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February, 2010 Newsletter for Parents February 2010
Books Books Books...and Ask Cornelia Funke a Question!

Has your child ever had a burning question for a favorite author? Well, Cornelia Funke, the internationally bestselling author of THE THIEF LORD and the Inkheart trilogy, wants to answer questions from her young fans. Send their inquiries here, and she will try to respond to as many as possible in a special online video. This fall, RECKLESS, the first installment in Funke's new fantasy series, will be released, and this could be the perfect opportunity to find out more about it. Funke is anxiously awaiting your child’s questions, so send away! The deadline for this is March 15th. Feel free to share this with your child's teacher, their friends and your local librarian!’s Books into Movies feature is spotlighting three films that promise to transport you and your family to mysterious and faraway lands (or middle schools) for larger-than-life adventures. Click here to find out more about Alice in Wonderland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and How to Train Your Dragon, a trio of soon-to-be blockbusters. The time to read the books is NOW!

Does your child love dogs? Then we suggest he or she check out the fifth book in the Pet Trouble series by T.T. Sutherland,
OH NO, NEWF!. Does having a big pup mean there's just more dog to love...or a lot more trouble to get into? Heidi finds herself somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum with her humongous dog, Yeti. Get started on the story of Heidi and Yeti with this excerpt.

, the animal adventure series by Brian Jacques, has been a huge success since it first came out 24 years ago. In fact, I remember both of my sons who are now 15 and 20 LOVING these books, and it always makes me smile when I see kids reading them today! This month, check out reviews and excerpts of the four latest additions to the collection: HIGH RHULAIN, EULALIA!, DOOMWYTE, and the newest chapter, THE SABLE QUEAN. Haven't started reading Redwall yet? It's a great time to get started.

Two great book giveaways are still going on this month. In our first contest, 15 lucky readers will win a copy of NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi. In this Newbery Honor book, a classroom incident becomes a nationwide news story. Read our review and an excerpt, and check out all the contest details here. Our second giveaway is in support of Erin Dionne's THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET. With a name like Hamlet, life is doomed to be anything but average. Read an excerpt, and click here for a chance to win a copy of this hilarious book for your child.

Has your child had a chance to read A WHOLE NOTHER STORY by Dr. Cuthbert Soup yet? Follow the Cheeseman family as they outsmart some of the world's most evil villains in hopes of protecting one of Mr. and Mrs. Cheeseman's precious inventions. Read our review and an excerpt, and get to know the kooky Dr. Cuthbert Soup himself in our interview. And guess what? I got to meet Dr. Cuthbert Soup earlier this month in San Jose, which was a whole lot of fun. I still am not sure when he was joking and when he was serious when we were talking!

If you and your child love books with illustrations, you have to check out MISSILE MOUSE: THE STAR CRUSHER by Jake Parker. This graphic novel follows a butt-kicking secret agent mouse in space and is brought to life on vividly colored pages. Take a look for yourself in the sneak peek we have available, and for more on the book, read our review. You can also win a copy of MISSILE MOUSE through our graphic novel site, There are 15 copies of the book up for grabs. Click here for more details!

Twilight: The Graphic Novel expands the world of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series into the graphic universe! Check here for a preview of this hot new book and your chance to win one of 50 copies of the book. is also giving away 10 copies of the graphic novel SMILE, a poignant new memoir from Raina Telgemeier exploring her adolescent years spent dealing with major dental problems, friendships and betrayals, and family issues. To enter the contest and find out more about SMILE, click here.

We're continuing to spotlight the newest addition to the Dear Dumb Diary series by Jim Benton, THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS AREN'T FOR. Catch up with Jamie's latest diary entries in our review and excerpt. And in our interview with Benton, the author reveals how he captures the tween voice, discusses how Jamie's character has developed over the course of the series, and gives us a hint about what we can expect from her next adventure in THE WORST THINGS IN LIFE ARE ALSO FREE.

For more great reads to chase away the last of the winter blues, check out our Cool New Books and New in Paperback roundups and our latest reviews --- which include graphic novel titles. And don't forget to vote in our poll about keeping or removing the dust jackets on the books your child reads.

Finally, we would like to remind you that March 2nd is Read Across America Day, the National Education Association's nationwide reading celebration that takes place each year to coincide with Dr. Seuss's birthday. Thousands of schools, libraries and community centers participate across the U.S. by bringing together kids, teens and books. Click here to learn more about this bookish day and how to celebrate with the young reader in your life.

Happy reading!

Carol Fitzgerald for



Click here to read all about NEA's Read Across America.

Special Chat Opportunity for Readers has some exciting news to share with you. Cornelia Funke, the internationally bestselling author of THE THIEF LORD and the Inkheart trilogy, will be answering questions from our readers! If you have a question you’d like to ask her, click here and send it along by Monday, March 15th. Funke will be responding to some of your questions in an online video from her home in California, and we will let you know where you can see the interview as soon as it’s available. Fans also will be thrilled to know that RECKLESS, the first installment in Funke’s new fantasy series, will be releasing on September 14th. If you’d like more details about the book, now would be the perfect time to ask her!

-Click here to ask Cornelia Funke a question.


Books into Movies: Alice in Wonderland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, How to Train Your Dragon

Whether it’s Tim Burton’s whimsical Alice in Wonderland, the hilarious “survivor tale” Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or the animated action/adventure comedy How to Train Your Dragon, a trip to the movies in March offers the perfect escape from this seemingly never-ending winter. The three films spotlighted in our latest Books into Movies feature promise to transport you to mysterious and faraway lands for larger-than-life adventures --- from overthrowing an evil monarch of the fantastical Underland, to taming mythical beasts on the dragon-inhabited island of Berk, to…dodging the bullies of Crossland Middle School? Well, two out of three ain’t bad!
Click here for more details about March’s films.

New Special Feature: PET TROUBLE #5: OH NO, NEWF! by T.T. Sutherland

PET TROUBLE #5: OH NO, NEWF! by T.T. Sutherland
Heidi always thought that she was energetic enough for any dog. She loves to play and run around and wants a big, enthusiastic dog to play with her and love her. But Yeti the Newfoundland might be a little more love than Heidi bargained for. He’s HUGE, and massively furry, and everything he does --- jumping, wrestling, flopping --- makes the whole house shake. Heidi loves Yeti, and she loves how much he loves her…but is there really room enough for both of them?

-Click here to read an excerpt from OH NO, NEWF!
-Click here to read T.T. Sutherland’s bio.
-Visit T.T. Sutherland’s official website,


Click here to read a review of OH NO, NEWF!


Series Feature Update: Redwall by Brian Jacques

REDWALL by Brian Jacques
For those not in the know, Redwall is a magic place populated by animals. The book series name comes from Redwall Abbey, the community most of the characters live in. Author Brian Jacques brings to life these animals in astounding detail, making each one a true character. But don't think these books are too sweet. They are actually thrilling action-adventure stories.

Jacques pits the peaceful mice, squirrels and moles who live in the Mossflower Wood and Redwall Abbey against evil animal villains --- weasels, foxes, stoats and the like --- who want to take over the Abbey and enslave its inhabitants. Good guys like Martin the Warrior (a sword-wielding mouse) triumph against baddies like Cluny the Scourge, a wicked one-eyed rat. Once you start reading, you'll be addicted to the world of Redwall!

To celebrate the release of THE SABLE QUEAN, we review this latest Redwall adventure and spotlight the previous three installments of the series, including the new paperback edition of DOOMWYTE.

THE SABLE QUEAN: A Tale of Redwall by Brian Jacques
He appears out of thin air and vanishes just as quickly. He is Zwilt the Shade, and he is evil. Yet he is no match for his ruler, Vilaya the Sable Quean. Along with their hordes of vermin, these two have devised a plan to conquer Redwall Abbey. And when the Dibbuns go missing, captured one by one, their plan is revealed.

Will the Redwallers risk the fate of their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones from imprisonment? Perhaps Buckler, Blademaster of the Long Patrol, can save the day. He has a score of his own to settle. And fear not, these Dibbuns are not as innocent as they appear. After all, they’re from Redwall.

-HIGH RHULAIN: Read a review, excerpt and about the book.
-EULALIA!: Read a review, excerpt and about the book.
-DOOMWYTE: Read a review and about the book.
-THE SABLE QUEAN: Read a review, excerpt
and about the book.


Click here to read our Redwall series feature.

New Special Feature and Giveaway: NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi

A ninth-grader's suspension for singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" during homeroom becomes a national news story in this 1992 Newbery Honor Book that addresses themes of freedom, patriotism and respect.

For your chance to learn more about the hum that was heard around the world, is giving away 15 copies of NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi, which is now available in a new paperback edition.

Ninth-grader Philip Malloy has one thing on his mind: running. When a failing English grade keeps him from joining the track team, he believes his teacher, Mrs. Narwin, has it in for him. One morning during announcements, he disregards the school’s policy of observing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” in respectful silence and hums along, hoping to get transferred out of her class. Little does he know that his minor infraction will make him the subject of national media attention. What truly happened that morning in Mrs. Narwin's class? Examine the events and reach your own conclusion. But --- can you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?

-Click here to read a review of NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
-Click here to read an excerpt from NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
-Click here to read Avi’s bio.


Click here for all the contest details.

Win a Copy of THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET by Erin Dionne is giving away 15 copies of THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET, Erin Dionne’s second novel. This humorous, Shakespearean-inspired tale follows Hamlet, an eighth grader who yearns for a simple, normal life. But with a name like Hamlet, life is doomed to be anything but average.

Hamlet Kennedy just wants to be your average, happy, vanilla eighth grader. But with Shakespearean scholar parents who dress in Elizabethan regalia and generally go about in public as if it were the 16th century, that’s not terribly easy. It gets worse when they decide that Hamlet’s genius seven-year-old sister will attend middle school with her --- and even worse when the Shakespeare project is announced and her sister is named the new math tutor. By the time an in-class recitation reveals that our heroine is an extraordinary Shakespearean actress, Hamlet can no longer hide from the fact that she --- like her family --- is anything but average.

In a novel every bit as funny as her debut, Erin Dionne has created another eighth grader whose situation is utterly unique --- but whose foibles and farces will resound with every girl currently suffering through middle school.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET.
-Visit Erin Dionne’s official website,

Click here for all the contest details.

Special Feature: A WHOLE NOTHER STORY by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

In this interview with's Melanie Smith, Dr. Cuthbert Soup --- author and narrator of A WHOLE NOTHER STORY --- recounts the series of events that inspired him to chronicle the madcap adventures of Ethan Cheeseman and his children, and discusses the similarities between his own family and the characters in his debut. He also shares his thoughts on nurturing creativity in young minds, names a few of his favorite humor writers, and muses on the possibility of carrying on the Cheesemans' story in several sequels.

A WHOLE NOTHER STORY by Dr. Cuthbert Soup
In a story that’s like no other, you will meet: three attractive, polite, relatively odor-free children, a psychic hairless dog, top secret government agents, international superspies (one of whom happens to be a chimpanzee), corporate villains, a cowboy poet, various members of a traveling circus, and, of course, a sock puppet named Steve.

The Cheesemans are a family on the run. Mr. Cheeseman and his late wife invented a device so powerful and totally unique that all sorts of evildoers want to get their greedy hands on it. Mr. Cheeseman and his three children must keep their identities secret and stay one step ahead of the villains as they run from town to town, escape dangerous situations, and even change their names. Luckily, though they may not have the names they were born with, they do have their smarts --- and quite a bit of good luck. The Cheesemans are about to encounter a bunch of unusual but helpful characters, some of whom are far more than they appear to be.

-Click here to read a review of A WHOLE NOTHER STORY.
-Click here to read an excerpt from A WHOLE NOTHER STORY.

-Click here to read Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s bio.
-Visit the book’s official website,

Click here to read our interview with Dr. Cuthbert Soup.



Jim Benton is an artist and the author of numerous books for children, including the It's Happy Bunny and Franny K. Stein series. His most recent book, THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS AREN'T FOR, is the ninth installment of Dear Dumb Diary, which follows Jamie Kelly as she chronicles her middle-school exploits through her private journal. In this interview with's Sarah Rachel Egelman, Benton discusses how he accurately captures his protagonist's witty but honest and realistic voice, and explains the inspiration behind "automatic friendships," a concept he tackles in this latest work. He also describes how Jamie's character has developed over the course of the series and gives us a hint about what we can expect from her next adventure in THE WORST THINGS IN LIFE ARE ALSO FREE.


Making new friends is hard. How can you tell which ones will always be there for you, doing what you tell them, and giving you junk?

Jamie Kelly and BFF Isabella have finally decided that Angeline might not be totally terrible. She might even be OK to hang out with now and then. But in a group of three, someone is always the odd girl out….

-Click here to read a review of THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS AREN’T FOR.
-Click here to read an excerpt from THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS AREN’T FOR.
-Click here to read
Jim Benton’s bio.



Click here to read our interview with Jim Benton.

Special Feature: MISSILE MOUSE: THE STAR CRUSHER written and illustrated by Jake Parker

MISSILE MOUSE: THE STAR CRUSHER written and illustrated by Jake Parker
Missile Mouse, a secret agent for the Galactic Security Agency, is a risk taker and a rule breaker, which is why he’s in hot water at GSA headquarters. Then RIP, the Rogue Imperium of Planets, kidnaps a scientist who knows about the Star Crusher, a doomsday machine capable of destroying the entire universe.

Time to let loose the mouse!

Missile Mouse battles giant space slugs, corrupt agents, killer bugs, and a pair of shark-headed thugs to save the day (and the scientist!).

-Click here to look inside MISSILE MOUSE: THE STAR CRUSHER.
-Click here to read Jake Parker’s bio.


Click here to read a review of MISSILE MOUSE: THE STAR CRUSHER.

Special Feature: WOLVES OF THE BEYOND #1: LONE WOLF by Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky is the author of over 100 books for children, teens and adults, most notably the 15-part Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, as well as installments of Dear America and The Royal Diaries. In this interview with's Donna Volkenannt, Lasky discusses her latest novel, LONE WOLF --- the first chapter of a new series called Wolves of the Beyond --- and the surprising amount of research and attention to detail needed in order to write this fantasy story. She also gives some insight into her writing process, explains why she would prefer that her work provide a sense of validation for her readers rather than send them messages, and shares details about an upcoming film based on the Ga'Hoole series.

A wolf mother has given birth, but the warm bundle snuffling next to her brings only anguish. The pup, otherwise healthy, has a twisted leg, and the mother knows what the harsh code of the pack demands. Her pup will be taken from her and abandoned on a desolate hill. The pack cannot have weakness --- the wolf mother knows that her pup is condemned to die.

But alone in the wilderness, the pup, Faolan, does not perish. This is his story --- a story of survival, of courage, and of love triumphant. This is Faolan's story, the wolf pup who rose up to change forever the Wolves of the Beyond.

-Click here to read a review of LONE WOLF.
-Click here to read an excerpt from LONE WOLF.

-Click here to read Kathryn Lasky’s bio.


Click here to read our interview with Kathryn Lasky.

Cool New Books for February
February’s roundup of Cool New Books includes THE SABLE QUEAN, the latest Redwall saga from Brian Jacques that asks the question “Will the Redwallers risk the fate of their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones from imprisonment?”; THE VIPER’S NEST, book six in The 39 Clues series, in which Amy and Dan flee to a distant land and trace the footsteps of their most formidable ancestor yet: a military leader of mythic proportions; THE LAST WILDERNESS, the fourth installment in Erin Hunter’s Seekers series, which finds one bear pushed to the brink of death (and saving him means venturing into the dangerous territory of the human world); SWEET AND SUNNY by Coleen Murtagh Paratore, which marks the return of Sunny Holiday, whose mission as Junior Deputy Mayor of Riverton, New York is to help create a Kid’s Day and turn it into a national holiday; and Marianne Malone’s THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS, an exciting art adventure reminiscent of CHASING VERMEER and FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.
Click here to read our Cool New Books feature for February.

February's New in Paperback Roundup

February’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes BEST FRIENDS AND DRAMA QUEENS, the third installment in Meg Cabot’s tween series starring Allie Finkle, who is excited (at first) not to be the new girl at school anymore; SUPERIOR SATURDAY, the next-to-last Keys to the Kingdom novel, which finds Garth Nix’s protagonist, Arthur Penhaligon, struggling to gain possession of the Sixth Key from its immortal guardian; THE EYE OF THE FOREST, the fifth book in P. B. Kerr's Children of the Lamp series featuring djinn twins John and Philippa Gaunt; BASEBALL GREAT, Tim Green’s first novel about America’s national pastime, in which two friends find themselves in a desperate struggle with a dangerous man who doesn’t want them to expose the nasty secrets they uncover; and JAKE RANSOM AND THE SKULL KING'S SHADOW, a breathlessly paced adventure thriller from James Rollins, whose debut for young readers plunges two siblings into a gripping chain of events as they try to solve the mystery of their parents’ disappearance.

Click here to see what's New in Paperback for February.

This Month's Reviews Reviews:

THE 39 CLUES, Book Seven: THE VIPER’S NEST by Peter Lerangis
In book seven of The 39 Clues, Amy, Dan and Nellie jump a plane for South Africa to follow the footsteps of Shaka Zulu, Winston Churchill, and their own grandmother, Grace Cahill. There they encounter more clever puzzles, another essential clue, further life-threatening escapes --- and the long-awaited truth about their own Cahill branch history. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS by Marianne Malone
Marianne Malone’s inspiration for her debut novel is a beloved exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Millions of visitors love the Thorne Rooms, a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms, each of which are designed in the style of a different historic period. But what if the view they can see is only the beginning of their magic? Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS.

ENCYCLOPEDIA MYTHOLOGICA: GODS & HEROES by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
For all of recorded history, humans have sought to understand Earth’s mysteries in the realm of the divine --- and aspired to conduct themselves as heroes. Only gods, of course, could push the sun across the sky, forge entire continents and impel mountains to touch the clouds. In GODS & HEROES, Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda team up again for a three-dimensional exploration of the tales of the ancient world. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

FREEFALL by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
FREEFALL, the third book in the Tunnels series, finds Will, Chester and Elliott thousands of miles deep in the earth after falling into the mysterious and deadly Pore. Rumors have it that only one person has ever managed to escape the depths of the Pore. Will our heroes be so lucky? They will escape…or die trying! Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

LYONESSE, Book 2: DARKSOLSTICE by Sam Llewellyn
DARKSOLSTICE finds Idris, the rightful king of Lyonesse, in exile from his kingdom, still ruled by the evil Fisheagle. He travels to the ancient land of Aegypt to try to find his sister Morgan, who has been abducted by corsairs. Along the way, he meets a series of companions who will become the famed Knights of the Round Table. Can they save Morgan and Lyonesse together, or will the land and its tales sink forever into oblivion? Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood.

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
Acclaimed author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the moving story of three sisters who travel to turbulent Oakland, California, in 1968 in search of the mother who abandoned them. In her first novel for middle graders, Williams-Garcia writes with insight and humor about family, politics and identity. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

THE NIGHT FAIRY written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Angela Barrett
What would happen to a fairy if she lost her wings and could no longer fly? Flory, a young night fairy no taller than an acorn and still becoming accustomed to her wings --- wings as beautiful as those of a luna moth --- is about to find out. What she discovers is that the world is very big and very dangerous. But Flory is fierce and willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Reviewed by Joy Held.

LUCKY: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever by Wes Tooke
Louis isn’t very good at playing baseball, but he knows and loves the game more than anybody. He loves the purity of the sport, the sound of the crack of a bat, and the smell of freshly cut grass in the stadium. And more than anything, he loves the New York Yankees. So when he becomes a bat boy for the team during the summer of 1961, it’s a dream come true. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

TO COME AND GO LIKE MAGIC by Katie Pickard Fawcett
Twelve-year-old Chili Sue Mahoney has never been outside of her small Appalachian town. She longs to see the world --- to have the freedom to leave and to explore. So when Miss Matlock, who has traveled around the globe, is brought in as the seventh grade substitute teacher, Chili and her classmate Willie Bright are thrilled. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

-Click here to read our reviews.

Graphic Novel Reviews:

Owly is a kind yet lonely little owl who is always on the lookout for new friends and adventure. The first installment in this wordless graphic novel series contains two enchanting novellas, "The Way Home" and "The Bittersweet Summer," wherein Owly discovers the meaning of friendship and that saying goodbye doesn't always mean forever. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

COPPER written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi
Copper is a boy with an eye for adventure and a heart as big as the sea. He is aided in his wonder-filled life by his trusty companion and loyal friend Fred, who just happens to be a talking dog. Reviewed by John Hogan.

-Click here to read’s interview with Kazu Kibuishi.

OLYMPIANS: ZEUS, KING OF THE GODS written and illustrated by George O'Connor
In Olympians, George O'Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. This first volume introduces readers to the ruler of the Olympian Pantheon, telling his story from his boyhood to his ascendance to supreme power. Reviewed by John Hogan.

-Click here to read’s interview with George O’Connor.

SILLY LILLY AND THE FOUR SEASONS written and illustrated by Agnes Rosenstiehl
Lilly is a spunky little girl who delights in the unexpected pleasures of each season, peering inside shells in the summer and tasting different kinds of apples in the fall. In this charming and subtle book, Lilly learns more about the outdoors and introduces young readers to the colors, words and shapes that arise in nature. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

-Click here to read our graphic novel reviews.


This Month's Poll: Book Covers

Do you remove the dust jacket (the detachable outer cover) on a hardcover book when you read it?

All of the time
Some of the time
I only read library books.
I don’t read hardcover books.
Not sure


Click here to answer the poll.

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!

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