A special book to share this Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 3.06.00 PMOne of our wonderful publishers has a holiday book we hope you’ll find time to share next weekend.  And to make that easier for you, Jessica has designed some activities to go along with reading and looking at the wonderful illustrations in Tom’s Christmas Fish, from Floris Books.

Set in Prague, this is a story combining both the sweetness of the season with the very real bittersweet need to recreate holiday rituals when we lose family members. This is a book to read again and again, and although it’s a Christmas story, neither the season nor the specific cultural system is necessary to appreciate how Tom and his grandfather celebrate together what they once they celebrated with others.

Catch up with Evie Brooks on her blog tour

MaroonedinManhattan_Softcover_Apr28.inddSheila Agnew’s delightful character, Evie Brooks, has been on a blog tour (with Sheila) this week. If you haven’t had a chance to meet Evie, you can catch up with her–and Sheila–at these three generous bloggers’ sites:

GeoLibrarian Heidi

Caught Read Handed’s Stefani interview

Roarbots hosting of Sheila Agnew on “Writing for Children”

Do you have a favorite author or illustrator you hope we can take on a blog tour of your favorite kids books blogs? Let us know!

Have you ever looked at our Book Activities?

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Here’s a sample….

What the book’s about

The legends relating  creation and prehistory that are passed between Inuit generations are collected into a picture book in both English and Inuktitut, displaying the images of a highly regarded First People’s illustrator.

Two Activities for ages 7 up, by Francisca Goldsmith

Activity 1: Origin Stories

Readers select one of the brief stories in the collection and retell it two ways.


Writing equipment with which readers are accustomed to working


After reading the collection and having the opportunity to revisit legends that struck particular chords with each reader, each youth composes two reflective narratives.

The first narrative is a an original retelling of a legend from the reader’s own culture that treats the same theme as the one selected from the book, such as the characters who might be creating the sounds of nature or giant animals that are mistaken for places.

After sharing these narratives, each reader returns to the original legend in the book and, using her own cultural narrative of the same theme, weaves an original story using details from both cultures into a longer short story.

Note: For groups in which speakers and readers of languages besides English are participating, encourage work in multiple languages.

Activity 2: Storyboarding the Tale

Readers select one of the legends and, using the illustration as a guide, create a multi-paneled interpretation.


  • Drawing paper or bristol board, depending on group’s expertise
  • Pencils and, where appropriate, inking pens


Each reader selects a legend to use as the foundation for his project.

Storyboard the sequence of events as they are told in the text, using the accompanying book illustration as a guide to attributes not described by the text, such as clothing and shapes of the landscape and the characters.

Stories, combining text and images that reveal more content about mood, activity, and consequences, can range from four to ten or more panels depending on the degree of experience and engagement with cartooning work of the group members.

Note: For storyboarding support templates, see Comics Pages from Printable Paper (printablepaper.net/category/comics).

A note about using picture books with older readers

This book is an excellent example of how rich the experience of encountering a picture book can be for older readers. This is an authoritative look into an indigenous culture, recounted and depicted by members of it rather than by outsiders. Because the content is fairly slim, we have the basic concepts and rhythms and the opportunity to expand and build out from these seeds.

To have the text presented in the language and the lettering of its origin is also important and invites discussion of how translation and interpretation can be highly complex. Consider using this book, and these exercises, in teacher training as well as with youth.

Hello, AASL!

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 6.00.17 AMEllen and Mary are in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend, at the annual conference of the American Association of School Librarians. The conference, as AASL ones are, is packed with rich options for continuing development and opportunities for that ever helpful networking need we have to inspire improvements we can make in school libraries, and kids’ lives, locally.

The Publisher Spotlight booth (which is number 441) in the exhibits hall has books from a variety of our publishers, including Gecko, Pajama Press, Karadi Tales, Diamond, No Starch, Udon, Enchanted Lion Books, and Travels with Gannon and Wyatt. We’re also showing more from Workman, Eerdmans, DK, Holiday House, TOON Books, Arte Publico,  and Norton. We’ve got a big prize basket for a raffle and a couple of author signings scheduled, too.

In addition to all these good things, we can talk with you about a couple new services and initiatives related to multi-modal literacy. Mary Burkey is on hand to discuss Sound Learning, the Audio Publishers Association’s literacy project. And we have EPIC! in the booth so we can show you how this new e-reouce for books and audiobooks for kids works.

Have a good conference, tweet often, and we’ll retweet you! #aasl15 @pubspotlight


The Games You Can Play with Letters and Words

Enchanted Lion has published two extraordinarily engaging picture book stories that open up the magic of sorting letters into words.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.23.09 PMIn Take Away the A, Michael Escoffier’s text and Kris Di Giacomo’s gleeful cartoon animals and gentle monsters show us what magic the removal of a letter from any of a number of commonplace words does to alter meaning. Removing “Y” from “yours,” for example, makes it “ours.” Arranged alphabetically by the letter removed, each page spread has a simple sentence naming the letter to be removed from what word to create what new word. Often, the letter removed is internal to the word, rather than initiating it, making this a wonderful alphabet book for kids who think they are too old for alphabet books.

The author and illustrator team’s follow up alphabet book, Where’s the Baboon?, takes the game to a new level. Here, the book unfolds as a complete story and each page spread offers a question that can be answered by examining the illustration or seeingScreen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.34.00 PM what new word is highlighted within the telling attribute ascribed to him or her. Again, it’s a passle of rambunctious animals  who are gambling through the pages: The correct response to “Who is hiding behind the castle?” appears within that final word of the question, printed so that the “c,” “a” and “t” are highlighted. (The illustration, on the other hand, presents a scene where all but the cat’s tail is obscured.) This one isn’t an alphabet book in the sense of touching on all 26 letters. Instead, it’s a book where playing with letters and words sheds both light and humor on how flexible the alphabet is.

We’re putting together some activities to help expand these delightful books even further, while helping young readers discover more ways to see the alphabet than as a string of letters. Watch for its arrival in a day or two on our Activities pages.

Take Away the A has already won lots of critical attention. We’re sure Where’s the Baboon? will as well. And we know both are hits with kids who are surprised by how much can happen to words on a page!

Introducing Magnetic Press

We’ve just put up a page of activities inspired by Magnetic Press’ second book in the wordless graphic novel “Love” series. And we know you are going to love this book, too!

This beautifully imagined and chronicled day in the life of an Arctic fox shows abundant detail about animal life, the environment, and the dramatic elements that comprise nature.

For more about this book, watch the trailer and read about the award-winning creators of Love: The Fox, its predecessor, Love: The Tiger, and the upcoming Love: The Lion.

Otis Frampton blog tour!

It’s Monday, the start of a new blog tour featuring a Publisher Spotlight author! Just Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.15.31 PMright for this time of year, we’re going to hear all around the dial from bloggers looking at Oddly Normal‘s latest trade collection and interviewing his creator, Otis Frampton.  There will be giveaways, too!

First up: The Log Cabin Library blog will host a guest post, to appear later today. Later in the week, there will be an interview on Outright Geekery, give aways on Wednesday and Thursday, and more!

You can follow this blog tour–and everything else we’re up to–on Twitter, our Facebook page. or–oh hey–right here on the blog.

KidLit Con 2015

IMG_8166We’re enjoying an energetic and inspired get-together of bloggers who talk about books for kids.  You can follow it on Twitter at #kidlitcon. Lots of smart and funny people offering discussions on a range of issues including visual storytelling, horror, teamwork, and national literary awards for titles targeting youth.

To give you a small taste, here’s our own quick tutorial regarding youth media awards: how to use them, as a librarian, parent, teacher, or other reading and recommending consumer. It comes down to be using your evaluation skills about the awards’ purposes, sponsorship, eligibility pool,and group dynamics of committee work. Please add your own suggestions and remarks for making award use wise and helpful!

Book Award Consumer Help                                                                                                    This will open as a PowerPoint show after you download it. Just seven slides!

A little elephant learns to manage his trunk

If you think tripping over your feet is awkward, imagine tripping over that wonderful combination of nose-straw-gripper that sits in the middle of an elephant’s face!  That’s exactly what keeps happening to poor Little Vinayak–until he gets some great advice from a grown up elephant who once had the same problem.

Little Vinayak - ActivitiesPublisher Karadi Tales continues to serve up wonderfully resonant picture books for preschoolers, and this one is just right as we head toward that back-to-school night where families meet their young children’s teachers and ask for advice on how to cope with some expected, but unhappy, developmental mishaps.

Karadi Tales has also produced our Activities guide in a pretty handout, so you can make a sheaf of these for Little Vinayak - Activities2distribution to those looking for some reassurance to share with their kids about learning to organize one’s movements.

The Power of Bicycles: In a Cloud of Dust

Pajama Press publishes In a Cloud of Dust today. Alma Fullerton’s story, with Brian Deines’ illustrations, takes young readers into a Tanzania where the village’s bicycle supply is truly a shared resource. They’re kept at the bicycle library, available for use on the honor system!

To celebrate this publication, we are pleased to be able to share the Reading Guide the publisher has developed to accompany it. It offers lots of good tips for discussion and research for grade school aged kids, including the websites for five different organizations dedicated to promoting bicycle availability. You’ll find the guide at the bottom of this post.

You’ll also find easy-to-follow directions from the publisher for just what young artists might want as an assist in creating new bikes (well, drawings of them) of their own!