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Monday, February 29, 2016

March is Reading Month: Growing A Reader Series

Welcome to March is Reading Month at The Hiding Spot! 

March is Reading Month has always been one of my favorite times of the year. In elementary school, we did bookish crafts and talked about our favorite books during March, which to this day remains one of my favorite childhood memories. In reflecting on the March is Reading Month celebrations of my childhood, I started thinking about the many experiences throughout my childhood that contributed to my affinity for books and my status as a passionate library card-toting, bookselling reader.

Is it possible for a love of books to begin before a child has entered the world? If yes, I have my mother to thank for that gift. My family never had much disposable income, even when I was the first and only child, but my mother still signed up for the Parents Magazine subscription program that sent books to our home every week. It was through this program that I fell in love with books like Frank Asch's Popcorn, Jerry Smath's But No Elephants, and Robert. Quackenbush's Henry's Awful Mistake. I've kept these books, tucked safely away awaiting the day I can share them with my own children.

Each summer, my three younger siblings and I piled into the car to visit the local library. Here we took part in the Summer Reading Program, sharing book reports and pictures with program volunteers and keeping a record of each book we read. Reading twenty-five books each meant that we were eligible to attend the Summer Reading Carnival at the end of the program, but reading fifty books meant we could play the games at the carnival multiple times! Winning games meant earning "money" that could be spent at the prize table. Sometimes, if we were really lucky, we could combine our winnings and buy a squirt gun or a doll. Years later, as a teen and adult, I volunteered my time to listen to book reports, keep records, and run a carnival game. Let me tell you, those volunteers (out there in the insanely humid Michigan heat during that carnival) are saints! I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunities they provided each summer to young, budding readers like me.
In 5th grade, I read the biggest book in our school library. I remember looking at Little Women sitting there on the shelf for months... maybe even years. I took 546-page tome home on a Friday afternoon, then spent all of Saturday and Sunday immersed in the world of the March sisters. I related to Meg, wished I were more like Jo, cried and cried when Meg died, and loathed Amy. I barely moved from my bed, skipping meals in favor of handfuls of oranges, which we had in spades thanks to a cousin selling them for FFA. When I returned to school on Monday, I nervously logged in to take the Accelerated Reader test, but I shouldn't have worried - I earned a perfect score.

In middle school, I was a student aide in the media center, where I developed a wonderful relationship with the school librarian, Mrs. Connell. It was Mrs. Connell who introduced me to David Eddings' Belgariad, which influenced my reading habits for years. At the end of the school year, she gifted me with my own hardcover copy of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and a journal to keep a record and notes of the books I read. I quickly filled this journal and, unable to purchase another, I traced and copied the pages to paper in a binder to continue journaling. I did this for years, right up until I started The Hiding Spot.

I was immensely lucky to have access to a library and to have adults in my life who encouraged my love of reading. I have so many memories of experiences, both big and small, that helped shape my love of books and reading. 

I think it's sometimes easy to forget that even the smallest bit of encouragement can go a long way and that seemingly insignificant experiences can have a huge impact. So, this March, I've invited a number of authors, illustrators, and librarians to The Hiding Spot to share the experiences that helped them grow into readers.

I hope you enjoy the memories and experiences shared within each guest post. I hope they'll prompt you to look back on the experiences that shaped you into a reader. And, most of all, I hope that you'll someday have the opportunity to be the positive force in the life of a budding reader. 

Please feel free to share your memories and experiences in the comments section throughout the month!


Day 1: David Arnold
Day 2: Tricia Springstubb
Day 3: Natalie Lloyd
Day 4: Becky Wallace
Day 5: Carrie Davies
Day 6: Natalie D. Richards
Day 7: Victoria J. Coe
Day 8: Alison DeCamp
Day 9: Molly B. Burnham
Day 10: Rebecca Behrens
Day 11: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Day 12: Katie Lawrence
Day 13: Stacey Lee
Day 14: Jody Casella
Day 15: Heidi Heilig
Day 16: Adam Lehrupt
Day 17: Evelyn Skye
Day 18: Denis Markell
Day 19: Jen Maschari
Day 20: Jennifer Mason-Black
Day 21: Louise Gornall
Day 22: Liz Wong
Day 23: Melanie Conklin
Day 24: Amy Rose Capetta
Day 25: Lauren Magaziner
Day 26: Cori McCarthy
Day 27: Kate Bassett
Day 28: Erin L. Schneider
Day 29: Dahlia Adler
Day 30: Alison Cherry
Day 31: Margie Myers-Culver

Thank you to each and every author, illustrator, librarian who took the time to share their stories and memories!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade (69)

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery
Perijee and Me is a hilarious and touching story about an unusual friendship, a heart-stopping adventure, and the power of kindness when you’re faced with an alien invasion. If E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is still “right here” in your heart, then you’re sure to fall hard for the misunderstood Perijee and the one girl who’s desperate to save him.

Caitlin is the only young person living on Middle Island. On the first day of vacation, she finds a tiny alien on the beach. Caitlin becomes close to her secret friend, whom she names Perijee, teaching him everything about her world and treating him like a brother.

There’s only one problem: Perijee won’t stop growing. And growing . . . Caitlin will have to convince the adults around her—and Perijee himself—that the creature they see as a terrifying monster is anything but.

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
First in a Sherlock Holmes-inspired series featuring Shelby Holmes and her sleut by hing sidekick John Watson.

Foxheart by Claire Legrand
Orphan. Thief. Witch.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way—even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you.

But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist—although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic.

Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic—forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents.

But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide—will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend?

The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan
Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

The Dragon's Gate by Barry Wolverton
Chronicles of the Black Tulip Book Two

Like Magic by Elaine Vickers

Like Magic tells the story of three girls who are feeling lost and alone during the biggest summer of their lives. Grace is a writer, Jada an artist, and Malia a musician, and although they are certainly much more than those simple descriptions, each girl’s art is an important piece of who she is.

The girls discover a hollowed-out box in their library, and they take turns leaving treasures—poems, drawings, songs—inside. When my mom read an early draft of this book, she told me, “The thing I love is that you’ve written a book about the power of art to connect people.”

A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins
Eleven-year-old Derby Christmas Clark is a rambler of the road. She travels year-round in an RV with her father and younger brother, selling Christmas trees during the cold months and burgers and fries during baseball season. Derby always did prefer grease splatters to hauling trees, so she’s excited that summer will take her back to small town Ridge Creek, the Rockskippers, her best friend, and her surrogate mom, June. But this summer, a tragedy has changed Ridge Creek—and as Derby tries to help those she loves, long-held secrets are revealed. This warm-hearted southern debut is perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo and Sheila Turnage.

Threads by Ami Polonsky

The lives of an American girl and a Chinese girl intersect as the result of a note hidden in a purse.

The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano

The second stand-alone middle grade novel by Lauren DeStefano.

Hercufleas by Sam Gayton
“A resonant story about family, friendship and loss, and the power of hope and unity. Gayton reminds us that small things are sometimes the most important.”—Sunday Times [UK] 
 To protect her village from a giant, Greta recruits a champion: Hercufleas! He may be tiny, but this young flea is certain he’s destined for greatness. Being a hero is harder than it seems, though, and Hercufleas and Greta face unexpected choices—and consequences—in their desperate attempts to save the village, and each other. Big heroes come in small packages in a superbly imagined tale that is part comedic adventure, part poignant coming-of-age epic, and wholly original.

Miss Muffet, Or What Came After by Marilyn Singer
People will tell you that all little Miss Muffet wanted was to sit quietly and eat her curds and whey. They’ll insist that she was so scared of a spider, she ran away from it, and that’s where her story ends. Well, those people are wrong! Miss Muffet is more daring than that—and so is the spider. Together, they head off on an escapade involving a host of other nursery rhyme characters to help a famous old monarch who’s lost his fiddlers three. Told in clever verse arranged like a musical theater production, this hilarious picture book reveals the true story of the adventures of Miss Muffet and her spider friend.

Revenge of the Green Banana by Jim Murphy
Jimmy Murphy’s sixth grade teacher, Sister Angelica Rose, is out to get him. She humiliates him in class and punishes him when he hasn’t done anything wrong. She even forces him to perform onstage with second-graders, wearing a giant green banana costume. A classic underachiever with a talent for trouble, Jimmy wants revenge, and with his friends he plans a prank that will embarrass Sister Angelica in front of the whole school. What could possibly go wrong?

The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists—until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.

Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood

Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to care for Grandmother Clark. Paris Junction is nothing like her Texas hometown. And now she's been thrown together with, troubled Willis DeLoach, gossipy Melinda Bowman, and Billy Wong, a Chinese-American boy who has his own troubles. Billy's parents own the Lucky Foods grocery store, where days are long, and folks aren't always friendly. Inspired by the true stories of Chinese immigrants who came to the American south during the civil rights era, this poignant story reminds us all that home is where our hearts reside, and that friends can come to us in the most unexpected ways. This brilliantly nuanced novel is delivering a unique literary format. The story is told from two points of view: Billy Wong is rendered in clipped verse narratives that are interspersed with Azalea's emotionally expressive prose.
Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Storytime: New & Notable Picture Books (34)

This week's Storytime features two very different ideas of "fun," animal opposites, a tree's story, a tender celebration of life, and a hapless superhero!

The Almost Terrible Playdate
Written & Illustrated by Richard Torrey
Ages 3-7, Available Now

Buy It
Here is the story of two young children with VERY different ideas of what they want to play. What starts with an innocent question (“What do you want to play?”) soon veers hilariously toward chaos, as two children engage in the age-old struggle of princesses, ponies, and ballet vs. dinosaurs, dragons, and race cars. Which child will win? Or will both find a way to play nicely together?
The Almost Terrible Playdate is a great pick for lessons about compromise and the power of imagination. While some might be a big put off by the very stereotypical interests of the two main characters (the little girl wants to be a queen, a ballet instructor, etc and the boy wants to be a dinosaur, race car, etc), I wasn't particularly bothered. While it would have been great to see a bit more originality in that regard, the book's message and illustrations were strong. I especially enjoyed how the illustrations really held their own without the text. Worth checking out!

Spread from The Almost Terrible Playdate (2016).
The Almost Terrible Playdate (2016) endpapers.
The Opposite Zoo
Written & Illustrated by Il Sung Na
Ages 2-5, Available 3/8/2016

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The sky is dark and the Opposite Zoo is CLOSED. But the monkey's cage is OPEN! Time to explore. . .

Follow the monkey as he visits all the animals in the zoo: fast and slow, big and small, noisy and quiet, soft and prickly! Filled with energetic illustrations, friendly animals, and a clear, simple text—all wrapped up in a gorgeous package—The Opposite Zoo is a fun and lively introduction to animals and opposites for the youngest picture-book audience.
Hurrah for a new book from the talented Il Sung Na! Na is one of my favorite artists and this newest book is just as visually stunning as his previous projects. One of my favorite elements of this book is the monkey, the animal leading this exploration of opposites, can be found in every spread! Can you find him in the spread below?

Spread from The Opposite Zoo (2016).
Back cover of The Opposite Zoo (2016).

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window
Written by Jeff Gottesfeld; Illustrated by Peter McCarty
Ages 5-8, Available 3/8/2016

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Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank's window—this book introduces her story to a young audience.

The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.

The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.

The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace.
I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from this book - a look at Anne Frank's time in the annex from the point of view of the chestnut tree outside the attic window - but I certainly wasn't expecting to turn into a sniffling mess while reading. While I wouldn't use this as a text to introduce Anne Frank and her story, it is a beautifully done addition to spark conversation and further connection. Peter McCarty's illustrations are (unsurprisingly) gorgeous and moving.

Spread from The Tree in the Courtyard (2016).
The Tree in the Courtyard (2016) endpapers.

Always Remember
Written by Cece Meng; Illustrated by Jago
Ages 3-7, Available Now

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A lyrically told, beautifully illustrated book that brings comfort to children--and adults--who have lost someone they love

After Old Turtle swims his last swim and breathes his last breath, and the waves gently take him away, his friends lovingly remember how he impacted each and every one of them. As the sea animals think back on how much better Old Turtle made their lives and their world, they realize that he is not truly gone, because his memory and legacy will last forever.

Jago's gorgeous illustrations accompany Cece Meng's serene text in a book that will help chidren understand and cope with the death of a loved one.

Always Remember from Cece Meng and Jago is a quiet, thoughtful book about life, death, and legacy. No matter your age, the loss of a loved one is difficult to process and accept. I've been asked on multiple occasions for picture books to help explain the death of a family member or pet to a child, but I don't think I've found one I love quite as much as Always Remember. Highly recommended.

Spread from Always Remember (2016).

Super Jumbo
Written & Illustrated by Fred Koehler
Ages 3-5, Available Now

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The charmingly oblivious elephant Little Jumbo "saves the day" in a superhero story that’s perfect for fans of Ian Falconer’s Olivia.
Being a superhero isn’t easy. All Little Jumbo wants to do is fight crime and defend the weak, by doing things like halting traffic for snails to cross the street and stopping Dad from sneaking cookies. It’s not his fault grown-ups don’t appreciate his heroic deeds! Luckily, Little Jumbo doesn't give up easily. He even powerfully resists cake (his greatest weakness!) to help a new friend in need!
I love this little elephant who's determined to save the day (even when it doesn't need saving)! The reactions and expressions of the everyone who encounters Super Jumbo and his hijinks are especially funny.

Spread from Super Jumbo (2016).
Back cover of Super Jumbo (2016).

Love any of the books featured this week? Let me know in the comments!