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Archive for June, 2013

June 25, 2013

Peek Inside: Brush of the Gods

Today we’re thrilled to share a glimpse inside of Brush of the Gods, a new picture book by Lenore Look, illustrated by Meilo So. If both of those names sound familiar to you, it’s because they’re both celebrated talents. Lenore is the author of the beloved Alvin Ho series, as well as several acclaimed picture books, including Henry’s First-Moon Birthday, Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (both of which received three starred reviews and were named ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Books!) and, recently, Polka Dot Penguin Pottery. Meilo previously illustrated such gorgeous, evocative titles as Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs, Janet Schulman’s Pale Male, and Antoine ÓFlatharta’s Hurry and the Monarch.

Brush of the Gods tells the life story of Wu Daozi (689-758), widely considered to be China’s greatest painter, who lived during the T’ang Dynasty—with an imaginative spin. When an old monk attempts to teach young Daozi about the ancient art of calligraphy, his brush rebels. Instead of characters, it drips dancing peonies and flying Buddhas. Soon, others are admiring his unbelievable creations on the walls around the city… and one day his art actually comes to life.

What makes this book so special is that it can be introduced to children on many different levels: as a introduction to Chinese culture, as a look at an incredible artist, and a meditation on the importance of creativity and occasionally straying outside of the lines. Though the story takes a fantastical turn, Lenore consulted translations of T’ang poetry and essays in order to piece together Daozi’s life. The combination of her careful research and Meilo’s eye-catching, fluid art is nothing short of spectacular:


  (All illustrations © 2013 by Meilo So and should not be reproduced anywhere without permission.)

Will THIS fairytale have a happy ending?
June 12, 2013

Will THIS fairytale have a happy ending?

Every once in a while, we publish a book so special we struggle to pitch it. Not because the plot is too confusing or because the story is so out-there–it’s because there is so much good stuff layered into its pages we’re actually not sure where to begin.  So, instead, we gush. Sometimes throwing out a random array of words related to the plot (“Jeremy Johnson Johnson!” “Brothers Grimm!” “Prince Cakes!!”), sometimes falling over ourselves to tell you how excited we are to publish another amazing book from Tom McNeal, and sometimes we just make happy noises and clap our hands.

Here’s the official summary:

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . . 

   Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling–and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

This story is one part family drama, one part mystery, one part love story, and one part fairytale retelling–only to call it a true “retelling” is a bit misleading. If you or your readers have started to feel some fatigue in the genre, this might be just the thing to spark your love again. The magical, often creepy fairytale-atmosphere expands with each chapter… and just when you think you’ve figured out what direction the story is headed, it takes a deadly twist. Is this fairytale really a nightmare? You’ll have to read and see!

We have a reading group guide available to get the discussion going. You can also catch the trailer below:

P.S.  Looking for a great fairy tale retelling for middle school students? Hand them this one!  Looking for a younger audience? We have you covered.


Things We Love This Week
June 07, 2013

Things We Love This Week

-  Tamora Pierce (winner of this year’s Margaret A. Edwards Award) sits down with SLJ and gives her thoughts on everything from kick-butt heroines to the story behind her own name. If you didn’t love Tammy before, you will after reading this!

-  Librarian Travis Jonker is keeping track of the top ten circulated titles in his library by age group.  Are there any overlaps with your library?

- As a way to promote their summer reading program, the Seattle Public Library created the world’s longest domino book chain! Our question: who had to reshelve all of the 2,131 books?

- Happy (belated) birthday, Richard Scarry!

- We love this TED talk by Lisa Bu about the books you turn to during a personal crisis.

- Flavorwire has 30 of the most beautiful Sci-Fi book covers.  Some of these deserve to be framed!

- 22 Maps that Show the Deepest Linguistic Conflicts in America. I hope that one day we can come together as a nation and agree on how to pronounce the word “crayon.”

- Another cool map: the location of all of the publishers scattered around NYC.


Have a safe, fun weekend!

June 03, 2013

June: Male Role Models for Father’s Day

by Pat Scales

Though Father’s Day has been celebrated by many families since the early part of the 20th century, it wasn’t named a permanent national holiday until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed it into law.   The family structure is very different today than it was when Father’s Day was first proposed.  Many children live in homes without fathers, but may have family and friends that provide them with male role models.  There are even Father’s Day greeting cards for stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends.   Father’s Day is a perfect time for libraries to promote male role models through books and special programming.  Here are a few ideas:

Help readers develop research skills by asking them to find answers to the following questions:

  1. Who was the driving force behind the establishment of Father’s Day?
  2. What city founded Father’s Day? What organization was responsible for the celebration?
  3. Why did Americans initially resist the celebration?
  4. Which President was the first to speak at a Father’s Day event?
  5. How many countries have a Father’s Day celebration? Use pushpins to mark the location of these countries?

Have readers pick a non-English speaking country that celebrates Father’s Day and have the make a greeting card that might be purchased in that country.
Ask readers to select a book for them to read together with their father or male role model.  Then have them share why they chose that particular book.
Have readers find a poem that best describes their feelings for their father, grandfather, or father figure in their lives.  Allow them time to share the poem with the group.
Suggest that readers read a biography or autobiography about a man that is a positive role model.  Suggestions from Random House include:

As Good As Anybody (Picture Book) by Richard Michelson & illus. by Raul Colón

 Child of the Civil Rights Movement (Picture Book) by Paula Young Shelton & illus. by Raul Colón

  First Kids (Early Reader) by Gibbs Davis & illus. by Sally Wern Comfort

Have readers share a favorite story about their grandfathers, or older males in their lives.  Then have them read books about grandfathers.  Suggestions from Random House include:

 How to Babysit a Grandpa (Picture Book) by Jean Reagan & illus. by  Lee Wildish

 Song and Dance Man (Picture Book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by  Stephen Gammell

 Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Middle Grade) by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

 Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It(Middle Grade) by Sundee T. Frazier

Belle Prater’s Boy (Middle Grade) by Ruth White

 Bud, Not Buddy (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Engage readers in a discussion about whether the father in the following novels is a good role model.  What is the relationship between the main character and the father?

 Navigating Early (Middle Grade) by Clare Vanderpool

  Chomp (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

  Heart of a Shepherd (Middle Grade) by Rosanne Parry

 Hokey Pokey (Middle Grade) by Jerry Spinelli

 Flush (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

  It’s Not the End of the World (Middle Grade) by Judy Blume

Laugh with the Moon (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg

  Liar and Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

 The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Middle Grade) by Jeanne Birdsall

 Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

 Revolution (Young Adult) by Jennifer Donnelly

Have readers locate and read a book that has a male role model other than a father.  Suggestions from Random House include:

                        Lord of the Deep (Young Adult) by Graham Salisbury

                        One Year in Coal Harbor (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

The Book Thief (Young Adult) by Marcus Zusak

 Mexican Whiteboy (Young Adult) by Matt de la Peña

 Small Steps (Young Adult) by Louis Sachar