Thursday, April 17, 2014

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Wrap-Up

This past weekend, Los Angeles Times held it's annual Festival of Books. For the past few years, it has been held at the University of Southern California Campus.  In the past, I attended as a regular participant.  I would attend panels or stop by the Children's Stage or the YA Stage and listen to various authors. However, this year, I had a chance to see the Festival from a different perspective.

I became an honorary bookseller and volunteered my time with Once Upon a Bookstore in Montrose. Owner, Maureen Palacios, and bookseller, Kris Vreeland have been fantastic in supporting literacy efforts in the schools that I work with. The least I could do was give some of my time to helping them out. The picture above was taken really early on Saturday morning.  We still had lots of energy at that time. 

When bookstores participate in the Festival, they basically have to set-up a store away from their brick and mortar location.  This meant a full-day of preparation the day before the event so that we could be ready bright and early on Saturday.

In addition to Once Upon a Time, the booth was sponsored by the following publishers - Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic.  With their great support, we had a full line-up of authors scheduled to sign books.

Even Clifford came to visit us and greet young fans.

My job for the weekend was to help with the author signings.  The awesome James Howe (Bunnicula, The Misfits) kicked-off the author signings for us.

One of my favorite authors, Doreen Cronin (above with bookseller Kris Vreeland) signed her new book Chicken Squad.

James Swanson (Chasing Lincoln's Killer) and David Shannon (No David) came in to sign books.

And yes, that is the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory) of chatting with the vibrant, Angela DiTerlizzi (Some Bugs).

On Sunday morning, I stopped by the Penguin Truck and had a chance to get behind the wheel. Thanks Amy Comito (Penguin Rep) for inviting me over.

While I was there, I ran into one of my favorite Penguin Children's reps - Nicole White and her daughter.

Before things became too crazy, I also had a chance to chat with Ronna Mandel (Good Reads with Ronna), who was sporting A Girl Called Fearless T-shirt in honor of debut author, Catherine Linka.

Laurie Halse Anderson came back on Sunday to kick-off the morning signing and yes, that is teacher and Nerdy Book Club buddy, Cathy Blacker sharing a photo-op.

I actually got a copy of Doll Bones signed by the adorable, Eliza Wheeler.  Eliza did the illustrations for the book. Now I just need Holly Black's signature and I will be all set.

We had a great trio of authors signing mid-morning with (left to right) Anna Shinoda, Carrie Arcos, and Shannon Messenger.

Sadly, there were some times when I was so busy that I did not have a chance to take a picture of the talented and friendly authors that came by to sign.  I also heard that author, John Green signed for four hours somewhere at the Festival.

Though the Festival ended on Sunday evening, I had an opportunity to continue it into Monday evening by helping out at Once Upon a Time while they hosted Lin Oliver and Tomie de Paola.  I have used so many of Tomie's books in lessons so this was a special treat.  And what a super fantastic experience it was to hear Tomie speak.

Lin and Tomie signed their new book, Little Poems for Tiny Ears (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 2014).

And my highlight - getting my picture taken with Tomie.

Though my experience this year was so different than previous years, I still had a blast.  The staff of Once Upon a Time are super friendly and passionate about what they do and I was honored to spend so much time with them. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - What are you reading? - 4/16/14

Thank you everyone for all of the great posts each week for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014.  Last week, I posted some new releases that are coming out this month.  Today, I am going to update with some books I recently read.

Here is what jumped out of the pile this week....

Stone Giant: Michelangelo's David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe; Illustrated by John Shelley (Charlesbridge, April 8, 2014) -An enjoyable look at how the statute of David came to be.  Since I did not know much back history on this one, I really liked it.  The author's note at the end provides readers with additional information about how the statute needed to eventually be cared for and some more facts. 

Jubilee! One Man's Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace by Alicia Potter; Illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, Apri 8, 2014) - Imagine having such a passion for music and wanting to see a huge celebration for this special music.  Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore did want to conduct the largest band and he wanted to celebrate the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.  In 1869 in Boston, Gilmore gets to see his dream become reality.  The end notes provide readers with additional information on Gilmore that I found helpful.

A Mom for Umande by Maria Fasal Faulconer, Illustrated by  (Dial, April 3, 2014) - A very sweet story about a baby gorilla who is eventually adopted by another female gorilla when his mother is unable to care for him.  The notes at the end provide further information about Umande.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews here...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Always Emily Blog Tour, Guest Post & Giveaway

Today, I welcome Michaela MacColl to Kid Lit Frenzy. She shares with readers about The Forgotten Bronte.

Michaela MacColl
Thanks for hosting a stop on the Always Emily blog tour. I’m having a blast writing about the Bronte family and how I placed Charlotte and Emily Bronte in the middle of a mystery on the moors. I have found that so many people are fascinated by the Bronte sisters – and rightly so.

The Brontes were a close-knit family who lived in a parsonage at the edge of the moors in Haworth. Their father was a reverend and they had very little money. The four children (there were originally six, but two daughters died of tuberculosis at an early age) couldn’t afford to go to school so they were educated at home. Charlotte was the eldest, followed by the only boy, Branwell, then Emily and Anne. The children began writing from an early age, devising complex poems, novels and plays about imaginary worlds. They bound their stories in tiny books that require a magnifying glass to read.

As the world knows, Charlotte went on to write Jane Eyre and Emily wrote Wuthering Heights. Anne wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. These novels were acclaimed and talked about during the girls’ lifetime. But what about Branwell? What about the only boy of the family? What did he accomplish.

Not much. Although considered bright and a fine conversationalist, he struggled to find his way. He wanted to write but couldn’t get his stories accepted to his favorite Blackwood Magazine. He eventually had some poems published in a local newspaper under another name. He had some drawing skill (see the self-portrait he drew).

But he wasn’t able to make it as an artist. He went to London to go to the Royal Academy as a painting student, but he lost his nerve and drank away his tuition and returned home with his tail between his legs. He tried working as a railway clerk (but was fired for incompetence ) and as a tutor (but was fired for having an affair with his employer’s wife). He ended up becoming addicted to opiates and drinking too much before he died of tuberculosis at the early age of 31.

To many biographers Branwell represented the perfect Romantic hero. His early promise seems so wasted. Some clever researchers decided that Branwell must have helped his sisters with their famous novels. This claim has been thoroughly debunked – there’s no evidence that he even knew that the novels had been published before his death. Daphne DuMaurier, the author of Rebecca, tried to rehabilitate Branwell in her The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte. But even du Maurier who was a brilliant storyteller couldn’t make Branwell’s story compelling. She loses patience with him by the end of her biography – no doubt just as his sisters did.

Charlotte and Emily have become renowned authors, whose work is still relevant and beloved today. Branwell has been more or less forgotten. I had fun using him in Always Emily as a rather pathetic figure who needs to be protected by his big sister. But perhaps Branwell had the final word: he painted the most famous portrait of the Bronte sisters. Originally he had painted himself in the picture, but then (in a fit of 19th c. style photoshopping) he edited himself out of the picture, leaving a conspicuious void. Poor Branwell!

It’s been a pleasure. Please visit me at or follow me on Twitter at @MichaelaMacColl or check out Author Michaela MacColl on Facebook.

Check out the Official Book Trailer for Always Emily:

About Always Emily:

Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle— before someone else gets killed.

To purchase a copy: Chronicle | IndieBound | KoboApple iTunes

To read an excerpt of the book on Scribd.

To download a CCSS aligned teacher's discussion guide, click here.

Follow the Tour:

Tuesday, April 8: Actin’ Up With Books
Wednesday, April 9: vvb32 reads
Thursday, April 10: The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection
Friday, April 11: Teenreads Blog
Saturday, April 12: Caught Between the Pages
Sunday, April 13: The Bookish Daydreamer
Monday, April 14: Forever Young Adult
Tuesday, April 15: Kid Lit Frenzy - You are here!
Wednesday, April 16: Tales of a Ravenous Reader
Thursday, April 17: YA Book Shelf
Friday, April 18: The Book Cellar
Saturday, April 19: Mother Daughter Book Club

To enter to win a signed copy of Always Emily, please fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Open to those with US or Canadian mailing addresses.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

THRIVE Blog Tour!!

by Meenoo Rami
Heinemann Publishers, March 4, 2014

Description from Publisher's Page:
As a novice teacher, Meenoo Rami experienced the same anxieties shared by many: the sense of isolation, lack of self-confidence, and fear that her work was having no positive impact on her students. In "Thrive, " Meenoo shares the five strategies that helped her become a confident, connected teacher. From how to find mentors and build networks, both online and off, to advocating for yourself and empowering your students, "Thrive" shows new and veteran teachers alike how to overcome the challenges and meet the demands of our profession.

Join the conversation on Twitter at #edthrive.

My thoughts:
Teachers writing books for teachers is a good thing.  Just like teachers presenting to other teachers is a good thing.  Teachers are real. Teachers are in the day to day trenches. Teachers tell it like it is.  Meenoo Rami is a teacher.  In her book, Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching, Rami gets real and shares the steps that she took to develop into the best teacher she could be.

Rami provides readers with a book that not only inspires but also shares the how-to's of finding and working with a mentor, of joining and building networks, of keeping yourself challenged, of listening to yourself, and of empowering your students.   As she shares her story, she also shares the stories of other educators.  It is this collective voice that brings strength to what she has to say and dispels any myths that she is the only one doing these things.  

In 2010, I ventured onto Twitter. Initially, I was thinking I would follow some authors and publishers and keep up with what was happening in Children's Literature. After several months, I began to find my tribe.  Other teachers and librarians and book people who also had a passion for reading and teaching and learning.  Through 140 characters and #chats, I began to learn about ideas and techniques and strategies for motivating young readers in ways that I had never been exposed to before. There was always someone that I could reach out to who had an expertise in an area that I wanted to learn more, even when I could not find that person in my local community. 

From there, I learned that NCTE was not just for High School English Teachers. I made it a point to join and to also attend the annual conference.  At my first NCTE Annual Convention, I wanted to know why we (my district) were not doing some of the incredible things that I was learning about in the different sessions. I realized that I had allowed myself to become too isolated in my own district and community that I had lost the big picture perspective.  

Despite my own epiphanies that seemed to be coming quickly, and almost daily as I became more involved in this unique online Professional Learning Community (PLC), I was having difficulty convincing others that this was worthwhile, especially worth the time it took to nurture the relationships with other educators.  As I read Meeno's story and how she connected with others through conferences and social media, I was renewed. I now have a book that I can share with other teachers and say "see, it is possible and other teachers are doing it too".

Within the pages of this thin volume, educators who come with an open heart and mind will find practical ways to expand their learning community and reconnect with their passion as teachers. Just as I met Meenoo at NCTE '12 and discovered a teacher who is passionate and caring and thoughtful,  readers of THRIVE will also experience that same teacher.  And in meeting her, they will be challenged to speak up or reach out or try something new. 

Thank you Meenoo for writing THRIVE and for sharing your story in such a real way.     

More About Meenoo Rami:
Meenoo Rami is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches her students English at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Mixing moments of joy, laughter, risk and encouragement, Meenoo pushes her students to think critically about their connection to the word and the world. Meenoo did her undergraduate work at Bradley University in Illinois in areas of Philosophy and English and completed her Master’s degree in Secondary Education at Temple University. Meenoo also contributes to the work of school-wide events and professional learning communities at SLA. Meenoo works as a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project. She has shared her classroom practice at various conferences such as: NCTE, ISTE, ASCD, EduCon, Urban Sites Conference for National Writing Project, and #140edu. Meenoo also runs a weekly twitter chat for English teachers called #engchat which brings together teachers from around the country to discuss ideas related to teaching of English. Her first book, THRIVE from Heinemann will be out in March 2014. In her free time, Meenoo can be found on her bike, on her yoga mat or in her kitchen tinkering with a vegetarian recipe.

Looking for Meenoo on-line:  Website | Facebook | TwitterGoogle+ 

THRIVE Blog Tour Stops
Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts
Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Kira Baker Doyle at Kira J Baker-Doyle, Ph.D.
Sarah Mulhern Gross at The Reading Zone
Christina Cantrill at Digital Is (National Writing Project)
Kate Roberts and Maggie B. Roberts at Indent
Beth Shaum Use Your Outside Voice
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Troy Hicks at Hickstro
Joy Kirr at Genius Hour
Tara Smith at The Teaching Life
Antero Garcia at The American Crawl
John Spencer at Education Rethink
Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg at Unleashing Readers

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Going Over Blog Tour - Interview with Author Beth Kephart & Giveaway

Beth Kephart stops by to talk about her new book, GOING OVER, and shares with us about her own writing journey, favorite Indie Bookstore, and more.

GOING OVER takes place in 1983. Do you see this as a story that is told in the recent past or historical fiction? Does the difference even matter? 

I love that you ask — does the difference matter. Because I am just the worst of the worsts when it comes to labeling things. I think of GOING OVER precisely as you describe it—a story that takes place in 1983. Because I live inside that space in my imagination, it feels like right this instant.

What drew you to the story of Ada and Stefan? 

I had a conversation with my editor, Tamra Tuller, about Berlin—a city to which we have both traveled and a city with which we both fell in love. We felt it was important to tell a very personal story about the impact of the Wall. The Wall came first, then. And then I began to study geography, character, the historical record. Ada and Stefan emerged from that.

Authors doing research for books have some great tips and ideas for gaining information. Do you have one or two techniques that English teachers could adapt to make writing projects/prompts more interesting for students? 

There’s little I love more than doing the research. My gosh, it breaks my world wide open with the new. I think the trick lies in making the whole thing relevant, making it feel urgent. So, for example, Ada has pink hair. I needed to be sure that she would have access, in 1983, to pink dye, I needed to know how the pink hair would grow out, all of that stuff. I hopped on down to my hairdresser. Sat in her chair. Had her talk to me about hair color and its history. And then she began to talk to me about graffiti, believe it or not. And she gave me the details with which I begin the book.

What is your book story? (What was the book that made you a reader/writer and who was the person who recommended it if there was someone?) 

The book that made me a reader/writer! What a great question. Well. Let’s see. I was a writer (or thought I was) before I was a real reader, I hate to admit (since everything is wrong about that). Then again, I was only nine years old. But I have to say that it was a research project I did when I was sixteen (the subject: F. Scott and Hemingway) that turned me into a reader. You couldn’t stop me after that. For many years, I read only nonfiction—biography and history. (I majored in the History and Sociology of Science at Penn.) When I was in my early thirties I turned to memoir. Then I became a book omnivore.

Is there an author or authors that influenced your writing journey? 

I wish you could come to my house and see the hundreds upon hundreds of triple stacked books on my many shelves. (My house isn’t big, but my shelves are wide and long.) Every single book here has influenced me in some way — either because I loved it or because I didn’t and because, no matter what, I study the pages to understand why. But I happen to love Michael Ondaatje, Alice McDermott, Colum McCann, Chloe Aridjis, and many, many others. Really, the emphasis is on many.

What is your favorite indie bookstore? Where is it located? Why do you like it? 

I have visited many a great independent bookstore in my day. Locally I love, for example, that Children’s Book World, the Spiral Bookcase, Main Point Books, Harleysville Books, and Chester County Book Company are still here and near and proud. In Florence, Italy, I love Paperback Exchange. In California, I love Book Passage, Copperfield, and Kepler’s. In Decatur, GA, it’s all about Little House of Stories. In Larchmont, NY, it’s all about The Voracious Reader. When I’m on the Penn campus I always visit the used bookstore, The Last Word, and always bring something home (most recently Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue). But I also have to mention the very first independent bookstore I ever frequented, as a young college girl. It’s called Joseph Fox Bookshop. Fabulously small and fabulously smart, in the city of Philadelphia. I bought every single architecture book they had, way back when. And today, at many Philadelphia events, you can count on Fox to be there.

Any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Gosh, yes. Many new projects. Next year, Chronicle will publish One Thing Stolen, a book that takes place in Florence, Italy, and West Philadelphia. In the fall, Temple University Press will re-release my river autobiography, Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, as a paperback—excited about that, because it’s such an odd, little book and because my river was just named PA River of the Year (woot) and because, after all these years, schools are beginning to assign the book in their science and literature classes. I’m also at work on an essay/photography collection about Philadelphia, based on my monthly columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer. And I have just started work on a new novel.

What is in your TBR (to-be-read) pile? Can you share a picture of it? 

Well, you just opened up a huge can of words, I mean worms. Because my TBR pile is the oddest one in the universe. I teach memoir at Penn, and so there are some old and new memoirs in there (not to mention my students’ work). I review adult novels for the Chicago Tribune, and so I’ve got some stuff I cannot show you. I’m still fascinated by Berlin and by walls in general, so I’m reading some new texts like Within Walls and Border Patrol Nation. I’m reading about linguistics and environmental science, I want to read several grand new novels like The Flamethrowers. I’m halfway through Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. And on my Kindle reader is Boy, Snow, Bird. Yep. I’m one confused, crazy person.

by Beth Kephart 
Chronicle Books (April 2014)

To read a excerpt:

What would Ada and Stefan have listened to on their Sony Walkmen?

Check out the blog tour schedule here

4/2/2014 My Friend Amy
4/3/2014 The Flyleaf Review
4/4/2014 The Book Swarm
4/5/2014 There’s A Book
4/6/2014 YA Romantics
4/7/2014 Teenreads Blog
4/8/2014 The 3 R’s Blog
4/9/2014 Forever Young Adult
4/10/2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
4/11/2014 Tales of the Ravenous Reader
4/12/2014 Addicted 2 Novels

Enter to win a copy of Going Over - the book and audiobook.  Please enter by completing the Rafflecopter below.  The winner must have a US mailing address and be over 13 years old. 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - New Releases for April

Thank you everyone for all of the great posts each week for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014.  At the beginning of each month, I like to try to do a post to spread the word about recent releases or upcoming nonfiction/informational titles.  It is not comprehensive, but I do try to include a variety of titles that might be of interest to readers.  Some of them I have read and some I have yet to read.  Often I include reviews in later posts. 

Here are some April titles that I missed posting last month.  April is a huge month for nonficiton.  I also found some additional titles that came out earlier in the year.  If you missed the posts from the past three months, I have included them below.

Link to January & February Releases Post
Link to February & March Releases Post
Link to March & April Releases Post

Releases this month...
April 1, 2014

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart; Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum (Peachtree Publishers)

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell; Photographed by Richard P Campbell (Boyds Mill Press)

Tooth & Claw by Jim Arnosky (Sterling Children's Books)

April 3, 2014

A Mom for Umande by Maria Fasal Faulconer (Dial)

April 8, 2014

Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George; Illustrated by Wendell Minor (HarperCollins)

New Releases for Older Students...
April 1, 2014

Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home by Michelle Mulder (Orca Books)

Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal's Mustang Cliffs by Sandra K. Athans (Millbrook Press)

Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education by Norman Finkelstein (Calkins Creek Books)

Underworld: Exploring the Secret World Beneath Your Feet by Jane Price; Illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock (Kids Can Press)

April 15, 2014

Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee; Illustrated by Robert Leighton (Walker Children's)

Past 2014 Releases...

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-And-White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome; Illustrated by James Ransome (Holiday House, January 2014)

It's Raining! by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, January 2014)

Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell (Holiday House, January 2014)

Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburn (HMH Books for Young Readers, January 2014)

Swamp Chomp by Lola Schaefer; Illustrated by Paul Meisel (Holiday House, January 2014)

Do You Know Leeches? by Alain M. Bergeron; Michel Quintin Sampar (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, March 2014)

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews....