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Kidsreads Newsletter for Parents

June 2015 Newsletter for Parents June 2015
Summer Buzzin'
Interior image from THE FAIRY-TALE PRINCESS: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest, illustrated by Su Blackwell, retellings by Wendy Jones
Interior image from THE FAIRY-TALE PRINCESS: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest, illustrated by Su Blackwell, retellings by Wendy Jones


I hope that you're all having a wonderful start to the summer and that your kids are, too! There are a lot of great things that come with the warmer months, and while your children are probably celebrating their ability to sleep late, visit their grandparents, go to camp or eat an ice cream cone without freezing, we at Kidsreads love this season for another reason --- it's the perfect time for kids to read whatever they want. Books no longer equal homework --- just pure, unadulterated joy and escapism.

Of course, with so many books on the shelves, it's hard to select the right one. To help out, I decided to highlight a few middle grade books that I've recently been buzzing about --- ones that I’ve read and loved, and think your kids will love, too.

The first is my favorite middle grade book I’ve read in a while --- CIRCUS MIRANDUS by debut author Cassie Beasley (in stores now), in which Micah knows that the only way he can save his beloved grandfather Ephraim from dying is to find the magical circus from his grandpa’s past. Together with Jenny Mendoza, his logical-minded and newfound friend, Micah goes off to experience a place bursting with invisible tigers, mysterious illusionists and very unusual tickets. If your kids like stories that dole out enchantment and poignancy in equal doses, they'll have to check this one out --- it beautifully captures a grandchild-grandparent relationship and bursts with the most alluring of escapades.

I’ve also been buzzing about another debut novel --- BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (in stores now). Now, all people in the publishing industry are a bit predisposed to like stories with the word “book” in the title, but I promise I have a better reason to stand behind this story than that. In BOOK SCAVENGER, Emily finds a book that she thinks was written by her hero, author and online game creator Garrison Griswold. Garrison has been attacked, however, and it’s only by solving the clues in this mysterious tome that she and her friend James can uncover the secret at the heart of Garrison’s new game. BOOK SCAVENGER is filled with adventure --- your kids will find themselves working through the clues alongside Emily and James. Plus, they'll find Emily to be deeply relatable, both in her day-to-day struggles with fitting in (she moves to a new state about once a year) and her deep love of reading. And when they finish this book, I have no doubt that your family will be inventing their own version of the Book Scavenger game with their other literary-minded friends.

Last but not least, there’s another book that takes place in the Bay Area, but about a century earlier --- CHASING SECRETS by Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko (on sale August 4th). Thirteen-year-old Lizzie is struggling with societal expectations --- she’d much rather follow her dad on his medical calls than go to a snotty private school for young ladies --- but then a much larger problem arises: her beloved cook, Jing, disappears, and she discovers his son, Noah, hiding in an upstairs bedroom. Lizzie and Noah are convinced Jing is stuck in the Chinatown quarantine, and they are determined to bring him back and unravel the reasons their city is acting so brutally against this vibrant part of San Francisco. I appreciated CHASING SECRETS not only because it explored a little-known event in American history, but also because it retained a fast-paced, high-stakes tone throughout. When reading it, your kids will face tough realities about race and class but also fall in love with the protagonists and become engrossed in the mystery --- a win-win-win!

These are just three of the awesome middle grade books coming out this summer, though. If you want to learn more, check out our Summer Buzz feature on Kidsreads, where professional booksellers from around the country wax poetic on the books they’re buzzing about. And if you really want to get ahead, check out this link --- industry professionals selected these five novels as the middle grade must-reads in the fall season.

I also wanted to quickly call attention to a very special opportunity for your children, which we explain in further detail later in the newsletter. Your kids can win a copy of WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE --- a mysterious, quirky and artfully designed book coming out in November --- and give us feedback about the book. We are looking for children who can assure us that they can read the WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL SEEING EYE and write comments about it between August 1-28th. It's a great chance for your child/children to be "in the know" and have their opinions heard. Click here to enter by July 28th!

Also, be sure to have them enter our Get Ready for Summer contest, where they can win seven great books to bring to the beach this season.

So happy summer, happy reading, and happy summer reading!

---- Shara Zaval (

P.S: Curious about the photo on the above right? That's a spread from THE FAIRY-TALE PRINCESS: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest illustrated by Su Blackwell. This book came out in back in 2012, but I only just discovered it at a publishing conference a few weeks ago. The illustrations are amazing --- they're intricate paper sculptures set against dramatic lighting --- and you could stare at them for hours. If you're a fairytale fan, you'll definitely want to add this book of retellings to your collection.

Get Ready for Summer 2015

The way we see it, it wouldn't be summer without sun, surf and great reading! We'll hope your kids get started with our Get Ready for Summer promotion and contest. From now through Monday, July 27th at noon ET, five lucky readers will win a copy of each of the featured books.

This year's featured titles include:

MIDDLE SCHOOL: Just My Rotten Luck by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
PIP BARTLETT'S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce
STONEBIRD by Mike Revell
TREASURE HUNTERS: Danger Down the Nile by James Patterson

Click here to enter our Get Ready for Summer contest!


Guest Blog Post - Robert Sharenow, Author of THE GIRL IN THE TORCH

A lot of people advise that you should “write what you know” --- if you grew up in New York City, set your story in Harlem or Park Slope. If both of your parents were doctors, fill your tale with medical jargon. And if you’re a male, write from the perspective of a boy or man. Author Robert Sharenow, however, would beg to differ --- his new novel THE GIRL IN THE TORCH is not the first, but the second novel he wrote featuring a female protagonist.

Click here to read why Robert decided to write distinctly what he doesn’t know.


Sneak Peek: Win a Copy of WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE and Give Us Your Feedback!

What's cooler than winning a free book? Winning a free book that won't hit the shelves until the late fall (talk about being a trendsetter)...and getting to give your feedback on it!

That's what you get to do in our Sneak Peek promotion --- you can win a copy of WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE, written by Tania del Rio and illustrated/created by Will Staehle (published on November 24, 2015) and tell us what you thought about it.

We're giving away 100 copies, and the deadline for contest entries is Tuesday, July 28th at noon ET. If you win, we'll need your comments by Friday, August 28th.


Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky...yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first --- if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull you into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Click here to enter the contest to win your own copy!

Summer Buzz Books
Summer means a lot of things --- going to the beach, relaxing by the pool, going to camp, taking a break from school and...drumroll please…summer reading!

There are so many books that came out this spring (and are coming out later this summer), and we asked some of our bookseller friends to weigh in on their very favorites. Read below for some of their suggestions, and get your kids to a bookstore, stat! Then they can slather on the sunscreen, head to the nearest sunny locale and crack open their literary prize.
Click here to see the full list of Summer Buzz Books!

News for YOU --- Contests and Review Opportunities from Other Sites in The Book Report Network

In our Kidsreads newsletter, we always like to share news that you --- as parents, grandparents, librarians and educators --- will appreciate too. See below for some opportunities and contests.

1) Review for! - Do you love to read middle grade books and feel confident in your ability to write a thorough, critical and helpful review for our readers? Then you might be just the person we're looking for. If you're interested in becoming a reviewer for, please send a sample book review to, and I'll give you more information.

2) Have your teens apply for the Teen Board! - Do you know any high school students ages 13 - 18 who love to read YA? Then tell them to apply to the Teen Board! Every year we select ~30 teens from around the country to write book reviews for the site, write blog posts, answer the monthly Teen Board question and more. Teens have until July 6th to apply. If they are selected for Round Two, they will be asked to submit a sample book review and letter of recommendation. Here is a link to the application.

3) Summer Reading 2015 - Summer's finally here, meaning it's time for to share some great warm weather book picks with our Summer Reading Contests and Feature. We will be hosting more than 30 24-hour contests for these titles on select days throughout the summer, so you will have to check the site each day to see the featured prize book and enter to win. We also will be sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here.

4) Book Group Survey - is celebrating its 15th anniversary. As part of the celebration, we are conducting the 2015 Book Group Survey! The results will help publishers and authors create programs and promotions to enhance book club experiences. If you are in a book group, we would love it if you would participate in this survey, and share it with friends in book groups, as well.

It should take about 10-12 minutes to complete, and you can win some great prizes: 1 (one) Grand Prize of a $250 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice, 10 (ten) First Prizes of a $100 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice, and 50 (fifty) Second Prizes of a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice! The survey will be open through Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Please click here to take it --- we appreciate your participation and support in spreading the word!


June’s Cool & New Books Roundup

In this month’s round up, we have FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM by Newt Scamander --- straight from the library of Hogwarts!; CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley, in which a boy journeys to find a magical circus; and a biography for young readers UNTAMED: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, with a foreword by Jane Goodall herself.

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

June's New in Paperback Roundup

June’s paperback roundup includes WOMEN WHO BROKE THE RULES: Judy Blume by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Leonard, which describes the life and work of one of the most beloved children’s authors; THE LEAGUE OF SEVEN written by Alan Gratz and illustrated by Brett Helquist, the first book in an exciting steampunk series; and STAY WHERE YOU ARE AND THEN LEAVE, written by John Boyne and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, a historical fiction novel from the author of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS.

Click here to visit our June New in Paperback feature!

New Picture Books

Our picture book roundup for June includes RUDE CAKES by Rowboat Watkins, a hilarious story about a little cake with no manners; FLOAT by Daniel Miyares --- a wordless adventure featuring a boy and his paper boat; and THE HOUSE THAT JANE BUILT: A Story About Jane Addams written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Kathryn Brown, which describes the life of the first female Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Click here to see June's Picture Book roundup!

Now in Stores: THE PHANTOM BULLY by Jeffrey Brown

THE PHANTOM BULLY by Jeffrey Brown (Science Fiction)

It's hard to believe this is Roan's last year at Jedi Academy. He's been busier than ever learning to fly (and wash) starships, swimming in the Lake Country on Naboo, studying for the Jedi obstacle course exam and tracking down dozens of vorpak clones- --- don't ask. But now, someone is setting him up to get in trouble with everyone at school, including Yoda. If he doesn't find out who it is, and fast, he may get kicked out of school! Why can't middle school just be easy...

This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun and frustrations of middle school --- all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, sketches, e-mails and more.

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: THE VIEW FROM THE CHERRY TREE by Willo Davis Roberts

THE VIEW FROM THE CHERRY TREE by Willo Davis Roberts (Mystery)

This bestselling classic mystery from Willo Davis Roberts is being re-released! Though Rob saw Mrs. Calloway fall to her death, strangled by the leather strap of her binoculars, he wants to believe that it was an accident. He wants to pretend he didn’t see the hands that pushed her out of her window.

Then a flowerpot almost falls on him. And three bullets just miss him. And someone tries to poison his food.

When he tries to tell his family that he thinks there has been a murder, they are too busy with his sister’s wedding to care. Will Rob be the murderer’s next victim?

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: BIG TOP BURNING: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth by Laura A. Woollett

BIG TOP BURNING: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth by Laura A. Woollett (History)

BIG TOP BURNING investigates the 1944 Hartford circus fire and invites readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence.

The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive.

With primary source documents and survivor interviews, BIG TOP BURNING recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire --- one of the worst fire disasters in U.S. history. Its remarkable characters include Robert Segee, a 15-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac, and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire.

Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson --- and did Robert Segee set it? BIG TOP BURNING combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II–era American history, inviting middle-grades readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

Click here to learn more about the book.


New Reviews

New! A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord (Youth Fiction, Animals, Friendship)

When Lily's blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it's Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season. After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily's grandfather, and Salma's friendship transforms Lily's summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they'll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant --- and possibly win? --- Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

New! ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD by Yvan Pommaux, translated by Richard Kutner (Mythology, Graphic Novel)

Son of a muse, the young musician Orpheus has everything: talent, beauty, courage, love. Then, in a moment, everything is lost. His bride Eurydice is killed in a terrible accident on their wedding night. Armed only with his lyre, Orpheus enters the desolate Underworld, where no mortal has ever gone before. He's determined to achieve the impossible --- bring his wife back to life, restore their happiness and ensure he's never in danger of losing her again. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

New! THE GREAT GOOD SUMMER by Liz Garton Scanlon (Youth Fiction, Family Relationships)

Ivy Green’s mama has gone off with a charismatic preacher called Hallelujah Dave to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida. At least that’s where Ivy and her dad think Mama is. Paul Dobbs, one of Ivy’s schoolmates, is also having a crummy summer. Paul has always wanted to be an astronaut, and now that NASA’s space shuttle program has been scrapped, it looks like his dream will never get off the ground. Although Ivy and Paul are an unlikely pair, it turns out they are the perfect allies for a runaway roadtrip to Florida. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! THE ISLE OF THE LOST: A Descendants Novel by Melissa de la Cruz (Fairytale)

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost --- a dark and dreary place protected by a force field that makes it impossible for them to leave. Mal learns from her mother, Maleficent, that the key to true darkness, the Dragon's Eye, is located inside her scepter in the forbidden fortress on the far side of the island. She'll just need a little help from her "friends." In their quest for the Dragon's Eye, these four kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain't so bad. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

New! EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE : A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World's Most Fascinating Individuals by Michael Hearst, illustrated by Aaron Scamihorn (Nonfiction, History)

Inside this book, curious readers, amateur historians and anyone who aspires to be extraordinary will find intriguing stories and facts about 50 extraordinary people. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (Youth Fiction, Magical Realism)

Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman and the magician more powerful than any other --- the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather. --- Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.

New! VALIANT by Sarah McGuire (Fantasy)

Saville hates sewing. How can she not when her father, the Tailor, loves his bolts of velvet and silk far more than he's ever loved her? Yet, when he is struck ill shortly after they arrive in the city of Reggen, Saville must don boy's clothes in the hopes of gaining a commission from the king to keep them fed. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! SPACEJACKERS by Huw Powell (Science Fiction)

As a baby, Jake Cutler was separated from his family and left on the planet Remota, deep in the seventh solar system. Eleven years later and Jake isn't like other boys --- he has purple eyes and carries a secret within himself that could change the entire universe. --- Reviewed by Katherine Szabo.

New! HUNTERS OF CHAOS by Crystal Velasquez (Youth Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy)

Ana’s average, suburban life is turned upside down when she’s offered a place at an exclusive boarding school in New Mexico. It turns out that the school sits on top of a mysterious temple, the ancient meeting place of the dangerous Brotherhood of Chaos. And when one of the priceless museum objects is shattered, the girls find out exactly why their heritage is so important: They have the power to turn into wild cats! --- Reviewed by Katherine Szabo.

New! THE FOG DIVER by Joel Ross (Youth Fiction, Action, Adventure)

Once the Fog started rising, the earth was covered with a deadly white mist until nothing remained but the mountaintops. Now humanity clings to its highest peaks, called the Rooftop, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the lower slopes and floating junkyards. Thirteen-year-old Chess and his friends Hazel, Bea and Swedish sail their rickety air raft over the deadly Fog, scavenging the ruins for anything they can sell to survive. But now survival isn't enough. --- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

New! WILD BOY AND THE BLACK TERROR by Rob Lloyd Jones (Youth Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy)

London, 1842. Wild Boy, master detective and former freak-show performer, and Clarissa, circus acrobat and troublemaker, are the secret last hope of a city beset by horror. A poisoner stalks the streets, leaving victims mad with terror and then dead. Can the Black Terror be traced to a demon called Malphas? With their partnership threatened by rules and regulations, can Wild Boy and Clarissa uncover a cure in time to save the queen and the city? --- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

New! BIG TOP BURNING by Laura A. Woollett (History, Nonfiction)

Big Top Burning investigates the 1944 Hartford circus fire and invites readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence. The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. By 2:50, the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive. --- Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

New! WOUNDABOUT by Lev Rosen and Ellis Rosen (Youth Fiction)

In the wake of tragedy, siblings Connor and Cordelia and their pet capybara are sent to the precariously perched town of Woundabout to live with their eccentric aunt. Woundabout is a place where the mayor has declared that routine rules above all, and no one is allowed to as questions --- because they should already know the answers. --- Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

New! THE DUNGEONEERS by John David Anderson (Fantasy, Adventure)

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

Remember to be safe online. NEVER tell anyone personal information --- which includes your real name, age, address, phone number or school. Hey, pretend you are undercover when you go online and protect yourself at all times!

Keep reading!

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