The twists and riffs of an Eoin Colfer story combined with the gleeful quirkiness of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations? That's what I call an unbeatable team. Their first-ever picture book collaboration, Imaginary Fred, is coming this fall from HarperCollins.
Here's what we've got to look forward to:
Imaginary Fred is a unique take on the concept of imaginary friends. It’s the story of two little boys and their shared love of movies, music, and comic books. It is about how a little bit of electricity, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of magic can spark a friendship like no other. The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork will make for a treasured new picture book.
The publisher's already calling it an "instant children's classic," "genius" and "the stuff of dreams." It's way too soon to be throwing labels like that around, but we're nevertheless excited to see what fun this duo whips up.
We all have our favorite heroines from children's and young adult literature: Eloise, Pippi, Hermione, Katniss, Matilda—the list goes on and on. And then there are the real-life historical figures who paved the way for little girls everwhere: Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and so many others.
In honor of Women's History Month, we're highlighting 10 new books that give young readers a fresh batch of heroines, from new fictional favorites to historical role models getting some much-deserved attention:
"Ellen, 'born with saltwater in her veins,' spent her days at the shore and learned at a young age from her father how to navigate a ship and operate a sextant. Because of Ellen’s desire for adventure and her competitive nature ('there is no glory in second place'), her father would often caution her—a recurring theme in this story—that 'a true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind.'" Read our full review.
"Whether you’re an adult or a child, this new picture book biography gives an informed overview of intriguing nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. . . . [S]he felt that God wanted her to help people through nursing, even though the idea 'horrified' her parents." Read our full review.
"When a job lands Kate in San Diego, she sets her mind on transforming the dry, barren town into a site of tree-filled splendor. The story of how she makes her vision a reality is a remarkable one." Read our full review.
"With grace, simple shapes and lots of style and movement, this book perfectly captures Josephine, with a varied and vibrant color palette that complements her dynamic personality. Josephine is an extraordinary tribute to an American legend." Read our full review.
"Sulking around the White House one night, Audrey discovers a hidden compartment containing a diary written by a previous First Daughter, Alice Roosevelt. Alice’s desire to 'eat up the world' and claim an independent identity for herself—including bringing her pet snake to state functions, dancing on the roof and sneaking a boy past White House guards—inspire Audrey to try similar antics, with results that don’t always end up as planned." Read our full review.
"On the heels of solving her first mystery in the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, Mo LoBeau faces more intrigue in her tiny North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing. . . . Small-town charm, clever dialogue and Mo’s unyielding wit are excellent reminders of why the first book was so successful." Read our full review.
"Sloan has created a story where the line between youth and adulthood moves back and forth, often more than once in a single day—and where kids and adults 'have relationships that are real and go both directions,' she says. The book is a moving, often funny reminder that such relationships are worth cultivating, and that being open to new people and experiences—however strange or difficult they may seem—can lead to wonderful things." Read our full interview with Sloan.
"Laila is observant, analytical and introspective, regularly comparing American customs to her family’s old existence of royal restriction. She neither fully condemns nor endorses either one of her lives or the people associated with them, but rather walks the common ground between them and begins to understand them." Read our full review.
"Eighteen-year-old American pilot and amateur poet Rose Justice has pulled some strings to land a spot with Great Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). As the daughter of a flight school director, she has been flying since she was 12, and after three months with ATA, she can deliver new and repaired Spitfire fighter planes to airfields without batting an eyelash." Read our full review.
"As Emily attempts to fit in at ASG and strives to articulate her feelings about the events surrounding her boyfriend’s recent death, she begins to feel a real kinship with Dickinson, whose work proves 'to other daughters of America, the ones who endure, who rise like rare birds from the ashes, that they are not alone.'" Read our full review.
We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below about your favorite young adult or children's book that stars a kick-butt heroine.
Books published posthumously are so bittersweet. They're such a treasure, because we get to enjoy more of our favorite writer's work, but they're such a tragedy, because we have no way to share our delight (or, perhaps, displeasure) with the author.
But I'm going to go with "treasure" when it comes to two books coming in April, when middle grade readers can enjoy new books from two celebrated children's book authors, published posthumously: Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George and The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones. Both books were left unfinished at the time of the author's death and were completed by talented family members.
Coming April 3 from Penguin, Ice Whale (ages 9 to 11) was Jean Craighead George's final novel and was completed by her children, Craig and Twig, after her passing in 2012. George, the author of more than 100 books, won the 1972 Newbery Medal for Julie of the Wolves and a 1959 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain.
Ice Whale is yet another epic nature adventure set in northern Alaska, but this one unfolds with a surprising twist: It alternates between voices of Eskimos and a bowhead whale, and chapters featuring the whale include squiggly symbols, invented by George to represent whale sounds.
Ice Whale also has some especially sweet acknowledgements from Craig and Twig:
"We especially thank our mother, Jean, for leaving us with this "homework assignment," which pulled us all together after she died."
Dianna Wynne Jones, author of more than 40 fantasy novels, including Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series, died in 2011 before she could finish The Islands of Chaldea (ages 10 and up). Jones' sister, novelist and actress Urusla Jones, completed the unfinished manuscript, which will be published April 22 by Greenwillow Books. This standalone fantasy has all the makings of a classic Jones novel. The publisher shares more:
"Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms."
Ice Whale and The Islands of Chaldea definitely sound like two treasures.
February is Black History Month, the perfect time to remind young readers of beloved heroes and heroines like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. This year, new books focus on other important figures, including Malcolm X, the many voices of the Harlem Renaissance and unexpected champions of equality, from unstoppable performers to long-forgotten slaves.
We picked our 10 favorite new books for honoring African-American heroes and heroines. Some of these stories are inspiring, some brutal and unflinching, but all are valuable and educational.
"Kristy Dempsey revisits a watershed moment in performing arts history in her sparkling new book, A Dance Like Starlight. The story’s spirited young heroine, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, lives with her mother in Harlem. The year is 1951." Read our full review.
"This lyrical tribute to Sugar Hill, the historic Harlem neighborhood of the 1920s and ‘30s, and its legendary inhabitants packs a lot of information with an economy of words and R. Gregory Christie’s colorful, stylized paintings." Read our full review.
"With appeal for younger and older readers alike, Under the Freedom Tree is both a beautiful tribute to a lasting symbol of freedom and a powerful reminder that one brave action can change the course of history." Read our full review.
"Malcolm Little is a terrific introduction to a polarizing historical figure and an inspiring tale that children can apply to their own lives. We all face adversity at one time or another; it’s how we respond that counts." Read our full review.
"In Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell writes with great reverence and a vigor fitting to the life of the illustrious performer Josephine Baker. This handsomely designed tribute to Josephine’s life is refreshingly uncluttered in every way: Powell’s free-verse text doesn’t waste any words, and Christian Robinson’s minimalist acrylic illustrations communicate the very essence of Josephine’s vivacious spirit." Read our full review.
The Sittin' Up by Shelia P. Moses
Putnam | Ages 10 and up
"While most African-American children’s literature focuses on either slavery or the Civil Rights movement, Moses gives middle grade readers a glimpse of a time when slavery was recent enough to weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of African Americans, yet a more equitable future was also imaginable." Read our full review.
"Using the framework of Sarah’s unlikely wealth, Bolden offers a wide-ranging book discussing the creation of the Indian Territory and Oklahoma, the rise of black towns and boomtowns, and the greed and corruption that surrounds money. Searching for Sarah Rector draws upon photographs, census records, sensationalist newspaper articles and first-person interviews to tell a fascinating account of a little-known time in American history." Read our full review.
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook | Ages 10 to 14
"In The Port Chicago 50, Steve Sheinkin, author of the Newbery Honor book Bomb, tells the harrowing story of the fight for the lives and rights of 50 black sailors." Read our full review.
"Cy in Chains is a difficult, painful novel, but it’s an important one. Cy quickly morphs from a kind, compassionate boy, looking out for his friend before the accident, to a young man who’s been broken by a life of hard work and cruelty, and who comes to see compassion as a weakness he can’t afford." Read our full review.
"In a highly credible fashion, Willow grapples with her choices—she is as afraid of the path of freedom as she is of the certain horrors of continued enslavement. Perhaps most important to Willow, however, are the secrets she learns about the fate of her own mother, a beautiful and educated African woman." Read our full review.
We always look forward to the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Awards, and this morning was filled with delight (and some surprise!) over this year's recipients.
We're perhaps most ecstatic that Kate DiCamillo won the 2014 Newbery Medal for Flora & Ulysses, the adventurous, hilarious story of a cynical, comic-loving girl who befriends a most unusual squirrel. (We were looking forward to this one several months before it came out; watch us chat with DiCamillo about seal blubber, poetry and giant donuts here.)
Mad props to our teen literature expert, Jill Ratzan, for predicting the Printz winner! She shared her prediction for Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, saying, "Midwinterblood makes its readers work hard to uncover its secrets. That makes it a top Printz contender in my book." Seven intertwined narratives, full of blood and magic, unfold in reverse chronological order on a mysterious, remote island.
We are also tickled that Brian Floca won the Caldecott Medal for Locomotive, a gorgeous picture book about the beginnings of the transcontinental railroad in the United States.
Here's a (partial) list of the 2014 Youth Media Award winners. Find the full list here, and click the links below to read coverage in BookPage.
2014 CALDECOTT MEDAL
Locomotive by Brian Floca (Atheneum)
CALDECOTT HONOR BOOKS:
2014 NEWBERY MEDAL
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)
NEWBERY HONOR BOOKS:
2014 PRINTZ AWARD
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
PRINTZ HONOR BOOKS:
MARGARET A. EDWARDS AWARD (lifetime achievement in writing for young adults)
Markus Zusak (The Book Thief)
So, what do you think, readers? We're definitely thrilled by some, surprised by others.
For even more recommendations for fantastic children's and teen books, see our list of the Best Children's Books for 2013.
An outstanding year in children's and young adult literature awaits! More exciting books will be announced throughout the year, but there are plenty of picture books, middle grade and teen novels that we just can't wait to read.
Read on for our most anticipated children's and teen books of 2014—so far:
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
February 2014 | Kathy Dawson Books | Middle grade
Turnage's debut novel for young readers, the Newbery Honor winner Three Times Lucky, was one of our favorites of 2012. Precocious Mo LoBeau, who reminds us of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, is back for another Southern mystery that we're already loving. Look for our review in the February issue of BookPage!
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Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
February 2014 | Dutton | Teen
Smith, author of The Marbury Lens and last year's excellent Winger, has completely blown our minds with this end-of-the-world tale featuring giant praying mantises and teenage sexual confusion. Look for our review in the February issue of BookPage!
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Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth
February 2014 | Scholastic | Picture book
Muth, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning Zen Shorts, will undoubtedly charm us with these 26 haiku about the four seasons.
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Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne
March 2014 | Holt | Middle grade
The author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas once again offers a child's view of war. A young boy named Alfie experiences the lasting effects of war when his father returns home with shell shock.
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The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
April 2014 | Delacorte | Teen
This is Brashares' (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) first teen novel in 10 years, and we can't wait to read this epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future. Seventeen-year-old Prenna James immigrated to New York—from the future, where a pandemic has left the world in ruins. Swirl a little romance into the mix, and this one sounds like a must-read.
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Noggin by John Corey Whaley
April 2014 | Atheneum | Teen
Whaley (Where Things Come Back) immediately hooked us with this truly unusual premise: Sixteen-year-old Travis Coates' head is attached to someone else's body.
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Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta
August 2014 | Candlewick
OK, it's not exactly a children's book, but it still belongs on this list. Three children's literature bloggers, including BookPage contributor Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things, look behind the scenes of some of our favorite stories for kids.
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The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
April 2014 | HarperCollins | Middle grade
Salerni's YA novel, The Caged Graves, was one of our favorite books of 2013. This thrilling fantasy is her middle grade debut and the first in a new series, and it sounds really fun: Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend.
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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
May 2014 | Delacorte | Teen
Lockhart's a National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree, and her new book for teens has a raving John Green blurb: "Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable." We're sold.
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The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
May 2014 | Amulet | Middle grade
We loved Auxier's 2011 debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. This new standalone novel is a ghost story that promises to be creepy, mysterious and 100% fun.
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City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
May 2014 | Margaret K. McElderry Books | Teen
It's the conclusion to the Mortal Instruments, duh.
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The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís
May 2014 | FSG | Picture book
Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Sís (The Conference of the Birds) celebrates the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, who loved to fly his plane high above the clouds.
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Mogie by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
June 2014 | Atheneum | Picture book
Appelt (The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp) tells the real-life story of Mogie, a Labradoodle with a special talent as a hospital service dog. Prepare to have your heart warmed.
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The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
July 2014 | Holt | Teen
Pearson, author of the Jenna Fox Chronicles, kicks off a new series with a fantastical tale of a princess fleeing from an arranged marriage.
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Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
August 2014 | Little, Brown | Teen
It feels like we've been waiting for Bray's sequel to The Diviners for FOREVER. The long wait is over, and Diviner Evie O'Neill returns as "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is accepting of Evie's abilities, and then a mysterious killer begins claiming lives . . .
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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
August 2014 | Random House | Middle grade
Holm, author of three Newbery Honor Books, asks questions about the bounds of science and immortality in will surely be a thought-provoking read.
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What children's and teen books are you most looking forward to this year?
Correction, January 8, 2014:
Wild Things! has been moved from April 2014 to August 2014.
Correction, January 30, 2014:
The Night Gardener is not a sequel. It is a standalone novel.
• Publishers Weekly asked 20 children's books editors to share some behind-the-scenes stories about their experiences editing some true classics, including The Napping House and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
• On Buzzfeed, a whole slew of authors offer up advice on how they combat writer's block and how they got their first books published.
• As you've likely heard by now, James McBride's National Book Award win for The Good Lord Bird was a surprise to many. Vulture published this dishy history of the ups and downs of the award's 64-year history.
Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, brings us a new comic book-inspired adventure with Flora & Ulysses.
Flora Belle Buckman is a very observant 10-year-old who is also a bit of a cynic, but her life is drastically changed when her neighbor accidentally sucks up a squirrel in her fancy new vacuum. After Flora gives the poor squirrel CPR, he somehow wakes up with superpowers—he’s strong, he can fly and he can even write poetry. Flora names him Ulysses, and they form a fast friendship while getting into all sorts of silly hijinks.
Flora & Ulysses is a heartfelt story for young readers that finds a perfect balance between fun and sophistication. K.G. Campbell’s black and white pencil illustrations are just a fantastic accompaniment, and the comic-book style action sequences couldn’t be a better fit. This story is sure to melt the heart of anyone's inner cynic.
Watch the fun trailer below:
Holy Bagumba, readers! Are you reading this highly anticipated Children's Top Pick yet? (If not, you can enter this week's book giveaway to win a copy!)
Bernard Waber, the creator of many beloved picture books featuring Lyle the Crocodile and other gentle souls, passed away on May 16 at age 91. His books included The House on East 88th Street and Ira Sleeps Over, among many others. Though his most common milieu was New York City, children all over the world found comfort and humor in the stories he told. What could be more reassuring than to know that everybody, even Ira, gets homesick sometimes?
Waber's more recent books included Courage (2002), which he wrote partly in response to the 9/11 attacks. In a hand-drawn Q&A about the book, Waber exhorted children to hold onto their dreams, as he surely did. He leaves a legacy of more than 30 books, ensuring that generations of children to come can still meet Lyle the Crocodile and follow him on his adventures.
With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, we know that many of you are searching for a special gift to share with your mom. And since there are few better treats for a mom than the opportunity to read a few good books with their children, we've put together a list of our favorite new picture books that celebrate mothers of all kinds, from soldier moms to squirrel moms. Read about two of them here, and then check out the whole feature to read the rest.
Reviews by Robin Smith
Brayden Bunny loves his mom but bristles at some of her rules. When she lets him know it's time to get out of bed, he wishes aloud that he could go and live with his friends. His mother overhears, and soon Brayden tries living at a number of his friends’ houses. Missy Mouse’s house is fun—but messy. The Badger family smells of unwashed badgers. The Squirrel family lives so high up that Brayden instantly knows it will not work out. He loves being with Auntie Grace, but still . . . something is not right. What is missing?
More sophisticated, but no less loving, is Sean Qualls’ treatment of Langston Hughes’ poem Lullaby (For a Black Mother). Collage and watercolor play well together here, inviting little ones to sleep while introducing them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Qualls’ palette is calm and filled with overlapping circles, mirroring the repeating nature of the poem itself. The mother is front and center, wearing her lace dress, collaged with words from books. She is always looking right at her beloved diaper-clad baby, which is just where children expect their mother's gaze to fall. I especially loved the winding musical notes with the chubby baby singing in delight. The repeating words, displayed in a pleasing, stylized large font, will invite older brothers and sisters to read right along with baby—always a plus!