Friday, September 30, 2016

September 2016 in Review

The last day of September is here! We celebrated Roald Dahl’s 100th Birthday and as is always the case with September, became excited with the release of an avalanche of AMAZING titles! 

I picked three books for each age group that are available now that you might have missed in September. 

AGES 0 TO 3 

Animals: A Stylish Big Picture Book for All Ages
by Ingela P. Arrhenius
Candlewick Studio
ISBN: 9780763692681
On Sale: 09/27/16

This over-sized book of animals is perfect for an inquisitive three-year-old. Bright illustrations, incredible design work, and cheerful animals make the best animal book I’ve seen in ages. Will your child love looking at the TOUCAN or the MEERKAT? Crafty parents might be tempted to tear out the pages and frame them on the walls of their children’s room.

Everywhere Babies
by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Harcourt Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780544791206 
On Sale: 10/04/16

This book is not new, but this padded-board book format is new. And it is delightful! Perfect to give as a gift or to have your own baby chew on, rediscover this classic and enjoy Marla Frazee’s beautiful illustrations of babies, babies, and, of course, everywhere babies. 

Little Elliot Big Fun 
by Mike Curato
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780805098273
On Sale: 08/30/16

Little Elliot is back and even cuter than ever in a third picture-book adventure! Little Elliot and his best friend, Mouse, take a spin around Coney Island. However, Little Elliot soon realizes that he the rides are too fast, too scary, too dizzy. Together with Mouse, he learns how to be brave, and that the best part of any adventure is getting to share it with your best friend.


Samson in the Snow
by Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 9781626721821 
On Sale: 09/27/16

How many books about wooly mammoths are going to pull at your heartstrings? Probably not a lot, but Philip Stead’s newest picture book is gorgeous, and a new character, Samson the wooly mammoth, is someone that kids will remember for a long time. Most of all, Samson in the Snow is about making friends and being kind. 
Samson also gives the reader some words of wisdom: 
“Samson stared hard into the blinding snow. ‘It is better to walk than to worry,’ he decided. And so he did.” 

Henry and Leo 
by Pamela Zagarenski 
Harcourt Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780544648111
On Sale: 10/04/16

Pamela has been awarded two Caldecott Honors for her picture books Red Sings from Treetops and Sleep Like a Tiger. Her newest picture book is a dream-like adventure of a boy and his stuffed lion. With her trademark distinctive, jewel tone illustrations, this is the perfect book before bedtime. 

by Deborah Freedman
Viking Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780451474964
On Sale: 09/27/16

I love this picture book because it is a mystery! The narrator is named Shy…but who is he? The reader knows that “Shy’s favorite books were about birds. Birds the color of jewels…Birds who flew faster than the wind…Birds who could chirp a thousand melodies…But Shy had never actually heard a bird. None of his books could sing.” 
And so begins the problem—and the journey to find a bird! Want to know who Shy is? You have to read to the end to find out! 

AGES 8 TO 12

The Poet’s Dog
by Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062292629 
On Sale: 09/13/16

A short little book for anyone who likes poetry and/or dogs, the dog, Teddy, is the one who tells the story.

“I understand words, but there are only two who understand me when I speak. Sylvan [the poet] once told me this. 
“Poets and children,” said Sylvan. “We are the same really. When you can’t find a poet, find a child. Remember that.” 

Remember that.” 

Gorgeous, elegant, and heartwarming. This book is perfect to curl up with on a chilly night.

The Secret Keepers
by Trenton Lee Stewart 
Little Brown & Co.
ISBN: 9780062292629 
On Sale: 09/27/16

You might recognize this name as the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society. Stewart’s first book since that series, this is a stand-alone that follows the adventures of a boy named Reuben. With references to The Lord of the Rings, there is treasure, there are secrets, and of course, a curious cast of characters. 

The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart 
by Lauren DeStefano
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 9781619636439 
On Sale: 09/13/16

Two orphans, two unlikely friends, and a blue fox. Lionel and Marybeth are opposites, but join forces when a mysterious spirit (or is it a blue fox) starts to control Marybeth. Haunting and mysterious, this story to read before Halloween. 


A Shadow Bright and Burning
by Jessica Cluess
Random House Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780553535907 
On Sale: 09/20/16

For fans of YA fantasy, this is an excellent choice. Henrietta has a power that must be kept a secret, or she might find herself executed. But when she uses her magic to save a friend, she is invited to train as Her Majesty’s royal sorceress. Sorcerers in Victorian England…what’s not to love? Fast-paced with great characters, I can’t wait for the next one! 

The Female of the Species
by Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062320896
On Sale: 09/20/16

“This is how I kill someone.” Forget about the goody-two-shoes protagonist. Alex Craft is deadly, and knows how to get away with murder. In nature, the female of the species is the most deadly. Quirky and fresh, I could not put this book down. 

Tales of the Peculiar
by Ransom Riggs
Dutton Children’s books
ISBN: 9780399538537 
On Sale: 09/03/16

I’m including this collection of short tales by Ransom Riggs as the movie releases today, September 30! If you have (or have not) read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, this is a great companion book. Beautifully written, the gorgeous packaging makes giving this book as a gift a great option.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Meet the Kids of Appetite. They live in Greenhouse Number Eleven, each for very different reasons. 

Vic. Carrying around an urn with his dead dad’s ashes. Has Moebius Syndrome. Has an obsession with Matisse and “The Flower Duet.” In love with Mad.

Madeline Falco (aka Mad): Unstable home life. Marches to her own Madifesto. Punk haircut with a smoking habit. Loyal to a fault. She shouldn’t have survived the car crash.

Baz: Congolese. Makes an honest living. Collects the stories of the Kids of Appetite. Wants to make a book of these stories.

Zuz: Baz’s brother. Speaks by snapping his fingers.

Coco: Red-head kid with a colorful vocabulary.

The Kids of Appetite “lived and they laughed and they saw that it was good.” The story begins with Vic running away from home with his father’s ashes, following very cryptic instructions of where to scatter them. He is taken in by the Kids of Appetite (Mad, Baz, Zuz, and Coco). The book alternates between past tense and present tense: a police station in Hackensack. A murder investigation. The Kabongo brothers are suspect. Vic and Mad are in separate interrogation rooms recounting the story from the very beginning. Which is eight days ago, but in reality, the truth is hidden inside each character. David Arnold outdoes himself. Which is to say that where Mosquitoland was a breath of fresh-air, The Kids of Appetite is breathtaking. Every line is purposeful and Arnold’s sentence craftsmanship is perfection. This is one super racehorse of a book. I may have finished reading, but I didn’t want to leave the Kids of Appetite behind.

For fans of murder mysteries, love stories, and excellent storytelling, pick up this book. You will not be disappointed.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Interview Session: Kate Beasley, author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness

Many months ago, I was sent a manuscript with a request to blurb the book. The title was Gertie's Leap to Greatness, and it had to do with a little girl named Gertie who was on a quest to become to the greatest fifth grader around. Did I laugh? Did I cry? Did I keep turning pages until very late in the night? Yes. Yes, I did. This is what I had to say about it:

See other reviews at

It has been a long time coming, but I am so excited to share this interview with Kate Beasley, the author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness. Look for the book on October 4th! 

Author Kate Beasley
Where are you from? Where do you live now? Do you do anything else in addition to writing great books?

I’ve lived in Claxton, Georgia, all my life. It’s a small town about an hour west of Savannah. A lot of people want to escape from small towns, but I like living here! I’m a country mouse for sure. My parents farm in Claxton—cows, cotton, pecans, peanuts. I help out on the farm a little bit, but mostly, I write full-time right now, which is a dream come true!

When did you get your start as a writer? How long have you been writing?

I always liked writing in school…mostly essay writing. I started studying and writing fiction when I started college. That was in 2007, so I would say that I’ve been writing seriously for nine years. Gosh, it doesn't feel like it’s been that long. Time flies!

What were some of your favorite books as a child? Authors, illustrators, you name them. (And any current authors who inspire you as well!)

Oh my goodness. How many do I get to name?

Longtime Favorites:
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Holes by Louis Sachar
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Matilda by Roald Dahl.
And of course, Harry Potter!

More recent books that I’ve admired are
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan (coming out in 2017)

Right now I’m in the middle of reading Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls Series, and I’m hooked!

In your own words, describe what “Gertie’s Leap to Greatness” is about.

Gertie Reece Foy is on a mission to be the best fifth grader in the universe. Her mother, who abandoned Gertie when she was a baby, is now leaving town for good, and Gertie will use this opportunity to prove that she doesn’t need a mother anyway. Gertie’s plan to be the best goes awry when the daughter of a famous Hollywood director moves to town. Both girls can’t be the best.

Please describe your creative writing process.

Hmmm. It involves a lot of pacing. And snacking. And rewriting. And green tea.

I rent a house from my parents, and I go there to write. So, I have a dedicated writing space. It’s in a pecan orchard, which is very nice when I’m staring out the window.

I go there every day, and I try to get it right. That’s the best way I can think to put it. It’s like I know there’s a story in my head, and I’ve got to get it exactly right. “It” being everything—the characters, the setting, the rhythm of the words. I throw away a whole lot. And I’m very slow. But I keep going.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What was your favorite scene to write in GERTIE?

Gertie and her great-aunt Rae babysit a younger girl named Audrey. At one point in the story, Gertie says something to Audrey without really thinking. She says something quite cruel and hurtful actually. She regrets it, of course. Gertie’s not a mean girl! But I think sometimes good people mess up, and that’s really hard. It was my favorite scene to write because I mess up, too, and I think readers mess up, and I want them to see that it’s something that we have to accept and move past.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Who was the inspiration for Gertie Reece Foy? / Do you hope children identify with her?

I didn’t have a specific person in mind when I was writing Gertie, but I definitely hope children will identify with her! The problems Gertie has are both big (her mother abandoning her) and small (struggling with jealousy and losing friends), but she feels all of her problems keenly. Every difficulty she encounters is large and personal to her. I think—I hope—that children will relate to Gertie’s struggles, because I know that all children have problems of their own, no matter how easy their lives may seem or how much adults might wish it were otherwise.

What was the inspiration for the opening line of the book: “The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect.”

The first sentence of the book was the very first line I wrote, and it hasn’t changed from the beginning! I was writing beside a pond, and a bullfrog jumped into the water. I wanted to write a sentence with a frog.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What do you love about writing books for children?

Writing for children is a tremendous privilege. My readers are smart and sensitive and have a well-developed appreciation of humor. Child readers are the best and most important, and I have to work so hard to produce work that’s worthy of them!

What is next? Any future projects for us to look forward to?

I’m working on another standalone MG novel! Stay tuned!

Thank you for stopping by Twenty by Jenny, Kate!