September 15 marks the birthday of renowned author Agatha Christie. To celebrate this esteemed writer, who penned 82 mystery novels, we have a hunch that you’re in the mood for some mysteries as well! From the classic whodunit to riddles of a stranger nature, mysteries offer great ways to spark curiosity in readers of all ages, encouraging them to find out what could happen next and if they can guess correctly. So, grab a magnifying glass and a handy notebook as we take a look at some of our favorite mysterious titles.
Will You Help Doug Find His Dog?
An interactive picture book title from Barefoot Books, Will You Help Doug Find His Dog? keeps readers guessing the answer to the very last page. Doug has lost his canine companion at the dog park and needs help finding him. After describing his four-legged friend to readers, Doug asks his audience to whistle, clap, and tickle their way through a group of dogs until the missing pup is found. Written by Jane Caston, and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña, this story encourages a playful response and will have little ones wanting to read it again.
There’s a Walrus in My Bed!
A young boy who is spending his first night in a big boy bed has a large problem in this picture book from Andersen Press, written and illustrated by Ciara Flood. Flynn keeps coming downstairs when he’s supposed to be asleep, claiming that the walrus needs food, blankets, or a glass of milk. In this case, the mystery is for the readers themselves to solve. Is the walrus just an excuse Flynn created, as his parents suspect, or could there really be a giant walrus in Flynn’s bed?
Detective Gordon: A Case in Any Case
Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee’s beloved series follows Gordon, a toad detective, and his enterprising assistant, Buffy the mouse, as they take on curious cases. In the latest illustrated chapter book installment, published by Gecko Press, Buffy seeks out Gordon’s help to solve the mystery of strange noises coming from outside the police station each night. Once this mystery is solved, they can get back to what they love best, which includes drinking tea and stamping important papers.
The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries: The Gravediggers’ Club
Robert J. Harris’ middle grade series harkens back to a different monumental mystery writer. The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries from Floris Books imagines that the Sherlock Holmes stories were based on adventures that their author, Arthur Conan Doyle, had when he was a boy growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the first installment, Artie and his best friend Ham follow the clues of a ghostly lady in grey and the pawprints of a gigantic hound to discover the secrets of the spooky Gravediggers’ Club.
The Theory of Hummingbirds
Alba has her eyes set on running in the sixth-grade cross-country race as soon as the final cast comes off her “directionally challenged” foot. She’s counting on support from her best friend, Levi, but he is consumed by his latest science obsession—wormholes. Is Levi just dreaming, or does the librarian really have a wormhole in her office? Written by Michelle Kadarusman and published by Pajama Press, this middle grade novel is about friendship, big challenges, and even bigger questions.
One season can change your life, a concept that twelve-year-old Eliot is learning daily as he spends his summer in a place he absolutely detests—Point Aconi, Nova Scotia. As Eliot learns how to perform the mundane tasks well-known to other residents of the small fishing town, he begins to realize that there is more to this seaside village than meets the eye. Why is Mary-Beth always reluctant to go home? How does Miss Gifford always know when trouble is brewing? What’s hidden in the pages of Great-great-grandfather Steen’s diary? Eliot wonders if he’ll find the answers to these prodding questions before the summer’s up. Written by critically-acclaimed author and artist Frank Viva, this work of graphic fiction is about broadening perspectives is published by Toon Books.
When Marion and her mother inherit an old family house, complete with its own private beach, they see it as a wonderful opportunity for a new life. This graphic novel from Lion Forge, written by Mathieu Reynès with art from Valérie Vernay, follows Marion’s exploration of her new town as she begins to uncover unanswered questions and local legends haunting the surrounding area. What secrets are hidden away in the nearby lighthouse, and why does she feel an eerie tie to the lighthouse watchman? As time passes, Marion begins to wonder if this idyllic place isn’t nearly as peaceful as it first appeared.
Five suburban children must fight to keep their world from tearing apart after they discover the body of the world’s most powerful superhero, Plutona, laying discarded in the woods near their school. As they wrestle with how to handle this weighty secret, their personal lives spin dangerously out of control. The real question—who killed Plutona?—lurks in the back of everyone’s mind, but the group of five might not be alive to uncover the whole story if they can’t solve their own problems soon. This dark coming-of-age tale from Image Comics is written by Emi Lenox and Jeff Lemire, with striking art by Emi Lenox and Jordie Bellaire.
How are you celebrating National Grandparents Day, this Sunday, September 10? Grandparents can be amazing! As the caretakers of decades of wisdom, trusted perspectives, and tested values, they share great human riches with their families. Grandparents can be the keepers of communities. Daily, they nurture younger generations to encourage authentic and thoughtful people. Grandparents sometimes create communities under their own roofs, too, opening their homes and hearts to relatives who need a place to stay, whether it be for a short or extended amount of time. Grandparents can also be nurturing, adventurous, inspiring, and make lovable books to share across generations, and we want to celebrate them today.
Here are some books from our publishers for you and your little ones to enjoy for Grandparents Day.
I Love You, Grandma
This lyrical board book from Tiger Tales Books, with illustrations by Rory Tyger, pays tribute to the tender relationship that youngsters have with their grandmothers. Simple text on each page combines with soft illustrations to compose a beautiful poem about the undying love a grandmother has for her grandchild.
Melena’s Jubilee: The Story of a Fresh StartThe morning after a particularly bad day, Melena awakes with a new song in her heart. At breakfast, she shares the song with Gramma, and Gramma, in turn, shares some songs of her own. A story about forgiveness and second chances, Melena’s Jubilee is written by Zetta Elliot, illustrated by Aaron Boyd, and published by Tilbury House.
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro
After her parents explain that they can’t afford to buy Ossiri a musical instrument, the determined Traveler girl decides to create her own musical contraption. She calls it the Tattin Django, and despite the cacophony that emanates from its rustic body, Ossiri’s grandparents encourage her to keep practicing and playing what she feels is in her heart. Published by Child’s Play, this picture book is written by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, with illustrations by Hannah Tolson.
How Nivi Got Her Names
Written by Laura Deal and illustrated by Charlene Chua, this story from Inhabit Media introduces traditional Inuit naming and Inuit custom adoption. Nivi’s mom tells her stories of the people for whom she is named, including the grandmother of one of her moms, the grandpa of her anaana (her other mom), and the grandmother of her puukuluk, or birth mother.
Waiting for Sophie
Liam relies on the creativity and carpentry skills of his grandma in this illustrated chapter book from Pajama Press, written by Sarah Ellis and illustrated by Carmen Mok. While Liam impatiently waits for his baby sister to grow into a playmate, Nana-Downstairs teaches him the basics of building and helps him to create a very special machine.
Where Is Grandma?
This story of one boy’s odyssey through the hospital is written and illustrated by Peter Schossow and published by Gecko Press. While his nanny is distracted taking a phone call, Henry sets off on his own in search of his grandmother. He interacts with all kinds of people and overhears all sorts of conversations on his journey, but he won’t let anything stop him until finds his grandma.
Top-Secret Grandad and Me: Death by Tumble Dryer
Middle grade readers looking for a befuddling mystery and a good laugh can delight in a new series by the ever humorous David MacPhail and published by Floris Books. Eleven-year-old Jay Patel is off to solve the hilarious (no, really!) and wacky murders with the help of his (top-secret) ghost sidekick—who is none other than Jay’s grandad, Sanjeev!
Take a moment today to encourage children to spend time with their grandparents. Reading would be a great activity for them to do together. Make sure to snap a photo and post it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Feel free to tag us (@pubspotlight) and make sure you use #grandparentsday to show off your favorite intergenerational moments with books!
We’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, and 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!
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 of 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’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?
Ellen 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
In 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 of 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!
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.
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.
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!
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 Edward 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.
No 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!