celebrate craftsmanship, but its content does, too.

Kidsreads decided to honor these "meta" volumes by gathering 20 of the best picture books featuring art and artists that have been published in the past couple of years. Some are fictional, following characters who feel most at home with a pencil in hand (Raúl Colón's DRAW!) or unusually perceptive crayons (THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers). Others focus on influential artists throughout history, including Wassily Kandinsky (THE NOISY PAINT BOX: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock), Jacob Lawrence (JAKE MAKES A WORLD: Jacob Lawrence, Young Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts with illustrations by Christopher Myers) or Frida Kahlo (VIVA FRIDA by Yuji Morales with photographs by Tim O'Meara).

Whether you're most interested in bright splashes of paint, supplies with their own personalities, puppets, recycled art, the people behind legendary works or the muses who inspired them, you're sure to find something to love in our visual feast of a bookshelf!


Click here to see our All About Art Bookshelf!

Congratulations to Gene Luen Yang, the Fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature
We are thrilled that Gene Luen Yang --- award-winning author of graphic novels AMERICAN BORN CHINESE and BOXERS & SAINTS and the new Secret Coders series --- was named the fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. In our interview, Gene talks about his platform "Reading Without Walls," how his experience teaching has influenced his writing and why he thinks graphic novels --- and reading as a whole --- is so important.
Read our interview with Gene Luen Yang!

Series Feature --- Major Update!

What's better than a book (and no, we don't mean ice cream)? It's a whole series of books! At, we know that a lot of you are all about series. Once you find characters, topics or a fictional world you love, you don't have to leave --- you 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've updated the feature so that you'll find nearly 200 fantastic middle grade series, both modern and classic. We also chose to include several major picture book series, and readers from 0-12 will find something in here that appeals to them.

You can find series organized by age and alphabetically, learn the premise of each series and, most importantly, see which book comes after the one you just finished!

We'll also be including periodic "series updates" in our Kidsreads newsletter, so you'll know if we added a new series we think you should check out. So go check it out --- we know you'll love it!

Click here to see our updated series feature!

January's Cool & New Books Roundup
This month’s Cool and New roundup includes THE HERO TWO DOORS DOWN: Based on the True Story of the Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend by Sharon Robinson, in which Jackie Robinson’s daughter writes a fictionalized version of her father’s friendship with his young Jewish neighbor in the late 1940s; THE NIGHT PARADE by Kathryn Tanquary, where Saki accidentally invokes a death curse in her grandmother’s village in Japan; and GOING WHERE IT'S DARK by the award-winning author of SHILOH, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, which follows a caving-obsessed boy with a stutter who is trying to overcome some major changes in his life.
Click here to see January's Cool & New Books roundup!

January's New in Paperback Roundup
In paperback titles this month, we have APOLLO: The Brilliant One, the latest installment in George O’Connor’s graphic novel series featuring the Greek gods, The Olympians, this time focusing on the god of the sun; HENRY FORD FOR KIDS: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities (For Kids series) by Ronald A. Reis, where kids can get a hands-on understanding of the man who “put America on wheels”; and LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough and Jennifer Thermes, which shares the details of the author’s own homesteading experiences as a young girl.
Click here to visit our January New in Paperback feature!

January's New Picture Books Roundup
In picture books this month, we have WORM LOVES WORM by J.J. Austrain with illustrations by Mike Curato, which celebrates the wedding of two endearing invertebrates and love in all of its forms; THE WHEELS ON THE TUK TUK by Surushtha and Kabir Sehgal with illustrations by Jess Golden, which brings an international twist to “The Wheels on the Bus”; and BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon, in which a mime discovers just how special friendship can be.
Click here to see January's Picture Books roundup!


Guest Post by Chris Grabenstein --- In the much-anticipated sequel to ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY, MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY OLYMPICS, teams from across the country are competing in the most bookish competition ever created! There are library cart relay races, Dewey decimal classification games and even a Reading While Eating contest. Therefore, we thought it was only fair to ask the author, Chris Grabenstein, what he would excel at were he invited to play along. Be sure to see his response!

Cover Reveal - LOST IN HOLLYWOOD --- If you've loved getting to know fun characters and cities around the world in Cindy Callaghan's books (including LOST IN ROME and LOST IN PARIS), you'll love that her latest book is taking readers to the heart of American cinema --- Hollywood! We're psyched to exclusively reveal the cover of LOST IN HOLLYWOOD, as well as the reissue of LOST IN IRELAND (previously called LUCKY ME).

Click here to read the Kidsreads blog!

Now in Stores: WHEN MISCHIEF CAME TO TOWN, by Katrina Nannestad

WHEN MISCHIEF CAME TO TOWN by Katrina Nannestad (Children's Fiction, Family Life)

When Inge Maria arrives on the tiny island of Bornholm in Denmark to live with her grandmother, she's not sure what to expect. Her grandmother is stern, the people on the island are strange and children are supposed to be seen and not heard. But no matter how hard Inge tries to be good, mischief has a way of finding her. Could it be that a bit of mischief is exactly what Grandmother and the people of Bornholm need?

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: LOLA LEVINE: Drama Queen, by Monica Brown

LOLA LEVINE: Drama Queen by Monica Brown (Children's Fiction, Friendship)

Seven-year-old Lola Levine is fierce on the soccer field. She can do a slide tackle (although she's not supposed to) and even likes gooey worms. Nothing scares Lola! That is, until she is auditioning in front of EVERYONE for her class play. After Lola is overcome with stage fright, she's cast as Squirrel #2, a non-speaking part! Lola is more than a little disappointed, and she looks to her bubbe for advice and comfort. But on opening night, the curtain rises, and she finds herself smack in the middle of an exasperating turn of events.

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: MAGIC TREE HOUSE #51: High Time for Heroes, by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca

MAGIC TREE HOUSE #51: High Time for Heroes by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca (Children's Fiction, Historical Fiction)

Magic Tree House #51: HIGH TIME FOR HEROES features Jack and Annie back in Egypt, still seeking the secrets of greatness for Merlin. This time they will meet the great nurse, Florence Nightingale, on her trip to Egypt that served as the inspiration for the choices that made her both famous and beloved.

Click here to learn more about the book.


New Reviews

New! THE GOBLIN'S PUZZLE: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton (Youth Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy)
A boy, a goblin, Plain Alice and Princess Alice are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle. --- Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

New! THE BORDEN MURDERS: Lizze Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller (Children's 10+, Crime, History, Law)
In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings, readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CRAZY HORSE by Joseph Marshall III and James Mark Yellowhawk (Youth Fiction, Family Life, Multicultural Stories, Historical Fiction)
Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy --- though you wouldn’t guess it by his name: his father is part white and part Lakota, and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage --- in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

New! CRENSHAW by Katherine A. Applegate (Children's Fiction, Fantasy)
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. His parents, his little sister and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything? --- Reviewed by Brianna Robinson.

New! THE NIGHT PARADE by Kathryn Tanquary (Youth Fiction, Fantasy, Fairytale)
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Then the local kids take interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare. But when she invokes a death curse, she has only three nights to prove her worth --- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever... --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

New! THE CAT WHO CAME IN OFF THE ROOF by Annie M.G. Schmidt (Youth Fiction, Classics, Animals)
An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and’s almost as if she’s a cat herself. --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

New! PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahban (Youth Fiction, Historical Fiction)
It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her and her grandfather's dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat and gets as far as the mainland before she is caught and forced to abandon Yujiin. She and her grandfather are devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. --- Reviewed by Kathy Purcell.

New! SECRETS OF VALHALLA by Jasmine Richards (Youth Fiction, Fairy Tale, Mythology)
It’s not every day that you find a famous weatherwoman bound by magic to a tree deep in the woods. Or discover that the weatherwoman is in fact Sunna, the Norse Goddess of the Sun, and one of the seven day guardians who keep time in order. But that’s just what happens to new friends Buzz and Mary --- and it’s only the start of their adventure. --- Reviewed by Christi Sheehan.

New! LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY by Cheryl Blackford (Children's Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prejudice)
LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY is set in England during WWII and told from the dual perspectives of 10-year old Lizzie, a homesick girl evacuated from bomb-blitzed Hull to the remote Yorkshire valley, and Elijah, a local gypsy boy. When Lizzie discovers an abandoned baby, she goes in search of the child's parents. But Lizzie's quest to reunite the baby with her family leads her to a forbidden friendship with Elijah, and both of them must come to terms with a world clouded by prejudice and fear. --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

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