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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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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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★ El Deafo by Cece Bell

UPDATE: 7/16/14 Publishers Weekly *starred* review added. 8/11/14: Kirkus “starred” review, Avid Bookshop and Angie Smits reviews added. Further: 8/22/14: Betsy Bird, Fuse * review, & YouTube interview with Cece about El Deafo.

My review:
An amazingly touching self portrait of a child coping with friendship, family and school after suddenly becoming deaf due to meningitis at age four. CeCe Bell is a normal kid who faces an extraordinary challenge adapting to a new environment of quiet, learning how to understand and communicate with her friends and family after her illness. Honest, intimate, poignant and funny, El Deafo is ultimately a joyous triumph of one’s girl’s determination to navigate her way through the various pitfalls inherent in childhood friendships, first crushes, teachers, classmates, parents and siblings while managing her hearing issues. Her phonic ear, the audio device which enables her to hear more acutely in school, gives her superpower hearing: the ability to hear her teacher wherever she is in the school building, thereby giving her a distinct advantage with her school friends when she reveals its attributes. As a graphic novel memoir, El Deafo is seamlessly engaging and surprisingly helpful, illustrating aspects of the life of a little girl dependent upon visual cues for connections with illustrated diagrams. The illustrations are loving and playful and are the genius behind the book. Cece’s double talent of writing and illustrating bring her childhood experiences to life in ways that every reader can identify. I enjoyed seeing it as much as reading it and as a reader, I was cheering her on along the way. A note from the author explains deafness and the deaf culture in more detail. Kudos, Cece Bell!

Here is a look at the full color illustrations:

"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." — Angie Smits, Southern Territory Associates

"Though billed as a kids’ graphic novel, this intelligent, emotional, funny, and—let’s face it—adorable memoir will appeal to readers of all ages. Cece Bell’s story of growing up hearing impaired while searching for a true friend will make you smile and tear up in places. This would be a great book to read and discuss with your kids." — Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

Publishers Weekly:
A bout of childhood meningitis left Bell (Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover) deaf at age four, and she was prescribed a Phonic Ear, with a receiver draped across her chest and a remote microphone her teachers wore. Her graphic memoir records both the indignities of being a deaf child in a hearing community (“IS. THAT. AAAY. HEAR-ING. AAAID?”) and its joys, as when she discovers that the microphone picks up every word her teacher says anywhere in the school. Bell’s earnest rabbit/human characters, her ability to capture her own sonic universe (“eh sounz lah yur unnah wawah!”), and her invention of an alter ego—the cape-wearing El Deafo, who gets her through stressful encounters (“How can El Deafo free herself from the shackles of this weekly humiliation?” she asks as her mother drags her to another excruciating sign language class)—all combine to make this a standout autobiography. Cece’s predilection for bursting into tears at the wrong time belies a gift for resilience that makes her someone readers will enjoy getting to know. Ages 8–12. — Publishers Weekly starred review, 7/7/2014.

Kirkus Reviews:
A humorous and touching graphic memoir about finding friendship and growing up deaf.

When Cece is 4 years old, she becomes “severely to profoundly” deaf after contracting meningitis. Though she is fitted with a hearing aid and learns to read lips, it’s a challenging adjustment for her. After her family moves to a new town, Cece begins first grade at a school that doesn’t have separate classes for the deaf. Her nifty new hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, allows her to hear her teacher clearly, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. Cece’s new ability makes her feel like a superhero—just call her “El Deafo”—but the Phonic Ear is still hard to hide and uncomfortable to wear. Cece thinks, “Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone.” Bell (Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, 2012) shares her childhood experiences of being hearing impaired with warmth and sensitivity, exploiting the graphic format to amplify such details as misheard speech. Her whimsical color illustrations (all the human characters have rabbit ears and faces), clear explanations and Cece’s often funny adventures help make the memoir accessible and entertaining. Readers will empathize with Cece as she tries to find friends who aren’t bossy or inconsiderate, and they’ll rejoice with her when she finally does.

Worthy of a superhero. — Kirkus starred review

Author Cece Bell Talks About Her New Book, El Deafo

"There isn’t a jot of doubt in my mind that CeCe Bell’s book is going to be vastly beloved by nearly every child that picks it up. Engaging and beautifully drawn, to say nothing of its strength and out-and-out facts, El Deafo is going to help set the standard for what a memoir for kids should be. Infinitely clever. Undeniably fun. Don’t miss it." Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal, A Fuse 8 Production Blog, August 21, 2014

Read as an advance reader copy:

Visit Cece’s website here.

El Deafo
CeCe Bell
Amulet Books a division of ABRAMS Books
September 2014
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Immortality! The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett

I often reflect upon the invisible nature of sales reps in the overarching universe that is trade book publishing. Early in my career I worked for a major New York publisher for nearly twelve years without stepping foot in the New York office or the New Jersey warehouse. My tether was the telephone, or sales conference meetings that took place in off-site locations.

My booksellers knew me in person, of course, as I traveled three times a year for seasonal presentations, writing orders, and taking inventories. It’s a different existence to be sure. It can be lonely. It can have a negative affect on one’s personal life. Friends and family would always assume I was traveling, thereby not calling as much or making plans to get together. There are all the long distance relationships with people that are business related, but over time, become personal due to shared experiences of joy and loss in our personal and business lives.

Much of the time earlier in my career, I was most separated from the very people for whom I was advocating: authors. Understandably. Sales reps are all about business, getting the job done; selling books. Sometimes authors would speak at sales conferences, travel on tours to stores in my territory, or appear at national or regional trade shows. Mostly, though, they were perhaps isolated, too, writing in their home offices, interacting with their editors, agents and other authors.

Fast forward a couple of decades or so and my, how times have changed. I work as a sales rep now in an independent rep group. We are our own company, and we represent a variety of publishers. I frequently appear in some of my publishers New York (or elsewhere) offices. I’m not lonely now, with a husband and son who tolerate my crazy work schedule as best as they can. Thanks to the internet, there is social media, which I have often claimed has done more to break down the barriers to various segments of publishing than eBooks (ahem). Publishing is much more transparent than it used to be, and with this transparency, I can enjoy many aspects of my work that were previously less available to me: AUTHORS! Authors are encouraged by publishers to put themselves out in the world of social media with websites, blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, to contribute to the overall marketing efforts being made for their books.

Which brings me to today’s topic: the awesome Tom Angleberger (or mastermind marketer, either one!). This man is a genius. He really works it, meaning, he puts himself out there in creative, authentic ways with indefatigable (seemingly) enthusiasm and good humor with readers, teachers, librarians, sales reps, publishers, and other authors. In my exploration of social media, I have had the pleasure of observing Tom’s efforts in action. With two more recent gestures, however, I have benefited from his kind generosity toward me.

In the acknowledgments of Tom’s previous Origami Yoda installment, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, I appeared alongside other Super Booksellers, Librarians, Teachers, Reading Specialists, and Principals.

Earlier this summer, I received notice from Tom’s editor at ABRAMS that I was mentioned in his newest book, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett. Wow! She said it was a veiled reference, but definitely a shout out. I had to wait like every other reader on Earth to read The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, because the book had a strict release date of August 8. Absolutely no access to anything at all whatsoever! The anticipation was agonizing.

On the appointed date of August 8, my book didn’t arrive. WHAT? I usually get a shiny metallic bubble envelope (so it stands out from all the other shipments that arrive daily) with a single copy of the book. It was late. I had to wait longer. It did finally arrive and I set about reading, scouring the book for my hidden shout out.

I missed it. I was so embarrassed. I imagined all sorts of ways I might be in the book. A drawing in the margin? Tom makes fantastic drawings that augment the story content.

Would I be a student character named Teresa? A teacher? None of the characters rang true to me. I couldn’t tell anybody I’d missed it, because what would that say about my reading comprehension?! I could hear it now, “Please tell me where I’m mentioned in the book, because I’m too dense to notice?!” And what is up with all this fangirl excitement, anyway? I’m a seasoned, experienced, long-serving professional, for heaven’s sake. It not about me! When I saw Tom’s publicist’s name prominently displayed masquerading as Lucas County School District Dietician and Nutritionist, I thought it would be as easy as this to spot.

So this week, when Tom sent me this tweet:

I got my clue!!

What happened, of course, was my eyes faithfully followed the written circle and arrow on the page, never really looking RIGHT ABOVE THE CIRCLE, and seeing “Kravtin Heights MS”. I’m a Middle School!! Yay!

I am now twice immortalized in print. It’s great bragging rights. My 17 year old son is very impressed that his mom, who works in relative obscurity, now appears in millions of copies of two books. Millions, I say! Thank you, Tom. This is so much fun. You have made a hardened, and sometimes cynical professional sales rep smile. Other authors have passed along to me their appreciation of the efforts of sales reps through social media whether or not I actually sell their books. It is immensely gratifying. The transparency of social media allows us all to converse with each other in new and creative ways. I still haven’t met many of the authors I chat with online, but these efforts inform my overall enthusiasm for my work on their behalf. I’m such a fangirl for the authors I sell. This, however, takes it to a whole new level.

Here is my post when Tom and I actually met while flying on the same plane to New York this past May.

This weekend, Tom is appearing at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia. On Sunday, September 1, he’s scheduled to lead the Children’s Parade at 11:45 am, followed by at appearance on the Children’s Stage from noon to 12:30 pm. If you’re in the area, or within traveling distance, don’t miss this chance to meet Tom. Click here for a map of all the DBF venues, and here for directions to get there.


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Tom Angleberger Celebrity Sighting

I usually don’t broadcast my Foursquare check-ins. Thursday, I embarked on my trip to NYC for sales conference meetings, and when I arrived at the Atlanta airport, I checked in.

To my surprise, I received this reply: We were! Tom was on the row in front of mine which I realized when we were on the approach into NY. In baggage claim we chatted it up, and took a picture.


I finally got to meet Tom in real life, after selling his books for Abrams for years. What I didn’t know was that Tom would be our surprise guest at the Abrams sales meeting. He called me up to assist him with the Yoda folding demonstration.


Tom said I was possibly the tallest Origami Yoda ever. Tom is a great guy, a generous, indefatigable author for whom it is a joy to work! And, he made sales conference memorable!

Coming in August!



Previous posts:

March Madness

Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling

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Amulet Books Wins New Middle Grade Series from Jon Scieszka in Heated Auction

ABRAMS Amulet Books will be publishing the new illustrated middle grade series by bestselling author Jon Scieszka. The news broke over the holiday week via Publishers Weekly and ran an exclusive in the 12/24 print magazine. The series will not be published until fall 2014.

Senior Vice President and Publisher Susan Van Metre and Editorial Director Charles Kochman at ABRAMS Amulet Books imprint beat out five other children’s publishers for the first six books in a new illustrated middle grade series by bestselling author Jon Scieszka, the nation’s first National Ambassador of Children’s literature. Titled Frank Einstein, Kid Scientist and illustrated by Brian Biggs, the series is about a budding scientist who battles an evil genius with the help of two well-meaning but imperfect robots that he invents. The first book will appear in fall 2014. Scieszka’s longtime agent Steven Malk at Writers House orchestrated the deal. Amulet Books plans an extensive marketing and publicity campaign for the launch.

Jon Scieszka always wanted to be a kid science genius. The closest he got was winning a green “Participant” ribbon at his fourth grade Science Fair and dressing up one Halloween as a bloody Albert Einstein. Scieszka studied pre-med in college. He taught elementary school, including second grade science, in New York City for ten years. For over twenty years, he has been a children’s book writer, and is the author of The True Story of 3 Little Pigs!, The Stinky Cheese Man, the Time Warp Trio series, Math Curse, Science Verse, the Trucktown series, the Spaceheadz series, and more. In 2008, Scieszka was named the nation’s first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council. He is also the founder of the web-based literacy initiative for boys called Guys Read, and is the editor of the Guys Read Library of Great Reading series.

Founded by Harry N. Abrams in 1949, ABRAMS was the first company in the United States to specialize in the creation and distribution of art and illustrated books. Now a subsidiary of La Martinière Groupe, the company publishes visually stunning illustrated books in the areas of art, photography, cooking, interior and garden design, craft, architecture, entertainment, fashion, sports, pop culture, as well as children’s books and general interest titles. The company’s imprints include Abrams, Abrams ComicArts, Abrams Image, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books, Abrams Appleseed, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books. Abrams also distributes books for The Vendome Press, Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate, Royal Academy of Arts, Booth-Clibborn Editions, Five Continents and others.

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2012 Year End Children’s Books Roundups: NY Times and PW

It’s that time of year again, when “Best Books” lists make the rounds. This past week, there was exciting news from the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly in children’s books. Here are the notable books from the publishers I represent. Congratulations, all!

New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2012
There were ten books recognized. Click here for the complete list.

In this YouTube video, author Ted Kooser discusses the inspiration for House Held Up By Trees.

Click here to view more interior images from Jon Klassen’s website.

Jon Klassen is the creator of the #1 New York Times bestseller I WANT MY HAT BACK, which was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, and a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year. Now he returns with another hat and another thief in THIS IS NOT MY HAT.

He is the illustrator of HOUSE HELD UP BY TREES, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser, as well as CATS’ NIGHT OUT by Caroline Stutson, which won the Governor General’s Award; EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett; and THE INGORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE series by Maryrose Wood.

Jon Klassen has worked as an illustrator for feature animated films, music videos, and editorial pieces. His animation projects include design work for DreamWorks Feature Animation as well as LAIKA Studios on their feature film CORALINE. Other work includes designs for a BBC spot used in the coverage of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, which won a 2010 BAFTA award. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Jon Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.

House Held Up by Trees
Candlewick Press
Ted Kooser, Jon Klassen
$16.99; Cloth.

The press release from Lerner Books:
Infinity and Me from Carolrhoda Books Wins Prestigious New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Infinity and Me, written by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, and published in 2012 by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group—has been named one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2012. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, The New York Times Best Illustrated awards are selected by a panel of judges from among the several thousand children’s books published this year. The annual special Children’s Book section will run in the November 11 Sunday Times Book Review.

In Infinity and Me author Kate Hosford and illustrator Gabi Swiatkowska explore the concept of infinity through the eyes of a little girl who can’t help feeling small when she peers up at the night sky. She begins to wonder about infinity. Is infinity a number that grows forever? Is it an endless racetrack? Could infinity be in an ice cream cone? The little girl soon finds that the ways to think about this big idea may just be … infinite.

“When Kate Hosford sent me the odd little picture-book dummy she’d made with her friend Gabi Swiatkowska, I was immediately smitten,” said Andrew Karre, editorial director of Carolrhoda Books. “It was an unusual way for a new project to come across my desk, but we’re ecstatic about the results and this award is a great confirmation. Kate, Gabi, editor Anna Cavallo, and designer Zach Marell did an outstanding job of realizing the potential of that odd little dummy.”

“I’ve been a long standing fan of Gabi’s unique artwork and I was excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with her on Infinity and Me,” said Zach Marell, creative director of Lerner Publishing Group. “Gabi’s distinct style and beautiful paintings were the perfect pairing for this special story.”

“We knew that this was a special book from the moment we saw the proposal,” said Adam Lerner, Lerner Publishing Group president and publisher. “We are thrilled that The New York Times fell in love with Infinity and Me as much as we did, and we are honored to win such a distinguished award.”

For more information about Infinity and Me, including a downloadable discussion guide and bookmark, visit www.lernerbooks.com or contact Lindsay Matvick, senior publicist, Lerner Publishing Group.

About Carolrhoda Books
Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, creates high-quality fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Founded in 1959, Lerner Publishing Group is one of the nation’s largest independent children’s book publishers and currently has thirteen imprints and divisions. For more information, visit www.lernerbooks.com or call 800-328-4929.

From Paul W. Hankins’ Goodreads review:
" … absolutely gorgeous. Gabi Swiatkowska’s illustrations are vivid and mesmerizing. Caldecott short lists will shift for sure with this release. Ladder this one with Math Curse, but keep it separate for its focus on grandmothers and their special brand of love; and in Transcendentalism units for discussions regarding how we find ourselves in the moment within an ever-changing universe.”

Gabi Swiatkowska likes looking at the moon surrounded by seemingly infinite stars from her home in France. Find more of her books and illustrations at www.chocolateforgabi.com.

Infinity and Me
Lerner Publishing Group
Kate Hosford, Gabi Swiatkowska
$16.95; Cloth.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 Children’s Picture Books

From PW:
It’s testament to Klassen’s skills as a writer and an artist that a book with the exact plot of his previous one—hat is stolen, hat is sought, hat is retrieved at costs unknown—offers a reading that’s entirely different but just as delicious. This time, rather than focus on the victim, Klassen peeks into the giddy mind of a thief who thinks he’s gotten away with it.

Like Klassen’s very funny and much-praised I Want My Hat Back, this story involves a hat theft; this time, Klassen ups the ante by having the thief narrate. It’s a small gray fish who has stolen a tiny bowler hat from a much larger fish (“It was too small for him anyway,” the little fish sniffs. “It fits me just right”). Klassen excels at using pictures to tell the parts of the story his unreliable narrators omit or evade. “There is someone who saw me already,” admits the little fish, about a goggle-eyed crab. “But he said he wouldn’t tell anyone which way I went. So I am not worried about that.” The spread tells another story; the crab betrays the small fish in a heartbeat, pointing to its hiding place, “where the plants are big and tall and close together.” Readers hope for the best, but after the big fish darts in, only one of them emerges, sporting the hat. It’s no surprise that the dominant color of the spreads is black. Tough times call for tough picture books. Ages 4–8.
This Is Not My Hat
Candlewick Press
Jon Klassen
$15.99; Cloth.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 Children’s Fiction

From PW:
Koertge wreaks bloody havoc through fairy tales from Rumpelstiltskin to Rapunzel, finding often unpleasant truths where no one thought to look. Dezsö’s cut-paper illustrations are no less sharp-edged, and these 23 giddy, grisly, and unexpected retellings take some very old stories in very new directions.

With sardonic wit and a decidedly contemporary sensibility, Koertge (Shakespeare Bats Cleanup) retells 23 classic fairy tales in free verse, written from the perspectives of iconic characters like Little Red Riding Hood, as well as maligned or minor figures such as the Mole from Thumbelina and Cinderella’s stepsisters. For the princess from the Princess and the Pea, hypersensitivity isn’t all that great (“A puppy licked me and I’ve still got a scar”), and the Little Match Girl appears in a poem with the rhythm of a rap song (“She’s selling CDs on the corner,/ fifty cents to any stoner,/ any homeboy with a boner”). Several stories trade happily ever after for disappointment and discontent, as with the danger-addicted queen in Rumpelstiltskin, or with Rapunzel, who is left with a moody prince instead of the attentive witch who locked her in. Dezsö’s cut-paper Scherenschnitte-style silhouettes nod toward Hans Christian Andersen’s own papercuts—if Andersen were creating a storyboard for the Saw franchise. From Bluebeard’s beheaded wives to a bloody dismemberment in “The Robber Bridegroom,” there are gruesome surprises throughout. A fiendishly clever and darkly funny collection. Ages 14–up.
Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses
Candlewick Press
Ron Koertge, Andrea Dezso
$19.99; Cloth.

From PW:
This remarkable fictionalized account of the life of Nelson’s great-uncle, Harlem bookseller Lewis Michaux, offers powerful evidence of the change that one person can bring about in ways small and large. The voices of Harlem residents, bookstore visitors, and others form a chorus in tribute to Michaux and his influence, joined by abundant artwork, photography, and research.

Nelson and Christie, the team behind Bad News for Outlaws, blend photographs, original artwork, and archival materials with fictionalized first-person narratives to tell the story of Nelson’s great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who opened a Harlem bookstore that served as a meeting place and symbol of black empowerment for 35 years. Tracing Lewis’s roots to a childhood filled with questioning and rebellion, Nelson alternates between Lewis’s voice and those of his parents, brothers, and others—characters who, like Lewis, spring to life on page. After rejecting a life in service of the church, Lewis leaves Virginia for Harlem, where in 1939 he opens the National Memorial African Bookstore, “by and about black people,” earning the nickname “the Professor.” The narrative expands to include the voices of Harlem business owners, residents, and store visitors over the decades, their stories and perspectives revealing how one man’s vision helped galvanize his community. Nelson and Christie deliver an engrossing blend of history, art, and storytelling in this deeply moving tribute to a singular individual. Final art not all seen by PW. Ages 12–18.
No Crystal Stair
Lerner Publishing Group
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, R. Gregory Christie
$17.95; Cloth.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 Children’s Non-Fiction

From PW:
In this remarkable autobiography, Close gives readers a breathtakingly intimate window into the mind and thought process of an artist. His portraits are reproduced beautifully throughout; in tandem with Close’s no-holds-barred narrative, it’s an inspirational piece of work for anyone with an interest in or passion for art.

This substantive autobiography concentrates on the evolution of painter Close’s massive portraits. In interview form, with children’s questions written atop the pages (“How do you make your pictures look so real?”), Close describes his work with candor and insight (“Inspiration is for amateurs. Artists just show up and get to work”). He explains how he coped first with a global learning deficit (“I still add and subtract by using the spots on dominos”), then with a collapsed artery in adulthood that left him a quadriplegic (“I had to figure out some way to be able to get back to work and make some money”). Yet it’s clear that he considers these setbacks of little significance compared to the shaping of his identity as an artist and the excitement of creating paintings. The high quality printing and lush colors of the reproductions make it easy for readers to share that excitement. A nifty mix-and-match section lets readers compare the methods used in 14 of the artist’s self-portraits, but Close’s examination of his own work provides more than enough gratification on its own. Ages 8–12.
Chuck Close: Face Book
Close, Chuck
$18.95; Cloth.

From PW:
In an ambitious and important work, Rappaport shares stories (some never before told) of real-life defiance, offering a heroic alternative to narratives that only portray Jews as helpless victims of Nazi genocide. Instead, she presents stories of dangerous and brave acts of resistance that speak to the human will to survive in the face of hatred and genocide.

In a thoroughly researched project far more ambitious and expansive than her acclaimed picture-book nonfiction, Rappaport (Lady Liberty: A Biography) has assembled more than 20 stories of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, some never before told. From all corners of Nazi-occupied Europe, these harrowing accounts are heart-wrenching and hopeful as they pay tribute to the brave thousands who defied their oppressors in ways large and small. In one, 12-year-old Mordechai Shlayan sneaks explosives in his violin case and blows up a hotel where German officers are dining. In another, 22-year-old Marianne Cohn is caught smuggling children into Switzerland; she turns down an offer to escape to remain with some of the imprisoned children and is executed soon after. Introductions preceding each of the book’s five sections provide historical context; numerous photographs are sometimes graphic and often painfully poignant. Also included are maps, a pronunciation guide, bibliography, source notes, and index. These true stories, while at times hard to stomach, honor the incredible human spirit in the face of unimaginable suffering and torment. Ages 10–up.
Beyond Courage
Candlewick Press
Doreen Rappaport
$22.99; Cloth.

Previous blog posts:

Candlewick Press Middle Grade Picks for Fall 2012

Hold On to Your Hat: This Is Not My Hat Book Trailer

Jon Klassen, the master of the “middle spot”, discusses the magic of picture books.

My Candlewick bear and This Is Not My Hat.
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