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November 10, 2015


By Philip Earle, author of The Bubble Wrap Boy

The Bubble Wrap Boy









You’re probably looking at these five words and thinking one of them shouldn’t sit with the other four. But to me they all fit together perfectly.

In fact, I’d argue that you can’t become a true hero unless you’ve been either a dork, a wimp, a loser, an outcast, or even all four.

You want proof? I can give you plenty, from history and from life today, but most importantly, from books aimed at young people. It was books, you see, that first pricked my interest in underdogs, that made me (to be honest) obsessed with them. I can’t imagine I’ll ever write a novel that doesn’t have an underdog at its heart—the kid you meet who has NOBODY tattooed across their forehead.

I can tell you exactly when this fascination started. It started the second I met Stanley Yelnats.

I came to Louis Sachar’s Holes late, at the age of twenty-six, but as soon as I met Stanley? Well, the fire was lit. Nobody likes Yelnats Junior. He’s branded a thief and said to be bad luck. Even the other cons at Camp Green Lake, a ragtag troupe of vandals and crooks, want nothing to do with him, and that’s what makes Stanley’s journey truly special. Yes, he may hit rock bottom time and again, but he never gives up, and it’s this determination to fight the odds that makes his eventual rise all the more special. It makes us wish as readers that we could be him, despite his flaws.

There’s another Stanley who’s special to me, this time with the surname Lambchop—the one who first appeared in Jeff Brown’s classic Flat Stanley.

Now, the hero in this story may have been squashed flatter than a slice of salami by his brother’s notice board, but does it stop him from becoming a legend? Not a chance. Instead, he’s slid inside an envelope with a carton of juice and a sandwich and posted on holiday, is flown as a kite on a windy day, and even foils a flipping bank robbery!

Not bad for a boy who’s laughed out of town by other kids in his school.

Kids can be cruel, especially to those who are different. In my work as a career and drama therapist, I witnessed it over and over again.

Jack Gantos saw it too, on many school visits. In fact, he met so many children with bees buzzing in their brains that he felt compelled to create one of the finest underdog heroes in popular culture, Joey Pigza. It’s impossible not to love Joey. His home life is a train wreck, his medication regime a disaster; he courts controversy and carnage with every step, but his heart is huge, and it’s the integrity of his intentions that win us over within a handful of pages.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I owe to Louis Sachar, Stanley Yelnats, Jeff Brown, Stanley Lambchop, Jack Gantos, and Joey Pigza. I created The Bubble Wrap Boy’s Charlie Han and Sinus Sedgely in all their flawed glory because of them, and because it’s the flawed things in life that are always the most interesting, surprising and . . . heroic.


Phil Earle’s first job was as a care worker in a children’s home, an experience that influenced the ideas behind Being Billy. He then trained as a drama therapist and worked in south London, caring for traumatized and abused adolescents. After a couple of years in the care sector, Phil chose the more sedate lifestyle of a bookseller, and now works in children’s publishing.

November 10, 2015

AASL, NCTE, NAEYC Program Schedules

AASL Program Schedule

Random House Children’s Books invites you to meet our authors at booth #425


10:00 – 11:00 AM  SHELLEY PEARSAL

11:00 – 12:00 PM  SOPHIE BLACKALL


2:00 – 3:00 PM  DANA WALRATH




NCTE Program Schedule

Random House Children’s Books invites you to meet our authors at booth #322

Friday, November 20th

Noon–1:00 PM    Jennifer Niven
1:00–2:00 PM    Rebecca Stead
2:00–3:00 PM    David Levithan
3:00–4:00 PM    Jennifer L. Holm
4:00–5:00 PM    Shelley Pearsall
5:00–6:00 PM    Shane W. Evans


Saturday, November 21st

9:00–10:00 AM    Jordan Stratford

    10:00–11:00 AM     Chris Grabenstein

11:00 AM–Noon    Dana Walrath

Noon–1:00 PM     Liesl Shurtliff

1:00–2:00 PM    Kevin Emerson

 2:00–3:00 PM    Matt de la Peña

   3:00–4:00 PM    Candace Fleming

   4:00–5:00 PM    Robin Wasserman


NAEYC Program Schedule

Random House Children’s Books invites you to:

Meet Nora Gaydos the author of our Now I’m Reading program at booth #577

Meet and get a book signed by Diana Muldrow, editorial director at Golden Books/Random House, and the editor of the famous Little Golden Books and author of the Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book series at the Book Vine Booth on Friday from 11:30 – 1:30 and then the Follett Booth #130 from 2:30 – 3:30

And don’t forget to check out our books at the Publisher Spotlight Booth #571

November 10, 2015

Geography Awareness Month

I never enjoyed geography in school.   It wasn’t information that I ever thought I would use.  I’m not even sure my teacher saw the use for it or she would have made it a more interesting subject.  Her method of teaching included writing notes on the chalkboard (that dates me) and asking us to copy them in notebooks.  Then we simply memorized the facts and spit them back on weekly and end of term test. I do think if I had had someone point out to me that a geographical area helps define the culture of the people I might have seen the subject differently.  Even if we had made use of the globe that sat on a table in the front of the classroom, I might have made the all-important connections between the lands and their people.  That said, I admit that as I began traveling the nation and the world, whether physically or through books, I am surprised how much of the information has come back to me.

The National Geography Bee has become quite the event to watch, and I’m amazed at the kids that compete.  It’s clear that they aren’t just spitting out facts, but they truly understand lands of the world.  November is Geography Awareness Month, and I think it fitting to introduce all ages to fiction and nonfiction that help them see the importance of geography.  Only then can they fully understand all the lands that constitute the world in which we live.  Here are a few programming ideas with book suggestions from Random House:

  • Introduce young children to the following books:

Me On the Map by Joan Sweeney & illus. by Annette Cable

There’s a Map on My Lap! By Tish Rabe


Talk with them about what maps tell us.

  • Then have them color a map of their state.  Show them important areas in the state, like mountains, deserts, beaches, etc.
  • Talk about books where the geographical setting is important:

Picture Books

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown & illus. by Leonard Weisgard

Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry? By Tish Rabe & illus. by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathleu

 Middle Grade

Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Holes by Louis Sachar

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

River Thunder by Will Hobbs

Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Written in Stone by Roseanne Parry

 Young Adult

Blue Skin of the Sea by Graham Salisbury

Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Everafter by Kirby Larsen

Island Boyz by Graham Salisbury

  • Introduce world geography with the following:

Picture Book

How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett

Middle Grade

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

  • Have them read a biography about an explorer or adventurer that made their living or hobby seeing and studying the world.

Picture Books

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino


Climbing Everest (Totally True Adventures) by Gail Herman & illus. by Michele Amatrula

The Race Around the World by Nancy Castaido & illus. by Wesley Lowe

Young Adult

The Beet Fields by Gary Paulsen

  • Have readers take facts from books (both fiction and nonfiction) they have read, and make questions for a group geography bee.
  • Ask older readers to make cutouts of countries of the world.  Then scramble the cutouts and sponsor a competition to see how quickly small groups can create a continent with the countries in the right places.  Younger readers may be encouraged to do the same thing with the 50 states.
  • Suggest that readers use reference sources to find out information about the geography of a particular region of the world.  Then have them write and illustrate an adventure they may take to that area.  They should include specific geographic facts as a way of educating their readers.
  • Divide readers into groups and assign them each a continent.  Then have them gather geographical facts about that continent and write and perform a rap that teaches the facts the larger group.


October 12, 2015

Here’s A Look At The Illustrations Inside Jason Segel’s Children’s Books

There are countless reasons to fall in love with Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller’s children’s book series, Nightmares!. The New York Times best-selling books are funny, smart, wise — and beautifully illustrated. The artist, Karl Kwasny, is a 31-year-old who lives in Australia.

BuzzFeed had the chance to catch up with the artist over email and talk about his creative process behind the most recent illustrations for Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic, the second book in the trilogy. Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start illustrating?

Karl Kwasny: I’ve been drawing on and off since I was a kid. I drew a lot when I was really young and throughout primary school, but I was more into Photoshop and graphic design when I was a teenager. When I got to university, I studied graphic design because I thought it was a safe career choice, but deep down it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to be doing with my life. So, towards the end of my time in college I put a lot more effort into the illustration side of things and gradually started trying to get work as a freelance illustrator.

What made you want to get involved with illustrating the Nightmares! series? What do you like most about it?

KK: An art director from Random House got in touch with me and showed me a brief they had put together for Nightmares! It had a short summary of the story along with a bunch of example images to give an idea of the aesthetic they were after. They described it as “Tim Burton meets Goonies.”

When I saw that it was Jason Segel’s first book, I was both excited and a bit nervous. I mean, it would be foolish to turn it down, but a project like this can be pretty daunting. I think the thing I like most about Nightmares! is the idea behind it, that it’s okay to be afraid, and that if you overcome your fears you can defeat your nightmares. Hopefully that’s an idea that resonates with kids. I also like that it has a lot of Jason’s personality in it. It’s very kind-hearted.

What’s your inspiration behind the illustrations you create for the book? How do you decide which scenes or characters you want to include?

KK: In my experience, most of the scenes I illustrate are chosen by the editor and author. Basically I’m just provided with a big list of illustration descriptions. Sometimes these come with a manuscript, and sometimes not. With the first book, we were working with a very tight deadline and had to shuffle some illustrations around and cut some out. Time is always a factor when you’ve got a lot of illustrations to do. As far as style and inspiration goes, I’m drawing in my usual style, but I’m trying my best to capture what Jason has in mind.

Can you talk about your artistic process? How did you come up with the idea for the cover?

KK: The artistic process for the cover and the interior illustrations is pretty similar. First the art director sends me a brief. Then, I do scribbly rough sketches with my initial ideas and send it to the art director. Once they give me feedback, I move on to a tighter sketch. Then, I print it out, tape it to the back of a piece of watercolor paper, and paint it with ink and watercolor. Once that’s done, I scan it and finish it up in Photoshop.

Random House had already come up with a basic composition they wanted for this cover — the serpentine line of kids heading into the Tranquility Tonight store — but they hadn’t included a background, so I needed to figure something out. I wanted it to seem like the store was situated in a town, so I added some buildings and a curving cobblestone street in the foreground to give the image some dimension. I sent the sketch to them, and they liked it and gave me the go-ahead. I finished it up over the course of a week or two.

The cover image is actually a composite of a few different images. It’s a handy way to work because it allows for things to be shifted around at the later stages. I worked on the characters, background, and type separately.

What do you think the illustrated images add to the Nightmares! series?

KK: I remember how much I loved illustrated books when I was little. I just hope kids enjoy looking at them!

Post originally appeared on Buzzfeed.com by Krystie Lee Yandoli

October 12, 2015

Q&A with Illuminae authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae authors

Describe ILLUMINAE in a couple of sentences.

It’s a sci-fi mystery/thriller/romance told through a series of hacked documents—IMs, emails, surveillance footage, medical reports, and rantings of an insane artificial intelligence. It’s Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You.

How did the idea for your book originate? What was your inspiration? Was there a particular event, circumstance, or something else that spurred you to write your first book together?

Jay: Amie had an anxiety dream that we wrote a book together (she couldn’t remember what it was about), and in the dream, the book was written in emails. When she told me about it, it sounded like an idea so crazy it might work. I’m from a design background and I’d been playing around with the idea of an alt-format book for a while, and it seemed like a foundation we could use to come up with something really insane different.

Amie: In terms of the content itself, we drew on a huge variety of influences that we both grew up with, from Battlestar Galactica to Firefly to Clarke and Asimov to a pile of our favorite action movies. We were motivated by the chance to introduce these ideas and themes to a new generation of readers, and to continue on in the tradition that inspired us. And while doing all that, we wanted to challenge the conventional idea of what a book should be. Easy, right? . . . right?

Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book—why it was difficult and how you resolved it.

Jay: There were a lot. It took us two and half years to pull this thing together. The design elements were a huge challenge—with a normal book, you finish your copy edits and you’re done. With ILLUMINAE, there was a whole other level of production, and given I used to be an art director for a living and am something of a control freak (he says, only half joking), I was heavily involved in that side of things, too. I’m sure our design team wanted to burn me in effigy by the end of it (he says, again only half joking). But we had an awesome crew working on this book, and everyone brought their A game, so the love really shows on every page.

Amie: Another challenge was in making sure that the narrative stood up as a strong story without any of the formatting. Although you can’t separate out the story from the way we tell it in ILLUMINAE, we wanted to make sure that the characters had depth, that our plot had all the twists and turns, surprises and swoons and drama that you’d hope for in a book you love. We wanted the story to be good enough that even if it had been written in the conventional way, readers would love it—and then we wanted to meld it with the alternate format we’d chosen. So that meant really looking at every character arc and every inch of the plot, and making it stand up to the standards we’d set.

How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

Jay: Llllllots. Most of the ideas that people have about space come from Hollywood, and Hollywood tends to get things pants-on-head wrong, or just ignore science for the sake of spectacle. So we had an astrophysicist buddy trawl through the first draft, and she came back with twenty-five pages of notes for us on the way space actually works. We had a white-hat friend go over all of Kady’s computer hackery, making sure it was legit. We consulted doctors and police and psychiatrists (for the book, not for ourselves). So even though this is science fiction, the science is 100% solid.

Amie: And one cool thing about doing all that research is that sometimes your experts come up with ways to make the story even more interesting. You’ll get a doctor coming back and saying, “Hey, so the disease you’re inventing would affect this part of the brain, but did you know that this part of the brain lives right next door to it, so I wonder if . . . ?”

In ILLUMINAE, do you relate to any of the characters? How and why?

Jay: I think General Torrence and AIDAN both resonate with me the most. They’re opposite ends of the same spectrum; the moral and the amoral, both coming to grips with the concept of doing Bad Things for the Greater Good. I really love AIDAN—it gave us the opportunity to ask some really hard questions about morality, humanity, immortality. I think it’s the deepest character I’ve ever written, which is odd considering it’s a machine. I dunno what it says about me that the mass-murdering artificial intelligence affected  me the most. Nothing good, probably. :)

Amie: Man, that says all kinds of concerning things. Though possibly more concerning is that I totally get what you mean. As for me, I put a lot of myself into Kady. A lot of the stuff she says reflects my internal monologue, and I would love her just for the fact that she has sass for every occasion, but there’s a lot more than that. In a lot of ways, she’s a very ordinary person who’s found herself in a terrifying situation—and rather than suddenly becoming superhuman to face it, she just gets on with it, even though she’s scared. She doesn’t always get it right, but she doesn’t stop trying.

What important lesson do you want the reader to take away from this book?

Jay: Our cover designer, Ray, nailed it. He hid an Easter egg–style message on his amazing cover (he didn’t even tell us he was doing it). Go look for it. It says everything I want to say. :)

Amie: I have nothing to add to that.

What can we look forward to in the next book of this series?

Jay: New faces. Old favorites. Panty-soiling horror. The answers to why help never arrived at the Kerenza colony from Heimdall station. We’re pitching the next book as “Die Hard meets Alien.” Make of that what you will!

Amie: The next book will feature new characters you haven’t met yet, but to answer what’s already an FAQ: those who make it out of ILLUMINAE alive (which isn’t everyone!) will appear again. But you’ll also meet a badass girl with killer fashion sense and a guy who’s so bad he’s good.

Why do you prefer to write YA over adult novels? Would you write an adult book in the future?

Jay: I do a bit of both. I have a solo series called Nevernight starting next year that’s more adult—it still has a teen girl as the protagonist, but there’s probably too much sexytimes for it to be classified as pure YA. But I’ve never really set out with an audience in mind—I just write the story as it unfolds in my head. The YA community is incredible, though. There’s so much energy and passion, love and enthusiasm among YA readers. And there’s a few more female protagonists over here, which, as a card-carrying member of the cult of Furiosa, can only be a good thing. There tends to be a lot of dicks on the dance floor in adult fantasy.

Amie: I’ll never say never, but at the moment I have no plans to write an adult book. I love the YA community, and I love the stories we tell. YA stories explore a lot of questions that continue to interest me—stories about discovery and transformation and self. Also, there’s simply the fact that whenever I sit down to write, kickass teen characters tend to show up!

What is the appeal of writing fantasy/sci-fi books? Would you ever write a book in another genre? If so, what?

Jay: Well, the appeal of writing fantasy and sci-fi should be pretty self-evident—it’s fucking awesome. I mean, how many authors can say they have their own spaceship designer? To me, the greatest novels are the ones that hold up

a dark mirror to our world, and explore it by showcasing another. As for writing another genre, I have an erotic comedy/spy thriller/self-help bible in my trunk, but I can’t get any editor to read it.

Amie: Again, I’ll never say never, but it’s hard to imagine leaving fantasy and sci-fi! As Jay says, stories are a way of looking at our own world in new ways, and sometimes echoing it in other worlds—whether they’re full of magic, or simply far into the future—which helps us see things more clearly than the familiar. I love telling stories on an epic scale, and I also love blowing stuff up, which you get to do a lot more in science fiction . . .

If you could create a sound track for ILLUMINAE, what songs would you pick and why?

Jay: Be warned, my taste in music frightens children:

Bleed — Meshuggah (I listened to the track on constant repeat when writing AIDAN. It just puts me in the headspace of an insane AI. Probably not a great endorsement for the band.)

Lovesong — The Cure (sums up Kady and Ezra for me perfectly. Hey, I’m a child of the ’80s, okay?)

Lateralus — Tool (the song I was listening to when I thought of the book title)

Horizons — Parkway Drive (a song about impermanence—sums up a lot of AIDAN’s thoughts on mortality)

Hospital for Souls — Bring Me the Horizon (I played this for Amie when she was writing Kady’s counseling scenes. Sums up the whole “futility of sitting in a circle talking about your feelings” thing. I’m always one for doing, not talking.)

Amie: Unlike Jay’s, my taste in music does not frighten small children and animals. I’ve learned now to turn the volume down on my laptop before playing anything he sends me. I’m . . . kind of starting to get used to it, though. I’ll add a couple to the list. It’s worth noting that music meant so much to us when we were writing this book that we thanked a bunch of musicians in our acknowledgments.

Madness — Muse, specifically the Live at Rome Olympic Stadium version (This is my ultimate ILLUMINAE song, full of glitches and Kady and Ezra’s arguments and questions about love, and the madness of the title. I listened to it for hours writing this book. Warning: has swearing.)

You Told the Drunks I Knew Karate — Zoey Van Goey (This is a fun, very funny song about being helplessly in love with someone who drags you along in their wake. . . . It makes me think of Ezra with Kady, in the happy times before the book begins.)

Closer — Joshua Radin (The quiet wistfulness of this one gets me every single time.)

Starlight — Muse (This one’s just epic. “Our hopes and expectations . . . black holes and revelations . . .” Perfect for ILLUMINAE.)

If someone took a peek into your writer’s room, what would they see?

Jay: Me. A dog. A beanbag. Empty cans of Red Bull. Ugg boots. Lots and lots of books.

Amie: I love my study! It’s my little nest. My walls are lined with bookshelves floor to ceiling, and I have a big leather chair I sit in to read, or when I just need to change up where I’m at. I’ve got a desk by the window, lots of little clippings and postcards stuck up all over the window frame for inspiration, and I have a TreadDesk as well, which I work at a lot of the time.

What is your work schedule when writing a new book?

Jay: Pretty much this:

work schedule

Amie: Yup, that looks pretty accurate. I don’t really have a set time of day that I prefer to write. The important thing is to turn off the Internet and just push through for a few hours at a time.

Which books and authors do you feel have influenced your writing?

Jay: William Gibson, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Rice, China Miéville, Paolo Bacigalupi, Alan Moore, Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, Drew Hayes.

Amie: Meagan Spooner, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Jules Verne, Spider Robinson, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, Frederick Forsyth, Guy Gavriel Kay, Isaac Asimov, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, George R. R. Martin . . . so many more!

What is your favorite book, author, movie, TV show?


Book: Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
Author: Too hard to pick, honestly.
Movie: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
TV Show: The Wire


Book: The Dark Is Rising – Susan Cooper
Author: Ask me to pick a favorite limb, why don’t you?
Movie: The Blues Brothers
TV Show: The West Wing

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Jay: Time travel. Bye-bye, deadline problems! Plus, you could jump ahead and learn how your next book ended, rather than trying to figure it out yourself.

Amie: I’d like to be able to fly. There’s really no practical use for it, but I have these dreams about flying . . .

What are some of your recent YA reads that you’d recommend?

All the Rage — Courtney Summers. Because it’s brilliant and every high school in the world should make it mandatory reading. Book of the year for me, hands down.
Dreams of Gods & Monsters — Laini Taylor. Laini’s writing is absolutely wonderful, and as far as a series closer, it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.
More Happy than Not — Adam Silvera. Because it’s funny and sad and brave and wow all at once. Moreover, it breaks all the YA molds, and we need more books out there doing that.


Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo. Because it’s everything I ever wanted. A total page-turner with a cast of characters I never want to let go.

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin. Gripping alternate history that kept me guessing at every turn, and had one of the most visceral settings I’ve ever read.

Willful Machines – Tim Floreen. Because it’s smart and brave and full of questions that matter, wrapped in a story that hurtles along at a cracking pace.

The Hush – Skye Melki-Wegner. If you loved Firefly, this is for you—a YA western with a music-based magic system and a band of criminals I adored.

The Rose Society – Marie Lu. I couldn’t put this down, and I didn’t want to. Marie Lu builds worlds I never imagined before I stepped inside them, and this was dark and dangerous and utterly irresistible.

What has been the greatest influence in encouraging you to write and become a published author?

Jay: My wife. This was a crazy dream of mine, and she’s never once been anything but ultra-supportive. She’s my harshest critic and biggest fan and is 100% made of awesome.

Amie: Can I pick two? I’m picking two. My husband, absolutely—nobody gets it like a writer’s partner does, because nobody is there to see them do all the things they do to make this happen. But in my case, I actually did have two people. Meagan Spooner (my co-author on These Broken Stars) was our flatmate, and she was unstoppable in her belief in my writing and her support. I guess what Jay and I are both saying is that the people around you, who really, really believe in you—they can be the difference.

What are you reading now?

Jay: The Young Elites — Marie Lu

Amie: The Immortal Heights – Sherry Thomas

Any words of wisdom or advice to aspiring writers?

Jay: Believe in yourself. This life is full of people who will tell you that you can’t. That you won’t. That you shouldn’t even try. Don’t spare them a second, or a breath. Leave them to their “can’t” and “won’t” and “shouldn’t.” Being a writer is a hard and often lonely road, but the way to reach the end is to just keep walking. The next step you take could be the brilliant one.

Amie: Just get the writing done. Don’t talk, blog, daydream, or tweet about writing more than you actually write. Focus on getting your words on the page, and make sure you run your own race. Don’t compare, don’t worry about what other people have, what other people are doing. Keep writing, keep believing, and follow your own path. Sounds simple—hard to do!

Illuminae is available to order and lands on shelves on October 20th.

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Hardcover: 978-0-553-49911-7
Library Binding: 978-0-553-49912-4
EPUB: 978-0-553-49913-1