Archive for March, 2013

Willie and Uncle Bill by Amy Schwartz

Willie and Uncle BillWillie’s mom needs to go out, and Willie needs a babysitter. Who’s coming to watch him? Uncle Bill! Uncle Bill (who has spiky hair and dances while he makes lunch) is a bit crazy, but Willie (in his checked pants and big stripey shirt) is more than a match for him. As their names suggest, these two are kindred spirits, in spite of their difference in age.

Want to cover up the results of a bad scissors experiment? Need a co-chef to create the latest version of Icky Stew? Interested in a sneaky, musical, nighttime excursion? Uncle Bill is your man (and Willie is his able sidekick).

Amy Schwartz has created an adorable little book about every child’s dream babysitter (and dream relative!), and her delightful illustrations enhance the text perfectly.

Posted by: Sarah

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Kelly shares a new favorite: Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George. 

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Freakling by Lana Krumwiede

FreaklingCut off from the rest of the world by an enormous mountain, secured by a massive gated wall exists the city of Deliverance. The residents of Deliverance are special. They look like everyone on the other side of the mountain, but they all possess a form of telekinesis called psi. The people of Deliverance use their psi for everything including cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, driving, etc. Ocassionally, however, children’s psi powers do not develop and are labeled Freaklings. Of course, it is impossible for Freaklings to exist among the psi wielders; therefore, those children are sent to the nonpsi village outside the walls of Deliverance where they are taught to survive in a world where they must do everything for themselves.

Taemon was not born a Freakling, but he is different from other psi wielders. He has the ability to “mind wander” or see inside objects using his mind – a very dangerous power in the hands of the wrong person. Taemon’s brother, Yens, is extremely gifted at using psi and hungers for fame and power. As Yens starts to realize just how powerful Taemon really is, he begins to feel threatened and attacks Taemon in hopes of scaring him into explaining the root of his power. As a result, Taemon actually loses his ability to control objects with psi and must hide his handicap or be exiled from the city. Ultimately, Taemon must make a decision that will impact everyone in Deliverance and even beyond, but can he trust himself to make the right decision?

Posted by: Staci

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Machines at Work by Byron Barton

Machines at Work“Hey, you guys! Check out this book.” Here’s a title for the youngest construction lovers. It starts with the crew entering their trucks and knocking down a building. After the site is cleared, the crew begins work on a new building. Bold illustrations fill the pages. It’s a very simple introduction to a day at the construction site and is a favorite in our house.

Posted by: Liz

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Special! An Interview with Author Nikki Loftin

We’re thrilled to bring you an interview with Nikki Loftin, author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, and other forthcoming books. I’m sure you’ll be just as excited as we were to read her answers to our questions.

Nikki Loftin

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, since I was nine. Before then I wanted to be a vet, but I discovered I was afraid of blood. So… writing. I’m not at all scared of fictional blood!

When did you start writing?

My first published poem appeared in the local newspaper when I was nine or ten. I was hooked on writing for publication – even if I did give it up for a long while when my kids were very young.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your job be?

Oh, wow. I love working with kids – I loved my years as a teacher. I might teach writing! (Does that count?)

How long did it take from finishing your first book to when it was actually published?

I finished the first draft in June 2010. It appeared on the shelves in August 2012. It felt like forever to wait!

Did you get many rejections?

Some, but not as many as a lot of my friends talk about. I already had my agent, so I wasn’t querying from scratch. My agent sent it to a few editors – and it landed very quickly on the desk of an amazing person who I adore working with at Razorbill.

Do you find it hard to stop revising? Or do you have a definite ending point?

I find it hard to START revising! Seriously, I love drafting a new book – and I detest revising, even though that’s where the magic really happens. I have a formula for revisions. First, I send it to between 3 and 6 writing critique partners. (Revise revise revise.)Then, my agent gives me notes. (More revisions, lots of chocolate.) Sometimes I have to revise again during the process of submitting to editors. Of course, once an editor chooses your manuscript, there are months more of revisions ahead!

For you, what is the hardest part of writing a book?

See above: Revisions.

What made you decide to write for children, and how is it different from writing for adults?

I thought I was going to write books for adults – but the stories that came to my mind were all middle-grade level, mostly fantasies and humor. So I decided to go with the muse and try my hand at kid lit. It’s working out very well!

Do you think the character of Molly, in your book, really is a wicked stepmother, or does she have some good in her?

I’m going to plead the fifth on this one. If I ever end up writing a sequel, an answer to this question probably would spoil the next book!

How much input, if any, did you have into the art in the book?

A little bit! The artists sent me a few different versions of the playground illustration to choose from. I let my son help – he loved getting to pick!

Did your children read the book? If so, what did they think of it?

My kids had it read to them by me, more than once! They loved it, even if a few parts were a bit scary for my youngest (who was seven at the time). They’re both my number one fans and supporters, and I feel super lucky to have them for my first readers.

What advice would you give young writers?

Read as much as you can, in as many different genres as you can. What you read now will play a huge in part in what you write later. You may be the Next World’s Best Mystery Writer – but if you only read non-fiction or romance, you may never discover your hidden talents.

Do you have any subjects that you’re dying to write about, but haven’t yet?

Any new books that will be coming out soon? I have a new book called Nightingale’s Nest coming out in early 2014. I love this book – it’s full of magic and mystery, and darkness, too. I’ll have another book out a year or so later (to be decided!). I play with new ideas all the time, mostly re-imagined fairy tales, but any topic that combines scariness with magic and a bit of humor is what I love to write.

What is your favorite word?

Murmuration. My LEAST favorite is moist. Ick.

What inspires you?

My kids, other people’s books, long walks, music, memories, letters from my readers… everything, it seems like. I am still in love with the world, like I was when I was a kid – and it gives me so much to choose from.

Who is your favorite author or book (children’s or adult)?

Ooh, hard one. I’m not going to list living ones, since I have a LOT of friends who are writers! LOL I adored the Pippi Longstocking books, by Astrid Lindgren. And I have a soft spot in my heart for Dante. Is that weird?

What authors influenced you when you were first starting out?

The Grimm Brothers, of course! I read a lot, but in particular? I studied Robin McKinley’s fairy tale re-inventions, and read Shannon Hale pretty closely, too.

What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?
I play with my kids or my dogs! I also love to do Zumba (aerobic dance plus world rhythms), in-line skating or bike riding, reading (of course!), and baking. In fact, I bake whenever I’m stressed – so when I’m on deadline, my house smells amazing!

Thanks so much to Nikki Loftin for taking time out of her busy writing schedule to take part in this interview. We’re all REALLY looking forward to her new books!

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Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

Goldilocks and the Three DinosaursFans of Mo Willems tongue-in-cheek humor will not be disappointed with his first attempt at a fairy tale send-up. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is fractured beyond belief by Willems as the bears are replaced by three dinosaurs, Mama, Papa and “some other dinosaur visiting from Norway.” The dinosaurs cook chocolate pudding and leave it out at varying temperatures to lure an unsuspecting “succulent child” which works like a charm on Goldilocks. She doesn’t care about the temperature of the food since chocolate pudding is good at any temperature. Zany chaos ensues as Goldilocks realizes that she has, in fact, fallen into a trap set by dinosaurs. She realizes this mostly because the dinosaurs are peering at her through the window of the house and gloating with the anticipation of eating a little girl. Goldilocks escapes through the back door as the dinosaurs rush through the front, and reminds the readers of the very important moral “if you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”

Certainly a story for a child who is familiar with the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears this might be even more enjoyable to readers of Mo Willems work, as readers can search for his other characters which sneak into the scenes of this story, including the very famous Pigeon.

Posted by: Kelly

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Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon

Ralph Tells a StoryWhen you are writing a story, inspiration can come from anywhere, but sometimes you just get STUCK and can’t think of anything to write about. That is what happens to poor Ralph. His teacher tells him that stories are everywhere, and for his friend Daisy, they are — she even writes stories about things that happen to Ralph! Ralph looks out the window for stories, but nothing; he looks in the aquarium for stories, and still nothing; he looks in his desk, and finally under the desk for stories – but nothing . . . until he remembers lying in the grass at the park. He then realizes that he does have a story to tell – and it turns out to be a really good one about an inchworm and a house that he built for the inchworm, and a baby that puts the inchworm in his diaper, and a boy named Ralph who rescues the inchworm from the giant baby. From that time on, Ralph seems to find stories everywhere – just like his teacher said. This wonderful story will be a favorite read-aloud for teachers and parents of those first learning to write, and maybe even just those who get stuck every once in a while. The illustrations are perfect with childlike drawings of messy little kids and messy writing. This book is bound to be a favorite!

Posted by: Mary

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