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January 03, 2017

Hello, 2017! It’s Wonderful to Meet You!

Happy January, teachers and librarians! It’s time for those New Year’s resolutions, and we’ve found one we can definitely get behind: spreading the joy of reading! To help anyone who might have a similar resolution, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite January 2017 titles, with recommended lesson connections and concepts for teachable moments in the New Year. Happy reading!

Picture Books:

A Greyhound, A Groundhog
by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Ages 3–7

When a greyhound meets a groundhog, wordplay—and crazy antics—ensue. The two animals, much like kids, work themselves into a frenzy as they whirl around and around each other. The pace picks up until they ultimately wear themselves out. With very spare, incredibly lively language, this is an entertaining read-aloud, with two amazing (and oh so adorable) characters at its heart.

Lesson Connection: Introduce your young readers to wordplay and tongue twisters!
Concepts: Friendship, rhyme and alliteration, repetition, animals


Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!
by Patricia C. McKissack; illustrated by Brian Pinkney

For all ages 

Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a group for circle games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a class to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom” or to read aloud the poetry of African American luminaries such as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the spider. This is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more all rolled into one, filled with the joy of childhood and ready to inspire a new generation to play.

Lesson Connection: This anthology helps students learn about and study games, songs, and stories from an African American childhood.
Fairy tales and folklore, country and ethnicity, people and places

Middle Grade:

The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence
by Jennifer Bell
Ages 8–12  

When the underguard show up—officers brandishing toilet brushes—eleven-year-old Ivy Sparrow and her older brother, Seb, go tumbling into a world that is anything but ordinary. Welcome to Lundinor, a secret underground city where enchanted objects are capable of extraordinary things. There Ivy and Seb will come face to face with uncommon people who trade in uncommon goods—belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with curative properties, and more. Ivy and Seb also learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time—and if they don’t find it, their parents’ lives will be forfeit. It’s a race against time and a host of mysterious creatures who are up to no good.

Lesson Connection: Use the descriptions of everyday magical objects to inspire creativity and imagination in students’ personal writing.
Fantasy and magic, action and adventure, good vs. evil, relationships


The Warden’s Daughter
by Jerry Spinelli

Ages 9–12  

Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she’s also living in a prison of grief for the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie’s best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie’s coming of age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past. 

Lesson Connection: This book will spark discussion about everyday heroes around us, and how the secondary characters in the story assist Cammie’s development.
Emotions, death and dying, family relationships, coming of age

Young Adult:

The Murderer’s Ape
by Jakob Wegelius

Ages 12 & Up

With rich black-and-white illustrations throughout, Swedish author-illustrator Jakob Wegelius’s story of puzzling secrets and heinous crimes is paired with an unexpected friendship. Sally Jones is a loyal friend and an extraordinary individual. In overalls or in a maharaja’s turban, this gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understands everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. A job they are offered pays big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. For Sally Jones, this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief’s name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets.

Lesson Connection: This unique, international text will help teach students about fighting injustice and what it means to be fiercely loyal to friends.
Mysteries and detective stories, friendship, action and adventure


Because of the Sun
by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Ages 12 & Up 

Dani learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode: total numbness. But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own. Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develops between them. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past.

Lesson Connection: This is a great book to frame discussions about how forgiveness isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s the only way to move forward.
Family, grief, death and dying, acceptance and belonging, relationships

January 03, 2017

It’s time for ALA Midwinter in Georgia!

Stop by the Random House Children’s Books Booth, #1903, to browse our new books from spring and summer 2017, pick up a variety of free promotional materials and advance reader’s copies, and meet our staff!

RHCB Coupon Giveaway!
Look for this coupon in your School Library Journal packet, and bring it to our booth to receive an exclusive print!


Visit the Book Buzz Theater!
RHCB Book Buzz Presentation on Saturday, January 21!

ARCs to get excited about:

Picture Books

  • by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Chris Appelhans
  • by R.J. Palacio
  • by Jonah Winter; illustrated by C. F. Payne
  • by Annie Silvestro; illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Middle Grade

  • edited by Ellen Oh, contributions from Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kelly J. Baptist
  • by Melissa Savage
  • by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel; illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
  • by Adrienne Kress

Young Adult

  • by Jeff Zentner
  • by Cath Crowley
  • by Jennifer E. Smith
  • by Tanya Lee Stone

January 03, 2017

Celebrate 50 Years of Heartfelt Children’s Literature with Leo Lionni!

When you see Leo Lionni’s name on a picture book, you know you’re in for a magical storytime treat! Lionni, author and illustrator of FOUR Caldecott Honor Books, was commended in 2007 with the Society of Illustrators’ Lifetime Achievement Award (Posthumous). Random House Children’s Books is honored to have Lionni on our list, and we will forever celebrate his masterful storytelling. Enjoy these four new paperback editions and a few of his most beloved backlist titles. Visit Leo Lionni’s author page to learn more about his incredible career.

Download these Leo Lionni resources for classroom storytime activities:
The World of Leo Lionni
Dragonfly Books Featuring Leo Lionni

New Paperback Editions!

Little Blue and Little Yellow
Ages 3–7
A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year

With few words, lots of white space, and splotches of color, this picture book tells of two friends who share wonderful adventures until the day they can’t find each other. When Little Blue and Little Yellow finally meet again, they hug each other joyously—and turn green! How they recapture their identities provides an ending that delights preschoolers, while teaching them that mixing blue and yellow makes green. This was Leo Lionni’s first children’s book.



Ages 3–7
A Caldecott Honor Book
A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year
A Library of Congress Children’s Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Winter is coming, and all the mice are gathering food . . . except Frederick. But when the days grow short and the snow begins to fall, it’s Frederick’s stories that warm the hearts and spirits of his fellow field mice.




Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
Ages 3–7
A Caldecott Honor Book
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
A Christopher Award Winner
A New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year

Everyone loves Willy the wind-up mouse, while Alexander the real mouse is chased away with brooms and mousetraps. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be loved and cuddled? thinks Alexander, who wishes he could be a wind-up mouse, too.




Ages 3–7
A Caldecott Honor Book
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
A Christopher Award Winner
A New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year

Deep in the sea lives a happy school of fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and teamwork—they can overcome any danger.



Beloved Backlist Titles




January 03, 2017

A Book is a Shoal of Fish: Writing Tips

Dave Rudden, author of Knights of the Borrowed Dark, offers writing tips for you and your students! Whether for a creative writing piece for school, an essay for a class, or a piece of personal writing, these suggestions will help all writers find their voice.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark
by Dave Rudden
Ages: 10 & Up

I didn’t want to be a writer as a kid. Not because I didn’t love books, but precisely because I loved books – I thought authors were another species entirely. They had professor parents, or had been bitten by a radioactive author, or had went through some kind of [SECRET PROCESS] to become a person that could write a book, possibly involving tweed.

And I rarely give rules when I teach because every person is different, but I have learned this – writing is less about innate talent and more about hard work and dedication. Here are some things I learned while writing my first novel, KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK, and, while your path to writing a novel might be different than mine, I hope these can be of help.


I get asked a lot about where I get my ideas, and I find it a fascinating question because people assume ideas are external, that you have to go somewhere to get them. Ideas are responses. They’re solutions. And they come from you.

I wrote KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK because I wanted to read a book about a kid who wasn’t automatically brave. I don’t know if I’m brave. I’d like to think I am, but I don’t think you can know until it’s tested, and as much as Teenage Dave wanted magic and a hero’s destiny, part of him also had a sneaking suspicion he’d be terrible at it.

That was my starting point. But that isn’t a book. So I had to ask myself -

Who is this kid? Why do they doubt themselves? Where do they live? How can I test them? What’s their shoe size?

These questions gave me direction. I wasn’t trying to come up with amorphous ideas, I was filling the space in an equation. And the answers didn’t come from outside. Instead, I went inwards – giving my protagonist magic because I love stories about magic, but giving the magic a Cost because I wanted my characters under pressure with no easy answers. My villains were bullies because I had been bullied as a kid, and bullies frighten me.

(The Man in the Waistcoat is playground mockery incarnate, the Woman in White brute force, and the Opening Boy a hurt child, because it’s important I remind myself, even now, that that’s what bullies are)

A book is not a single idea. It’s a shoal of fish – lots of tiny creatures moving together so perfectly they look like one single beast. And ideas are everywhere, but so are writers, so remember -


‘The word rolled from his tongue like a cockroach.’

I was very proud of this line. It tells you everything you need to know about the Man in the Waistcoat’s voice in just nine words, and when I excitedly shared it with an author friend he nodded, smiled, and pointed out… that cockroaches don’t roll.

Ah. Okay.

‘The word skittered from his tongue like a cockroach.’


This might sound utterly pedantic, but there is a lot of competition out there, especially in children’s fiction. The way you stand out is by striving to be original, from your biggest concept to your smallest word. Read voraciously what’s out there. Take sharp left turns from overdone concepts, or turn them on their head.

Every person in the world is an intricate and unique machine. Different things inspire and scare and delight you. Make the book as you as you possibly can, because nobody else can write that book. And, most importantly -


KOTBD went through six drafts.

1st Draft – Me telling the story to myself

2nd Draft – Polishing and cutting and plugging every plot hole I could see.

3rd Draft – Polishing and cutting and plugging every plot hole my friends could see

4th, 5th, 6th – Going over every line, word and comma to make sure they belonged.

No book starts off perfect. They’re huge projects with a lot of moving parts, and it takes multiple drafts to make sure it all hangs together. Sometimes you have to put the wrong word down to find the right one.

You never, ever stop learning as a writer. Read interviews. Read books and watch videos on writing. Read writing tips, try them all, and only keep the ones that work (even these ones!) Share your work with friends and listen to what they have to say. Remember that every one of your favourite writers was in the exact same position you are now.

Best of luck. I look forward to seeing your book on the shelf.

January 03, 2017

Random House Children’s Books Authors at an Event Near You!

Bring your students to hear one of our authors speak at a bookstore or library event near you! Author readings are a great place to learn about an author’s writing life, the inspirations for characters and stories, and fun facts about the book!

Jerry Spinelli
January 3, 2017, 7:00 PM
Towne Book Center & Cafe
Collegeville, PA

January 23, 2017, 6:00 PM
Princeton Public Library (with Labyrinth Books)
Princeton, NJ

January 24, 2017, 6:00 PM
Books of Wonder
New York, NY

January 25, 2017, 6:00 PM
R. J. Julia Booksellers
Madison, CT

Dev Petty
Pajama Party
January 6, 2017, 6:00 PM
DIESEL, A Bookstore
Larkspur, CA

Pajama Party
January 27, 2017, 6:00 PM
DIESEL, A Bookstore
Oakland, CA

Lisa Yee
January 7, 2017, 3:00 PM
Vroman’s Bookstore
Pasadena, CA






Breeana Shields
January 14, 2017, 2:00 PM
Barnes & Noble: Olympia
Olympia, WA

January 19, 2017, 6:00 PM
Barnes & Noble: Grand Teton
Idaho Falls, ID




Emily Jenkins
January 22, 2017, 10:30 AM
Stories Bookshop
Brooklyn, NY



Christian Robinson
January 26, 2017, 5:00 PM
Charlie’s Corner Children’s Bookstore
San Francisco, CA