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March 01, 2017

“Teachers Matter: A Letter to My Teacher” by Deborah Hopkinson

We don’t write letters much anymore. At least, I don’t.

These days, most of the letters I get are from students. Just yesterday, at an author visit at Lowrie Primary in Wilsonville, Oregon, I was presented with a heavy, beautifully wrapped box. Inside I discovered more than five hundred letters—one from each student in the school. The stack sits on my desk as I write, tied with a blue ribbon, a testament to both the writers’ hard work and the thoughtfulness of the teachers and librarians who organized the effort.

The letters are from children whose families hail from all over the world. Last night, at a family literacy event, I chatted with a father and his two children from Egypt, a mother and daughter from India, a family who’d moved to Oregon from Pittsburgh, and Latino families who had taken advantage of the school’s special interpreter headphones. During the day I met more than five hundred children, all part of that unique learning community we call a school.

I was struck by this sign prominently displayed in the front office (it also appears on the school’s website):

As an author, I am privileged to be able to visit schools all over the country. Invariably I come away feeling a sense of awe as I meet caring, dedicated professionals working incredibly hard, day after day, to create welcoming, nurturing learning communities for all children.

So, although it is fictional, A Letter to My Teacher is my own thank-you letter to all the educators I’ve met, and so many others. Lately I’ve found myself wishing that, like the girl in the story, I’d taken the time to thank many of the teachers who changed my life and encouraged me to read—and especially to write. I hope reading this book will encourage others to write their own letters of gratitude.

Speaking of being grateful, I am thankful, as always, to Anne Schwartz, for helping me to craft the best story I could. I’ve worked with Anne and Lee Wade for a long time, and the beautiful books in the Schwartz & Wade imprint never fail to astonish and surprise.

But I think what makes A Letter to My Teacher truly shine is Nancy Carpenter’s sensitive, evocative artwork. Somehow, Nancy has captured the heart of what I really wanted to convey: teachers make a profound difference in individual lives—perhaps more than they will ever know.

I wrote an early draft of this book in an April snowstorm a few years ago. I was in New Hampshire, visiting my daughter, Rebekah, who, at the time, was in graduate school and about to embark on a teaching career. I’ve dedicated the book to Rebekah, who is now an incredibly gifted teacher who inspires her students every day.

A final note—while I don’t write personal letters, I DO still work with students at author visits to incorporate letter-writing activities into my presentations. So, teachers, get ready: you might find yourselves with a treasure trove of grateful student letters thanks to A Letter to My Teacher. And you will deserve each and every one. Thank you!


March 01, 2017

Celebrate Women’s History Month!

The future is female, but so is the past and present! Women’s History Month is the time to learn about it all. Dive into these books with your class, and explore some amazing female figures! With books of all reading levels about diverse women from different backgrounds and fields of study, there is something to inspire everyone.

Miss Paul and the President
By Dean Robbins, Illustrated by Nancy Zhang
Ages 4–­8

Alice Paul was a mischievous child, but she was always determined. Determined to keep up with the boys. Determined to read every book she could find. Determined to be a leader.

She became a suffragette and vowed to see women gain the right to vote. So when President Woodrow Wilson said there were other matters he needed to handle first, Alice would not be deterred. She organized the National Women’s Party and marched down the streets of Washington, D.C. She held parades and signed petitions and would not quit, because she was determined to be an equal citizen in the country she loved. And though President Wilson did attend to other matters, his daughter Margaret was also an advocate for suffrage and convinced her father to pay attention to Alice and her cause.

With creativity and fortitude, Alice Paul helped change the face of the democratic process. The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to participate in that process, the impact of which still resonates today.

Hillary
By Jonah Winter; illustrated by Raul Colón
Ages 4–8

How did a scrappy little girl from a suburb of Chicago become one of the most important women in American history? Find out in this beautiful and empowering picture-book biography of the incomparable Hillary Rodham Clinton. In vibrant text and captivating artwork, Winter and Colón illuminate Clinton’s distinguished life and career, from her early years as an outspoken student at Wellesley College and Yale Law School, to marrying Bill Clinton and raising daughter Chelsea, to becoming First Lady of the United States, and then a US senator, and then secretary of state. Follow the inspiring story of the woman who was the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the United States, and who has been a role model to boys and girls all over America.

 

Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World
By Rachel Swaby
Ages 10 & Up

This middle-grade work, inspired by the author’s Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World, profiles a cross section of history’s female scientists who have made important strides in the fields of biology, health and medicine, Earth and stars, and technology and invention. Perfect for STEM and classroom use.

 

 

 

 

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iqaq
By Mark Alan Stamaty
Ages 5–8

The inspiring story of an Iraqi librarian’s courageous fight to save books from the Basra Central Library before it was destroyed in the war.

It is 2003 and Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, has grown worried given the increased likelihood of war in her country. Determined to preserve the irreplaceable records of her culture and history from the destruction of the war, Alia undertakes the courageous and extremely dangerous task of spiriting away 30,000 books from the library to a safe place.

Told in dramatic graphic-novel panels by acclaimed cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty, Alia’s Mission celebrates the importance of books and the freedom to read, while examining the impact of war on a country and its people.

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time
By Tanya Lee Stone, in association with Girl Rising
Ages 14 & Up

One girl with courage is a revolution. In collaboration with the makers of the film Girl Rising, this stunning nonfiction book shows how educating girls in developing countries can break the cycle of poverty in just one generation.

Millions of girls around the world face barriers to education, such as poverty, child marriage, domestic slavery, sex trafficking, gender violence and discrimination, and lack of healthcare. Removing these obstacles means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world for all. Tanya Lee Stone, an award-winning writer, deftly uses new research to illuminate the facts and stories behind the film. With stunning full-color photos from the film, infographics, and a compelling narrative, Girl Rising will inspire readers of all ages to help change the world.

Your Own, Sylvia
By Stephanie Hemphill
Ages 12 & Up

Your Own, Sylvia draws on Plath’s writing and extensive nonfiction sources, chronicling Hemphill’s interpretation of Plath’s life from infancy to her death by suicide at age 30. The poems are arranged chronologically and each conveys an experience in Plath’s life told via the voice and perspective of family members, friends, doctors, fellow writers, etc.—as interpreted by Hemphill. Each poem is accompanied by an addendum that further explains the factual circumstances of that poem’s subject. The book also includes an Author’s Note, some photos, a section describing the source material for each poem, and suggestions for further reading.

 


March 01, 2017

Discover how to use these graphic novels in your classroom!

Kids love graphic novels because they’re visually stimulating and accessible. But why do educators love graphic novels? Here are some reasons we’ve been given by teachers and librarians:

  • Graphic novels take you on a visual and mental journey.
  • They add a dimension to the story no other medium can.
  • They’re motivating, complex, imaginative, and a bridge to more.
  • They help make topics easier to digest with engaging storylines!

We think those are pretty good reasons to get your hands on a graphic novel or two! To give you a few options, we’ve rounded up some favorites that you won’t be able to put down. If you use graphic novels in your classroom or library, let us know! Email us at slmarket@penguinrandomhouse.com. Enjoy, and keep reading!

Lucy & Andy Neanderthal
By Jeffrey Brown
Ages 8–12
Graphic Novels Educators’ Guide

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Jedi Academy series comes the first installment in a new, humorous graphic-novel series about two Neanderthal siblings living 40,000 years ago. In the hilarious tale of Lucy and her goofball brother Andy, the duo handles a wandering baby brother, bossy teens, cave paintings, and a mammoth hunt. A special paleontologist section at the end of the book helps to dispel common Neanderthal myths.

 

5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior
By Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel; illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
Ages 8–12

Oona is the clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy. It’s her older sister—the one who ran away—who’s supposed to light the beacons and save the worlds. So why can Oona create a Sand Warrior? An Tzu is an orphaned boy from the slums. He has lots of street smarts but no idea how to stop the illness that’s turning him invisible! And why do plants react to his music? Jax Amboy is THE star athlete of the 5 Worlds. If only he were human! Jax is a robot in disguise, and he may hold the secret to why the Toki are invading. Time is running out in the 5 Worlds. Can this unlikely trio rise to the challenge and face down the forces of evil in time to light the five beacons and save the worlds?

 

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 1: The Road to Epoli
By James Parks and Ben Costa
Ages 12 & Up

Rickety Stitch is a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel, the only animated skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul. He has no idea who he used to be when he was a living, breathing sack of meat and skin. His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale that could also explain the fog covering the comical fantasy land of Eem. . . . Oh, and his sidekick and only friend is a cube of sentient goo. In this rollicking first volume, Rickety encounters imps, gnomes, giants, unicorns, a mysterious lady knight, and other fantasy dwellers on his quest to uncover his identity and spread his (painfully bad) music far and wide.

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great
By Jessie Hartland
Ages 12 & Up

A quick yet comprehensive read, this graphic biography illuminates an entrepreneurial life in both words and images—from Steve’s adoption and childhood spent tinkering, to dropping out of college and traveling around India, to founding Apple and inventing the iPod and other devices, to transforming the music industry, to cofounding Pixar Animation, to his untimely death.

 

 

 

Hilo Book 3: The Great Big Boom
By Judd Winick
Ages 8–12
Graphic Novels Educators’ Guide

D.J. and Gina are TOTALLY ordinary kids. But Hilo isn’t! When we last saw our INTREPID TRIO, Gina had been sucked into a mysterious portal to who knows where?! But friends don’t let friends disappear into NOWHERE! It’s up to D.J. and Hilo to follow her! Will there be danger? YES! Will there be amazing surprises? OF COURSE! Will Gina end up being the one to save them? DEFINITELY! With the help of Polly, the magical warrior cat, the friends will have to battle bad guys and face disgusting food, an angry mom, terrible knock-knock jokes, powerful magic, and more! Will they survive . . . and make it back to earth before the portal closes again?!


February 27, 2017

Q&A with Cath Crowley, Author of Words in Deep Blue

Award-winning author Cath Crowley’s newest book (out in June!) is a beautiful love story for fans of Jandy Nelson and Nicola Yoon about two teens who find their way back to each other in a bookstore full of secrets and crushes, grief and hope – and letters hidden between the pages.

Random House Children’s Books: Words in Deep Blue, coming out this summer, is your first book since Graffiti Moon, which is beloved by the librarian community. Why now? Was there something about Words in Deep Blue that compelled you to write the story?

Cath Crowley: It’s always hard to pinpoint, looking back, where the ideas came from. I know that I’m interested in the way we leave ourselves on our landscape or our world. I can see this in Graffiti Moon—characters painting themselves on walls. I think I wanted to take it one step further in Words in Deep Blue and look at how we leave ourselves on the things we love—how we change the things we love and how they change us.

Someone said to me in the early days of writing the novel that books are time travelers, and it’s true. We hear Dickens’s voice because he wrote. So that idea was playing into the writing process.

And there’s another memory of me, on a terrible day, standing in my kitchen, reading the last page of Looking for Alaska by John Green. There’s that last passage trying to explain the labyrinth of suffering. I can still remember the overwhelming sense of relief I felt after reading it—everything, I thought, is going to be okay. Books, words, ideas—they change people. They’ve changed me greatly. I wanted to write about people being changed by the written word.

RHCB: I think a lot of people will be changed by your written words in Words in Deep Blue. Will you delve into what the story is about for those who might be unfamiliar?

CC: Words in Deep Blue is a love story set in a secondhand bookshop. There’s a Letter Library up the back of the shop – a set of books that people can write on, can mark and circle, to leave parts of themselves on the books that have changed them. Ruth Gamble, a woman I interviewed as part of my research for the book, thought there was an ‘archaeology of soul’ in a bookshop, and this is how I see the letter library – a catalogue of people.

On one level Words in Deep Blue is a standard love story – Rachel has fallen for her best friend, Henry, so it’s about how we deal complications in relationships and find our way back to friendship. But it’s also about the love we have for words, and how those words show us who we are. It’s about the love people can have for their pasts – how they long to revisit and relive. Most importantly for me, it’s about how we find a way back to life after grief, which is a death for the living, I think.

RHCB: While the book is a story about grief and love, it is also a bit of a mystery. Will you talk about that?

CC: While I was writing Words in Deep Blue, I kept thinking about time: how we’re trapped in it, by it. It makes sense that I was thinking about it—Rachel is looking back, feeling Cal as both present and absent. I became interested in the theory of time (I’m paraphrasing badly) that states that the past is as real as the present. I didn’t understand it in a scientific sense, but I liked the poetry of it. It got me thinking about all the mysteries there are in the world. Some of the saddest ones relate to grief. How can someone just disappear? How can we feel them as ghosts when ghosts don’t, according to science, exist? How do we come back from something as terrible as the loss of a loved one? There are so many mysteries surrounding grief; it seemed right to have a mystery running through the heart of the novel.

RHCB: The letter library in Howling Books, the bookstore in which Words in Deep Blue is partially set, is such a creative idea. How did you come up with it?

CC: I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the idea arrived. The first scene I wrote, which was discarded in the end, was of Henry’s dad sitting on the veranda. He was writing to Pablo Neruda about love without an address for his letter.

A while after that, I opened a copy of A Streetcar Named Desire to see that a stranger had underlined the same phrases that I love. Of course you see this often, but the markings always feel like notes taken in a class, as if they had been directed by a teacher. These underlines in Streetcar felt like a person marking them out of love or need.

I thought about a whole bookstore where people were allowed to write in the books, but that seemed impracticable, and so it became a set of shelves in the store, a letter library: a place where people could write to strangers, to poets, to people they’d lost.

RHCB: What was the most challenging part of writing Words in Deep Blue?

CC: Rachel was incredibly difficult to write. I didn’t trust that I’d captured her grief. I couldn’t comprehend a loss of that scale, so I didn’t understand how there could be any lightness in her voice.

Then at the end of the third draft, my father passed away. It made writing Rachel difficult in a different way. I was dwelling on the small things too much in order to capture them on the page. But it made me see that grief is particular to each person, and for me, there could be moments of humor. I met my future husband almost a year after Dad died, and so Rachel falling back in love with Henry felt possible. I could also see how a person who doesn’t believe in ghosts could entertain the thought that they exist. I understood how you could simultaneously believe and disbelieve.

RHCB: Words in Deep Blue seems like such a personal book. What made you decide to write about grief?

CC: My father was sick, briefly, long before the second illness that took him. And although I didn’t know it consciously, I think I had begun to worry about a time when he would be gone. What would that feel like? Where would he go? I know for certain that I read a poem by Philip Larkin, “Aubade,” and when I read the line about sure extinction I couldn’t get it out of my head.

RHCB: What kind of research went into writing this book?

CC: I visited a lot of bookstores and interviewed many, many booksellers. I read all the books in the novel, of course. I read a lot about the grief that happens when you lose a sibling. I read a lot of books on grief generally, too.

RHCB: What do you hope readers take away from Words in Deep Blue?

CC: I’ve had so many beautiful letters arrive since I wrote the book. And in them, the message is constant: despite grief and death, life continues. The most beautiful message I’ve had was a photograph of some calligraphy the reader had drawn.


Coming June 6, 2017!

Words in Deep Blue
By Cath Crowley
Age 14 and up | $17.99
Knopf Books for Young Readers
HC: 978-1-101-93764-8
EL: 978-1-101-93766-2
GLB: 978-1-101-93765-5

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/title-by-isbn/9781101937648/


February 01, 2017

Teach-Alike Pairings

Purpose: Classic literary authors (Shakespeare, Miller, Hurston, Morrison, Faulkner, Austen, Hemingway, Wright, and Brontë, just to name a few) are studied in classrooms every day across the country. Their texts have been used for years, and for good reason: the writing is exemplary, the characters are universal yet complex, and the themes touch on all aspects of humanity. We know, however, that in addition to these canonical texts, there are many contemporary books that address some of the same themes and conflicts and are written for young adult and middle-school audiences. We believe these text pairings—whether for small reading groups in the classroom or as independent reading—will enhance the reader’s experience by drawing parallels with the themes and archetypes of the classics.

To help spread the word about these text pairings, we have created a Teach-Alike blog that will be posted on our website every other month. If you have any creative suggestions, requests for specific texts, or reviews of the pairs read together, we would love to hear from you! You can email us at slmarket@penguinrandomhouse.com. Enjoy, and keep reading!

February Teach-Alike: The Sun Is Also a Star with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (thought to be written around 1595) is a romantic tragedy about the “star-crossed lovers” Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, children of feuding families. Although the entirety of the play occurs in just five days, Romeo and Juliet meet, fall in love, marry in secret, and commit suicide in the midst of a plan gone awry. While many of my teenage students openly laughed when we reviewed the plot and timeline of Romeo and Juliet—believing that they would never, ever fall in love that quickly and certainly never desert their family after just meeting someone—discussing the effects of a person’s choices, lust, and familial responsibilities always made for a fascinating conversation.

Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star is an incredible contemporary novel to read along with Romeo and Juliet. The main characters—Natasha, steadfast in her belief in science and facts, and Daniel, a good, loyal son to his watchful Korean parents—run into each other in the crowded New York City streets and fall in love in just one day. Like Romeo and Juliet, questions about fate and free will, loyalty to family, and love (what is real love?) emerge throughout the pages. Blending scientific facts with the poetry of desire, The Sun Is Also a Star celebrates the human propensity for passion and the defiance of “consequence[s] . . . hanging in the stars.”

The Sun Is Also a Star is inspired by Big History (to learn about one thing, you have to learn about everything). To understand the characters and their love story, we must know everything around them and everything that came before their meeting that has affected who they are.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

 

Praise for The Sun Is Also a Star

A Michael L. Printz Honor Book

A 2016 National Book Award Finalist

★ “Lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate.” —Booklist, starred review

★ “[A] profound exploration of life and love.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “Moving and suspenseful.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “A love story that is smart without being cynical, heartwarming without being cloying, and schmaltzy in all the best ways.” —The Bulletin, starred review

★ “Fresh and compelling.” —The Horn Book, starred

★ “An exhilarating, hopeful novel.” —Shelf Awareness, starred

Check out the creation of the gorgeous cover!