Saturday, April 30, 2016

What's So Special about Shakespeare? Best Shakespeare Books for Younger Kids

It’s hard to avoid Shakespeare in this 400th anniversary year of his death, and the UK is celebrating in style with a bevy of kids' books, among many other things, of course!
 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New Picture Book: John Lennon's "Imagine" from Amnesty International


A new picture book from Amnesty International pairs John Lennon's "Imagine" lyrics with illustrations from Peace for Paris doodler Jean Jullien. Imagine follows a young pigeon on his quest to bring peace to all birds. The Guardian reports that "[t]he picture book aims to share more information about the work that Amnesty International do around the world." Part of the sales proceeds go directly to the charity.

"Imagine" entered the annals of pop culture back in 1971. Arguably Lennon's most famous song, it envisions a "brotherhood of man" where national, class-based, and religious divisions were nonexistent. Numerous artists — including Madonna, Elton John, and A Perfect Circle — have covered the song in the 45 years since its initial release.

Frances Lincoln Children's Books will publish Amnesty International's Imagine in September 2017.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Simon & Schuster Launches New Imprint for Muslim-Themed Kids' Books

This presidential race season brings talk of radical Muslims and the threat of terrorism.  It  the perfect time for Simon & Schuster to launch a new imprint focusing on feel-good, Muslim-themed children's books.


Simon & Schuster says Salaam Reads will be "the first imprint at a major publisher focused on Muslim characters and stories.

"[It will] introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families, and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works."


The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for "peace," will release an annual minimum of nine titles for young readers of all ages — including picture and chapter books, and middle-grade and young adult titles.

"There is an incredible range of cultural and religious traditions among Muslims in the United States and across the globe, illustrating that there is no one way to be Muslim," Simon & Schuster executive editor Zareen Jaffery said.

Jon Anderson, President of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, added: "There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, 1.6 billion in the world, and they are an undeserved literary market. Children's books are a fantastic way to get to know our local and global Muslim neighbors."    

Among Salaam's first titles to be published next year are:
  • "Salam Alaikum" — a picture book celebrating peace, community, and love based on the popular song of the same name by global social media sensation and recording artist Harris J.
  • "Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin" — a picture book introducing four kindergarten best friends who share their holiday traditions for Eid, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Pi Day, written by H.A. Raz.
  • "The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand" — a middle–grade adventure about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi American from New York and her quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game, written by Karuna Riazi.
  • "Yo Soy Muslim" — a lyrical picture book in which a parent shares with their child the joy and pride in having a multicultural heritage, written by Mark Gonzales, an HBO Def Jam poet.
     

Monday, March 28, 2016

Make Way for Ducklings Turns Seventy-Five

Those of us who grew up with Make Way for Ducklings may not remember all eight of them:  Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. But we recall the adventure with their parents, Mr. and Mrs Mallard all of whom lived  on an island in Boston’s Charles River.

 Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey (1914–1983), who published Make Way for Ducklings with Viking in 1941, who can forget Mrs. Mallard’s daily excursions to the Boston Public Garden, followed by her brood. The kind police officers who stopped traffic to allow them to cross the road, has become synonymous with American childhood.

On March 29, the publisher will release a 75th-anniversary edition of the classic, which includes a CD-audio recording of the book read by Brian Hatch, and a fold-out poster map featuring Boston landmarks – and of course the ducklings – created by Paul O. Zelinsky.
 
Illustrated with sepia drawings rather than the traditional black-and-white pictures found in most children’s books of the day, McCloskey’s picture book earned him the 1942 Caldecott Medal. There are five million copies of Viking’s edition of the book in print, and in 2003 Make Way for Ducklings was designated the official book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  
McCloskey bought four mallards, which he observed and sketched swimming in his bathtub and waddling through his studio, to make sure he captured their movements accurately in the book.
  
Fans can also honor the classic on Boston’s annual Duckling Day, held this year on May 8, Mother’s Day, when McCloskey’s daughter, Sal McCloskey (who inspired Blueberries for Sal), will lead the parade recreating the Mallard family’s journey. In another tribute, the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass., will display more than 90 original artworks in an exhibition, “Americana on Parade: The Life of Robert McCloskey,” from June 19 through October 23.
 
 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Simon & Schuster to Launch Imprint for Muslim (and Other) Kids

We Americans find ourselves in the middle of a presidential season where, among other issues, radical Muslims and the threat of terrorism are central issues.  Enter Simon & Schuster, the august publisher, that is launching a new imprint focusing in feel-good, Muslim-themed children's books.

Simon & Schuster says Salaam Reads will be "the first imprint at a major publisher focused on Muslim characters and stories.

"[It will] introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families, and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works."


The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for "peace," will release an annual minimum of nine titles for young readers of all ages — including picture and chapter books, and middle-grade and young adult titles.

Simon & Schuster executive editor Zareen Jaffery said:

Our aim with the Salaam Reads imprint is in part to provide fun and compelling books for Muslim children, but we also intend for these books to be entertaining and enriching for a larger non-Muslim audience.

Among Salaam's first titles to be published next year are:
  • "Salam Alaikum" — a picture book celebrating peace, community, and love based on the popular song of the same name by global social media sensation and recording artist Harris J.
  • "Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin" — a picture book introducing four kindergarten best friends who share their holiday traditions for Eid, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Pi Day, written by H.A. Raz.
  • "The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand" — a middle–grade adventure about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi American from New York and her quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game, written by Karuna Riazi.
  • "Yo Soy Muslim" — a lyrical picture book in which a parent shares with their child the joy and pride in having a multicultural heritage, written by Mark Gonzales, an HBO Def Jam poet.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

McDonald's Happy Meals-Books Instead of Toys


The next time parents order a Happy Meal from McDonald's, they might find a book inside the meal's packaging instead of a toy.

McDonald's Happy Meal with CutiesThe company announced recently that the treats inside kids' meals would change until Feb. 15 as part of an experiment. The meals will contain one of five miniaturize-size paperback books, a partnership with Reading Is Fundamental.

"Reading Is Fundamental is pleased to partner with McDonald’s again this year and (to) provide much-needed books to children who have limited access to them," said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. "Books are the building blocks for a better future. They foster the imagination, expand our understanding of the world and fuel a lifelong love of learning. We’re pleased McDonald’s is helping millions of children discover the joy of reading."

The Valentine's Day themed books include "Clark the Shark Takes Heart," "Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse!," "Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day Is Cool" and "Paddington."

This is the third time McDonald's has temporarily swapped the toys for books. The Los Angeles Times reported that the company will distribute more than 50 million children's books by the end of the promotion.

But not everyone is impressed. Jessie Bragg, spokesman for watchdog group Corporate Accountability said:

It's definitely more of the same.  It's just a way to get their brand in front of kids in a very subversive way.

The four books in the series are based on McDonald's own animated animals.

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The First Book for Kids by a Pope-Ever

Already in his brief, three-year pontificate Pope Francis has a track record of papal firsts, but on March 1, he will add yet another to his list: authoring a children's book.


Loyola Press
“This book could be useful to the entire family. The questions are deep, fresh, sharp – involving desires of understanding, but also tough feelings and experiences to be faced and lived,” Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ told CNA Feb. 9.

“Ultimately I hope people see that the Pope’s message is universal. Whether his responses are read by children or adults, I hope that his focus on peace, joy, and mercy is understood and felt by all.”

“This book is the very first book by a Pope for children ever,” Fr. Spadaro said, explaining that it’s not just a collection of things he said before in other settings, but is “something original, thought (of) as a book with answers to questions, but also drawings.”

Once the Pope agreed to participate, things got going, he said. Loyola Press immediately reached out to both priests and lay people around the world in order to put the publisher in contact with children who would write the letters.

The 259 letters that arrived to the Vatican came from across the globe, including countries such as Albania, China, Nigeria, the Philippines and a school for displaced children in Syria.

Fr. Spadaro affirmed that the responses given “are the Pope's words,” and noted that at one point, before his trip to the United States last September, Francis was reading the children’s’ questions, and admitted that “these are tough.”

When the book is published March 1, it will be released in 14 languages, including English, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Hungarian and French, though Fr. Spadaro said he expects the number to grow.

On Feb. 22, eight children whose letters appear in the book, plus a few siblings, met with Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican. They will present him with the finished book, as well as all 259 letters collected for the project.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Little House on the Prairie Coming to a Theater Near You


Paramount Pictures will shoot a Little House on the Prairie movie. The story for this project comes from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved novels and the popular television adaptation
.
Little House (GalleyCat)
According to Variety, Sean Durkin has signed on as the director and Abi Morgan will serve as the screenwriter. At this point in time, no casting announcements have been made.

Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “Little House aired on NBC from 1974 to 1983 and starred Michael Landon as the patriarch of a pioneer family living in the 1880s in the American Midwest.

The show was known for its wholesome values and was a loose adaptation of the classic series of children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who based it on her childhood.”

Be sure to take a peek at the Little House on the Prairie TV Show Introduction Video below!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

#1000BlackGirlBooks Wants to Connect Black Girls with Relatble Books



Eleven-year-old Marley Dias told her mom she was "sick of reading books about white boys and dogs."

The sixth grader from New Jersey told The Huffington Post that she loves to read, but that she has a hard time relating to the characters in the required books she reads in school because she has nothing in common with them. 

I was frustrated... in fifth grade where I wasn't reading [books with] a character that I could connect with.

Her mom, Janice Dias, asked Marley what she planned on doing about it. At first, Marley said that she decided to create a book guide which would feature black characters, but she ultimately decided to take her idea a step further. So she initiated #1000BlackGirlBooks in November, a book drive where she collected books in which black girls were the main characters -- not the sidekicks or background characters.
 
Marley, who works with her mom's organization GrassROOTS Community Foundation, plans to collect 1000 books by Feb. 1, to donate to children. On Feb. 11, she'll travel to her mom's hometown, St. Mary, Jamaica, to host a book festival and give the books to schools and libraries. Marley said she hopes this book drive helps more young black girls read about characters they can relate to. So far, she's collected nearly 500 books.

I know there's a lot of black girl books out there, I just haven't read them.  So if we started this I would find them and other people would be able to read them, as well.

I write everyday," she said, in reference to her blog. Marley said she wants to become a magazine editor when she grows up and she hopes to maybe even write a book of her own for young girls like her one day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Calling All Favorite Teachers!

Here is a lovely way to salute favorite teachers brought to you by Barnes and Noble.  Middle school and high school students can nominate their teacher in the My Favorite Teacher Contest at Barnes & Noble.
myfavoriteKids are encouraged to compose essays, poems or thank-you letters describing their appreciation and admiration for a teacher. Follow this link for the entry form and official rules.

Participating schools must collect the essays and turn them in at their local Barnes & Noble store by March 1, 2016. Students who would like to nominate a teacher from a school that is not participating can turn in their entries directly to the store or mail in entries.

The contest includes for a variety of prizes for local and regional winners. Check it out:
Each regional winner will receive a $500 Barnes & Noble gift card and a NOOK by Samsung.   From the pool of regional winners, Barnes & Noble will name one teacher the Barnes & Noble National Teacher of the Year. The winning teacher will receive $5,000 and the title of “Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher of the Year.” The national winner will be recognized at a special community celebration at their local Barnes & Noble store, and the winning teacher’s school will receive $5,000. The student who writes the national winning essay, poem or thank-you letter will win a $500 Barnes & Noble gift card and a NOOK by Samsung device.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Terrfific Kids' Books of 2015

How does one pick "the best?"  Very difficult, as these decisions are so subjective.  I have chosen three books, one picture book, one middle grade novel, and one young adult novel.


Let us begin with the picture book, The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt.  The book is the sequel to the mega-hit, The Day the Crayons Quit by the same author.  This new book features crayons that have been misplaced, or had a rough time, or wanting adventure.  The book's interest lies in the emotion and personalities of the individual crayons, not to mention colorful!


For a middle grade book, I have selected The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.  A look at friendship, betrayal,  loss of life and, in some ways, innocence, this is a powerful story for middle graders to digest.  However, the thought and care put into this book redeems any notion that it might be too old for such callow readers.  I thoroughly recommend it for readers of this age!


The young adult novel that I have chosen is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.  There are several important books about mental illness, always an important topic for this age group, but this one is pivotal, indeed.  Seniors Theodore Finch and Violet Markey run into each other on their school bell tower, both thinking about jumping.  They travel through Indiana looking for a geography project and fall in love.  While doing so, they deal with darkness, happiness, and possibilities of life.

All three books, so different in all ways but one, and that is excellence.  These authors deal with topics kids will love, or be intrigued by, or will fear.  But through it all, they will learn to deal with certain aspects of life and the challenges it is sure to provide.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Have the Happiest of Holidays!




I wish the happiest of holidays to my readers the world over.  May the New Year be filled with peace and good will to all.  May this orb become free of war, and strife, and inhumanity toward our fellow humans.

May our children and grandchildren live on a planet whose inhabitants respect our environment, the dignity of animals, and the sanctity of the human spirit. 

This I wish with all my heart for each of us, as there is no other way forward.  Perhaps we can  lift our hearts together and hope for the goodness that is present in all of us to prevail.

The very best to you from my home to yours.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Swiss Christmas

Please allow me the indulgence of posting an entry I wrote several years ago.  The vignette below is so special to me, and I hope you will find it to be so as well. 

pictures of switzerland christmasIt was Christmas week, and we were in Switzerland.  My family and I, along with our good friends, Ed and Michele Elliott, and a frozen turkey, traveled there for the holidays.  As we were living in London at the time, we crossed the English Channel on a car ferry and were soon on the way to the Swiss countryside.

Our three sons were not so sure about the plan.  “Were they getting as many gifts?  What kind of Christmas dinner would we have?  What about a tree?”   I was having many of the same thoughts but kept them to myself. 

As we drove higher into the mountains to reach the chalet lent by a friend, small delicate snowflakes danced around our two cars.  Shadows deepened, and lights began to glow in houses nestled here and there in the valleys below.  Magical.  A very good sign.  With darkness settling around the mountains, we arrived at our chalet.  Maybe this adventure would be fine.  These words became my mantra.
The next morning, we four parents and five sons explored the tiny village.  And there, propped in front of a miniature store, was our Christmas tree!  It was short, a little crooked, a bit spare of needles and one of the last ones left.  We thought it was beautiful.  The nine of us trudged along with our treasured tree and promptly set about decorating it.  We popped popcorn and made white garlands with the help of needle and thread.  We did the same with cranberries and wound scarlet sashes round the boughs.

 The boys found pine cones of different sizes and shapes in a sheltered stand of pines near our chalet.  These they tucked between branches of our now festive offering to Christmas, and an aroma of pine drifted through the room.  James, the youngest boy, fashioned a star out of paper and placed it on top of the tree. 

That evening, Christmas Eve, the nine of us again walked to the village.  Our feet made satisfying crunching sounds through the crusty snow.  The village church was our destination. Candles shone in all the windows, casting shimmering shadows on the icy whiteness.  It seemed the whole town was attending the midnight service.  We were greeted with smiles and greetings of “Willkommen.”  We were welcomed by everyone. 

 Christmas carols, all in German, but so familiar to us in every other way, filled the small church with happiness and joy.  The pastor’s message, all in German, made us feel the meaning of Christmas, as if we understood every word.

Next morning, as the boys opened their allotted two gifts apiece, no one complained.  Michele and I baked our now thawed turkey and completed all the usual trimmings, minus a pumpkin pie.  No one complained.  When it was time for all to help clean up from our meal, no one complained.  Again, magical.

As I reflect on that Swiss Christmas of more than a decade ago, what made it so extraordinary?  Was it Switzerland itself?  Was it being with family and wonderful friends?  Was it fulfilled expectations?
Yes, of course, it was all of that.  And, yet, it was more.  It was that intangible thing called hope.  It was recognition that we are more than ourselves alone.  It was the knowledge that we need one another and are here to help each other and to be selfless when called upon to be so.  It was the magic of Christmas that happened to be in a country called Switzerland.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

New Winnie-the-Pooh Sequel Coming!


A new Winnie the Pooh sequel us coming!  The book, which is entitled The Best Bear in All the World, will be an anthology of four stories, each by a different author, and illustrated in the style of original Pooh illustrator, E.H. Shepard.


Paul Bright, Jeanne Willis, Kate Saunders, and Brian Sibley, all of whom have authored several children's books, while the illustrations will be done by Mark Burgess, who also worked on the first authorized Winnie the Pooh sequel Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. The new book will be released in October of 2016 to mark the 90th anniversary of the release of the first Winnie the Pooh book.

Winnie the Pooh was created by English author A. A. Milne who based the bear on the teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne. Milne wrote two story collections about Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, as well as two poetry collections that include poems about the "bear with very little brain."

Although Milne died in 1956, Pooh and his friends have continued to delight children and adults well into the 21st century, either through the original books, or through numerous adaptations, including the popular Disney movies.

 It has been an absolute pleasure to work with four authors who have such passion and respect for Milne’s writing," said Nicole Pearson, creative director of Egmont Publishing, which will be releasing the anthology. "

Each really understood the wonderful characterization Milne brought to his books, his playwright’s facility with dialogue and his wonderful sense of humor.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Happiest Thanksgiving to you All!

My very warmest wishes to all my blog readers everywhere.  May your holiday be filled with the happiest of times to you and yours.  And I hope this holiday heralds in a peaceful Holiday Season for all of us across the world.