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Kidsreads Newsletter for Parents

November 2015 Newsletter for Parents November 2015
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Kidsreads Gets Thankful
Some of the students working on bird research with Behind the Book
Some of the students working on bird research with Behind the Book

Considering the time of year, we imagine that you and your kids have been thinking about the idea of “thankfulness” quite a bit (along with all of the different kinds of pie you’re going to sample at Thanksgiving dinner and what topics are not OK to bring up in front of grandma). Maybe you’re thankful for your family, your friends, your health, your safety, a job that you love or a hobby that you feel passionate about.

Since is a children’s books website (surprise!), our “thankful” list has a bit more of a literary bent. While all of the amazing books that came out this year unquestionably make the cut, some events last week have made me especially thankful to the people, organizations and events that make kids love stories; those behind-the-scenes influencers that turn children into readers for life. Below, I describe a few of the events that got me in this rather “warm and fuzzy” mode:

Volunteering with Behind the Book --- Last Thursday morning, I had the chance to work with Behind the Book, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “inspire New York City public school students to love reading by bringing accomplished authors and books into classrooms and creating rich, innovative literacy programs.” While there are plenty of amazing literacy organizations out there, I was really struck by the depth of Behind the Book’s programs. They don’t just bring in an author for a half-hour book talk and say “mission accomplished.”

Instead, each author visits the classroom multiple times. The book that the class focuses on directly relates to their curriculum (and meets Common Core standards), making it feel relevant to the rest of their studies. Each student works on a project related to the book, whether it’s a classroom-wide art installation or a book that they write all together. I only got to witness a small piece of this --- I helped a special needs fourth grade class at PS 98 research birds for a nonfiction bird book they were creating, based on Barbara Bash’s URBAN ROOSTS: Where Birds Nest in the City. However, I could tell that the kids were enthused and couldn’t wait to have some one-on-one time with the volunteers to help get one step closer to their final product.

I also got the chance to get some coffee with Behind the Book’s Executive Director and Founder Jo Umans, who told me some of the most amazing anecdotes about her 12 years with the organization, whether it be one student telling another that author Tony Medina was his “best friend” or a student who had never written a full story before --- even three sentences long --- asking her teacher if she could bring her notebook to lunch after completing the program with Julia Sarcone-Roach, author of SUBWAY STORY. Or, the teen boys who continued visiting their guidance counselor to borrow needles and yarn after learning how to knit as part of their Behind the Book Project with Jason Reynolds, author of WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST. No matter the exact anecdote, it’s clear --- these programs allow kids to interact with books and authors in a far more personal way that not only makes them more confident, varied individuals, but also turns them on to the world of literature as a whole.

The National Book Foundation's Teen Press Conference --- Each year, a selection of middle school and high school students from across New York City have the chance to read one of the books nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and see the authors of all five nominated books read aloud and answer their questions. Plus, attending students get to have their books signed by the authors and talk to them before and after the event. I got to attend this year’s Teen Press Conference and sat behind three seventh graders from Tompkins Square Middle School --- Samantha, Fatou and Isabel --- and I honestly thought they (or Samantha, at least) might leap out of their chairs in anticipation. Fatou told me she had wanted to participate in the event because of the chance to meet the authors --- “there are some questions that only the author can answer.” Isabel, meanwhile, showed off her signed copy of CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman. Neal’s son, Brendan, had signed every copy with a different illustration, and Isabel was thrilled to own something that was completely unique (see the image on the top left). Samantha, meanwhile, couldn’t help but wax poetic about the wonder that was THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin --- she loved that it felt relatable but also dealt with complicated issues like bullying and grief.

The part that struck me the most about the Teen Press Conference, though, was noticing that all three girls read along when “their” author took to the podium; their eyes weren’t on the writer but down in their laps, scanning the words in time with the author’s voice. This really demonstrated to me that the attendees weren’t excited about meeting the authors because of their “star power,” but because these were the personalities, the voices and the minds behind the stories they loved so much. This is such a wonderful event, and it showed how powerful it is when teens get to see the people who make literature happen. You can see all the authors on stage in the image on the top right!

5 Under 35 --- This National Book Awards-related event actually has nothing to do with kids; it honors five authors under the age of 35 who wrote a truly remarkable novel in the past year. LeVar Burton --- the host of “Reading Rainbow” for 23 years --- introduced the night, and let me just tell you: the honorees’ inner children/screaming fans came out in full force. Before she began reading from her book THE TURNER HOUSE, author Angela Flournoy admitted she was astonished to be in the same room as Burton and couldn’t help making “crazy eyes” at him. This got a laugh, of course, but the trope continued throughout the evening --- the introducers and nominees both talked about making “crazy eyes” at Burton over and over because he had played such an important role in all of their childhoods. Watching this, I felt like I was witnessing the kids from the Behind the Book programs or the Teen Press Conference 20 years from now; it was proof that a memorable literary influence can not only produce lifelong readers, but some of our nation’s best writers, too.

Who are some literary influences --- whether you know them personally, they’re educational apps or nonprofits in your area --- that you’re thankful for because they’re helping to instill the lifelong love of reading in kids? I’d love to hear about them at

And with that, enjoy the rest of the newsletter (you’ll find some contests just for you at the very bottom) and have a truly wonderful holiday!

--- Shara Zaval (

P.S: If you're interested in hearing more about The National Book Awards and the surrounding events, read our blog post here!


Holiday Bundle of Cheer --- Enter Today!

At, we're kicking off the holiday season with our first Holiday Bundle of Cheer Contest and Feature. We are spotlighting some amazing books. Five lucky readers will win a copy of each of the featured titles, along with some incredibly festive goodies.

This year's featured titles include:

ANIMAL GROUPS by Jill Esbaum and Frans Lanting
BALANCE KEEPERS, Book 1: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings
BRIDGET WILDER: Spy-in-Training by Jonathan Bernstein
CURIOSITY HOUSE: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H. C. Chester
EDIBLE SCIENCE: Experiments You Can Eat by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen
ELLIE'S STORY by W. Bruce Cameron
EXTREME PLANET by National Geographic Explorer Carsten Peter
THE KEEPERS: The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders
MR. PUFFBALL: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL #3: The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani
TODHUNTER MOON, Book One: PathFinder by Angie Sage
WHEN FISH GOT FEET, WHEN BUGS WERE BIG, AND WHEN DINOS DAWNED: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life on Earth by Hannah Bonner

Fill out the form by Thursday, December 17th at noon ET to be one of five lucky winners.

Click here to enter the Holiday Bundle of Cheer contest!

Special Feature: SCARLETT: A Star on the Run, by Jon Buller and Susan Schade

When you have a husband who loves to draw and a wife who loves to write, there’s only one thing for a couple to do --- work together, of course! And that’s exactly what Jon Buller and Susan Schade do --- work as a team to create graphic novels, picture books, early readers, chapter books and more.

Their newest graphic novel/traditional novel hybrid, SCARLETT: A Star on the Run, follows a talking cat and movie star as she runs away from her cruel producer. She meets a dog with a similar tale and is taken in by Mr. Bougnan, but her pursuers are drawing ever closer… yikes!

You can learn more about SCARLETT: A Star on the Run by checking out our special feature, which includes a review, interview and excerpt.

Click here to read the review.
Click here to read interview.
Click here to read the excerpt.


Click here to read the whole feature!

Special Feature: WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle --- NOW IN STORES!

You may remember us talking about this book a few months ago, when we gave you the chance to win an early copy of this quirky, adventuresome illustrated novel that follows the adventures of a 12-year-old bellhop and tell us what you thought. It's now in stores!

We're thrilled that our readers fell in love with WARREN THE 13TH --- Joey from Davie, FL called it "a really interesting, not-moving-from-your-seat-until-you-are-done read" and Emily from White Plains, NY said "I am not sure which I loved more --- the story or the incredible illustrations."

Want to read all of the readers' comments? Click here!

You can also:

Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to read an excerpt of the book.
Click here to read the full feature.


Series Feature --- Major Update!

What's better than a book (and no, we don't mean ice cream)? It's a whole series of books! At, we know that a lot of you are all about series. Once you find characters, topics or a fictional world you love, you don't have to leave --- you can just move from one adventure to another to another.

That's why we've decided to give our series feature a major makeover! We've updated the feature so that you'll find nearly 200 fantastic middle grade series, both modern and classic. We also chose to include several major picture book series, and readers from 0-12 will find something in here that appeals to them.

You can find series organized by age and alphabetically, learn the premise of each series and, most importantly, see which book comes after the one you just finished!

We'll also be including periodic "series updates" in our Kidsreads newsletter, so you'll know if we added a new series we think you should check out. So go check it out --- we know you'll love it!

Click here to see our updated series feature!

November's Cool & New Books Roundup

This month’s Cool and New roundup includes THE TRILOGY OF TWO by Juman Malouf, a mystical circus tale that follows twin musical prodigies with extraordinary powers; KID ATHLETES by David Stabler with illustrations by Doogie Horner, the latest in the True Tales series highlighting little-known stories from celebrities’ childhoods; and I DON'T KNOW HOW THE STORY ENDS by J.B. Cheaney, where three friends make a movie --- and search for the perfect ending --- in the early days of Hollywood.

Click here to see November's Cool & New Books roundup!

November's New in Paperback Roundup

In paperback titles this month, we have INKBLOT by Rebecca Langston-George, which shares examples and prompts for four creative writing genres; THE ROOKIE BOOKIE by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias J. Moskowitz, a hilarious, statistics-filled book about a football betting ring gone terribly awry; and ABSOLUTELY TRULY: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick, where Truly is determined to get to the bottom of a mysterious letter she discovers in a first edition copy of CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

Click here to visit our November New in Paperback feature!

November's New in Picture Books Roundup

This month’s roundup includes THE CAMBODIAN DANCER: Sophany's Gift of Hope by Daryn Reicherter with illustrations by Christy Hale, the true story of a Cambodian woman who fled the Khmer Rouge and started a dance school in the United States; LOST. FOUND. by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Matthew Cordell, a nearly wordless picture book featuring a menagerie of animals who come up with clever ways to use bear’s misplaced scarf; and THE STORY I'LL TELL by Nancy Tupper Ling with illustrations by Jessica Lanan, a gentle and fantastical adoption story that celebrates the meaning of family.

Click here to see November's Picture Books roundup!

Holiday Picture Book Roundup

Whether you're two or 82, there is nothing quite like the perfect picture book to ring in the holidays, and luckily for us, there are plenty of great ones to choose from this year!

We culled from all of the Christmas, Hanukkah and general winter books coming out this year and selected the best of the best. Whether you're a fan of toys going on a grand snowy adventure (in TOYS MEET SNOW), experiencing the holiday sights in NYC through the eyes of a German Jewish immigrant in 1938 (OSKAR AND THE EIGHT BLESSINGS) or cheering for a little pig struggling to come up with a homemade Christmas gift for her family (A HOMEMADE TOGETHER CHRISTMAS), you're sure to find something on this list that will get you in the holiday spirit.


Click here to see our Holiday Picture Book Bookshelf!

Ten Star Wars Books to Prepare for The Force Awakens
Whether you can name every single cyborg in the Star Wars universe and dressed up as Han Solo for Halloween, or you think Chewbacca is a type of bubblegum, there’s no escaping Star Wars mania as the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens draws ever closer (December 18th!)

We decided to help get you in the mood for all things light saber, Stormtroopers and starships by rounding up some elementary and middle grade books that center on this intergalactic franchise. From knitted Luke Skywalkers to origami Yodas, we know that you’ll find everything you need right here. May the Force be with You!
Click here to see the Star Wars bookshelf!

Now in Stores: THE TRILOGY OF TWO by Juman Malouf

THE TRILOGY OF TWO by Juman Malouf (Children's Fiction, Supernatural)

Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. But lately, mysterious things are starting to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to read the review.


Now in Stores: FINDING FORTUNE by Delia Ray
FINDING FORTUNE by Delia Ray (Children's Fiction, Mystery, Family Life)

Running away from home isn't as easy as Ren thinks it will be. At least she isn't running very far; just a few miles to the ghost town of Fortune...or Mis-Fortune as everyone else calls it. Mis-Fortune on the Mississippi. Supposedly, there's an abandoned school on the outskirts with cheap rooms for rent. Ren knows her plan sounds crazy, but with only a few more weeks until Dad comes home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, she also knows she has to do something drastic so Mom will come to her senses and stop seeing that creep Rick Littleton for good.

Click here to learn more about the book.
Click here to see Delia Ray's website with lots of fun facts about the book.
Click here to visit Delia's Facebook page.


Now in Stores: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE: The Illustrated Edition, Collector's Edition (Harry Potter, Book 1) by J.K. Rowling

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay (Children's Fiction, Adventure)

For the first time, J. K. Rowling's beloved Harry Potter books will be presented in lavishly illustrated full-color editions. Kate Greenaway-award winning artist Jim Kay has created over 100 stunning illustrations, making this deluxe format a perfect gift as much for a child being introduced to the series, as for the dedicated fan.

Click here to learn more about the book.

New Reviews

New! WEBSTER: Tale of an Outlaw by Ellen Emerson White (Children's Fiction, Friendship)

Webster is too cool to be scared. Or alarmed. Or even a tiny bit nervous. So what if no one will adopt him? He’s had it with people anyway. He’s going to be a loner, and not get too comfortable in this new animal shelter. And the first chance he gets, he’s hitting the road and living life on the range, just like one of the stoic cowboys he’s decided to model himself after. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! ON THE RUN by Tristan Bancks (Children's Fiction, Mystery)

Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he's intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. After they leave, his parents come home and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation --- to a remote cabin deep in the woods. Then Ben discovers his parents' secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. --- Reviewed by Kathy Purcell.

New! TICKET TO INDIA by N.H. Senzai (Children's Fiction, Family Life, Historical Fiction)

A map, two train tickets and a mission. These are things 12-year-old Maya and her big sister Zara have when they set off on their own from Delhi to their grandmother’s childhood home of Aminpur, a small town in Northern India. Their goal is to find a chest of family treasures that their grandmother’s family left behind when they fled from India to Pakistan during the Great Partition. But soon the sisters become separated, and Maya is alone. Determined to find her grandmother’s lost chest, she continues her trip, on the way enlisting help from an orphan by named Jai. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! CHILD CONVICTS by Janette Brennan (Children's Nonfiction, History)

At the age of seven, children in 18th-century Britain were tried in court like adults. For crimes such as picking pockets or stealing clothes, they could be sentenced to death by hanging or transported to the then-perilous and isolated colonies of Australia. Life in the colonies was often as difficult and dangerous as the poverty from which many of the convicts came, but the dreaded sentence of transportation could also present opportunities. --- Reviewed by Corinne Fox.

New! ABRACADABRA: The Story of Magic Through The Ages by HP Newquist (Children's Fiction, Magic)

In this nonfiction narrative of magic through the ages, HP Newquist explains how the world's most famous tricks were created. From the oracles of ancient Egypt and the wizards of medieval Europe on to the exploits of Houdini and modern practitioners like Criss Angel, this book unlocks the secrets behind centuries of magic and illusion. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! LISTEN TO THE MOON by Michael Morpurgo (Children's Fiction, Historical Fiction)

Alfie lives off the coast of England. Merry lives in New York City. Until Merry and her mother set sail on the Lusitania for England, where Merry's father is recuperating from a war injury. People told them not to go, hearing rumors that the Lusitania might be carrying munitions. But they are desperate to be reunited with Merry's father. Alfie and his father find a lost girl in an abandoned house on a small island. The girl doesn't speak, except to say what sounds like "Lucy." Alfie's mother nurses her back to health. The others in the village suspect the unthinkable: Lucy is actually German --- an enemy --- because she's found with a blanket with a German tag. --- Reviewed by Maya Berman.

New! THE LIGHTNING QUEEN by Laura Resau (Children's Fiction, Friendship)

Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There's no electricity, no plumbing, no cars, just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, 11-year-old Teo's life feels even more barren. And then one day, the mysterious young Esma, who calls herself the Gypsy Queen of Lightning, rolls into town like a fresh burst of color. Against all odds, her caravan's Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be longtime friends. Suddenly, life brims with possibility. --- Reviewed by Corinne Fox.

New! MINNA'S PATCHWORK COAT by Lauren A. Mills (Children's Fiction, Prejudice)

Minna and her family don't have much in their small Appalachian cabin, but "people only need people," Papa always reminds her. Unable to afford a winter coat to wear to school, she's forced to use an old feed sack to keep her warm. Then Papa's terrible cough from working in the coal mines takes him away forever, and Minna has a hard time believing that anything will be right again...until her neighbors work tirelessly to create a coat for her out of old fabric scraps. Now Minna must show her teasing classmates that her coat is more than just rags --- it's a collection of their own cherished memories, each with a story to share. --- Reviewed by Maya Berman.

New! THE LEAGUE OF UNEXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN by Gitty Daneshvari (Children's Fiction, Adventure)

The League of Unexceptional Children is a covert network that uses the nation's most average, normal and utterly unexceptional children as spies. Why the average kids? It's simple: they are the forgotten ones. Until now! --- Reviewed by Charles Payseur.

New! MY DIARY FROM THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Children's Fiction, Fantasy)

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die. When a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.


Contests for YOU

Why should your kids have all the fun? Here are some contests on our other websites on the Book Report Network that we think you'll be interested in:

Holiday Cheer 2015: At, we kick off the holiday season in style with our Holiday Cheer Contests and Feature. This year’s Holiday Cheer titles include books that you want to give and get, as well as a “hot” 2016 title or two. The contests start at noon ET on select days in November and December, and run for just 24 hours, so you will have to check the site to see what is being featured. As always, we’ll be sending our special Holiday Cheer newsletter on the days when there are contests. Click here to sign up for these email alerts.

Linwood Barclay Contest: Here’s an opportunity to win a personalized signed copy of BROKEN PROMISE, which kicks off Linwood Barclay's Promise Falls trilogy, for someone on your holiday list. And, ahem, this is not a “To Me/From Me” gift! The purpose is for you to give the book to a thriller reader. We have 23 prizes to give away. Why 23? That's the number that keeps resurfacing in the series of strange events in Promise Falls that runs through the books and will be revealed in THE TWENTY THREE, the final installment in the series releasing on November 16, 2016. So tell us who you would like to nominate to win by Monday, December 7th at noon ET. Click here to enter.

What's Your Book Group Reading Contest: Each month, we ask book groups to share the titles they are reading that month and rate them. From all entries, three winners will be selected, and each will win 12 copies of that month’s prize book for their group. This month's prize book is AT THE WATER'S EDGE, the latest from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sara Gruen. It's a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, December 2nd at noon ET. Click here to enter.


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