Monday, November 23, 2015

A Bumpers Thanksgiving

What's the best part of Thanksgiving? The food, of course! The creamy mashed potatoes, the savory crescent rolls, and not to mention the delicious golden turkey! At least, that's what I thought growing up. When I got older, I began to realize how the holiday brought loved ones together, and I was reminded the importance of spending time with family. Luckily, Charlie Bumper learns this important life lesson much earlier than I did, but his adventure toward this discovery is one crazy ride!

In Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey—the fourth installment of Bill Harley's Charlie Bumpers series—middle-schooler Charlie should be spending his Thanksgiving break without a care in the world, watching superheroes on TV. Instead, Charlie has to deal with not only his stubborn big brother and his bothersome little sister, aka the Squid, but also the 10 people invited to dinner, including his annoying “turkey” of a cousin, Chip. On top of that, he has homework to do: a paper about his definition of family. But this Thanksgiving, Charlie gets into all sorts of trouble while ultimately learning how cool it is to have your family by your side.

Want to see what mess Charlie gets into this Thanksgiving? Check out Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble. It's a book the whole family will enjoy!

Speaking of family, Charlie and his family recommend creating these awesome crafts and crazy cool experiments together this Thanksgiving.

The Hand Print Turkey
*Squid Approved*

You can't let this Thanksgiving pass without making the classic turkey craft. All you need is colorful construction paper, empty toilet paper rolls, scissors, and some glue. With these ingredients, you can make some creative and unique place settings for your dinner table. You can find the step by step guide at Liz on Call.

The DIY Bottle Rocket Launcher
*Charlie Approved*

This experiment will make your family fun time rocket sky high! With parental supervision, kids can build their rocket out of a soda bottle and some cardboard, and use a pump to create water pressure, just like Charlie, Chip, and Uncle Ron. The water pressure will send the rocket soaring! To get the complete directions and learn the science behind it all, head on over to Science Sparks.

The Indoor Bottle Rocket
*Mom Approved*

To avoid a similar fiasco like Charlie Bumpers', this indoor rocket can get anyone’s imagination fired up, without destroying the living room or your Thanksgiving feast. Using a soda bottle, paint, and a few other items you can find around the house, building this rocket is all about creativity, and it's a creation you are going to want to keep for years to come. Find everything you need at Sainsberry’s Live Well For Less.

What’s your favorite part about Thanksgiving? Do you have any special crafts you like to do with the family over the holiday? We can’t wait to hear! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Anatomy of a Picture Book

There is something universal about the magic of a picture book. As soon as fingers come in contact with the cover, children of all ages become entranced by the story and illustrations within the pages. But what gives a picture book that kind of power? How is that sense of wonder captured in a simple book? Well, we will let you in on a little secret... it's all in the anatomy. For Picture Book Month, we want to share with you the “anatomy” behind picture books that we know and love. From Jacket to Back Matter, here is a list of key terms of a picture book’s anatomy that, when all combined, generate the life and magic that can be found with each turn of a page.


Jacket of Little Red
Jacket— Short for dust jacket, the paper wrapping around a hardcover book to help protect the actual cover. Originally made of fabric and intended to keep the book clean, today the jacket is highly designed and styled to catch the eye of a reader via interesting art and type. 

Front and Back Flaps

The front and back flaps of the jacket
for P. Zonka Lays an egg
Front and Back Flaps— Extension of the jacket beyond the width of the cover that folds around the front and back covers of the book. The front flap text gives a brief description of the book’s content; the back flap contains a biography and often a photo of the author and artist.


The jacket and book cover of Little Red
Cover— An outer wrapper of a hard cover or paperback book that protects the pages. The material can be almost anything that is flexible—such as cloth, paper, or plastic. A cover is not a jacket, and can actually have a completely different image than the jacket.


The spines of Little Red, Little One,
Stay! A Top Dog Story, Poet, and P. Zonka Lays and Egg
Spine— The center panel of a book’s binding that connects the front and back cover to the pages. This is the outside part of the book that shows when the book is on a shelf.


Top: Hard cover binding of Rodeo Red
Bottom: Paperback binding of About Rodents
Binding— The materials that hold a book together. A trade hard cover binding contains pages that are usually sewn and glued along the spine with covers made of stiff chipboard. A library binding is more durable, with cloth reinforcement along the spine and a stronger sewing method. A paperback is usually only glued along the spine and covered with heavyweight paper.


Endpaper of Toad Weather
Endpapers— The glued pages that appear at the beginning and end of hard cover books. There are 4 pages, usually made of a different, stronger paper than the text pages. Endpapers can be plain, colored, or printed and are used to help attach the book pages to the case.  Often, they feature elements from the story but just as often they are a single color that complements the illustrations.
Endpaper of A Place for Frogs, revised edition
that shows geographical locations of certain frog species
Sometimes the endpapers can feature elements that supplement the story inside the book; 
Endpaper of Sound of All Things that shows 1930's Brooklyn
sometimes they are breathtaking landscapes that can act as extra illustrations.

Half-Title Page

Half-title page of About Insects
Half-Title Page— A page in the front of the book, usually on page 1, that repeats just the book’s title. 

Copyright Page

Copyright page of Poet
Copyright Page— A page at the front or back of a book with information about the publisher and year of publication; number of printings; about who owns (holds the copyright to) the text, photos or pictures, maps or charts, and any other specific images; about Cataloging-In-Publication data registered with the U.S. Library of Congress.

Title Page

Title page of Stanley the Mailman
Title Page— A page following the half title containing the title, author(s) and illustrator bylines, and the publisher’s logo or imprint.


Examples of vignettes in Claude in the Spotlight
Vignettes—Small illustrations alongside the text that are used together to move the narrative forward, and allows the illustrator to make use of blank space to tell the story.


Example of panels in Stay! A Top Dog Story
Panels—Like vignettes, panels are another tool illustrators use to move the narrative in a particular direction

Full Spread

Full Spread in Little One
Full spread—Two facing pages that carry a large picture.


Example of a gutter in Little One
Gutter—The head-to-foot center fold line between two pages of a book. If a designer or illustrator doesn’t plan ahead for the gutter, illustrations can “disappear” into the gutter. 

Back Matter

Example of back matter from About Habitats: Polar Regions
Back Matter— Supplementary material in the back of a book, such as a glossary, a recommended reading list, references, an index, an author’s note or biography, or information about the book.

Board Book

Little Rabbit Lost as a board book
Board Book— A specific type of simple picture book of only a few pages, usually intended for infants and toddlers, in which the printed pages are glued to the front and back of thick cardboard for extra strength and durability. Especially useful for teething; publishers need to be sure all materials are nontoxic.


F&G of A Friend for Mole
Folded-and-gathered (F&G)— A sheet or sheets from a book’s print run that are folded, gathered into a complete set of pages, and trimmed, but not stitched, glued, or bound. F&Gs are often used as review copies for picture books, sent to key buyers, publishers’ representatives, and media reviewers.

You can find more information about Picture Book Month here.

Like any of the titles you see? Little Red; A Place for Frogs (revised); The Sound of All Things; Stanley the Mailman; Little One; and A Friend for Mole will be published in the upcoming Spring 2016 season, so be on the lookout! The rest of the titles can be found at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teacher Tuesday with Finder, Coal Mine Dog

Finder, a sweet, tawny-colored dog, becomes the hero of the coal mines when he helps to warn miners of the impending danger. This book is action-packed and will help your students learn about a lesser-known piece of history while staying engaged. Try this creative activity with your class so that they may gain a greater appreciation for what conditions in the coal mines were like in the early 1900s.
  • After reading Finder, Coal Mine Dog together, tell your class that they are to imagine that they have to work in the coal mines for a day, and that they are only allowed to take one animal with them.
  • This animal can be a pet they already have, or an imaginary pet/creature that they would like to accompany them.
  • Ask your students to write a journal entry on a piece of paper describing a day working in the mines (for extra fun and imagination, you can try burning the edges of Manila paper before providing one sheet to each student. This can be accomplished by holding the edge of the paper near a lighter or candle flame so the heat crumbles the edges of the paper. Do this over a sink at home and be sure to have this completed before letting the students write on the paper).
  • Ask the students to write about what they and their animal companion would do in the event of a mine disaster.
  • Once everyone is finished, display your class’ new journal entries on the wall to enjoy!

Click here for the full summary of Finder, Coal Mine Dog

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teacher Tuesday with Marching with Aunt Susan

Bessie, a young girl growing up in the 1890s, doesn’t understand why she can’t go hiking with her brothers and her dad. It is not until Susan B. Anthony comes to town that Bessie realizes she has the power to stand up for what she believes in, even if it only inspires a small change.

There is a moment in the book where Bessie says, “I wondered if an eclipse were coming over me.” This poetic thought provides an opportunity to discuss how human emotions can be portrayed by events in nature. Try this activity with your class for further understanding:
  • Ask your students to write a poem about an event in nature that they have observed (a bird fluttering around a flower, a sunset, a rainstorm, a wave crashing against the shore, anything!).
  • In the poem, students should write about the setting and event.
  • Encourage your students to connect their chosen event with an emotion or feeling.
  • After, discuss what Bessie means when she says, “I wondered if an eclipse were coming over me,” (Possible answer: She wonders if she might become sad inside for a time).

Click here for the full summary on Marching with Aunt Susan and here for the complete teacher’s guide. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Matt Bumpers' Ultra-Official Halloween Guide to De-Scaring

Matt Bumpers here with a Public Service Announcement.

Everyone knows that Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year. The cobwebs, the ghouls, the candy...  But there is an affliction sweeping the nation, threatening to ruin Halloween for America's youth.

I should explain.

My kid brother, Charlie, is what you might call...a dorky chicken. He screams when lights go out unexpectedly, has nightmares from watching movies about vampires, and crosses the street when he sees a potentially haunted house. 

I'm sorry to report that this is not an isolated case. Dorkychickenitis is a growing concern, and this epidemic must be stamped out.

But I'll need your help.

I've compiled a fool-proof toolkit for use in de-scaring any Dorky Chickens you may encounter. Good luck.

Dorkychickenitis Patient Zero: Charles Bumpers

Matt Bumpers' Ultra-Official Guide to De-Scaring

1.     Tell a scary story.  Tell a little bit every night; make each night's episode a little more terrifying. With some luck, you'll have your patient laughing in the ghoulish face of fear by the time Halloween rolls around.
2.     Watch a scary movie.  Okay, this one's kind of the same as the scary story tip. Building up to scarier and scarier movies will eventually have your patient immune to the palest vampires and hairiest werewolves.
3.     Change the name of the scary thing.  I have my little sister, Mabel, to thank for this one. Charlie is terrified to watch a movie called The Shrieking Skull. Mabel thought the name was "Squeaking" instead of "Shrieking," making the movie laughable. Good on you, Mabel. Gold star.
Me, Matthew Bumpers, demonstrating Tip #1
4.     Watch something funny right after something scary.  This will help you forget about the scary thing and focus on the funny thing instead. Easy-peasy. 
5.     Focus on the funny aspects.  Look, I know scary. Scary stories, scary movies, whatever; they all have something in common. They're funny! Underneath the ghosts and goblins and blood and guts, there's always a joke. If you walk into a scary situation prepared to laugh, you will. 
6.     Embrace being scared.  C'mon, why do you think people keep making scary movies? They're fun! They give you the chance to scream, hide under the covers, and freak out your friends. Everyday life can get boring sometimes—getting scared is a great way to break up the monotony. 
7.     Pretend you’re not scared.  Basically: fake it 'til you make it. I wish Charlie would at least pretend he wasn't scared all the time.
8.     Be with friends.  Scary story + people to share it with = fun. That's just basic math.
9.     Realize it’s all fake.  You know what Halloween is about right? Getting scared. But at the end of the day, you know the stories, the monsters, and the ghouls aren't real.

Can you think of anything else?  Comment below if I missed any good tips.

Stay scary, people.

- Matt "Master of Horror" Bumpers

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Tell a Scary Story

There’s no better time in the year than Halloween for sharing scary stories. And there are SO MANY scary stories out there; in fact, there are entire books and movies and magazines dedicated to them.

It may seem like spinning a spooky yarn ought to be easy as pumpkin pie, but, like tight rope walking, writing a children's book (Am I right, guys?), and drinking black coffee, telling a scary story is a skill that must be honed with years of careful study.

But, since Halloween is just a few days away, consider this our Scary Story Bootcamp.


The only true necessity is a flashlight. Shine it under your face in the dark and give your audience a ghoulish grin. Works every time.

Other props might be things like a scary mask, a storyteller's costume (cape? top hat? pipe?), maybe some fake snakes or bugs, or spooky music to play in the background.


You might think the setting in which you tell your creepy tale story isn't important. Wrong. Atmosphere is vital. Here are some tips on working your audience into maximum fright before you even open your mouth.

  • Indoors: 
    • Make a blanket or pillow-fort. First off, they're awesome. Second, they'll hide all the light from outside the fort, leaving your flashlight as the only source of light. And third, forts are awesome.
  • Outdoors: 
    • Do you have an outdoor fire pit? The eerie light will flicker; the fire will crackle; and creatures of the night will skulk and slither in the shadows just out of sight...
The Story: 

You've selected your setting and collected your props; now it's time for the main event.

Speaking in front of an audience can be nerve-wracking. Practicing before is always an option, especially if you aren’t too familiar with the story.  Adding changes in the tone and volume of your voice throughout can also enhance the story and get children more intrigued in what happens next. But just remember: it's important to seem confident in the story you're telling. Whatever the story is, it is true. If you believe it, your audience will believe it too.

But how do you pick one?

The best thing to do is to learn a few on your own, improve them, and then swap them with your friends. Pretty soon you'll have a good collection built up! Becoming familiar with some classic scary stories that originate from folklore in Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark can always be a good place to get some ideas; but here are also a few tried and trues to get you started:

Not Very Scary/Kinda Funny:
Moderately Scary:
Super Scary/Proceed with Caution: 
The Best Original Scary Story Ever:

Okay, that last one might be biased, but it is a great spooky story and you can read it (or hear it!) yourself in Bill Harley's third Charlie Bumpers book, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull!

Did we miss any of your favorite stories? Have you made up an awesome one that you'd like to share? Do you have any more tips on how to tell them? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Book Wednesday: Finder, Coal Mine Dog written by Alison Hart and illustrated by Michael Montgomery

Finder is a tawny-colored dog who just wants to please his new owner, Uncle George, and his friend, Thomas. He knows his job is to be a hunting dog, but he can’t help from running away from the dangerous animals he is supposed to be searching for; he also hates the sound of guns and the smell of blood.

Fortunately, Thomas and Finder are able to help each other out. Uncle George tells Thomas that instead of going to school next fall, he will be heading down to the mines to earn his keep now that both of his parents are dead. Thomas knows that there is no way out of his current predicament—despite his desire to go to school—and soon realizes that Finder may be able to find a job in the mines too.

Finder’s job is to pull the sledge to the coal car, but one day, his role in the mines becomes much more important; he is able to smell smoke and warn Thomas and the other miners of imminent danger.

Finder, Coal Mine Dog transforms the events from the 1909 Cherry Mining Disaster into page-turning chaos. Finder becomes a crucial piece in this story’s history, as he is the one who ultimately helps lead Thomas to safety and also the one who helps find those still trapped in the mine. In reality, 259 men and boys died in this disaster, and Cherry, Illinois commemorated the centennial anniversary of this horrific event six years ago. The mining laws in Illinois were changed as a direct result of the lives that could have been spared in this disaster, and Finder, Coal Mine Dog helps solidify the miners’ spot in history.

Click here for the full summary of Finder, Coal Mine Dog

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Countdown to Halloween!

Halloween is only a week away!

When I was a kid, waiting to put on my costume and gather as much candy as I could felt like torture! To keep my mind busy, I had a collection of Halloween picture books to tide me over, and fun arts and crafts were always welcome, especially carving pumpkins!  Although I do not trick-or-treat anymore (unfortunately), you can never be too old for Halloween books and crafts. Check out our Halloween-related book round up featuring all of your favorite characters, monsters, and ghouls—good ones and scary ones alike!

Written by Danny Schnitzlein
Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
A boy’s dread of things that go bump in the night fills his head with monstrous thoughts. So when he is separated from his older brothers on Halloween night and finds himself alone on Monster Street, he fears the worst! Lightning flashes. Bats flap overhead. Doors squeak open. Hairy arms and tentacles drop spiders into his sack. The boy is relieved when he finally meets up with another trick-or-treater. That is, until his new friend removes his mask... 

Written by Danny Schnitzlein
Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
What do you dread eating the most? For the hero of this story, it's peas. A young boy thinks he's discovered a way to avoid eating his peas—he makes a bargain with a fiendishly funny monster. First the deal is simple: the monster will eat the boy's peas in exchange for his soccer ball. But with each new encounter, the monster's demands escalate. Eventually, our hero faces a daunting decision—can he conquer his loathing for peas or will he lose his most prized possession?

Written by Danny Schnitzlein
Illustrated by Bill Mayer
A math-phobic boy faces another dreaded evening of multiplication when a monster suddenly appears in his room and offers him a deal he cannot refuse. After a quick signature on a contract, the boy’s problems are solved, and his homework is ready to turn in the next day. At first, everything adds up perfectly. But when the boy’s math knowledge is tested at school, his troubles begin to multiply. What did the fine print on that contract read?

Written by Kevin Shortsleeve
Illustrated by Michael Austin
Come along with Professor LeGrand as he warns readers about the outrageous habits and appalling behavior of thirteen mischievous monsters whom the creature teacher hopes the readers never have to meet. There's the Scarce Sissyfoos, Mess Monsters, and the Hedge-Standing Snit, just to name a few!

Written and illustrated by Richard Keep
At dusk on the holiday known as Day of the Dead, a Mexican family has set out fiesta offerings in the graveyard in hopes that departed loved ones may return to visit. Graveyard skeletons shake, rattle, and roll in this spirited Day of the Dead celebration.

Written and illustrated by Kevin Luthardt
When Edgar's family moves to a new town, everything seems strange and scary. The kids look different. They dress weird. They listen to bizarre music. They eat strange food. And the biggest, weirdest looking kid keeps staring at Edgar. What does he want? As Edgar soon learns, sometimes you have to rise above your fears to make a new friend. And sometimes that friend may be the last person - or alien - you'd expect.
Written by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Charlie and Tommy have big plans for Halloween. They're  going to trick-or-treat and sleep over at Alex's house. But when Charlie finds out that the entertainment at the party will be the "Scariest Horror Movies Ever," he is struck by panic. Charlie loves candy, he loves sleepovers with his friends, but he absolutely hates horror movies. Can Charlie face his fear of horror movies and enjoy Halloween?

Written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith
Claude and Sir Bobblysock join a dance troupe and head to the theater to perform their act. But being backstage gives them the heebie-jeebies! It's so dark and spooky...could the legend of the theater ghost be true?

Want to grab these spooky titles before All Hallows' Eve? You can find them at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & NobleFeeling inspired by some of our titles and looking to include some fun crafts in your Halloween plans? 


We thought this Monster Wreath would be the perfect addition to any Halloween décor; Baby Rabies has a simple tutorial for you to follow.


You could even create a paper monster for your own little monster to take on his or her trick-or-treating adventures! There are tons of ideas out there, but these examples from Crafts by Amanda look great for parents and children to do together!


Light the pathway to your door with these Glow in the Dark Lanterns to celebrate Día de los Muertos; you only need some glow-in-the-dark sticks, a black marker, some mason jars, and your creativity! Growing up Bilingual also gives more lantern ideas geared towards younger children, like using LED tea lights and plastic cups instead.

Do you have any special Halloween traditions or crafts you do? We’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teacher Tuesday with The Monster Who Ate My Peas

Grades K-3

This book brings kids face to face with one of their worst fears: vegetables. Author, Danny Schnitzlein draws from his own childhood aversion to peas in order to create a story that helps readers to examine their own fears.

The monster that helps get rid of the main character’s peas soon asks for something in return: his dog. The boy must decide which is more important to him.

Try this activity with your class after reading The Monster Who Ate My Peas together:
  • Ask students to draw a monster that has never been seen before.
  • Allow them to use markers, colored, pencils, crayons, pipe cleaners, buttons, pom poms, and glue to bring their monsters to life.
  • Then, ask students to write a story about the monster they created. What is the monster’s name? Was it always a monster? If not, how did it become a monster? Is the monster really evil or does it just look scary?
  • After they are done, let the students share the pictures of their monsters and give a summary of the monster’s background to the class.
  • Have fun!
Click here for the full summary of The Monster Who Ate My Peas and here for the full teacher's guide. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

YA Fall Round-up for Teen Read Week

Hey ya’ll! Today is the first day of Teen Read Week, a national initiative started by YALSA to get teens to become regular readers and library users. There are a ton of great YA books coming out this Fall from Peachtree and our publisher friends, and we want to share the titles we’re most excited about! Here are just a few:

By J.J. Johnson
Pub Date: October 1
Peachtree Publishers
Fifteen-year-old Jennifer has to force her family to realize she needs help for her eating disorder. But when she gets admitted into an eating disorder treatment unit, her experience isn’t quite what she expected. Punctuated by dark humor, gritty realism, and profound moments of self-discovery, Believarexic is a stereotype-defining exploration of belief and human connection.

By Emiko Jean
Pub Date: October 6
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
After Alice’s boyfriend dies trying to save her from a fire—a fire her twin sister set—Alice wants to seek vengeance. The problem: Alice is stuck in a mental ward, and her sister is in another wing a few miles away. But when Chase, a mysterious and charming patient, agrees to help Alice, will she actually go through with her plan? This book has murder, revenge, and suspense—everything you would want in a great psychological thriller. 
Evan comes across a mysterious hand-bound book his father had been reading before he suddenly passed away.  The book is a diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on an island in WWII. As Evan tries to find answers to questions about the diary, why his father had it, and why his grandfather doesn’t want him to read it, readers will become engrossed in this suspenseful, intergenerational mystery.

By Marina Gessner
Pub Date: October 20
GP Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Deferring her college acceptance to the dismay of her parents, McKenna is set on hiking the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, even after her best friend backs out. While on the Trail she forms a relationship with Sam, a high school dropout escaping his abusive father. After following Sam’s suggestion to go off the trail for some extra adventure, the two find themselves lost and in danger. Romance and the wilderness, all wrapped up into one good adventure novel!
Becca and Johnny are brought together by a car accident that kills Johnny’s mother and Becca’s twin sister.  Even though the crash is ruled an accident, Becca and Johnny are not so easily convinced.  Both blinded by their emotions, how far are they willing to go to find the truth and get retribution? This compelling story is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat!
Twelve-year-old Jack and his parents welcome Joseph into their family as a foster child. Recently released from incarceration and wrestling with his troubled past, fourteen-year-old Joseph is determined to find his baby daughter Jupiter, whom he has never met.  This powerful story of friendship and second chances will leave you reaching for a second box of tissues.

Are you starving for more recommendations? Take a look at the Teens’ Top Ten ListRead any good YA books lately that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments!