Hello, Orlando!

ALA HaikuWe’re looking forward to seeing all our library friends later this week at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference, in Orlando. Here’s an overview of what we’ll have to share with you, and an invitation to visit us at Booth 2239, where you know that, no matter who you are, we have smiles and good wishes to share with you.

The exhibits open on Friday, at 5:30. come join the festivities during this ribbon cutting reception! Our booth will be fully staffed all exhibit hours, which are are 9-5 on Saturday and Sunday, and 9-2 on Monday. Ellen, Jackson, and Claire Myrick, Along with Mary Burkey and Sharon Grover,will be on hand, with Francisca tweeting from various corners of the conference and booth events.

Oh, and booth events! We have in-booth signings scheduled throughout the weekend, booksignings adand staff will be participating in other exhibit happenings as well, including the Paizo
program in the Gaming Parlor, Saturday at 10:30, and a program focusing on diversity at 3 that afternoon.

Oh, and the books! We’ll be showing and talking about new titles from AMMO, Two Little Birds, Scotland’s Floris from Steiner, Flying Start, and Free Spirit Press; from Gannon& Wyatt, New Zealand’s Gecko Press, and Karadi Tales, Canada’s Pajama Press, Dutch publisher Lemniscaat; from No Starch Press, Phaidon, Tilbury House, and Tiger Tales. Then there are the audio publishers: L. A. Theatre Works, Live Oak Media, and Brilliance Audio, along with the Sound Learning literacy program from the Audio Publishers Association. Amazon imprints Thomas & Mercer, Lake Union, and Montlake Romance Authors, all for adults, and Two Lions, for kids, will also be at our fingertips–and could be at yours.

Follow us on Twitter @pubspotlight throughout the conference. Our first tip as you pack is to be sure to bring rain gear as showers and thunderstorms are predicted, right now, for every day of the conference.

And bring a smile and a hello! We know Orlando needs both right now and we always enjoy them ourselves and bet you do, too!


Welcome to Boston and #alamw16

ALA Jan 2016 20x2 banner

We’re traveling to Boston today and looking forward to seeing all of you attending the American Library Association’s 2016 Midwinter meeting there!  You’ll find us at Booth 1917 in the Exhibits…and why would you want to find us? Because:

We’re bringing cool new picture books, comics, and books for older youth from a variety The_Boy_Who_Drew_Catsof quality publishers, including Pajama Press (Canada), Leminscaat (Netherlands), Gecko (New Zealand), Floris Books (Scotland), Karadi Tales (India), Udon Entertainment (Canada/Hong Kong), and, from the United States, Diamond, Tilbury House, Gannon & Wyatt, Namelos, No Starch, and Two Lions.

We’ve got audiobooks and audiobook programming information from Oasis, AudioFile Magazine, and the Audio Publishers Association’s literacy initiative, Sound Learning APA.

EMMA_SC_FRONT_Fin1We’re hosting signings by Rebecca Emberley, Bill Thomson, Licia Morelli and Jennifer E. Morris, and Susan Schwake.

We have a librarian staff who know books, audiobooks, and kids.

Plus, we are a lot of fun and generous, too…hmm, prizes anyone?

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


It’s interactive! It’s a book!

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 9.28.58 AMIn the 21st century, literacy is defined not just as decoding and understanding printed text. Multi-modal literacy is essential to functioning, and thriving, in the world. To help the littlest arrivals on the literacy scene learn how to look, listen, express, and understand words, images, sounds, concepts, and meanings, there are burgeoning supplies of great books, audiobooks, apps, and other media.

And sometimes, a print book–in this case a board book, at that–can fulfill a variety of these expressive and interpretative functions.

Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeon created Help! The Wolf Is Coming! to tell an engaging and entertaining story that needs the reader to touch and turn the book. And there will be no problem with either the simple storyline or the need to interact with it, whether the reader is 20 months old or 250 months old.

From the front cover to the back, the not-very-threatening approach Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 9.28.31 AMof this wolf can be impeded by following the simple directions the text offers…oops, until a plot trick that suits the target age group right where their funny bone is developing.

Help! The Wolf Is Coming!, from Gecko Press, 2015

Update 25 October 2015: We have a wonderful video now from a pair of Tennessee kids who know how to make a book trailer!  Enjoy!


Activities for a book-loving schoolyear

When Dad Showed Me the Universe_Gecko_fullbook_Page_12

When Dad Showed Me the Universe (Gecko Press)

We’ve recently reworked our website here so that you can (we hope!) more quickly locate the specific book-based activities we offer to support your classroom and library programming.  You can visit our Activities by Age Group page (you’ll see the link right under our logo) to find some fun and experience-expanding discussion questions, art projects, games, and more, each connected to a book from one of our publishers.

We’d also like to welcome aboard a publisher new to us–and of great interest to you, we believe: Karadi Tales provides a wealth of picture book stories, folktale interpretations and more!  Not only are the stories fun and the artwork beautiful, but many of the books also have textured pages, sure to be attractive to the young readers you know who enjoy tactile and kinesthetic experiences!

So, what kind of activities goodness have we been up to?  Well, from Karadi Tales, we offer three different ones to accompany and expand The Last Bargain, including a mapping project and a circle game.  Gecko Press has a brand new and very large board book, The Big Book of Animals of the World, which has a lot to offer very young researchers as well as those of you working with an English Language Learner inclusion group.

We continue to add new activities to engage readers with new books.  Keep checking–and let us hear from you about the kinds of engagement resources you want to be able to find.

Using picture books with English language learners

Many picture books offer opportunities for children, and even adults, new to English to explore both the written and spoken language they are acquiring. How picture books are put to this purpose requires sensitivity to potential learners and wise choices of books to use.

English language learners represent a wide range of ages, life experiences, literacy levels in their home languages, and–just as important–linguistic and cultural histories. Many speakers of Latin American Spanish dialects, for example, may indeed be learning English as a second language. However, those coming to North American English from the Indian subcontinent and some Northern African cultures probably are conversant in multiple languages already and thus have a different skill set to use when learning yet another–third, fourth, fifth–language.  Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 10.01.10 AM

Working with English language learners who are present in classes with native speakers also draws attention to the need to be inclusive, rather than focusing attention on the use of specific books as a means of gaining English fluency. With these varying potential student needs in mind, how and why can picture books become part of the learning experience?

A number of the Book-based Activities we develop for this site address the potential uses of titles with English learners. What do these books share?

  • They offer content that makes use of general life experience that is not culturally bound
  • They provide opportunities for relatively sophisticated discussions of the theme, plot technique, character development, or art presented
  • They introduce culturally specific tall tales or geography information that builds out the English language learner’s general acquisition of idiomatic expressions, local history and/or physical environment, and vocabulary used in a contextually engaging manner

One example of how such picture books can expand upon the English language learner’s current strengths is the Neighborhood Map activity described for Detective Gordon: The First Case. This activity works well for the English language learner who is mainstreamed with native speakers and can even allow her to excel in undertaking the exercise, which is based on observation and documentation through drawing.

A group of English language learners, who may within the group share no language other than beginning English, may find that the What If…? activity, suggested for The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, provides the opportunity for sharing information about their own experiences with earthquakes, work together to create a model that expresses possibilities, and expand their academic understanding both of STEM-related content and articulating ideas in their new language.

Building empathy into the experience of sharing picture books in a group that includes English language learners and native speakers can also expand everyone’s horizons. Inhabit Media, a wholly owned Inuit publisher, includes titles that are published in Inuit as well as English. The written language is unlikely to be familiar to anyone in the group, giving all a level playing field for understanding how an old language may be new to this reader.

What activities do you find comfortable for new English speakers and readers when you share and expand their reading choices? We’d love to hear from you!

Oh the things we have for you!

With the American Library Association’s Annual Conference rapidly approaching, followed by the annual conference for the International Literacy Association, we’re excited about all the new books we’ll have to show you!  We had a staff meeting yesterday, with Ellen doing her fabulous job of book talking us through the fun, the gorgeous, the thought-provoking, and the curious.

Among just a few of the treasures you’ll get to see, either at conference or on our Pinterest board for the conference (if you can’t attend in person) is Cheer-up Bird, from Lemniscaat USA, a fun–and yes, cheering–picture book by Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 12.57.42 PMEdward van de Vendel, with illustrations by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert. The Schuberts will be the featured speakers at the USBBY event in San Francisco, during ALA.

Gecko Press is bringing out When Dad Showed Me the Universe, by Ulf Stark, with illustrations by Eva Eriksson, which is already collecting lots of review praise in its English language edition. Although its on sale date in the  US is September, here at PS We’re Reading, we’ve already created some activity suggestions for teachers and librarians who might want to get a jump on preparing for new books to share with young readers after summer.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 1.07.28 PMNo Starch Press, which is located in San Francisco and so can readily join us for ALA this year, is publishing an essential book for new secondary school and college students, Violet Blue’s The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy. We’re developing an educators guide to this title to help promote its importance to girls online everywhere and everyday.

Frederic Brremaud and Federico Bertolucci have created a magnificent wordless graphic novel Love: The Tiger, published by Magnetic Press and distributed through Diamond Comics. Publishers Weekly has already awarded it a starred review and you’ll see us developing materials to make sure this gets into the hands of readers of all ages.

Pajama Press has a new Princess Pistachio book, from  Marie Louise Gay. Princess Pistachio and the Pest is pulling in great reviews even as the eponymous princess heads into her own summer vacation. You’re going to be hearing more about that, and lots of other great new books for kids, very soon! Stay tuned!


Detective Gordon: The First Case getting rave reviews

Booklist_StarROD_badgeFeatured as Booklist‘s Review of the Day, 14 May 2015!

What the book’s about

Squirrel is beside himself. A thief has been stealing the precious nuts he has been hoarding for winter. So he goes to chief of police for help. Detective Gordon, a portly, philosophical toad with a fondness for tea and cakes, takes down Squirrel’s information and assures him that he’s on the case. But while Detective Gordon has “long experience,” he isn’t so good at climbing trees or staking out suspects. He’d rather be inside, thinking and drinking tea in front of the fire. Luckily, he happens upon a nimble, young mouse who makes the perfect assistant. While Buffy goes clambering up trees and spying on “the most dangerous and cunning animal of the forest,” Detective Gordon stays at the police station, making a list of suspects and stamping important papers. As the two struggle to solve the case, they develop a friendship that’s as sweet as chocolate cakes with black currant jam and as comforting as a warm cup of tea.

Lucky for readers of this new chapter book series, Detective Gordon and Buffy’s adventures have only just begun.

Detective Gordon: The First Case Activities, for Kids 1st through 4th Grades, by Jessica Young

1. Same and Different (1st – 4th Grades)

Kids create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Chief Gordon and Buffy and then create another diagram to compare and contrast their own personal characteristics – likes and dislikes, things they’re good at, etc. — with those of a friend or classmate.


  • Paper (You can use the Venn diagram template here, or have kids draw their own)
  • Pencil or pen


After reading Detective Gordon: The First Case, brainstorm a list of the characteristics displayed by Buffy and another list of those depicting Detective Gordon, listing contributions on the board. Encourage students to note which characteristics Buffy and Detective Gordon have in common as well as ones they don’t share, including things they like or dislike, things they’re good at achieving, and other attributes.

Make a Venn diagram on the board, labeling the unique areas for each character. Invite volunteers come up and write the characteristics in the appropriate places on the diagram (Buffy’s, Detective Gordon’s, and shared). Discuss how Detective Gordon and Buffy make a great team because they’re different.

Then, students pair up and do their own Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting the characteristics each person in the pair identifies as belonging to each or both work partners.Invite each student pair to discuss how their own attributes complement each other to make them a good team, based on their similarities and differences.

2. The Usual Suspects (1st – 4th Grade)

 Kids will make a chart of suspects and identify a prime suspect using a process of elimination.


  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Scenario script (below)


After reading Detective Gordon: The First Case, recreate the chart Detective Gordon’s used to narrow down suspects (p. 55). (He listed some animals in a column, then made other columns with the headers “this animal likes nuts,” “can climb trees,” and “makes tracks in snow.” Then he put crosses in the appropriate columns for each animal suspect.)

Divide kids into small groups to work on solving a new case by creating their own chart of suspects much as Detective Gordon did in the book.

Read the following or write it on the board: “When Squirrel woke up in the morning, his scarf was gone. He’d washed it and hung it to dry on a branch of his tree and forgotten to take it down before going to bed. There were no tracks in the soft earth below the tree, and he hadn’t heard a single noise all night. All day long, all of the forest animals had admired his scarf, especially raccoon, rabbit, fox, and bear.”

Using this scenario (or a similar process of elimination problem that you make up), students discuss and identify characteristics of the thief based on the information about the crime. For example, “nocturnal,” as the crime happened at night; “does not make tracks;” “can reach high branches;” “can carry a long scarf;” and “is quiet.”

Write a list of animal suspects on the board: toad, bear, fox, rabbit, owl, snake, eagle, raccoon, wolf so students can copy the suspect list, on their own sheet of paper, in a vertical column, Atop each other vertical column, each student writes a characteristic the group brainstormed together, creating a grid with suspects running down the side and the characteristics the ultimate suspect would need to possess to pull off the theft as headers for columns next to it. Have students put “x”s next to the characteristics that apply to each animal. Explain that the animal with “x”s in all columns is most likely the thief. Have them write down their conclusion and be able to justify it using their chart. (Answer: owl. She had not seen the scarf during the day. She spotted it on the branch while hunting at night and took it home to line her nest.)

3. Neighborhood Map (1st – 4th Grade)

Using the Map of Detective Gordon’s police district (see the back of the book) as a model, kids draw and label maps of their school and surrounding neighborhood. Alternatively, they can make up their own fantasy kingdom maps and label them.


  • Large drawing paper or roll paper
  • Pencils/colored pencils/crayons/markers, or paints (
  • Alternative: Collage materials, such as construction paper or magazine pictures and words to make map features


After reading Detective Gordon: The First Case,  kids study the map in the back of the book, and identify landmarks from the story.

Have them brainstorm what buildings, parks, businesses, trees, transit stations, homes or other landmarks are located in the neighborhood.  Kids then draw their own maps, either individually or in small groups, and label them.

When the maps are finished, they can make up a mystery story of their own that can be followed on the map.

Acclaim from USBBY

The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) released its annual list during the opening of the 2015 Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. Among the books touted on the new list are several from our own publishers:

  • Gecko’s The Day My Father Became a Bush, written and illustrated by Joke Van Leeuwen
  • Pajama Press’ Graffiti Knight, by Karen Bass
  • Kids Can’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, by Chieri Uegaki and  illustrated by Qin Leng
  • Kids Can’s If…: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, by David J. Smith, with illustrations by Steve Adams
  • Gecko’s My Heart Is Laughing, by Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by Eva Eriksson
  • Lemniscaat’s Surprise, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout
  • Inhabit Media’s Sweetest Kulu, by Celina Kalluk, with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis


ALA Midwinter Poster Science (and Art!)

by Ellen Myrick

You are walking down the exhibit aisles at ALA this weekend and your eye is caught by a colorful image. You find yourself with the age-old question asked by eye-candy loving librarians at some point in their conference career. Do I pick up that poster? And, even more important, do I get it home without crushing it beyond reclamation? Here’s a handy guide to help you prepare for that moment(s):

Evaluating Whether It’s Worth It?
  1. Is the image arresting? Is it attractive? Is it worthy of your wall? Do you have a place or person immediately in mind when you see it?
  2. Is it just marketing or does it have some redeeming value that extends beyond one season? For example, if there is text, is it text that supports your mission or is it just a book title?
  3. Could you use it as a reward for staff or summer reading?
  4. Would you laminate it? Frame it?
  5. If it’s promoting a book, is it a book your library would logically carry?
Can I Get It from Here to There?

Now that you’ve decided to keep it, you have to be able to get it home. Here are my time-tested techniques on poster preservation:

  1. Combine all of your posters into one roll with the largest on the bottom.
  2. Line up the top edges.
  3. Roll as tightly as possible.
  4. If your roll is especially long, use two rubber bands.
  5. Do not take posters wider than your suitcase is long unless you get a tube (always the best approach).
Time to Practice

I’m glad I was able to help. Now that is settled, here are some posters to help you practice your evaluation techniques. If you would like any of these, be sure to visit Publisher Spotlight at ALA Midwinter, Booth #4621.

Gecko poster tiny

image  image

P.S. We have rubber bands.