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December 03, 2014

Author-daughter book club with Suzy Becker

“How many pages did you write today?”

“Four,” I said.

I used to feel a little self-conscious answering someone who can turn out a book in a day and considers herself an expert on publishing.

This is a piece she  wrote two years ago:

“Do you want to know how to make a book? Well, if you do, you’re asking the right person. First, you brainstorm for ten or fifteen minutes. Next, you get a piece of paper and write the story down. Then you send your story to the pudlisher. Last, you get a note from the pudlisher that says it’s a good story. Finally, the pudlisher makes it into a book.”

My daughter is going into fourth grade this fall. Her babyhood inspired a board book with teething corners, but she had ten teeth by the time I turned it in. She’s the subject of One Good Egg (an illustrated memoir about having her), but sharing that story required heavy parental paraphrasing. The books in the Kate the Great series are the first for which she is the perfect audience. Involving her in the “pudlishing” process (except on the “go away, I have to finish this book!” days) has been the perfect opportunity to deepen her understanding—as a reader, as an aspiring writer, and as my daughter.

In the beginning, we brainstormed what would make Kate “great”: being a good friend (her idea), being a good sister (her idea again), being herself (my idea), being able to say the alphabet in less than five seconds (hers). We went over the outline and the character sketches. Nightly recaps became part of our bedtime routine.

There was the one time when I had to confess, “I didn’t follow the outline. Kate went upstairs to loan Heather [the Junior Guide Leader’s not-so-nice daughter] a pair of clean shorts and ended up giving Heather . . . well, stealing one of the horses from Robin’s old collection.”

“How did that just happen?” she asked doubtfully.

“Heather was pressuring her. Now Kate has to get it back.”

“It’s like they’re real people,” she said, almost admiringly.

“On the good days!” Or so I thought, until I had to explain to her why my page count was in the negative numbers a couple of weeks later.

“I’m going to swap Nora for Heather. No one cares about Heather. She doesn’t have a big enough part in the story. So I have to go back to the soccer game and revise.”

“I care about Heather,” she protested. Once I let her know that my editor, my agent, and our writer friend were in favor of the swap, we had the perfect opportunity to talk about revision. I explained how I actually like revising because I know I’m making the book better. When I was nine, I dreamed of seeing my name on the spine of a book as I scanned the library shelves. (And as long as we’re talking about dreaming, forget the spine—visualize your book with the cover facing out.) I told her that if my name was going to be on a book, I wanted it to be the best book it could be.

There was the night I told her I was stuck. We brainstormed a list of all the things people do to get unstuck: jump on the trampoline (her idea), have a snack (hers), skip ahead (my idea), ask for help (hers), write in the wrong voice (mine), listen to music (mine), play with the cat or dog (hers). . . . And when I was still stuck the following night, she left a drawing of Linda Watson the Book Fairy (who fixes manuscripts in the middle of the night) by my place at the breakfast table the next morning.

My daughter saw me work through being stuck. We went to Dairy Queen to celebrate the submission of the manuscript and sketches. We had hot fudge sundaes at Cabot’s after the final art went in. She was there when I opened the box of advanced reader’s copies. Yesterday she held her own copy of the hardcover, dedicated to her, which was exciting until she saw the stickers in the activity kit.

Back in June, we were waiting for the bus and she asked, “Is writing books the hardest job?”

I may have over-deepened her understanding. “Sometimes it’s hard, but most of the time I feel really lucky—very few people get to be what they always wanted to be,” I answered, as one aspiring writer to another.


Add attribution? asked my daughter–? I don’t know who’s speaking here.

 I’m confused. Again, I don’t know who’s having the above conversation.

 Who’s she? Suzy? Confused.

Kate the GreatKate the Great Except When She’s Not by Suzy Becker
HC: 9780385387422  GLB: 9780385387439  EPUB: 9780385387446

Grades 3–7; Kate’s older sister is way too perfect. Her younger sister is way too cute. And her mom wants her to be pals with her frenemy, Nora. Her art teacher, Mrs. Petty, is way too uncreative, and how can Kate pay attention at Junior Guides when her pod leader has a sweat stain the size of the town beach? Now she has to get through her Christopher Columbus role during Discovery Day and her “Colonial Buddies” report, but little does she know how much “help” she’ll be getting from Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.

November 03, 2014

Celebrate American Education Week

“Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility” – Theme of American Education Week

This year marks the 93rd annual celebration of American Education Week. The National Education Association
suggests daily activities or ways to spotlight education during the week November 17-22. But the focus on the importance of education leads to many programming opportunities for school and public libraries during this week
and all year long. The fact that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who speaks out about the importance of education for girls in a country where girls aren’t honored, received the Nobel Peace Prize is reason enough to help students in the United States understand how lucky they are to live in a country that offers free public education to all. At the same time, students need to know that educational opportunities haven’t always been available to every school-age child. Our history points to the fact that slave owners didn’t think that slaves had the right to an education. Nightjohn and Sarny by Gary Paulsen tell the story of two people born in slavery who risked their lives to teach black children to read. The early immigrants, farm families, or those suffering economic challenges often kept their children home from school to help earn a living. Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop tells of one girl who desperately wants to continue her education but must drop out to help her family by working in the mill.

  • Read aloud Dear Malala We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney (picture book). Ask readers to discuss why girls aren’t offered the same educational opportunities as boys in Pakistan. What makes Malala different from other girls in her country?
  • Explain what Malala means, “One child, one teacher, one book and one person can change the world.”
  • Have readers name one book they’ve read that has broadened their view of the world. Instruct them write a letter to their parents that state how the book changed their global view. Suggestions from Random House include:

Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario
Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg
Slumgirl Dreaming (middle grade) by Ribina Ali with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar
A Time of Miracles (young adult) by Anne-Laura Bondoux and translated from French by Y. Maudet
The Book Thief (young adult) by Markus Zusak
An Ocean Apart, A World Away and Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (young adult) by Lensey Namioka
Shabanu, Haveli or The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

  • Ask readers to read about The Nobel Peace Prize and write a front-page story for a national newspaper that pays tribute to Malala and her efforts on behalf of girls.
  • Have students research one of the milestones in public education in the following timeline of events documented by the NEA.
    The following books from Random House may help them understand these important events:

Sylvia & Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling
Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpool
Wonder (middle grade) by R.J. Palacio

  • Recognizing and honoring teachers is one of the activities that NEA suggests for American Education Week. Ask students to read a book about a special teacher and think of a way to honor them. Suggestions from Random House include:

Miss Brooks Loves Books and Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Where Tales are Told and Ogres are Welcome) (picture books) by Barbara Bottner and illus. by Michael Emberley
The Magical Ms. Plum (picture book) by Bonny Becker and illus. by Amy Portnoy
SCAT (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen
Burning Up (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney
Ringside, 1925 (young adult) by Jen Bryant

November 03, 2014

One Star for Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation) by Laura Hillenbrand

★ “Growing up in Torrance, California, Louis Zamperini was a wild boy, a rebel who found redemption in running, ultimately competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Then, in 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier, whose plane was shot down over the Pacific. Thus began a remarkable story of survival. For 47 days, he floated on a raft with scant food and water, surrounded by sharks. Finally he was picked up by Japanese forces and made a prisoner of war. He was routinely and savagely beaten and humiliated by a sadistic guard the other prisoners nicknamed the Bird. Not released until the end of the war, Zamperini returned to the States, where he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and began drinking heavily, until, while attending a Billy Graham crusade, he stopped drinking and began to find peace. This adaptation of Hillenbrand’s adult best-seller is highly dramatic and exciting, as well as painful to read as it lays bare man’s hellish inhumanity to man. It is inspirational, too, for despite violence, torture, and humiliation, Zamperini never lost his human dignity—a necessity, Hillenbrand graphically demonstrates, for survival. Heavily illustrated with black-and-white photographs, this is sure to attract a wide audience, not only of survival story fans but also of those looking for a story of one man’s heroic triumph over all odds. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a film adaptation scheduled for December 2014 and a crossover teen audience for the best-selling adult edition, this youth edition should have a wide audience.” — Michael Cart


Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)
by Laura Hillenbrand
Hardcover: 9780385742511
Library Binding: 9780375990625

November 03, 2014

Random House Children’s Books invites you to meet our authors!

NCTE 2014 [National Harbor, MD | November 20-23, 2014 ]

Come visit us at booth number 613 at the NCTE Annual Convention. The following is our author signing schedule.

Friday, November 21

  • Noon–1:00 PM—Jenny Hubbard
  • 1:00–2:00 PM—Pat Mora
  • 1:00–2:00 PM—Liesl Shurtliff
  • 2:00–3:00 PM—Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet
  • 3:00–4:00 PM—Matt de la Peña
  • 4:00–5:00 PM—Wendelin Van Draanen
  • 5:00–6:00 PM—Laurel Snyder
  • 5:00–6:00 PM—Erica S. Perl

Saturday, November 22

  • 9:00–10:00 AM—Eileen Spinelli & Jerry Spinelli
  • 10:00 –11:00 AM—Candace Fleming
  • 10:00 –11:00 AM—Brian Floca
  • 11:00 AM–Noon—James Dashner
  • Noon–1:00 PM—Rob Buyea
  • 1:00–2:00 PM—E. Lockhart
  • 1:00–2:00 PM—David Levithan
  • 2:00–3:00 PM—Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
  • 3:00–4:00 PM—Rich Wallace & Sandra Neil Wallace
  • 4:00–5:00 PM—Trudy Ludwig
  • 4:15–5:00 PM—Christopher Paul Curtis

Enrique's JourneySonia Nazario will be signing copies of Enrique’s Journey
following her opening session keynote!

Thursday, November 20, at 6:30 PM
Gaylord National Resort, Potomac Ballroom

November 03, 2014

Music Teachers Make Noise with Uni the Unicorn

Hooves up, raise your horn, Uni the Unicorn.
If you believe in magic, make a silly sound.
Hooves up, trot the trail,
Giddy-up, gallop, shake your tail,
If you believe there’s magic all around.

Uni the Unicorn | Theme Song
Download the sheet music from Uni’s song and bring magic into your
music classroom.

Uni the Unicorn


by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Brigette Barrager
Random House BFYR | 9780385375559

In this clever twist on the age-old belief that there’s no such thing as unicorns,
Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! No matter what the
grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are real. Somewhere there
must be a smart, strong, wonderful, magical little girl waiting to be best friends.
In fact, far away (but not too far), a real little girl believes there is a unicorn
waiting for her.