A Celebration of friendship: Harper Lee and Truman Capote

If you have affection for Harper Lee's Scout Finch and her endearing, if imperfect, small town in the South, you will be delighted by G. Neri’s brand new book Tru and Nelle. Inspired by the real-life friendship of Harper Nelle Lee and Truman Capote, this precious chapter-book recounts the fictionalized adventures of this imaginative pair who forge their friendship from mutual quirkiness and love for books. Tru, a seven-year-old gentleman who wears pristine suits with pride, feels abandoned when he is sent by his parents to stay the summer in Monroeville, Alabama. Yet it is here that he finds a place to belong alongside little sized but big-hearted Nelle, who is more comfortable in overalls than a dress. With Sherlock Holmes as their hero, the two step out to unravel the mystery of a theft, and end up revealing both prejudice and courageous kindness in the hearts around them. A tale for those who have ever felt like the odd-one-out, this celebration of the healing joys of sincere friendship will bring smiles to anyone young or old who can’t get enough of To Kill A Mockingbird, enjoys historical tidbits, or even just craves a good mystery!

PreK Bits - "E" is for EXCELLENT snow day!

Snow is Exciting !! When it snows, there are Excellent new things to do !!!
TEN ON THE SLED … slid, swerved, sped, squirted out, popped up, flipped over ... down the hill.
Ms. Rachel and Banjo Betsy led the action song “This Is The Way We Play In The Snow”. We made snow angels, snow people, footprints and skated.
PERFECT DAY showed an entire day of snow play … until the lamps went on at dusk.

If you want to get more ideas from EXCELLENT snow stories ... try the following favorites:
RED SLED … an almost wordless book with a clear story to tell in pictures.
The SNOWY DAY … the day Peter goes for a walk in the snow.
INTO The SNOW … sensory joys of winter
BEAR & HARE: SNOW …friends Bear and Hare go out and play in the snow.
KATY And The BIG SNOW SNOW …a classic story of a big snow day.
SUPER SNOW DAY SEEK AND FIND … find the clues in the pictures.
KUMAK’S HOUSE … an Inuit story of too much noise in the house.
OVER And UNDER The SNOW … beautiful illustrations show where wildlife lives in winter.
The HAT … Jan Brett’s marvelous illustrated version of a classic tale.
UNDER MY HOOD I HAVE A HAT … a sequential winter story.
Be sure to honor winter with a family watch together of … The SNOWMAN on DVD.
This short animation film is appropriate for all audiences including very young children; it has beautiful music; and the best non-Disney animation ever.

Meet “It’s All Write!” 2016 Judge #2: Cammie McGovern!

Cammie McGovern, our second Judge for the 2016 “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest is the author of the much-acclaimed YA novels Say What You Will and A Step Toward Falling . Cammie is one of the proud founders of Whole Children, a resource center for children and young adults with disabilities and their families. She lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband and three sons, the oldest of whom is autistic. To learn more about Cammie McGovern and her books, check out her website.

Stay tuned for more information about the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest of 2016 Judges, and don't forget, you have until Midnight on March 4th to submit stories for this year's contest!

The Wonder Garden

Icelandic illustrator Kristjana Williams collaborated with author Jenny Bloom on the new children’s book The Wonder Garden, a gorgeous look into five drastically different habitats. Williams and Bloom use unique locations around the world to introduce young readers to 80 amazing animals that we likely wouldn’t encounter here in the United States. From the Amazon Rainforest, they take us to the Great Barrier Reef, to the Chihuahuan Desert, to the Black Forest, and finally drop readers off in the Himalayan Mountains, where we get to learn about animals like the Asiatic Black Bear and the Bengal Tiger. The diversity in these habitats really allows Williams and Bloom to emphasize the beauty and uniqueness of our planet and showcase some of the world’s more unusual flora and fauna. Kids and adults alike will be drawn to the big, bright illustrations in this book, and will be eager to turn the pages to see what world awaits them next. The cover perhaps says it best: “Fold back the covers of this book and let the gates to Earth’s wonder garden swing wide open.”

Meet “It’s All Write!” 2016 Judge #1: Amy Ewing!

The “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest of 2016 is wrapping up, and it’s time to introduce the judges! If you're still working on your story, don't worry. Submissions will be accepted until midnight on March 4th! Check out the contest guidelines for more information.

Amy Ewing, author of the young adult novels The Jewel and The White Rose, grew up in a small town outside Boston, where her librarian mother instilled a deep love of reading at a young age.

Amy attended New York University to study theater, but when her acting career didn’t take off, the lack of creativity in her life drove her to begin writing. Amy received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School, where she was lucky enough to meet a fabulous community of YA writers who keep her sane on a daily basis.

Stay tuned for more information about the “It’s All Write!” Teen Short Story Contest of 2016 Judges!

Samira and the Skeletons

Samira and the Skeletons, is a lovely and strange picture book written and illustrated by Camilla Kuhn. This Norwegian import was my first introduction to Kuhn, and I only hope that we will see more of her work published in the United States. Kuhn's artwork is perfectly matched to the text in this curious story of a girl who learns about the skeletal system with disastrous results.

Everything in Samira’s life seems to be going well until one fateful day in science class when her teacher explains that everyone has a skeleton inside them. Samira is horrified, particularly when her teacher points out that her teeth are a visible part of her skeleton. She no longer wants to be around her friends, because all she can see are their animated skeletons. Samira’s mother comes up with a clever solution to Samira’s declaration that she no longer wants a skeleton, and until the end of the book (which I won’t spoil) it looks as though everyone around Samira has gone back to normal.

The illustrations in Samira and the Skeletons are amazing. They are not quite like anything I’ve seen before, and lend a spooky quality to the book without being scary or gruesome. This book is a winner for both adults and children.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #584

A much anticipated debut - The Girl in the Red Coat * * * by Kate Hamer was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and was a Dagger Award finalist. (Watch Kate speak on YouTube about the nomination with other finalists such as Kate Atkinson; Michael Robotham; and Robert Galbraith).

On a fog-shrouded day in Norfolk, 8 year-old Carmel Wakeford, who has a tendency to wander, is separated from her mother Beth at a storytelling festival. When a man tells her that he is her estranged grandfather, and her mother has been taken to a near-by hospital, she takes his hand in relief.

Through the years, in alternating chapters, the story unfolds as Beth struggles to hold on to hope and Carmel fights to remember her true identity while being held captive by a ragtag bunch of self-described miracle workers.

"Hamer's spectacular debut skillfully chronicles the nightmare of child abduction. Telling the story in two remarkable voices, with Beth's chapters unfurling in past tense and Carmel's in present tense, the author weaves a page-turning narrative. The trajectories of the novel's two leads—through despair, hope, and redemption—are believable and nuanced, resulting in a morally complex, haunting read."

Read-alikes: The 2007 Costa First Novel Award-winner What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn; The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; and The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Just ONE WEEK Left to Enter the "It's All Write!" Teen Short Story Contest!

Are you a writer in 6-12th grade? You still have time to send a short story to the "It's All Write!" Teen Short Story Contest! If the idea of 1 week seems too soon, you can think of it as 7 days, or maybe 168 hours, or even 10,080 minutes. See? That's plenty of time to jazz up a story you wrote for class or even write something entirely new!

Plus, in addition to writing because it's FUN, the top three writers in each category win cash prizes!

For more information, check out the contest page, where you'll find the guidelines, writing resources, previous story entries, and -most importantly - the online submission form.

So what are you waiting for? Get started on your story- you have a whopping 604,800 seconds.

Take a Walk with "The Walking Man"

Every so often a book comes along that defies labeling. A book so different from others that are being published that it's hard to exactly put your finger on what it is. The Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi is one of those books.

At first glance, this manga graphic novel appears to be your standard fare for Japanese slice of life manga, but to list it merely as slice of life would be doing it a great disservice. The book is a series of short stories about a man who walks, but again, to say it's just a book about walking is to belittle the masterful art that has gone into its creation. So it's a slice of life manga about a man who takes walks, and on those walks, it could be argued that he explores the Japanese concept of "ikigai" or the reason for being.

The stories are almost meditative in their simple complexity (I know this is an oxymoron but somehow it works) and after reading them, it is entirely possible for you to walk away with a little more understanding of life and humanity, as the stories will resonate with different people in different ways.

So if you are looking for something different, something new and unusual check out The Walking Man.

John Grisham's Latest Book is Available for FREE Download

John Grisham, bestselling author of legal thrillers, has a new book out, and it's different than anything else he has written before. Called The Tumor, Grisham even subtitled this work "A Non-Legal Thriller."

The Tumor, which is a quick read at under 70 pages, was inspired by medical technology called focused ultrasound. Focused ultrasound treatments may have the potential to extend life expectancies in patients with brain tumors, and may have benefits for patients suffering from diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, as well as certain types of cancer.

This potential inspired Grisham to imagine a story of a 35-year-old family man suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the ultimate outcome facing him and his family. Then, Grisham re-imagines the same situation one decade later, when focused ultrasound treatments have advanced and there is no longer one single foregone outcome to such a diagnosis.

According to Grisham, "This is the most important book I have ever written. I have found no other cause that can potentially save so many lives." The Tumor is such a passion project for Grisham, that he has released the book for free. Whether you're a Kindle user, a PDF, or an epub reader, there's a version available for you to download. Print devotees can even order free hardcovers of the title.

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