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December 2011 Newsletter for Parents December 2011
Here Come the Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone! Are your kids out of school yet? Is your family planning on traveling this year, or are you all snuggling up for a relaxing “stay-cation” (a personal favorite holiday tactic of mine)? Whatever your plans, I know that no school and colder weather can make for a scramble to find indoor activities. How about some good reads? Books make great gifts --- and have WE got some ideas to keep your kids bookishly entertained.

Book two in The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers series, this time written by Jude Watson, is now in stores. A KING’S RANSOM continues the adventures of Dan Cahill and his sister, Amy, whose family gets kidnapped by the evil Vespers. The siblings vow to rescue them, but the ransom from the Vespers proves almost impossible, as they are given mere days to track down and steal an ancient map. Can they do it?

But... the 39 Clues fun doesn't stop there. Beginning on Christmas Day, a different top secret 99-cent story will be released every day, leading up to an explosive finale on New Year’s Eve. The daily digital stories can be read in any order, but codes hidden in each combine to unlock an exclusive card and medal on Keep your kids engaged by gifting them a new story every day!

Keep an eye out for some great “books into movies” hitting theaters this month. They include The Adventures of Tintin, which is based on artist Hergé's comic book series, and War Horse, the story of the tenacious bond between a boy and his horse during World War I. A super cool companion book to War Horse will be in stores on December 27th, just two days after the film’s release. Click here to read all about it. Both movies would make fun family outings this holiday season.’s John Hogan recently chatted with legendary writer/artist Hilary Knight, who many of you may know as the illustrator of the Eloise series. We are pleased to share this interview with you, where Knight talks about some of his favorite female characters. His new book, NINA IN THAT MAKES ME MAD!, features a very outspoken girl who is not afraid to be vocal about life’s everyday frustrations.

If you and your kids enjoy reading author interviews, be sure to take a look at all our interviews from 2011, which we have compiled into one feature. What a great way for them to hear from some of their favorite authors --- and to learn more about those they're not familiar with.

In another look back at 2011, we have asked our reviewers to pick their favorite books of the year, so you can keep track of all the great books your kids may have missed. Each reviewer was asked to name up to 10 titles. How many of their selections has your child read?

And speaking of special features, our "What to Give, What to Get" Holiday Gift Guide for Kids is still running, as is our Holiday Books Roundup. Both have some terrific wish-list ideas for the little ones this holiday season. We also bring you updated Cool New Books and New in Paperback roundups, along with a robust lineup of reviews that includes THE UNDERDOGS by Mike Lupica and SECRETS AT SEA by Richard Peck.

GERONIMOOOOOO! Our Geronimo Stilton series feature has just been updated to include a review of THEA STILTON AND THE ICE TREASURE, as well as some new trivia. All you Stilton fans out there, get excited about this new book --- and if your kids aren’t fans yet, well, this holiday gift-giving season is a good time to nudge them to become one. Series books make perfect gifts --- they just keep giving!

Finally, don’t forget to encourage your kids to answer our latest poll. We want to know how many books they read this year…if they can remember them all!

Well, here’s hoping you have a GREAT holiday no matter what you do these next couple of weeks! We’ll see you next year. Here’s to a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a great Kwanzaa, and all good wishes for a WONDERFUL 2012!

Carol Fitzgerald (


Now in Stores: THE 39 CLUES: CAHILLS VS. VESPERS, Book Two: A KING'S RANSOM by Jude Watson
THE 39 CLUES: CAHILLS VS. VESPERS, Book Two: A KING’S RANSOM by Jude Watson (Mystery/Action & Adventure)
Dan and Amy Cahill are back and continuing their quest to save their kidnapped relatives. In book two, the mysterious and evil Vesper One sends them to Switzerland to retrieve the famous De Virga world map. Unfortunately, the map has been missing since 1932, and the siblings only have four days to find it. With the police on their tail and time running out, Dan and Amy reach out for any and all resources to solve the mystery. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.
Click here to read a review of A KING’S RANSOM.

Seven Days, Seven Stories --- One Explosive Secret!
Celebrate the holiday season with The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire --- seven original digital short stories!

Beginning on December 25th, a different top secret 99-cent story will be released daily, leading up to an explosive finale on December 31st. The daily digital stories can be read in any order, but codes hidden in each combine to unlock an exclusive card and medal on Each can be read on an eReader, tablet, smartphone or computer, and are a perfect pre-order gift for any kid with a device on their holiday list!

Click here to learn more about The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire eBook series.

Books into Movies for December: War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin
War Horse
Christmas Day marks the release of War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel of the same name. The movie tells the story of a powerful bond between a young man named Albert and his horse, Joey, during World War I. Albert trains and cares for Joey until the two are forced apart. But the separation is the beginning of a remarkable journey for Joey, who touches the lives of everyone he meets as he moves through the war.

To celebrate its gallop into theaters, WAR HORSE: The Making of the Motion Picture will be available in stores beginning December 27th --- and you will not want to miss it. This outstanding visual companion to Steven Spielberg's epic adventure details the movie's story, its production and real-life history, and includes over 140 dramatic images from the film.

The Adventures of Tintin
Ever since 1929, the French comic book artist Hergé has been spinning thrilling tales of Tintin, a curious young reporter, and his faithful dog Snowy. Now, the movie based on the comic book series has come to the big screen. The Adventures of Tintin follows Tintin and Snowy as they discover a ship with a centuries-old mystery and get drawn into a desperate chase from a deadly villain. The two travel halfway around the world in search of The Unicorn, a shipwreck that may hold the key to a fortune, and are swept into exhilarating adventures along the way.

Click here to read more about War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin.

From Eloise to Nina: Hilary Knight Talks About Some of His Favorite Leading Ladies
Legendary artist Hilary Knight created the look of the cantankerous Eloise half a century ago. Now he’s giving the world a new version of the hilarious (and opinionated) Nina, who can’t wait to tell us all about how THAT MAKES ME MAD! In this interview with’s John Hogan, Hilary discusses both of these amazing girls and the impact of comics on his life.

NINA IN THAT MAKES ME MAD!: A Toon Book by Hilary Knight, based on a text by Steven Kroll (Graphic Novel)
What makes Nina mad? Lots of things --- lots of little, everyday things, frustrations that all children will recognize. But Nina knows how to speak her mind and that makes her feel much better.

Click here to read’s interview with Hilary Knight. Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2011
Recently, we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2011. Though it was difficult to narrow down, each reviewer chose up to 10 books that he or she enjoyed the most this year. Take a look and see if any of their selections match yours --- and which titles you may want to consider reading in the future. Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.
Click here to see our reviewers' favorite books of 2011.'s Author Interviews of 2011
As 2011 comes to a close, we invite you to take a look at the author interviews that were featured throughout the year on This is a great way to catch up on the discussions you may have missed --- and to re-read what some of your favorite authors had to say about their books.
Click here to see our roundup of 2011 interviews.

Series Feature Update: Geronimo Stilton
The Thea Sisters head to Alaska, where they're attending an important ecological conference. Their hosts are native Alaskans who show the mouselings their favorite games and activities. But soon there's trouble --- the Thea Sisters discover that someone is upsetting the ecosystem by blowing up the ice with explosives! Can they figure out what's going on and stop the destruction before it's too late? Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

Click here to read our Geronimo Stilton series feature with updated trivia.

What to Give, What to Get: A Holiday Gift Guide for Kids

We’ve created a special What to Give, What to Get Guide with YOU in mind --- it’s just for kids! We have books that we know you’ll love to unwrap this season, so check it out. We’re sure you’ll end up spotting a title or two that you can add to YOUR holiday list.

Click here to see our "What to Give, What to Get" Gift Guide for kids.'s 2011 Holiday Books Roundup
Searching for the perfect gift, or maybe just a great read to enjoy during all the hustle and bustle of the festive season? Either way, you can’t go wrong with’s roundup of holiday books. This year, our feature includes characters of all different ages and species, from a playful mouse to the happiest elf in the North Pole. Read all about Greg Heffley’s wild winter adventure, the heartwarming story of the Rockefeller Center tree, one girl’s quest to bring Christmas cheer to her family, clever new takes on two classic holiday stories, and much more. Find a cozy spot by the fire and enjoy!
Click here to see this year's roundup of holiday books.

Coming Soon: Books Releasing in the Months Ahead

Curious about what books will be released in the months ahead? Then be sure to check out our Coming Soon section, where we currently have titles for January and February listed. Please note that we have not included every book coming out, but rather some that caught our eye --- and that we thought should catch yours as well.

Click here to see January and February’s releases.

Cool New Books for December
December’s roundup of Cool New Books includes A KING’S RANSOM by Jude Watson, the second installment in The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers series, in which Amy and Dan go on a desperate search for an ancient hidden map in order to rescue their family; FROST WOLF, book four in Kathryn Lasky’s Wolves of the Beyond series, which finds Faolan trying to claim his rightful place as leader; ABE LINCOLN AT LAST!, Mary Pope Osborne’s latest Magic Tree House adventure that takes Jack and Anne back to Washington, D.C. in 1861; and THE YIPPY, YAPPY YORKIE IN THE GREEN DOGGY SWEATER, Debbie Macomber and Mary Lou Carney’s second Blossom Street Kids picture book, a heartwarming tale about embarking on new adventures and finding friends in unexpected places.
Click here to read our Cool New Books feature for December.

December's New in Paperback Roundup
December’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes FRAMED, Gordon Korman’s third book featuring Griffin Bing, who is falsely accused of stealing a Super Bowl ring by his mean new principal; MURDER AT MIDNIGHT, a prequel to Avi’s MIDNIGHT MAGIC, which revolves around a plot to overthrow King Claudio that’s brewing in the Kingdom of Pergamontio; NIGHT WHISPERS, book three in Erin Hunter’s Warriors: Omen of the Stars series, in which the battle between ThunderClan and ShadowClan has complex consequences for all four Clans; and ZORA AND ME by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, a story about racial divide in a Southern town in 1942, inspired by the early life of Zora Neale Hurston.
Click here to see what's New in Paperback for December.

This Month's Reviews
THE UNDERDOGS by Mike Lupica (Fiction)
Will Tyler may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. When he’s playing, life can't touch him --- his dad isn't so defeated, his town isn't so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. But with funds dwindling, there simply isn't enough money or players for a season. Unless Will can give everyone a reason to believe. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE UNDERDOGS.

SECRETS AT SEA by Richard Peck (Historical Fiction/Action & Adventure)
As the eldest mouse sibling, Helena takes her leadership role very seriously. Ever since their parents died, Helena has had her hands full taking care of Louise, Beatrice and Lamont. But when their human host family decides to travel to Europe, Helena has her biggest decision to make yet. Do they dare attempt to travel with the humans? The tiny mice are facing a huge adventure into the unknown during the year 1897. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

13 GIFTS by Wendy Mass (Fiction)
When Tara steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she finds herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle and bratty cousin in Willow Falls. What she doesn't know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

ZOMBIE MOMMY: A Pals in Peril Tale written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Mystery/Action & Adventure)
Our intrepid heroes are home from their Delaware crime-stopping excitement, only to discover that Lily’s mom has become possessed by a menacing zombie who wants to take over the world. (Or, at least, the world of stage and screen.) Thank goodness Lily’s friends Katie, Jasper, and foxy Blue-Hen-State monk Drgnan Pghlik are around to help save the day. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

PAINTINGS FROM THE CAVE: Three Novellas by Gary Paulsen (Fiction)
Jake, Jo and Jamie --- the main characters in Gary Paulsen’s dark and gritty novellas --- share common backgrounds. They come from broken homes and live in unsafe environments. Yet, in their dismal worlds, they find hope through the beauty of art or the unconditional love of dogs. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

STORM RUNNERS #2: THE SURGE by Roland Smith (Fiction/Action & Adventure)
Chase and his friends, Nicole and Rashawn, barely survived the first part of the category five hurricane. They’ve reached shelter at Nicole’s family farm, where their circus show resides in the winter. But the fierce wind and driving rains continue to batter them, plus flood waters are surging, threatening to drown everything in sight. And it only gets worse, as some of the circus animals have escaped. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

ALWAYS NEVERLAND by Zoe Barton (Fantasy/Action & Adventure)
Ashley can tell her summer vacation is going to bore her to tears --- until one night she wakes up and discovers Peter Pan in her bedroom. Since his adventure with the Darlings, Peter Pan has been bringing new “Wendy girls” to Neverland. But Ashley is made of much tougher stuff than the Wendy girls before her, and she’s bringing change to Neverland, though not everyone is happy about it. Reviewed by Kathy Purcell.

STARFIELDS by Carolyn Marsden (Fiction)
Nine-year-old Rosalba has lived her entire life in a sheltered Mayan village deep in the jungle. But her life changes dramatically after meeting Alicia, the young daughter of a visiting scientist who is conducting environmental studies. Rosalba learns that her sheltered Mayan village is in danger, as is the entire planet. She must dig deep to find the courage needed to warn the village leaders, even if it means going against her culture. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX by Laurel Snyder (Fiction)
A magical bread box that delivers whatever you wish for --- as long as it fits inside? It's too good to be true! Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents' separation and a sudden move to her Gran's house. For a while, the magic bread box, discovered in the attic, makes life a little easier. Then suddenly it starts to make things much more difficult, and Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

GHOSTS OF ROCKVILLE: Search for the Dominion Glass by Justin Heimberg (Paranormal Mystery)
When Jay Winnick receives a mysterious blank piece of paper in the mail, he doesn’t think much of it. But soon it thrusts Jay and his friends into the most perilous quest of their young ghost-hunting lives: a paranormal puzzle involving spirit boards, crop circles, an ancient secret order, and just about every ghost type in the Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE SPIRIT GLASS: A Book of Magically Hidden Images by Justin Heimberg (Games & Activities)
Using MagicView, a proprietary technology for hiding and revealing print images, readers must follow the clues in this book to know where --- and how --- to place the Spirit Glass decoder to bring unseen images to light. In 13 imaginative spreads, readers will use the Spirit Glass to find 10 ghosts in a haunted house, nine skeletons hidden in a graveyard, hidden messages in invisible spider webs, and much, much more. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

Graphic Novel Reviews:

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG: Sonic Legacy Series, Book 1
Sonic: Legacy collects all of Sonic and the Freedom Fighter's early adventures in this anthology of 20 issues. Relive the thrills of the True Blue's early adventures as inspired by the hit videogames and cartoon series of the time. Recapture the magic of each hero and villain's first appearances, or introduce them to the next generation of Sonic fans. Reviewed by John Hogan.

The Disney Afternoon Revolution begins as Uncle Scrooge, Launchpad and the gang are on the hunt for the tomb of Pharaoh Prak Tikal Dioker to complete a priceless treasure collection. But will they return empty-handed when the notorious Beagle Boys stow away on the journey? Plus, find out what sorts of hijinks await the McDuck clan when Launchpad switches jobs for a day with the gadgety Gizmoduck. Reviewed by John R. Platt.

This Month's Poll
How many books did you read in 2011?

More than 100
I'm not sure.

Click here to answer the poll.

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