Monday, April 23, 2018

Summer Book Club: Chapter Books with Discussion Guides

Just because the school year is almost over, doesn't mean reading has to end! Having a summer book club is a great way to encourage children to continue reading outside of school. These fast-paced middle grade books are sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats, while also offering plenty of opportunities to discuss characters, themes, and plot with the discussion guides. Look to add these books to your summer book club, or start a book club of your own this summer!

Discussion guide
The Universe of Fair
by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer

For a young science whiz, an eagerly awaited day at the fair turns into a wacky adventure with more twists and loops than the Gravity Whirl ride!

more contemporary fiction:

The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine by Henry Cole
Do You Know the Monkey Man? by Dori Hillestad Butler
Winners Take All by Fred Bowen
Giving Up the Ghost by Sheri Sinykin

Discussion Guide
Crossing Jordan
by Adrian Fogelin

When African-American Jemmie moves in next door to white Cassie, the two girls must learn how to address their parents' deeply held prejudices.

more from Adrian Fogelin:

My Brother's Hero
The Big Nothing
Anna Casey's Place in the World
Sister Spider Knows All

Discussion Guide
Quake! Disaster in San Francisco, 1906
by Gail Langer Karwoski, illustrated by Robert Papp

Jacob tries to find his family who are missing in the aftermath of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

more historical fiction:

Privateer's Apprentice by Susan Verrico
Chasing the Nightbird by Krista Russell
The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell
Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark by Gail Langer Karwoski

Discussion Guide
Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I
by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

When the British military asks families to volunteer their dogs to help the war effort, Darling's family sends her off to be trained.

more from Alison Hart:

Murphy, Gold Rush Dog
Finder, Coal Mine Dog
Leo, Dog of the Sea
Gabriel’s Horses

Find these books and more at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble! For more reading suggestions this summer, check out our summertime reading and summer-themed round-ups.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Translators Interview: Teresa Mlawer and Georgina Lázaro

A fictionalized first-person biography in verse, and now in Spanish, Miguel y su valiente caballero follows the early years of the child who grew up to pen Don Quixote, the first modern Western novel. The son of a gambling barber-surgeon, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra looks to his own imagination for an escape from his family's troubles and finds comfort in his colorful daydreams. At a time when access to books is limited and imaginative books are considered evil, Miguel is inspired by stortellers and longs to tell stories of his own. When Miguel is nineteen, four of his poems are published, launching the career of one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language.

In this interview, Spanish translators Teresa Mlawer and Georgina Lázaro share their experience translating Miguel's Brave Knight and explain the importance of translating literature for children.

Q: What are your own connections to Cervantes’s story of Don Quixote? 

TM: My own connections to Cervantes’s story of Don Quixote go back to when I was a child growing up in Cuba, and my father used to read passages of Don Quixote to me. 

GL: Spanish is my mother tongue, so as a small child Don Quixote was kind of a children’s story character. Later I read some children’s adaptations and portions of the book in grammar school and the whole book in high school. But the real connection happened when I read it freely, on my own, later in life. That’s when I laughed and wept with it, when I delighted in it and realized its importance.

Q: What in Miguel’s Brave Knight did you respond to most? 

GL: I liked very much the structure of the text, this kind of outline or sketch, of short and poetic fragments of the life and dreams of young Cervantes, using always his most famous book as background. But what attracted me most was the use of the language and its music.

I also consider Raúl Colón’s illustrations a very important piece that adds harmony to the book as a whole and shares not only the telling of the story, but also the atmosphere, the tone and the poetic essence of the text.

Q: Georgina, did you find any interesting connections between your previous work on Don Quixote Forever (2016) and your most recent work on Miguel’s Brave Knight?

GL: Yes, the fact that Miguel’s Brave Knight is about young Cervantes dreaming about the knight he wants to write about someday and my Don Quijote para siempre (Don Quixote Forever) and Don Quijote a carcajadas (Don Quixote’s Laughter) are about that same knight as children will see him, makes a connection. The previous works and this translation are intended for young readers, and one of the goals of all three is not only to tell a story they will enjoy but also to familiarize them with one the most important books of all times, and to make them appreciate the beauty of our Spanish language.

Q: What does your translation process look like?

TM: I read the book in English a few times before I start to work on the translation. Then I proceed to translate page by page. When I have finished the translation, I let it “rest” for a while, then I go back to the translation to see if it sounds right, or if I need to make some changes to the text before submitting the final translation.

GL: My translation process looks very much like my writing process. I think about it as part of my work. Although the book is already written, translation demands not only lots of attention to words and language. It involves, contrary to what many people think, imagination and creativity to transmit not only words and ideas, but also feelings and cadence.

To start, I read the original text several times and do some research. If it is poetry, I consider the structure, its rhyme and rhythm. When I’m working sometimes I write down several options for some words. Then, at the end of a verse or a page I read it aloud and choose the one that is closer in meaning to the original, that reproduces better the music of the text, and that delights the most.

Every day, as I do when I’m writing a book, I read what I have done the day before and then go for some more until the end. When the work is finished, I let it stand for several days and read it with “new eyes” later to modify or add, if necessary, the finishing touches. Sometimes translating feels like a challenging game. Like solving crosswords puzzles, translating offers me lots of special moments, knowledge, inspiration, vocabulary, and skills to improve as a writer.

Q: What kind of research, if any, do you conduct in order to select the correct form or context of translation?

GL: I read the book several times to be sure I understand it completely and to immerse myself in its tone and atmosphere. Usually I read about the author and some of his or her books and writings to learn more about his or her style and voice.

I also read information in Spanish on the theme of the book to learn more about it and to familiarize myself with its vocabulary.

For Miguel’s Brave Knight, I researched about Miguel de Cervantes, especially his childhood and youth, and read again some chapters of Don Quijote de la Mancha to focus particularly on the vocabulary and idiomatic expressions of the time and place in which the novel takes place.

Q: What about translating Miguel’s Brave Knight was most challenging?

GL: I had never translated free verse poetry. When I write I use the traditional poetic forms. For me it comes naturally and effortless. And it has an advantage: if you follow the rules you are sure to achieve music and rhythm. With free verse it is more subjective. You have to trust the words you choose and your ears to capture the music of the original text. I had never attempted that, so I spent lots of time and effort choosing the right words and reading the text aloud many times, over and over again, to be sure our translation was as delicate, and delightful to the ear as the original.

TM: Translating Miguel’s Brave Knight was definitely a challenge because of Margarita’s free verse style. However, I believe that Georgina and I were able to accomplish this goal.

Q: Is communication with the author important to your process? 

TM: I don’t always communicate with the author when doing a translation. I only reach out to the author or the editor if I need to clarify something. In the case of Miguel y su valiente caballero I did communicate with Margarita Engle. Her style is so unique that I wanted to make sure that Georgina and I preserved her style and were truthful to her voice.

GL: In this case it was not only very important, but advantageous. Teresa knows Margarita Engle and had talked to her and knew what she wanted to achieve and what was in her heart and mind when she wrote the book. A few times we were not sure about a particular word, phrase, or idea. It was a blessing that she was accessible and willing to dispel our doubts.

Q: How many drafts of translation did you produce before the finished product was achieved?

GL: Oh! That I cannot tell. Many. Lots. This translation was very different from the others I have done before because I was not working alone.

We assigned ourselves one or two pages each week and we both translated those same few pages. Then each one of us read the work of the other, and chose words, phrases, or even verses of one translation or the other. Sometimes we ended up with a different new page. By this point we already had three or four drafts of a page.

Q: What was it like working with another translator on Miguel’s Brave Knight?

GL: This translation was very different from all the others I have done. I have worked a lot with Teresa Mlawer but in a different way. Usually I write or translate and she edits. Sometimes I help her with the rhymes and metrics of some of her translations. On this occasion, for the first time, we both worked as translators of the same text. As I have said earlier, we assigned ourselves one or two pages each week and we both translated those same few pages. Then each one read the work of the other, and chose words, phrases or verses from one translation or the other to achieve the best end results. We talked a lot on the phone considering each other’s point of view. Sometimes we thought about our differences and options for a few days or even looked for a third opinion.

To write is a solitary work. Working with another person can be a real challenge. I thought it was going to be difficult to work with another translator. Working with Teresa was different, but also stimulating and fun.

TM: I have worked with Georgina Lázaro before. We make a good team and complement each other. This was indeed a team effort and a work of love for both Georgina and myself.

Q: How important are cultural appropriateness, language authenticity, and accuracy of locale to the translation of a text such as Miguel’s Brave Knight? Do you feel it is important to have a Spanish translation of this text? 

TM: Cultural appropriateness, language authenticity, and accuracy of any text to be translated is extremely important. Because of the subject matter of the story I feel it was extremely important to have this book translated into the language of Miguel de Cervantes.

GL: Yes, I think it is important and necessary to have a Spanish translation of this text. Such a beautiful book about the author of the most famous and important book written in Spanish needs to reach Spanish readers.

To take notice of cultural appropriateness, language authenticity, and accuracy of locale is essential to be able to have a trustworthy text, without disparities, and to succeed in getting the reader to feel as if the new text is not a translation.

Q: Is language or intent more important to a work like Miguel’s Brave Knight?

TM: I would say that both are important, but when it comes to Cervantes, the language is extremely important.

Q: What is the crucial difference between authentic literature and translation literature?

TM: To me there is no crucial difference between authentic literature and literature in translation, as long as both are well written.

Q: What are some of the differences between translating literature and poetry?

TM: Poetry is definitely more of a challenge, especially if you are translating the words of someone as talented and unique as Margarita Engle.

GL: To translate an informative text or a cookbook, for example, you have to be meticulous and precise; there’s no room for creativity. To translate literature and poetry is more difficult. As in all translations, you have to look for accuracy in the words you choose. But besides meaning you have to consider the sound of the words, the music and the tone they create, the rhythm and cadence of the sentences. Especially with poetry the translated text should be read as a poem written in the new language and the translator becomes kind of a creator. This question makes me think of something actress Marta Poveda says: “To do prose is like running by the beach, to do poetry is like running through water.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about translating?

GL: What I enjoy most about translating is the challenge and the fun of it. It reminds me of the days I used to solve crosswords puzzles with my father, especially if it involves the rhyme and rhythm of traditional poetic forms. It is like a game, like a riddle. Like this:
What one syllable word rhymes with frown and is the name of a color? 
What one syllable word rhymes with team and means yell? 

Do you have any advice for aspiring translators?

TM: When I look back to my career as a translator I like what I see. It has been and it continues to be a very rewarding experience for me. Therefore, I would say to any aspiring translators: If that’s what you really like to do, go for it!

Q: What do you hope to inspire through your work in translation?

TM: I have to admit that I do translations because I love language and I love children’s literature. However, my goal is to be able to translate into Spanish many of the wonderful children’s books published in English so that Hispanic children will have the opportunity to read all these books in their language.

GL: What I want with my translations is to expose the work of other writers, to make available good books written in English to Spanish-speaking readers or to readers who are learning Spanish. As with my own books I expect children to discover that reading is fun, exciting, and stimulating.

Find  Miguel y su valiente caballero at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble! For more information about the story behind Miguel's Brave Knight, check out our interview with author Margarita Engle and illustrator Raúl Colón as well as a guest post from Margarita Engle about why she wrote this important and inspiring story.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Celebrating Libraries: Books about Books

For many readers, the origin of their love for books and reading began at a library or with the gentle encouragement of a librarian. We celebrate and appreciate libraries all year-round here at Peachtree, but in honor of National Library Week, we just had to recommend these books about books. Happy reading!

Madeline Finn does NOT like to read. But she DOES want a gold star from her teacher. But, stars are for good readers, for understanding words, and for saying them out loud. Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad; when Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. Check out the Activity Kit for fun games and a dog treat recipe! And don't forget to download your own Madeline Finn poster! Can't get enough of Madeline Finn? Read more about the upcoming sequel: Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog.

illustrated by Brad Sneed

Every day after school Melvin goes to the library. His favorite people—Marge, Betty, and Leola—are always there behind the reference desk. When something interests Melvin, his librarian friends help him find lots and lots of books on the subject. As the years pass, Melvin can always find the answers to his questions—and a lot of fun—in the library. Then one day he goes off to college to learn new things and read new books. Will he leave the library and his friends behind forever?

illustrated by Ted Papoulas

A hearing boy and his deaf parents take an outing to Coney Island, where they enjoy the rides, the food, and the sights. The father longs to know how everything sounds. Though his son does his best to interpret their noisy surroundings through sign language, he struggles to convey the subtle differences between the “loud” of the ocean and the “loud” of a roller coaster. When the family drops in at the library after dinner, the boy makes a discovery with the help of a thoughtful librarian who introduces him to poetry. Perhaps the words he needs are within reach, after all. In the author's note, Myron Uhlberg explains the significance of his discovery of the library and how that influenced his own love of words.

illustrated by Michael P. White

When Sunrise Elementary School advertised for a thick-skinned librarian with a burning love of books, Miss Lotta Scales knew she was perfect for the job. Who could guard books better than a REAL dragon? But when she won’t let any of the children take a book from the shelves, the teachers form a delegation. Not even sweet Miss Lemon can convince Miss Lotta Scales that “the library belongs to the children.” Can an open book temper the flames of the school’s hotheaded librarian? Check out the Teacher's Guide for fun classroom activity ideas!

illustrated by Michael P. White

After 557 years of faithful service, Miss Lotty is retiring from guarding books. But before she can check out of Sunrise Elementary for good, disaster strikes. Someone has ordered to have all the books removed from the library and replaced with machines! It’s enough to make Lotty feel a little…dragon-like. When she bursts into a fiery rage, only one thing can make her shed her scales: assurance that someone will fight to keep her precious books in the hands of Sunrise’s children.

Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin was an important statesman, inventor, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But did you know he started the first public library in America? Franklin was always a “bookish” boy. Ben wanted to read, but books were expensive. He wanted to go to school and learn, but his family needed him to work. Despite this, Ben Franklin had lots of ideas about how to turn his love of reading and learning into something more. First he worked as a printer’s apprentice, then he set up his own printing business. Later, he became the first bookseller in Philadelphia, started a newspaper, published Poor Richard’s Almanac, and in 1731, with the help of his friends, organized the first subscription lending library, the Library Company.

Find these books and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Author interview: Melissa Keil

Sophia—a former child prodigy and 17-year-old math mastermind—has been having panic attacks since she learned that after high school, former prodigies either cure cancer or go crazy. It’s a lot of pressure. So Sophia doesn’t have the patience for games right now. She especially doesn’t have the patience to figure out why all these mysterious playing cards keep turning up inside her textbooks.

Joshua—a highly intelligent and cheerfully unambitious amateur magician—has been Sophia’s classmate and has admired her for as long as he can remember. He thinks the time is perfect to tell Sophia how he feels. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

To learn a little more about the story behind The Secret Science of Magic, author Melissa Keil answered some of our questions about her inspiration for these unforgettable characters and what makes this story so relatable.

Q: Sophia is a math prodigy terrified she won’t live up to her potential. While all teens may not be prodigies, this is a common fear. What made you want to write about it? Did anything or anyone specific inspire you? 

A: I remember that moment towards the end of high school really clearly, when the big dreams and plans of childhood start to crash into the realities of the looming adult world. For most of their lives, we feed kids the line that they can be anything they want and all their wildest imaginings are encouraged; but then there comes a point when everything in their world starts telling them to focus on “reality,” which in so many instances means curbing their dreams. Sophia might have extraordinary abilities, but I think the questions she’s grappling with are things most young people can relate to: Will I be able to function in the world? Is the path I’ve chosen the right one? What is going to happen to me if I can’t realize my ambitions? Will I be able to do something amazing with my life, and will I be satisfied if I can’t? 

Q: As best friends, Sophia and Elsie face a common dilemma—realizing that their paths aren’t going to follow the same route. Did your own life experiences inform this part of the book? 

A: In a way—I think everyone, regardless of age, can probably relate to the experience of wanting desperately to hold onto a moment that can’t be sustained. People come and go, friends and family move away, and people inevitably drift in and out of our lives whether we want them to or not. I think Sophia and Elsie will always be close, but they simply can’t have the same type relationship that they have had in high school. What I wanted them to realize by the end of the book is that the changes in their relationship are perfectly okay, and necessary too. 

Q: One of the most important discussions in children’s and young adult literature now is diverse representation of characters. Was that something you were thinking about when you created Sophia and Elsie, or did it happen naturally? 

A: Sophia’s background is Sri Lankan, which is the same as mine, and Elsie’s family is Indian; I was born in Australia but grew up in a really diverse, multicultural family and neighborhood, and I wanted that to be reflected in my books. It was so great to give this book to the young people in my family, and have them be excited to see things in it that they recognized from their background. The diversity conversation is incredibly important and it’s wonderful that readers and publishing folk are seeing the value in representing all types of stories; but sometimes that does put an extra level of pressure on authors (and their characters) to “perform” their diversity in a particular way. For me, I simply wanted the characters in my books to reflect the world that I live in, and I really wanted to give these two brown-girl best friends the chance to grapple with the same things that teens everywhere grapple with—changing friendships and difficult family dynamics, ambition and anxiety, courage and hope, and navigating first love. 

Q: One of the book's main themes is finding the magic within. Why is this theme important to you? Why did you decide to give it a literal representation through Joshua? 

A: Joshua is an eternal optimist; he is the boy who looks at the world and sees only wondrous things to discover. But at the same time he is also a pretty solid fantasist who uses all his passions and obsessions as a convenient way to avoid the things in the world that he simply doesn’t want to face. And he is beset by doubts about his own abilities and his place in the world; he sticks to “small” magic tricks because he is terrified to challenge himself with anything bigger, and risk failing. I think it’s so easy for the world to crush us as we get older; both Joshua and Sophia and trying to figure out how to hold onto their optimism, to keep some of the “magic” of being young and hopeful, while also figuring out what to let go of in order to make room for the life that’s still to come.

Q: Let’s talk about Joshua—we love Joshua. He’s just so earnest. You have an affinity for writing from the affable geeky boy’s POV—you did it here for part of the book, and you did it in Life in Outer Space. Why do you choose to write from a teen boy's perspective?

A: Some of the nicest, and most surprising feedback I’ve received has been from teen boys; boys who have connected with the romance in my books, who love both the male and female characters, who relate to the ups and downs of their relationships—I say surprising, because when we talk about boys and reading I think we often talk about boys “naturally” gravitating to certain types of “boy” stories. We tend to assume they want only action and adventure, and we don’t think that they can have the same kind of affinity with stories about emotions and relationships and the internal life of other humans—which obviously I don’t believe is true at all. I adore all of my boy characters, these sweet, weird, stumbling young humans who are trying to figure things out, and I truly found writing them to be no harder than writing the girls. I really don’t think boys are the indecipherable alien species that they’re sometimes made out to be!

Q: This is your third novel. How different was the writing process from your first? Your second?

A: The Secret Science of Magic was definitely the toughest of my three books so far, for lots of reasons. I think a first novel is generally written with a kind of blissful ignorance, without deadlines or expectations (or reviews or contracts)—all of those things impact the creative process! I also had more full-time writing days with this book, but that led to a lot more procrastination too. And while all my novels had their own challenges, I think this one tackled some tougher issues than perhaps the previous two books did. It was a much longer process to finish the first draft of Secret Science, and I think I probably cut and ditched a lot more material from this book than the previous two as well.

Q: In this book, you also made the choice to change perspectives—back and forth from Sophia to Joshua. Was there a specific reason for that choice? Was that more or less challenging than picking one POV and sticking to it?

A: Both of these characters are struggling to make connections with other people, and they’re both stumbling through their relationship while not always understanding each other or making the right decisions in the way they communicate. So I thought it was important to see them both working through their misconceptions and trying to understand the choices they both make, even (or especially) when they make “bad” choices. I thought it was particularly important to see Joshua’s inner life, as I wanted him to have to grapple with some of those thorny issues young men face when they are trying to form a relationship—like how much “pursuing” is healthy, and how much of what he thinks he knows about Sophia, this girl that he has had a huge crush on from a distance, is just a projection. It’s always tricky finding the “voice” of a character and sustaining that through a novel, so yes, I did find juggling the shifting point-of-views a little challenging! But I also feel like all of my characters are real people with their own personalities and rich inner lives, so it’s a nice challenge to get that to translate on the page.

Q: You’re also a book editor. How do you juggle your own writing while editing other people’s work?

A: I’m lucky enough to work part time as a children’s editor, and I tend to work on books for younger kids—from picture books to middle grade fiction. So there isn’t a lot of cross-over with my YA writing, which is definitely helpful! I think it would be pretty difficult writing my own stories while having other people’s YA characters and stories in my head. But I do feel like I get the best of both worlds; I love my job, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about helping other writers shape their stories into published books.

Q: We’ve already mentioned Sophia is a math genius, who’s terrible at drama class. What were your favorite subjects in school? Were you good at math? Drama?

A: I’ve always been a nerd so I enjoyed most subjects at school, and I was pretty good at most things too—except for math! It ended up being probably my worst subject as a senior, so choosing to write a math genius was an odd choice for me! I think perhaps subconsciously there was part of me that needed to go back and figure out why there was this one thing at school I was hopeless at; maybe there was a little bit of therapy in the writing too!

Q: There’s also a lot of magic in this book—literary and literal. Were you a magician in a past life (or this one)? Did you do some research to turn Joshua in the amateur magician we see in the book?

A: Joshua’s magic obsession really sprung from a particular David Copperfield trick that I was fixated on (I can’t say more than that without giving away some major spoilers!). But I had to do a lot of research, especially because I wanted all of his tricks, even the outlandish ones, to have some basis in reality. I read a lot of books on magic and went out in the world to see magicians perform. I have to admit though that I never managed to master much—as hard as I tried I just don’t think I have the dexterity for close-up magic! I did enjoy many hours watching magicians do their thing on YouTube though.

Q: What about the math? How did you go about authentically writing a math prodigy?

A: As I mentioned I was always terrible at math—I found the research for the book really fascinating, especially reading the biographies of people like Grigori Perelman, the Russian mathematician who Sophia is obsessed with, and other accounts of “failed” or troubled geniuses. But I freely admit that I understood about a third of the actual higher-order math that Sophia loves! Luckily I have quite a few math teachers and other clever people in my circles, so I did a LOT of brain-picking of people much smarter than me.

Q: We got to see a little bit of Sam and Camilla from Life in Outer Space in this book. Why did you decide to give them cameos? Does that mean that we might get to see Sophia and Joshua again someday?

A: Potentially! I get quite attached to all of my characters and I find it really hard to let them go when I finish a book, but by the same token I’m not really interested in writing a “sequel” for any of my books—the way I see it, my characters worked hard for their happy endings, and it isn’t fair of me to mess things up for them again for the purpose of giving them another book! But I still wanted to check in with Sam and Camilla and see how they’re doing a little way into the future; and I loved the idea of them being in the same world as Sophia and Joshua (and Alba and Grady from The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, who also have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in this book too). All of my books exist in the same universe, and I love to think of all my misfits and outcasts finding each other and becoming firm friends.

Get your copy of  The Secret Science of Magic at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!

Monday, April 2, 2018

10 Children's Books about Gardens and Gardening

April is National Garden Month! For all the budding naturalists, environmentalists, and gardeners, we have picture books that explore plants and gardens from every angle. From a simple board book introduction, to beautiful urban gardens and naturally wild gardens, find the perfect book to celebrate the beginning of spring!

by Elizabeth Spurr
illustrated by Manelle Oliphant

In this gently rhyming board book, a young boy creates a garden one small action at a time. First, he digs in the dirt and plants seeds, then he adds soil, water, and some patience. With time, the seeds grow and the boy excitedly discovers what he has helped to make. This book provides a perfect sit-in-your-lap reading experience for toddlers.

by Susan Stockdale

With engaging rhymes and bright, bold images, award-winning author and illustrator Susan Stockdale introduces young readers to 17 different flowers from around the world—a dazzling display of beautiful blooms with colors and shapes that resemble actual things, from ballerinas to kissing lips to wild baboons, and more! Back matter tells a little bit more about each flower (including color photographs) and describes the pollination process.

by Lester Laminack
illustrated by Jim LaMarche

As he observes his Aunt Lilla work with the beehives on their Lowcountry farm, Henry can’t wait until he can have a bee-suit of his own so he can help with the sister bees. This stunning picture book introduces readers to the world of bees, beekeeping, and bee habitats through a gentle fiction story of a boy whose curiosity will be mirrored by every young reader. This gentle story will be a new favorite for both long-time and new fans of Lester Laminack.

by Mary Ann Rodman
illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Emmy loves trees. She loves oak trees with acorns. She loves pine trees with cones, and willow trees with swishy branches. But best of all, Emmy loves the mimosa tree that grows in her grandmother’s pasture. So when Emmy decides she wants a mimosa tree of her own for her birthday, she is dismayed to find that many garden stores don't sell them. Emmy is crushed—until she discovers that the answer to her problem is growing right before her eyes! Mary Ann Rodman’s joyful story will help readers appreciate the natural world around them.

by Kathryn O. Galbraith
illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Eloquent and lyrical prose combined with stunning illustrations explore the many ways seeds are distributed and show how elements work together to create and sustain a wild meadow. In the wild garden, many seeds are planted, but not by farmers’ hands. Different kinds of animals transport seeds, often without knowing it. Sometimes rain washes seeds away to a new location. And sometimes something extraordinary occurs, like when the pods of Scotch broom burst open explosively in the summer heat, scattering seeds everywhere like popcorn.

by Jay O'Callahan
illustrated by Debrah Santini

Grand Ma Mere loves two things best in all the world: her tulips and her grandson, Pierre. Everyone can see why she loves her flowers, for hers is one of the loveliest gardens in all of Paris. But Pierre is a trickster. Every spring and fall when Pierre visits, to the household staff's dismay, his practical jokes and mayhem follow. In all of his years as a prankster, Pierre has never dared to play a trick on his very grand Grand Ma Mere or her beautiful tulip garden. But this year is different. This fun and engaging fiction story will keep readers laughing to the end. 

by Jane Buchanan
illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb

One day, Birdman, who sits in his wheelchair all day feeding seeds to the pigeons, fills Rose’s hands with slick, black seeds. He tells her they are magicif she plants them outside her window they will grow a garden. Her brothers don’t believe, but Rose sets the seeds out and waits. Soon, like Birdman promised, a garden appears before her eyesa musical flurry of red and yellow and blue, drawn to Rose’s window by seed magic even in the midst of the barren, gray city.

by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Higgins Bond

In this informative nonfiction picture book, author Melissa Stewart shares the basic facts about butterflies and introduces young readers to some of the ways human action or inaction can affect butterfly populations. The book also provides pointers on how youngsters can help butterflies thrive in their own neighborhood and will open readers' minds to a wide range of environmental issues. 

by Leslie Bulion
illustrated by Robert Meganck

Dig into the leaf litter layer right under your feet and the creatures who live there! These nineteen poems in a variety of verse forms take readers on a decomposer safari through the “brown food web,” from bacteria through tardigrades and on to rove beetle predators. Perfect for cross-curricular learning, this book includes science notes about each critter and poetry notes about each poetic form, as well as a glossary, hands-on activities, and additional resources for curious readers to further their investigations.

by Juanita Havill
illustrated by Stanislawa Kodman

Award-winning author Juanita Havill brings to life the story of a community garden in an urban neighborhood and the mismatched people who carefully tend it. Told through the eyes of an impressionable girl, the series of richly detailed prose poems delivers a powerful story of the extraordinary magic that occurs every day when ordinary people work together. The result is an affecting, lasting portrait of community life and the power of shared commitment and hope.

Find these books and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Author-illustrator interview: Julie Paschkis

Kalinka wants to be a helpful bird and clean up her friend’s chaotic clutter, but Grakkle definitely does not want help, and does not want Kalinka to tidy up his things. They simply aren’t on the same wavelength. Can an unfortunate accident plus a little humor and empathy help this little bird and big beast see eye to eye? Author-illustrator Julie Paschkis delves into her writing and illustrating process and explains what inspired the humorously contradicting characters in Kalinka and Grakkle.

Q: What inspired you to write this tale of unexpected friendship?

A: I was fooling around, rewriting "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." I’ve never understoodin the original Goldilockswhy it was OK for her to walk into someone else’s home. So I turned Goldilocks into an officious little bird who thinks she is more helpful than she actually is, and thinks it is her right to do whatever she wants. In her helpful way she turned the story into one that was more about her and not a Goldilocks story.

Q: Where did you come up with the idea of Grakkle?

A: Originally I had a family of beastslike the three bearsbut I found the story more interesting if it was about the relationship between two characters. First I thought of him only making one sound “Graak” and then that became his name.

Q: Are you more like Kalinka or Grakkle at home?

A: I am a bit of both. Like Kalinka I tend to value my own ideas quite highly; sometimes I need to back off and listen. Like Grakkle I place housecleaning low on my list of priorities when I am busy (or not busy).

Q: How did you get into the world of children’s book illustration?

A: My first introduction was a reader/looker when I was a child. It was something I always wanted to do. In 1991 I took a class from Keith Baker and learned about how to illustrate children’s bookshow to make a storyboard, a dummy etc. It changed my lifeI’ve been making books for a living ever since.

Q: What is your process as both the author and illustrator of a book? How is your process of writing and illustrating different from only illustrating a book? 

A: The process is pretty similar. I usually paint one or two sample paintings in the style that I envision for the whole book. Then I divide the story into pages and make a storyboard with very rough sketches. Then I refine the sketches and send them in and get feedback. Then I paint the rest of the pictures. I try to make the art tell the story as well as the words. When I have written the words I can sometimes change them if I feel it improves the overall tale. When I am not the author I only change the art!

Q: When you are writing and illustrating a book, do you think about the text or the illustrations first? 

A: I toggle back and forth between them. Sometimes the first thing I see is an image, sometimes it is a verbal idea. When I am creating a storyboardfiguring out the flow of a bookI divide up the text and figure out the pagination before doing any drawing. Sometimes the page divisions change as I work. My goal is to create a book where they are indivisible.

Q: What influences your artistic style?

A: Everything I see influences my artistic style: nature, other artists, books, thoughts, trying new things. I try to stay open. In the illustration class I took years ago, Keith Baker said “Take other people’s vegetables, but make  your own soup.”

Q: What are your favorite colors or shapes to use in illustrations? How do you come up with all of the patterns and designs used throughout the book?

A: I love color and pattern. I don’t have one favorite color. I want to make the colors sing. That comes from putting colors next to each other and trying different hues until they work together—until they sing. One combination of red and green can look dead; another combination with slight changes can be lively. As to patterns, in addition to illustrating children’s books I also design fabric. I could draw patterns forever; it is harder for me to leave space open than to fill it up with pattern.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

A: I would like readers to realize that there are many ways to be in the world, and that we can get along with people who are different than us. Also, that it’s okay to argue and to work it out. And I want them to find the story funny.

Check out Julie Paschkis's blog post to learn more about the creation of Kalinka and Grakkle and see the evolution of her illustrations! Find Kalinka and Grakkle at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble April 1!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Kalinka and Grakkle: A Fanciful Tale of Friendship and Compromise

Written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Kalinka is a showy little bird with an eye for neatness, but her grumpy and messy monster neighbor Grakkle doesn’t care one bit about cleaning. Will an unfortunate turn of events bring a restless but well-intentioned troublemaker and a grouchy furball into the most unlikely of friends? With popular author and illustrator Julie Paschkis's brightly colored illustrations and signature folk art-inspired patterns scattered throughout, this whimsical and humorous tale will catch the eyes and warm the hearts of children and adults alike.

We all have a little bit of Kalinka or Grakkle in us from time to time, and it’s important to know we’ll have a friend who will love us for who we are, even when we make a big mess! Featuring themes of friendship and compromise, Kalinka and Grakkle shows readers that even the most paradoxical of pairs can overcome their problems and still be friends.

“The momentarily dire consequences and subsequent détente are familiar, but Paschkis’s innate effervescence more than compensates. She fills the oversize pages with curly ink lines and folk art motifs and colors; it’s cozy and cheery, yet it still delivers on the big dramatic moment. While the narration tends toward the see-and-say, Paschkis writes with concision and an ear for words that make for great readalouds” —Publishers Weekly

“Kalinka’s blithe cluelessness and Grakkle’s grunting ire should tickle young listeners. Paschkis’ colorful and quirky illustrations, rendered in ink and gouache, heighten the supreme silliness of her tale…. Another cute odd-friendship story.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Humorous monster details will pull in readers for this lighthearted tale of an unusual friendship.” 

“[A] fictitious tale that reads more like a modern-day fable….an important lesson about the value of self-control… A strong emphasis on friendship provides a solid theme for this book.”
School Library Journal

Learn more about the creation of Kalinka and Grakkle from the author-illustrator herself, and check out Julie Paschkis's blog post.

Don't miss the 4-stop blog tour for Kalinka and Grakkle April 2-6!

Get your copy of Kalinka and Grakkle at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble April 1!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

When Children March: Guest Post from Cynthia Levinson

It might seem that the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have taken the lead in organizing nationwide school walkouts in support of gun control, have materialized from nowhere. How could teens galvanize at least three nationwide movements, including the upcoming March for Our Lives on March 24? After all, this was the generation that was said to be coddled by over-protective parents. Children who would fear independence and risk-taking. Students who would grow into apathetic citizens because they were ignorant of American history and civics. In fact, however, their fervor and activism, goaded by the brutal murders of seventeen of their classmates, teachers, and staff, are part of a long tradition of school-aged youths taking charge to change the world.

Some journalists have recognized the link between the students in Florida and those who protested segregation and racial violence across the South fifty-five years ago. Several have cited my book We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers). One, in Esquire, referred to Audrey Faye Hendricks, a nine-year-old dissident whom I wrote about in the book: “But, before she could be free, there was something important she had to do. ‘I want to go to jail,’ Audrey had told her mother.” Audrey was the littlest marcher in Birmingham—and was the focus of another book I wrote called The Youngest Marcher (Simon & Schuster). But she was not the first child to volunteer to enforce integration peacefully.

Beginning in the 1950s, the civil rights movement inspired youngsters to put their bodies on the line. And they, in turn, inspired others to follow their lead.

In 1954, after the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education, the first in a series of cases that outlawed school segregation, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, an activist black minister in Birmingham, drove his children to the local public school expecting that they would be admitted. A mob made sure they didn’t even get out of the car without injury, let alone into the building. Then in 1956, knowing their father’s commitment to integration, the children refused to move to the back of an interstate bus when the driver ordered them to do so. They were kicked off and left by the highway in the dark.

That same year, twelve black students became the first to desegregate a state-supported school in the South by entering the formerly all-white Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee. To protect themselves from attacks by white people who were bent on keeping the school segregated, the teens met up every morning and walked together.

Brave and brazen as these children were, their actions remained largely isolated. In 1960, however, youths dramatically propelled the civil rights movement forward. On February 1, four black students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at a segregated lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro and ordered coffee and doughnuts. Though ignored at first and then doused with coffee and ketchup, they refused to leave. Within days, hundreds of their fellow students joined their efforts at other sites around the South. By the end of March, sit-ins had spread to fifty-five cities in thirteen states.

But college students are practically grown-ups, which is different from school kids, like those from Parkland. The Woolworth’s sit-ins might have sputtered and failed when the A&T students went back home for summer vacation, but at that point, local high schoolers stepped up and took their seats at the counter. They endured the same painful indignities as had their elders. Thanks to them, Woolworth’s finally opened the counter to both blacks and whites in July of that year.

Surely, among the most effective events of the era were the weeks-long series of sit-ins, pickets, and marches in Birmingham, Alabama. More than 3000 elementary and high school students sang and strutted their way to jail, fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy to fill the cells so completely that no one else could be arrested for disobeying the unjust segregation laws. Nine-year-old Audrey was incarcerated for a week. Many youngsters were even washed down the street by powerful water hoses and attacked by German shepherds. One of them, Gwendolyn Sanders, said, “I didn’t know if I was going to survive it or not.”

As a result of their determination, not only did Birmingham rescind its ordinances two months later but also nearly fifteen thousand demonstrators, most of them teenagers, participated in more than 750 protests in 186 cities. Adults helped with logistics but children were at the front.

Though not leaders, young people also participated in marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, as described by Lynda Blackmon Lowery in her memoir, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March (co-written by Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, Dial Books) as well as in Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge (Penguin Random House). Though the particular protest is not named, little children are also seen marching in the book A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster).

The Vietnam War, too, galvanized young people. In 1965, the four Tinker children, ages eight to fifteen, decided to wear black armbands to school to show their opposition. Ordered by their principals to remove them, the kids refused, and the older children were suspended. They carried their case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1968 that this form of protest is symbolic speech allowed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Over the next several years, young people in both high schools and colleges continued vociferously to oppose the war by marching, refusing to be drafted into the military, fleeing the country, and demanding that President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had escalated the fighting, leave the White House. He did so at the end of his elected term in office. Elizabeth Partridge has written about these events in Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam (Penguin Random House).

More recently, teens have organized and carried out a variety of strategies on multiple fronts.
  • In 2012, undocumented people who came to America as children either illegally or with papers that later expired, held sit-ins in legislators’ offices to urge President Obama to stop deportation of these DREAMers. Doing so, they risked arrest and the very consequence that they feared—removal to a “home” country they barely knew. Their efforts helped pressure the administration to grant them a reprieve. 
  • Following the murder of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, anguished students led protests that helped jump-start the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 
  • Two years later, several Lakota Sioux teens founded the One Mind Youth Movement to counter the Dakota XL Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. 
This brief history of youth activism in America from the mid-twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries by no means diminishes the accomplishments of those who are confronting gun laws today. On March 14, they rallied thousands of their peers across the country to carry banners, walk out of elementary, middle, and high schools, and kneel and pray, and visit their legislators, even though many faced suspension and detention. Several activists started a movement called Parents Promise to Kids (#PPTK), in which grown-ups pledge to “vote for legislative leaders who support your
children’s safety over guns!” One student put the issue succinctly: “Your right to carry a gun is not greater than my right to live.” Worried parents and teachers debated the minimum age at which
children should get involved. Perhaps Audrey could show them that even third-graders can do their part.

The March for Our Lives on March 24 might spur even more to participate, as might the National School Walkout planned for April 20. Furthermore, it won’t be long before these teens are old enough to vote.

As in the past, their actions are peaceful yet confrontational. Many of us wish that people who are not yet old enough to vote didn’t have to devote themselves to changing society in these ways. But, when the grown-ups won’t do it, youths will. We applaud and support and are grateful to them. (If you have questions or concerns about school-aged children participating in upcoming demonstrations, information is available at Youth In Front.)

Cynthia Levinson holds degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University and also attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. A former teacher and educational policy consultant and researcher, she is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed author. She has also published articles in Appleseeds, Calliope, Cobblestone, Dig, Faces, and Odyssey. Visit her website at

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Secret Science of Magic: Romance with a Hint of Awkwardness

Sophia—a former child prodigy and 17-year-old math mastermindhas been having panic attacks since she learned that after high school, former prodigies either cure cancer or go crazy. It’s a lot of pressure. So Sophia doesn’t have the patience for games right now. She especially doesn’t have the patience to figure out why all these mysterious playing cards keep turning up inside her textbooks.

Joshua—a highly intelligent and cheerfully unambitious amateur magician—has been Sophia’s classmate and has admired her for as long as he can remember. He thinks the time is perfect to tell Sophia how he feels. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

A long-awaited follow-up to Life in Outer Space, this heartwarming tale of unconventional romance, perfect timing, and finding your own magic is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan and anyone who believes in making friends with the freaks.

“The story intricately explores the teenagers’ quirky relationships and the notion of what it takes to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. Sophia’s character is authentically geeky, and readers will empathize with her anxiety.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Neuroatypical characters, nerdiness, social anxiety, intelligence, and magic make this book stand out among other contemporary romances.” —School Library Journal

“Readers struggling with social and personal interaction issues, awkwardness about fitting into their community, and uncertainty about where their future may take them will embrace this novel” 

“Charming and witty… Combining elements of science and magic in a spectacular way, this unconventional love story brings two atypical teens with very typical needs happily together.” 
Foreword Reviews

“This teen rom-com satisfies the sweet tooth for a sophisticated but youthful love story without getting too mushy.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Calling all nerds, geeks, geniuses, magicians, and lovers of YA lit! We're giving a away a finished copy of The Secret Science of Magic! Just follow us on Instagram and tag a friend in the comments of the giveaway post to be entered to win!

Don't like your chances in the giveaway? Pre-order The Secret Science of Magic today!