Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Titles from Alison Hart

Alison Hart is a Virginia author of over twenty mysteries and historical fiction novels for children. Her newest book Whirlwind (Random House May 2010), is the much-begged-for sequel to Shadow Horse. With a feisty female protagonist, a little romance, a lot of mystery, and a barnful of animals just waiting to be loved, this young adult horse mystery novel will have young girls galloping to the bookstore to grab their copy.

"This book will be grabbed by young mystery enthusiasts and horse-story fans alike.”
—School Library Journal

“Shadow Horse is a hip, fast-paced mystery adventure which will certainly appeal to any teen who loves horses—and good novels.”
—Horsepower Magazine

Also new from Alison is Emma's River (Peachtree 2010).  In 1852, Emma, her pregnant mother and her pony board the steamboat Sally May to meet her father in St. Joseph, Missouri, but when the ship suddenly explodes in a fiery blaze, Emma and all onboard must fight for their survival in the icy waters of the Missouri River. "A fast-paced, compelling tale." — Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger (Children’s Literature).

Alison is available for author events, visit for information.

To find out more about Alison, her horses, and her books, visit her Web site at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Glamorous Life as a Book Reviewer

Part II
by Keri Collins Lewis

Marilyn Courtot, founder of the CLCD is a treasure. We’ve never met, yet she is unfailing in her prompt attention to emails, candid in her responses (more on that in a future post!), and fervent in her love of children’s literature. She asked if I had a specific genre I preferred to read and review, or if I was open to whatever they needed to send at the time.

With the heart of an adventurer, I agreed to take anything they sent. And have I ever been glad!

When my first box of books arrived, and with shaking hands I opened the box (reused and labeled with a Famous Publishing House’s name and logo!), I gasped. An advanced reader’s copy (ARC) of the YA novel The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti. The delightful Italian folk tale Priceless Gifts. F&Gs of A Duck at the Door with the illustrations unfinished--a glimpse into one author/illustrator’s process. A dark YA thriller from the “Traces” series titled Final Lap. And another picture book. Five books in all, which had to be read and reviewed in a month. After work each day I’d rush home, curl up on my bed with a book, and lose myself in the worlds others had created. I crafted reviews and followed Marilyn’s precise guidelines.

Since January 2007, I’ve reviewed about 38 boxes of books--everything from books destined for the educational market to illustrated biographies to movie tie-ins. While it may sound glamorous, and the time and effort are rewarding, reviewing books is not, as I once thought, simply sharing my opinion. To me, reviewing books for the CLCD combines efficient plot summaries (without giving away too much!), identification of ways to tie the book to the curriculum (which may require research), and respectful treatment of both the book and its creator/s (I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, I promise!). I struggle more over reviews for books I don’t enjoy, books I find poorly-written, or books that fail in some way, whether it’s in the design, content, illustrations, depth, or originality, than books I fall for from the first page (such as The Year the Swallows Came Early). I want to be sensitive for the author’s sake yet candid for the sake of customers who rely on the CLCD to inform their purchases.

So that’s my experience as a book reviewer. It may not be as glamorous as I’d thought originally, but it has been greatly rewarding, as Marilyn and her box packers have shared with me books I never would have read otherwise.

Any reviewers out there have stories to share? Perhaps a favorite discovery?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Themed Reviews: Baseball

As a subject, baseball books have the potential to be great "gateway" books for children. They are a fun way to get reluctant readers, or readers who tend to stick firmly to series sports novels, introduced to a variety of genres.
Our feature showcases the range of baseball books available this year. Among the books are: Baseball Science, a nonfiction title that explains the scientific concepts behind the sport; The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, the emotional story of a grief stricken girl who decides to switch from the girls' softball team to the boys' baseball team; Change Up: Baseball Poems, a collection of poems that covers the seasons and different aspects of the game; No Easy Way, tells of Ted Williams's career through illustrations and statistics, showing the determination of this baseball superstar. Expand horizons this baseball season with these new titles that take baseball books beyond the sports category.

Browse through these titles and those from previous years for some selections to share with your family or students:

For more information and activities on baseball visit:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Building Bonds through Books
Mother’s Day Musings
by Lezlie Evans
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my mother taking me on her lap to read from the pages of my big, green, story book Make Way for Ducklings, and listening to her read Go Dog Go over and over again. I can’t help but wonder—did these childhood experiences play into my wanting to become a children’s book author and help to create the desire I had to open up the world of books to my own children? 
A mother truly does hold the power to shape a child’s attitudes, attributes, and interests. James E. Faust said, “The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” This thought can be daunting.
Although there is not one ‘right’ way to parent or to care for your little one, I, like so many other new mothers, found myself wishing there was a detailed instruction manual accompanying my child. When the first of my six children was born, I recall looking down and thinking two things: “That’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen, followed by, What in the world do I do now?” 
So here is my instruction manual for mothers—a guide on how to instill the love of books and reading in your child. The following ideas, time tested, tried, and true, can help to create strong bonds and cherished memories, while laying down the foundation of early literacy skills—skills which will be critical to a child’s success in school and in life.
Did you know experts have found the number one contributing factor to a child’s success when he enters kindergarten is the number of hours he has been read aloud to by someone who is close to him? Every minute spent reading with your child will help to develop skills which will benefit your child for a lifetime.
The sharing of books will build a child’s vocabulary, stimulates imagination, and increases verbal skills, while creating strong bonds and memories. That was the gift my mother gave me, and one that I, in turn, sought to give to my children.
Start the day your child is born:
Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. From the day a child is born, the sound of your voice brings comfort, begins patterning, and provides stimulation. Talk, sing, coo and goo with your baby beginning from day one.
Time spent reading with your baby gives him what he craves most; closeness with you and the opportunity to hear the sound of your voice. There are an abundance of wonderful books these days that can be held by little hands and allowing infants to handle books will deepen their attachment to them. 

When reading with your infant:
~Have a variety of board books, soft books, touch and feel books, and picture books. 
~Guide your little one by pointing to the pictures and say the names of the various objects. Drawing their attention to the pictures will encourage word association and your child will learn the importance of language.
~Encourage them to point to the pictures you describe.
~Read often, but keep the sessions brief. 
~Don’t be afraid to create funny voices, vary your pitch, and change your expression. Be animated!
~When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child's life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.

A regular reading time—like bedtime— establishes a calming routine young children love. But there are many other daily events which provide perfect reading opportunities. Try having a breakfast story, a bath time story, a just-home-from-nursery story or even an on-the-potty story. Some toddlers (and older children) who have a hard time waking up in the morning do better if their parents read them awake with a ‘good- morning’ story. 
Tips for reading with toddlers include:
~Take your child on your lap and read every day. Encourage them to choose the books.
~Don’t worry if your child doesn’t seem interested at first. Just keep at it!  My fifth child never seemed too interested in books, but we read anyway. He would often wander off to play in the middle of a story while his brothers and sisters would sit, listening attentively. Although he responded differently than our other children, our consistent efforts paid. In the third grade, something clicked and he became a voracious reader. 
~Take your toddler to the local library for weekly visits. Sign up for story time and other programs and let them pick out books to carry in their ‘special library bag’.
~Follow with your finger as you read. This will help engrain the pattern of reading from left to right.
~When reading, pause and let the child fill in the blank. Rhyming books are great for this. The child can begin to predict the missing words and feel a great sense of triumph.
~Encourage your children to pretend to read. As they get older, encourage them to create their own stories and books.

Emergent and independent readers:
Reading with your pre-school child lays the foundation for success at school, while continuing to read with an independent reader builds on that foundation.
~Visit the public library; allow your child get a library card if possible. Help your child select books on his reading level. 
~Get to know your local children’s librarians. They can be an invaluable resource, as they will help your child find the perfect books, with the appropriate appeal.
~Listening to an emergent or independent reader is just as important as reading to them. Praise their new skills. 
~When reading with your child, take turns. Read a page, and then let your child read a page.

All Ages:
~Have a set family reading time where everyone “stops, drops, and reads”— even if it is only for 10 minutes a day. 
~How many TVs are in your home? Do you have just as many baskets filled with library books? Have a basket or box for books in every room.
~Give books as gifts and encourage others to give your child books.
~Limit TV and computer time. 
~Get caught reading by your kid—whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Researchers have found a child’s attitude about reading and their reading development are influenced by parental reading habits. 
My mom helped instill a love of books in me without a laundry list like this one.  But keep in mind; forty years ago there were neither the electronic distractions nor the plethora of activities that our children face today. 
Modern moms need to be vigilant in their efforts to create a reading atmosphere in the home, provide opportunities for reading, and model reading themselves. But I have great faith in you, the mother’s of today. You are dedicated to your child’s success. 
I am confident that one day your child will look back and say, I remember when my mom used to read me that book to me over and over again. That book is my favorite!

Lezlie Evans is a mother of six and a published children’s book author.  Her latest title, WHO LOVES THE LITTLE LAMB, published by Disney/Hyperion and illustrated by award winning artist, David McPhail,  is the story of a mother’s unconditional love. Read more about her and her books online at

Watch the book trailer for Who Loves the Little Lamb?

Mother's Day is an excellent opportunity to incorporate family reading. Browse through our feature, and those from previous years, for stories to share with any mothers in your life.