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May 2015 Newsletter May 2015
When Reading Isn't a Solitary Activity

Hi Kidsreaders!

Do you ever get jealous of your younger siblings because they get to do things that you didn’t when you were their age? Maybe they just got a computer game that didn’t exist when you were a kid, but you know you would have played it for hours. Or they get to attend karate classes and you think you would have loved those, too. A similar thing happened to me, recently: I sat in a BookUp session and thought, why couldn’t I have done this when I was in middle school?

Founded by the National Book Foundation in 2007, BookUp is essentially an incredibly awesome book club for underserved students throughout New York City. There are chapters in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, and each is run by a professional writer. Now you might think “Um, I read enough in school, thank you very much,” but after witnessing part of a recent Manhattan BookUp meeting, let me tell you, it’s not like school. I break down some of the coolest parts of the program below:

1) Participants choose the books --- One of kids’ biggest complaints about English class is that they don’t always relate to the books they’re reading, and, as a result, they start associating reading with homework, or, even worse, being boring. BookUp counteracts this by letting each group decide what they want to read at the beginning of the year. Kids can write suggestions on the board and then everyone decides between them. Sure, you still might not love every book, but there’s a much greater chance you’ll at least be interested in it. In the photo above, you’ll see copies of WONDER by R.J. Palacio strewn across the table --- that’s the book that the Manhattan group was going to read next.

2) Activities abound --- In the particular meeting that I sat in on, the students finished watching the movie Of Mice and Men and compared it to the book. Which version did they like better? How were they similar and different? As Eisa Ulen, the instructor for the Manhattan group, explained, this is just one of many creative activities they engage in during their meetings. Her kids particularly enjoy speculative fiction stories, so they spent some time writing their own and drawing character sketches. After reading and discussing BLUBBER by Judy Blume, they designed an anti-bullying website, and they made 3D models after reading ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’Dell. Kayia, one of the kids in the group, said that this was one of her favorite elements of the program: “English class can be boring --- it’s all about facts. In BookUp, it’s more about what you think about the book. It’s way more engaging and fun.”

3) And field trips do, too --- While each BookUp group has a home base, they also get to visit various bookstores throughout New York and pick out books to take home, as well as go to various library branches and even the New York Academy of Sciences, where they got to meet a professional science fiction editor and author (read a blog post about the trip!). Leslie Shipman, the founder of BookUp, says that these trips are her favorite part of the program, because they “keep reading interactive.” They allow kids to engage with reading in the real world, and experience parts of the city that they might not otherwise.

4) Kids get a sense of ownership over the books --- Because kids get to keep each book they read, both as a group and that they individually pick out on field trips, they develop a greater bond with each story --- it’s not just something they return to their teacher at the end of the year. One of the kids told me that was her favorite element of the program: “Since I get to keep the books, I can read them however many times I want.” Eisa echoed that this was an important element of BookUp; one of her favorite memories (and she’s led BookUp groups for eight years!) is when a student told her that their father had to build them a bookshelf since they had gotten so many books throughout the year. They were starting to build a collection…and a habit…for life.

Are any of you involved in reading groups, maybe as part of an afterschool program like BookUp or together with your mom or dad in a parent-child book club? If so, I’d love to hear about it at!

In other news, Kidsreads wants to offer a huge congratulations to the recent winners of the Children’s Choice Book Awards --- EVA AND SADIE AND THE WORST HAIRCUT EVER! by Jeff Cohen (Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year), KALI’S STORY: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis (Third Grade and Fourth Grade Book of the Year), THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER! by Jimmy Gownley (Fifth and Sixth Grade Book of the Year) and J.A White, author of THE THICKETY: A Path Begins, for Children’s Choice Debut Author. For a full list, including all of the finalists, click here!

And with that, enjoy the rest of the newsletter, the rest of May and, for some of you, the last few days of the school year!

--- Shara Zaval (

P.S. Yes, that is Nathan Lane in that photo on the top left! He visited Simon & Schuster to tell me (OK OK, and a large group of librarians) about his new picture book, NAUGHTY MABEL, co-written with Devlin Elliott! Above you can see me posing with Brian Selznick, author of the beloved book THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and the forthcoming THE MARVELS.

Special Feature: SHADOW OF A DOUBT by Skylar James

What happens to a kid who feeds horses carrots in Central Park and reads The Saddle Club series religiously in the back of a saddle store? She grows up to write a book about a girl, a horse, and their joint dream to race in the Kentucky Derby!

At least in the case of Skylar James, the author of SHADOW OF A DOUBT, which our reviewer called a "fun, compelling tale!" Be sure to check out our special feature which has an interview with Skylar, where she talks about her favorite books as a kid, what it’s like to write animal characters and the next project she’s working on.

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

Click here to read the special feature for SHADOW OF A DOUBT!


International Respect for Chickens Month!

It’s important to respect your neighbors, your teachers and your friends, but it’s not only humans who deserve this esteem --- chickens do, too! There’s no better time to remember our feathery friends than in May, which is International Respect for Chickens Month, a 31-day-holiday designed to remind people of the importance of treating chickens (and other domestic fowl) with respect, whether they’re on a farm, in a classroom or being used in scientific research.

So while you can (and should) celebrate this holiday in the most obvious way --- respecting hens and roosters --- you can take it a step further with some chicken-themed books! We talked to the authors of a couple of picture books --- Robin Page (A CHICKEN FOLLOWED ME HOME) and Julie Paschkis (P ZONKA LAYS AN EGG) --- as well as Kelly Jones, author of the middle grade book UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER, about all things chickens, writing and everything in between!

Click here to read our Quirky Celebrations feature!


Interview with Marissa Moss, Author of the Amelia's Notebook Series
Twenty years ago, a little book hit the marketplace with a simple premise: an elementary school girl writes and doodles in a journal, and we get to see it. That little book turned into another one…and another one…and another one…and the Amelia’s Notebook series became one of the most beloved in children’s literature.

Now that the 30th --- and final (!) --- book in the series is coming out and Amelia is graduating middle school, we wanted to talk to this spunky protagonist’s creator, Marissa Moss. Read our interview to learn about her inspiration, her writing process and some intriguing pieces of fan mail, and be sure to check out AMELIA’S MIDDLE SCHOOL GRADUATION YEARBOOK!

Click here to read the interview!


On the Blog

THE MAD APPRENTICE --- Guest Post by Django Wexler: Django shares which character from his books he’d most like to spend the day with --- and it wasn't an easy choice!

Guest Post by Danica Davidson --- ESCAPE FROM THE OVERWORLD: Author Danica Davidson explains how she got involved with the program Saving Our Cinderellas.

Book Trailer Debut: IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T!: Get a sneak peek of debut author/illustrator Elise Parsley's hilarious new picture book.

Click here to read the Kidsreads blog!


May’s Cool & New Books Roundup

Our May roundup includes POP GOES THE CIRCUS!, the newest book in Kate and M. Sarah Klise’s Three Ring Rascals series in which a circus mouse and a runaway girl form an unlikely best friendship; FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS by Meg Cabot, a middle grade spin-off of The Princess Diaries series featuring Mia Thermopolis’s younger half-sister, Olivia; and EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World’s Most Fascinating Individuals by Michael Hearst and illustrated by Aaron Scamihorn, which shares true stories of 50 extraordinary people throughout history.

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


May's New in Paperback Roundup

In paperback this month, we have UNLOCKING THE TRUTH: Three Brooklyn Teens on Life, Friendship and Making the Band by Charisse Jones, the true story of a rock band on the cusp of massive stardom; WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens, in which First Daughter Audrey discovers Alice Roosevelt’s diary; and URBAN OUTLAWS by Peter Jay Black, the first book in an action-packed series about five extraordinary kids dedicated to outsmarting criminals.

Click here to visit our May New in Paperback feature!


New Picture Books

Our May roundup includes MARKET MAZE by Roxie Munro, a colorful and mesmerizing maze book that helps kids understand where food comes from and how it gets to their tables; ICE CREAM SUMMER by three-time Caldecott Honoree Peter Sis, a delectable picture book that is as breezy, sweet and irresistible as ice cream in summer; and THE WIZARD OF OZ: The Classic Edition by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Charles Santore, a large-bound, abridged version of Dorothy’s timeless tale.

Click here to see May's Picture Book Roundup!


Now in Stores: ATLANTIS IN PERIL by T. A. Barron

ATLANTIS IN PERIL by T. A. Barron (Fantasy)

In ATLANTIS RISING, Promi and Atlanta saved their homeland by transforming it into the magical island of Atlantis. They had hoped that would keep it out of the clutches of the evil spirit warlord Narkazan. But Narkazan has returned, more determined than ever to conquer the spirit realm and Atlantis as well. Will the destiny of the mystical isle lie in the boat of Greek sailors who wash up on shore? The powers of the ethereal oceanglass? Or will the growing bond between Promi and Atlanta cause the strongest magic?

With his trademark action, adventure and suspense, master of fantasy T.A. Barron explores the magical world of Atlantis and how its inhabitants' actions sow the seeds of its destruction.

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: BAYOU MAGIC by Jewell Parker Rhodes

BAYOU MAGIC by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Fantasy)

If only Maddy sees the mermaid, can it be real?

It's Maddy's turn to have a bayou summer. At first she misses life back home in the city, but soon she grows to love everything about her new surroundings --- the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape and something else, deep within the water, that only Maddy sees. Could it be a mermaid? As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be only the sibling to carry on her family's magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help. Does she have what it takes to be a hero?

A coming-of-age tale rich with folk magic, set in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, BAYOU MAGIC celebrates hope, friendship, and family, and captures the wonder of life in the Deep South.

Click here to learn more about the book.


Now in Stores: THE WILD PIANO: A Philemon Adventure by Fred

THE WILD PIANO: A Philemon Adventure by Fred (Graphic Novel)

Look closely at the map in your library, classroom or home to discover eight fantastic letters: A-T-L-A-N-T-I-C! You'll be shocked at all the magic that one little word can hold. The farm boy Philemon knows better than anyone what the Atlantic promises; he tumbled down a well last year and fell out the other side onto the island of "A"! That time, Philemon barely escaped with his life. Now he must return to the Atlantic and search for the friend he left behind. His journey will take him deep into those little letters on your map --- so deep, in fact, that he fears he might never see his farm again. What surprises await him on the mysterious island of "N"?

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


New Reviews!

New! GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA by Rita Williams-Garcia (Fiction, Family Life )

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles's half-sister, Miss Trotter, and the two haven't spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that's been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! DEAR HANK WILLIAMS by Kimberly Willis Holt (Fiction, Family Relationships)

It's 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee's new teacher has just given her class an assignment --- learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her Great Aunt and Uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

New! THE WATER AND THE WILD by Katie Elise Ormsbee and illustrated by Elsa Mora (Fantasy)

A green apple tree grows in the heart of Thirsby Square, and tangled up in its magical roots is the story of Lottie Fiske. For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her are her best friend, Eliot and the mysterious letter writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things are happening on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot's getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless --- until a door opens in the apple tree. Follow Lottie down through the roots to another world in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless and protection against the pain of loss. ---Reviewed by Emma Kantor.

New! THE CARTOON GUIDE TO ALGEBRA by Larry Gonick (Education, Graphic Novel)

Using engaging graphics and lively humor, Gonick covers all of the algebra essentials, including linear equations, polynomials, quadratic equations and graphing techniques. He also offers a concise overview of algebra’s history and its many practical applications in modern life. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! CATCH YOU LATER, TRAITOR by Avi (Adventure, Mystery)

Brooklyn, New York, 1951. Twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. At the same time, Pete’s class turns against him, thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood --- and even their freedom --- at risk. --- Reviewed by Anita Lock.

New! OMEGA CITY by Diana Peterfreund (Adventure, Science Fiction)

Gillian Seagret discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg's diary in her father's mess of an office --- a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg's greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her younger brother, her best friend and their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City. But while Gillian wants to save her dad's reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg's secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried...forever. --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

New! THE GIFT OF CHARMS (The Land of Dragor) by Julia Suzuki (Fantasy)

In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world's last remaining dragons. In their mystical valley, they live their daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading. Things change, however, when Yoshiko --- a dragon with a unique destiny --- is born: he must go on a dangerous mission to the human world to help the clans regain their missing magic! --- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

NEW! JOEY AND JOHNNY, THE NINJAS: Get Mooned by Chris Pallace and Kevin Serwacki (Fiction)

Joey and Johnny are best friends --- and ninjas and students at Kick Foot Academy, the premier ninja school in Lemming Falls. But Kick Foot Academy's reputation is about to be put to the test. Their rivals at Red Moon Clan have mysteriously come into possession of state-of-the-art weapons --- something that is totally not ninja. And now they have challenged Kick Foot Academy to a Test of Three, culminating in an epic Battle Royal. The outcome will determine which ninja school reigns supreme...and which shuts down forever. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

NEW! THE WORST CLASS TRIP EVER by Dave Barry (Fiction)

On a class trip to Washington, D.C., Wyatt, his best friend, Matt and a few kids from Culver Middle School find themselves in a heap of trouble --- not just with their teachers, who have long lost patience with them --- but from several mysterious men they first meet on their flight to the nation's capital. In a fast-paced adventure with the monuments as a backdrop, the kids try to stay out of danger and out of the doghouse while trying to save the president from attack --- or maybe not. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE by Lane Smith (Fiction)

Augie Hobble lives in a fairy tale --- or at least Fairy Tale Place, the down-on-its-luck amusement park managed by his father. Yet his life is turning into a nightmare: he's failed creative arts and has to take summer school, the girl he has a crush on won't acknowledge him and Hogg Wills and the school bullies won't leave him alone. Worse, a succession of mysterious, possibly paranormal, events have him convinced that he's turning into a werewolf. Reviewed by Charles Payseur.

NEW! MOONE BOY: The Blunder Years by Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy (Fiction)

Martin Moone is 11 and completely fed up with being the only boy in a family of girls. He's desperate for a decent wingman to help him navigate his idiotic life. So when best mate Padraic suggests Martin get an imaginary friend --- or "IF" for short --- he decides to give it a go. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

NEW! UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath (Fiction)

Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse... Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts.

NEW! THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY H. by Barrie Summy (Fiction)

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily. Reviewed by Hasnah Farraj.

NEW! SIX by M. M. Vaughan (Science Fiction)

Parker and his family share a secret: they can, with the help of advanced technology, communicate between themselves through their thoughts. And then Parker’s dad, on the cusp of a technological breakthrough, is kidnapped. Thanks to a message his dad sent via thoughts before the signal cut off, Parker is suddenly on a rescue mission. But all the signs point to one thing: the company his dad works for is up to something big. Huge. A perfectly sinister project that threatens far more than Parker’s family. A project called SIX. --- Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.


Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is a completely average 12-year-old. Then one completely average day, everything goes wrong...until a limo containing Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia pulls up to invite her to New York to finally meet her father. Maybe Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison isn't so average after all! --- Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts.

New! YOUNG-HEE AND THE PULLOCHO by Mark James Russell (Youth Fiction, Fantasy)

In Young-hee's life, everything feels wrong --- her dad is gone, her mom is overextended and Young-hee is forced to move back to Seoul --- and not a nice part of Seoul, either. Then Young-hee stumbles into a magical world, where the fairy stories of her childhood are real and all the frustrations of her everyday life fade away --- until her brother Bum is kidnapped, and the only way Young-hee can save him is by finding the magical pullocho plant. --- Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

New! THE SECRET COOKIE CLUB by Martha Freeman (Youth Fiction, Cooking)

When her four campers don’t get along, counselor Hannah has an idea. They gather in the kitchen at the Moonlight Ranch Summer Camp. There, they measure, mix, stir and bake. As they bite into their warm sugar cookies, they finally seem to be friends. But summer doesn’t last forever. And if the bond is going to survive the long school year, these kids will need a plan, a plan that just might require cookies. --- Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell.

New! THE FRIENDSHIP RIDDLE by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Youth Fiction)

Ruth Mudd-O'Flaherty has been a lone wolf at her new middle school ever since her best friend, Charlotte, ditched her for "cooler" friends. Who needs friends when you have fantasy novels? One day she finds a note in an old book...and in that note is a riddle, one that Ruth can't solve alone. With a tantalizing set of clues before her, Ruth must admit she needs help, the kind that usually comes from friends. Ruth must decide: Is embarking on this quest worth opening herself up again? --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.


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!

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