A Rep Reading

Books, Authors, Publishers, Booksellers, Reps and the Industry

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West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Have you read it yet? I was late getting to it in my to-be-read pile, but I just finished it Sunday. Wowzers! Is that even a word? [Urban Dictionary: Means the same thing as wow but with more “oomph” & enthusiasm.]

Since I am late reading it, the book already has five ★’d reviews! For good reason. It is a mash-up of storytelling, folklore, fairy tale, myth, magic, mysticism, dreams, hero’s journey, historical reality, intergenerational family ancestry, religion, integrity, violence, sisterhood, women’s studies, and “America fever”, with a bibliography, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s note and illustrations in an unassuming package. Seriously. This book is quite slight, considering the wallop it packs. Generous line spacing on the 213 pages usually indicates a read that isn’t too challenging, and in this case it is deceptively true. Preus’ use of language is deft and easily flows, but the story she tells is razor sharp. She wastes no time getting right on with it, and boy, what a story it is. I am already a fan of hers, having read two of her previous books, Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor Winner, a New York Times Bestseller and NPR Backseat Bookclub Pick, and Shadow on the Mountain, a thrilling WWII novel of the Norwegian underground resistance movement.

In West of the Moon, Preus tells us a fresh story of history that derives from her own family background that interweaves a massive number of threads that make for wide and varied discussion and further reading. If you’re late getting to it like I was, rectify that now. Here is the description from the publisher, ABRAMS/Amulet Books:
Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Margi Preus expertly weaves original fiction with myth and folktale to tell the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America.

After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.


"Like dun silk shot thought with gold, Preus interweaves the mesmerizing tale of Astri’s treacherous and harrowing mid-nineteenth-century emigration to America with bewitching tales of magic. A fascinating author’s note only adds to the wonder."
Booklist, starred review

“Norwegian history, fiction and folklore intertwine seamlessly in this lively, fantastical adventure and moving coming-of-age story.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Enthralling and unflinching, this historical tale resonates with mythical undertones that will linger with readers after the final page is turned.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Astri is like a girl out of a fairy tale, and the native folktales that Preus weaves through the narrative serve as guides, lessons, and inspiration for her.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Several Norwegian folktales are seamlessly integrated into the fast-paced, lyrically narrated story, which features a protagonist as stalwart and fearless as any fairy-tale hero.” —The Horn Book Magazine, starred review
Norwegian Troll postcard art

“It’s Astri’s voice, however, that is most appealing: her direct, no-nonsense narration has a sharp bite, yet it also reveals the vulnerable young girl who’s willing to continue to fight but is nonetheless exhausted by the weight of her struggle. The chapters have an episodic structure that makes this an ideal choice for readaloud or storytelling adaptations, while the mix of folklore, fact, and fantasy will please fans of Edith Patou’s East.” —The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books

“It’s amazing. Dark and resilient with a core theme that simply cannot be ignored … with folktales and beautifully written prose. With a deep sisterly bond, and a serious consideration of what is right and what is wrong and what is necessary in desperate circumstances. Slow to start, smart when it continues, and unlike anything you’ve ever really read before … Remarkable.” —Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal Fuse Eight blog.

Margi Preus is a children’s book author and playwright. Her first novel for young people, Heart of a Samurai, is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book, an ALSC Notable Book and a recipient of the Asian Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature, among other honors. Her picture books include Celebritrees; Historic and Famous Trees of the World, winner of the 2013 Flicker Tale Award. Margi served as the artistic director of Colder by the Lake Comedy Theatre for 25 years and with current Colder director and playwriting collaborator, Jean Sramek, has written hundreds of comedy sketches, a couple of comic operas, and dozens of plays for young people and grown ups. When she isn’t writing, she likes to ski, hike, paddle or sit quietly with a book in her lap.

ABRAMS/Amulet Books
April 2014
Ages 10 to 14

ABRAMS/Amulet Books
Ages 10 to 14

My review: A middle-grade novelization of the life of Nakahama Manjiro, believed to be the first person from Japan to visit America in 1843. From humble beginnings, a set of circumstances leads a young boy into an unimaginable life and experience of a world unknown to his home culture. From Manjiro’s perspective, the story presents an interesting frame of reference for America at that time in history. Conversely, it is fascinating to learn about Japan in that same context. Elements of natural history, whaling, sailing, prejudice, politics, courage and determination make the life of this one man a valuable teaching moment. An epilogue, a historical note, an environmental note, and a glossary add to teachable components of this story. The reference to samurai in the title comes from Manjiro’s desire to be a samurai, an aspiration which he would never be allowed in Japan. But for strange twists and turns of his life, he indeed earns the rank of samurai for helping Japan overcome 250 years of isolation and enter into a relationship with America and the west.
ABRAMS/Amulet Books
Ages 10 to 14

My review: An accessible story of a lesser known aspect of World War II. A Norwegian boy finds himself serving as messenger, then spy for the resistance movement as his country struggles under Nazi occupation. When he is ultimately found out, he makes a harrowing escape to Sweden. An easy read, Shadow Mountain offers insight into a culture of teenagers grappling with the difficulties brought on by the challenges of occupation. Based on a true story, the book could serve as a gateway to other books of WWII for middle grade or early YA readers.

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Mix it Up! by Herve Tullet

Mix it Up! debuts at #14 on the National Indie Bestseller List!

More from Herve Tullet:

Press Here: The Game

Description: The magic of the New York Times bestseller Press Here is now available in game form! Hervé Tullet has reimagined his groundbreaking book in an entirely new dimension. Players take turns completing color sequences by placing red, blue, and yellow playing pieces on one of twenty-five fabulously designed game boards. What seems like a simple choice is likely to lead to animated discussion as players come to understand the visual logic at the heart of the game. With two levels of play to choose from—so that it’s easy enough for a toddler to grasp, but also complex enough to challenge older siblings and adults—this engaging game delivers hours of entertainment for the whole family.

The New York Times bestseller “Irresistible.” –The Wall Street Journal


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Congratulations, Herve Tullet and Chronicle Books!


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Animalium Book Trailer


Welcome to the Museum is a series of books set on the “walls” of the printed page, showcasing the world’s finest collections of objects — from natural history to art. Open 365 days a year and unrestricted by the constraints of physical space, each title in this series is organized into galleries that display more than 200 full-color specimens accompanied by lively, informative text. Offering hours of learning, this first title within the series — Animalium — presents the animal kingdom in glorious detail with illustrations from Katie Scott, an unparalleled new talent.
Designed to mimic the experience of visiting a natural history museum, this elegant, eye-catching volume explores the animal kingdom through gorgeously detailed pen-and-ink illustrations that resemble vintage taxonomical plates. … It’s easy to imagine these exquisite images hanging in the gilded hallways of a museum, but unlike a museum, readers can take this experience along with them. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Part oversized album and part encyclopedia, this “museum” of the animal kingdom showcases its variety and diversity with numerous examples from around the world. What distinguishes this collection from similar overviews is its presentation. The illustrations look like nature prints from long ago, but unlike those old engravings and lithographs, these fine-lined drawings began with pen and ink and were colored digitally. … Overall, this impressive survey will surprise and please its visitors. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Jenny Broom, Katie Scott
Candlewick Press/Big Picture Books
112 pages
10 11/16” x 14 9/16”
September 2014
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Frank Eintsein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Kirkus TV interviews Jon about his new six book series from Abrams/Amulet Books: “Jon Scieszka is the funniest kid’s writer in America, hands down. He’s also one of the most respected. We talk to Scieszka about his new book Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, in which Frank Einstein, kid genius and inventor, is staying with his grandfather while his parents travel to Antarctica.”

Kirkus review:

Scieszka mixes science and silliness again to great effect.

Frank Einstein, kid genius and inventor, is staying with his grandfather while his parents travel to Antarctica. That’s just fine with Frank; he and his sidekick, Watson, have inventing to do, and Grampa Al’s fix-it shop is the perfect place to do science. Frank is hoping to win the Midville Science Prize because Grampa won when he was a kid…and because the prize money will let Frank save Grampa’s shop from the bill collectors. Frank’s attempt to build a SmartBot fails, but overnight, a spark ignites the brain he’s created for the bot, and the next morning he finds two very different robots in his workshop. Now he’s got Klink, a smart, self-assembled robot who can learn, and Klank, who’s really into hugging. Frank doesn’t feel right entering Klink and Klank in the contest since they assembled themselves, but together with Watson, the four of them can surely some up with something great. Only evil, rival child genius T. Edison stands in their way, and he’ll stop at nothing. Scieszka launches a six-book series with a likable protagonist and a good supporting cast. Science facts are slipped into the story on nearly every page, and Biggs’ two-color drawings are the C12H22O11 on the cookie.

Less wacky (and more instructive) than Scieszka’s Spaceheadz series—but just as much fun. (Science fiction/humor. 8-12)

“Dear Frank Einstein,
Please invent time machine. Send your books back in time to me in 1978.
Also a levitating skateboard.
—Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

“In the final analysis, this buoyant, tongue-in-cheek celebration of the impulse to ‘keep asking questions and finding your own answers’ fires on all cylinders.” —Booklist, starred review

“I never thought science could be funny … until I read Frank Einstein. It will have kids laughing.” —Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
From the Abrams website:
Jon Scieszka has sold more than 11 million books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, the Time Warp Trio series, Guys Read, Spaceheadz, and most recently, Battle Bunny with Mac Barnett. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Brian Biggs has collaborated with Garth Nix, Cynthia Rylant, and Katherine Applegate, in addition to working on his own picture books in his Everything Goes series. He lives in Philadelphia.

For more information and resources, check out the Frank Eintsein website.

Click here for the Teaching Guide.

Click here for the Activity Guide.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor
Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs
ABRAMS/Amulet Books

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Angie’s Reviews: Fall 2014

Angie Smits is my colleague with Southern Territory Associates and my roommate when we travel together for trade shows and sales meetings. She and Geoff Rizzo are the fearless leaders of our rep group after Jan Fairchild and Judy Stevenson semi-retired recently.Here are Geoff and Angie at a past trade show in Naples, FL:

Here are a few of Angie’s picks from our various publishers for fall 2014 titles. Click on the jacket image for more information on the publisher’s website.

"Did I love this book or was I merely hypnotized? Does it deal with suffragettes in turn-of-the-century Portland, or human rights everywhere in the world today? Is it a cautionary tale, or a love story? Does it make you stand up and shout, or lull you into a beautiful dream? The answer to all of these question is yes, yes indeed."

""I’m my own dog. Nobody owns me; I own myself."

Sassy and self-affirming, funny and sweet, the best picture book told in first person since Richard Scarry’s I am a Bunny.

Go read I am a Bunny again right now then get a copy of I’m my Own Dog to keep and read again and again, even if you just read it to yourself.”

"Totally charming graphic autobiography gives much-needed insight into a girl’s childhood growing up with hearing aids. Sweet, funny, awkward and heroic, the graphic format is perfect (you certainly couldn’t read it out loud!). There’s nothing like this out there, an instant classic."

"A wonderful mashup of fairy tale elements, Russian history, archetypes, magical creatures, and global warming. I dare you to apply that description to any other book ever, from past, present or future!"

"A terrific combination of historical fiction and flight of imagination. Plenty for book lovers to love, and maybe even a touch of American Girl."

"For library geeks, theater geeks, fans of the occult, demons, barbers, demon barbers, high school students, school librarians, library students, Sondheim fans, Italian speakers, actors, singers, prop mistresses, yeah pretty much everybody."

You can find more of Angie’s reviews on Goodreads.

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Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

From the Chronicle Children’s Books description:

Having mastered ballet in Flora and the Flamingo, Flora takes to the ice and forms an unexpected friendship with a penguin. Twirling, leaping, spinning, and gliding, on skates and flippers, the duo mirror each other’s graceful dance above and below the ice. But when Flora gives the penguin the cold shoulder, the pair must figure out a way to work together for uplifting results. Artist Molly Idle creates an innovative, wordless picture book with clever flaps that reveal Flora and the penguin coming together, spiraling apart, and coming back together as only true friends do.

Flora and the Penguin
Molly Idle
Chronicle Children’s Books
September 2014

Also by Molly Idle, the Caldecott Honor Winning Flora and the Flamingo.

9781452110066, $16.99

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Downtown Books Gibbs Smith Tote

I’m so excited to own a custom Gibbs Smith tote from Downtown Books. On the front is art by Gibbs Smith of the store front of Downtown Books in Apalachicola, Florida. The art was previously featured on the back of a Gibbs Smith catalog.

On the back of the tote is the store’s logo. Beautiful!

The Art of the Bookstore by Gibbs Smith, Gibbs Smith Publisher, 9781423612841

Downtown Books, the Best Little Bookstore in the Panhandle

More Gibbs Smith book totes:

Click here to see the entire tote collection.
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