Let’s Hear it for the Cows!

Cows deserve a round of applause. Don’t worry, you read that last sentence correctly. Our bovine friends deserve some recognition, and for more than just one reason. While an average cow weighs 1650 pounds, they are cuddly and sweet, and even sleep next to the members of their families. We wouldn’t have sweet ice cream treats, or warm buttery bread without them, but most of all without cows, we would’ve missed out on a great tale or two. Pun intended.

In honor of our new title The Cow Who Climbed A Tree lets take a second to remember all the wonderful cows that have shown us the way.

Babe the Blue Ox

Paul Bunyan, the strapping Wisconsin lumberjack, would’ve been lost without his trusty friend Babe the Blue Ox. Babe, who was adopted by the mythical man and grew to massive proportions, helped Paul Bunyan pull his wagons up and down icy terrain. Babe even fell in love with Bessie the farm cow. Bessie would make enough butter to grease Paul Bunyan’s big pancake pan, and with her long yellow eyelashes she even made Babe, a northern ice-road bull, fall in love with the warm summer weather. These cows showed us friendship and warmth, and kept our minds dreaming about their wonderful journeys.

Ferdinand the Bull
Ferdinand the Bull

Babe and Bessie weren’t the only bovines to warm our hearts, though. Ferdinand the Bull demonstrated the courage to be true to oneself time and time again. Ferdinand the Bull by Robert Lawson highlights a bull who prefers to spend his time among the flowers rather than fighting. Even when he grows to become a big bull ready to fight an amazing matador, Ferdinand stays true to his roots and lies in the ring playing with the daisies. This story reminded us to stay true to our beliefs even when we are in a situation that proves difficult.

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

Following in these famous big cow footsteps is Tina, the cow who dreams of adventures even when her ideas are called impossible, in The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino. Tina has passion for discovering new things, and going places no cow has gone before. Her siblings may say she’s crazy, but she knows that she is destined for adventure. After making friends with an adorable vegetarian dragon, Tina is able to reach her goals, and show others what she can do. Her perseverance and drive are admirable, and just like the other cows before, her she shows us just how much we can accomplish.

Cow tales have shown so many of us the way, and reminded us of our abilities no matter our size or color. This spring, join us in bringing Tina the cow to stardom like Babe, Bessie, and Ferdinand, and welcome her into your hearts. Here’s to the spotted, black, brown, blue, tree-climbing, daisy-picking, ice-road-hauling cows and all they continue to teach us!

-Maggie Lynch

Let’s Hear it for the Cows!

Twisty novels arrive in spring

This spring the weather isn’t the only volatile variable, with the new thrilling books we’re releasing for AW Teen. Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs and Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown are two titles that require some buckling up and buckling down: their story curves create binge reading tendencies in even the most resistant readers. Just like heavy clouds that tingle with the anticipation of rain, each of these stories build with anxiety for answers.

9780807526828 FutureShock

Future Shock, one of the unrelentingly interesting titles follows the story of Elena Martinez: the possible key to saving the dystopian future. With her eidetic memory and tenacious spirit, Elena and a crew of fearless recruits head into the future with one mission and one rule. When their travels in time go wrong, they’re forced to break that one rule: Not to look into their futures. With a clock ticking away, Elena and her cohorts must find a way from preventing their unfortunate fates, and get back to the past. Playing with fate proves to have dangerous outcomes, and the mission may just cost her the group’s demise.

     Girl Last Seen is a thriller of a different kind. When two best friends, Kady and Lauren, become YouTube singing sensations, their dreams seemed to have come true. That is, until Lauren lost her singing voice and the newly solo sensation Kady went missing. Through a series of memories, lyrics, and multiple perspectives, it becomes clear what happened to Kady. This book is filled with rhythmic prose and fearful relationships. When it seems like one of the characters is a decided villain, a new reveal will play your heartstrings with gentle candor like one of Kady and Lauren’s songs.

9780807581414_GirlLastSeenPB

Springtime brings in sunshine and eager warmth, but it also ushers in a season of fickle clouds, and uncertain wind. It seems fitting that with this weather we release some of our most rivetingly twisty novels. We send them out and hope their capricious plots, and heart-pumping prose doesn’t send us volatile storms. No matter the weather, nothing is better than the worlds that will unravel beyond the covers of these two mysterious spring titles.

To find out more about Girl Last Seen and Future Shock follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. These titles may be twisters, but our other titles include some warm spring breeze.

-Maggie Lynch

Twisty novels arrive in spring

Holiday memories from our authors

Growing up, my family always did a joint Hanukkah/ Christmas celebration.  Christmukkah? Hanukmas? My friends were jealous because they figured I got double presents, but actually my parents spread the gifts out over the eight nights and Christmas day.  I did open something each evening, but often they were what other kids called “stocking stuffers”—pairs of socks, a new toothbrush… or (my favorite) a book.
We picked our tree on Christmas day, most often for free. Yes our trees were sickly and bent, the picked-over ones, but there was something Christmassy about bringing a lonely curved tree into our warm home to be dressed up.

Brenda Sturgis imageTradition IS the key to making memories, and creating magic. Our family tradition involves a can of whipped cream. It began as one of those silly
little things that a grandmother does for her grandchildren, to enlist a giggle. No matter what the holiday, or celebration, my grandchildren
stampede into my kitchen, scrounge through the refrigerator and line up. 7 hungry children with mouths agape, waiting to see who can hold the most
whipped cream in their mouth.  This tradition is one that will surely be ingrained inside their hearts, whenever they pass the dairy aisle in the
grocery store.
-Brenda Sturgis, author of Still a Family (pub. Fall 2016)

Felicia Chernesky--Felicia and Stephanie, Christmas 1971[2]
Felicia and Stephanie (1971)
My sisters and I anticipated Christmas presents under the tree, but Christmas Eve was sacred. We’d help Mom cook—stuffed artichokes, angel hair aglio et olio, countless fish dishes, zeppole, strufolli—and set the table with her best china. After Mass we’d gather at the corner for a rowdy firetruck visit from Santa, who handed out Colorforms sets or treat-filled stockings. Every year, Mom (who is small in stature) was carried up to sit on Santa’s lap while the neighbors cheered. Later we’d exchange gifts; Dad always had something special for each of us. Then Mom and Dad played piano and we’d sing carols. Christmas Day with grandparents and cousins was wonderful, too, but Christmas Eve night was just for us.-Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, author of From Apple Trees to Cider, Please


laura hurwitz photoOur family is an interfaith one. My upbringing was Protestant while my husband is Jewish. This means our six children have always celebrated both Hannukah and Christmas. The menorahs (somehow, we have amassed four) are stored in the basement right alongside the Christmas decorations and my grandmother’s manger scene. It was never a matter of pitting Santa Claus and Christmas carols against potato latkes and applesauce but joyful holiday coexistence. Our family Venn diagram of Christmas and Hannukah shows the inevitable theological differences, but we have always celebrated the intersection and its commonalities: Light against darkness. Loved ones gathered round. Faith in all kinds of miracles.

Laura Hurwitz, author of Disappear Home

Holiday memories from our authors

Holiday Season traditions: from our authors

Holidays often challenge blended families. My divorced parents worked it out by having two Christmases for my brother and me. One with my mother and stepfather at home on December 25th, and the other, which we called “Little Christmas,” with my father, stepmother, and paternal grandparents.

WhitneyStewartLittleChristmas
Whitney (center) with cousins

My beloved grandmother Mari made sure my brother and I felt adored. She prepared an extra Christmas meal just for us with my cousins. The highlight of the tradition was the money tree. Mari hid coins of different values in tin-foil ornaments. The luckiest kid found the quarter. Now I laugh at the message of Mari’s tradition—you mean money does grow on trees?

Whitney Stewart, author of Meditation is an Open Sky


Mandy_Christmas_Austria_story
The original recipe card and last year’s batch of Lebkuchen trees

When I was a child, we had a World Book Encyclopedia. World Book sent out an annual Christmas package that included a book about how Christmas was celebrated in a different country, recipe cards with traditional cookies from that country and an ornament. I would sit by the Christmas tree and read those books over and over. I kept the recipe card from Christmas in Austria (1982) and still make the Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) every year without fail. It reminds me of how much I loved reading as a child.

Mandy Mikulencak, author of Burn Girl


 

Nancy I. Sanders and family
Nancy (right) is hugging her new doll in a red velvet dress.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I knew that Santa Claus stopped in Florida first. Every Christmas morning, tucked deep in the toe of each of our stockings was a big, beautiful orange. The fragrance filled the room as my brother and sisters and I sat next to the crackling fireplace and peeled them open. I knew nobody could get oranges where I lived during winter. So I had Santa all figured out. He got them in Florida first! Santa still hides an orange in our stockings each year. It’s a tradition that we continue with our own children and grandchildren.

Nancy I. Sanders, author of A Pirate’s Mother Goose


When I was growing up, sometimes the snow held off until after the weather got really, really cold. This was black ice season, and the best skating ever. We had a little pond in our back yard. On holiday nights, we put sand in the bottom of paper lunch bags and lit candles inside. We put the lanterns all around the edge of the pond, and built a bonfire nearby. We skated under the stars until our toes were cold and painful, and then warmed up by the fire with cups of cocoa, while the grownups drank something mysterious. And, of course, we toasted marshmallows.

Sarah S. Brannen, author and illustrator of Madame Martine Breaks the Rules; illustrator of All Kinds of Families


The most unique holiday tradition in my beautiful seaside city (Portland, ME) is the Lobster Trap Christmas Tree. The tree stands over twenty feet tall, made from seventy-six real working lobster traps. The thing reeks of brine, salt water, and dead fish. (Now this is Super Schnoz’s kind of tree!)

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The Lobster Trap Christmas Tree is a tradition in many Maine communities, from the tiniest island village to the big (by Maine standards) city of Portland. If you find yourself in Maine during the holiday season, take a good whiff and follow your nose to see this unique Maine holiday tradition!

Gary Urey, author of the Super Schnoz series

Holiday Season traditions: from our authors

Fond holiday season memories: from our authors

It didn’t seem like Christmas. The sun was shining. The flowers were blooming. I had just mowed the lawn, for crying out loud. This was nutty, even by California standards. Yvonne and I had recently married, and Christmas hadn’t yet changed from his and hers into ours. It was December 20, and we hadn’t even bought a tree. That was when Yvonne decided we needed a dog. We found an ad for puppies that were in a little mountain town. When we drove there, an amazing thing happened. It started to snow. We found the house, where we were attacked by twelve bundles of fur. The one called “Fuzz Face” kept nibbling Yvonne’s hand. Twenty minutes later the puppy was ours.

And, for the first time then and joyfully ever since, so was Christmas.

Ronald Kidd, author of Night on Fire


Family wedding
Amy’s sister’s wedding

With seven kids in our family, my mom didn’t have much one-on-one time with us. But Christmas brought the best day of the year: Wrapping Day. Santa doesn’t bring presents for kids over ten. Parents buy presents for those kids themselves, and those presents need to be wrapped. So on Wrapping Day, Mom kicked all the big kids out of the house and I got to help her wrap their presents. I was about four on my first Wrapping Day. I tore the paper, ate ribbon, taped myself to the carpet. I was a disaster, but I was a disaster with my mom. And that was pretty cool.

Amy Allgeyer, author of Dig Too Deep


Storytime was my favorite part of my job as a school librarian. I have fond memories of reading aloud The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate; it inspired important discussions with my students.

christmas menorahs

The book is based on a true story that took place in 1993 in Billings, Montana. When a prejudiced group threw a rock through the window of a home displaying a Hanukkah menorah, the townspeople rallied to decorate their homes with menorahs, too. This group effort made a bold statement that hate would not be tolerated. It is a message we need to hear just as urgently today. I look forward to reading it one day with my grandchildren.

Jacqueline Jules, author of the Zapato Power series


Growing up in a big Italian family, Christmas was always about family and homemade food and gifts! We still carry on the Italian Christmas Eve dinner tradition of the “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” (Yes- we count them!). This year, as I do every year, I carefully unwrapped the homemade ornaments and place them on our tree. This simple act was what sparked the idea for my book,” A Homemade Together Christmas.

homemade together christmas

The book is dedicated to my mother, Rose, who taught us that being together is the best gift of all. Though she won’t be sitting at our dinner table this Christmas Eve, she’ll be there, in our hearts as we celebrate togetherness.

Maryann Cocca-Leffler, author and illustrator of A Homemade Together Christmas

Fond holiday season memories: from our authors

Creating Holiday memories: from our Authors

One of my earliest Christmas memories is peering through the tiny windows of a ceramic gingerbread house. The fragile house, decorated with candy cangingerbread housees and gumdrops, looked good enough to eat, but what really captivated me was its glow: With the flick of a switch, the whole house lit up, so I truly believed that a little cookie family lived inside. And why not? Christmas is a time of wonder and belief, and children, with their infinite capacity for wonder, remind us how to believe. Now that I’m grown, I find joy watching my own children peek through those same windows, whispering  “Merry Christmas!” to the cookie family. After all, just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Megan E. Bryant, author of Dump Truck Duck


A hilariously cheri©JaneSmith_holidayblogphotoshed part of our annual holiday celebrations is a White Elephant Gift Exchange. The rules are simple: 1) Your wrapped gift must be something you already have that you no longer want. 2) You must take whatever gift you receive home. My whole
family piles up the white elephant presents and sits in a circle around them every Christmas Eve. Over the years there have been big belly laughs when receiving such gems as a box of old keys, a Christmas tree ornament that wouldn’t stop singing, a hideous wizard wind chime (that has shown up more than once!), and much more. I both laugh and cringe to wonder what I’ll get this year.

Jane Smith, author and illustrator of the Chloe Zoe series.


 

christmas memory
Illustration by Luke Flowers

To celebrate the birth of Christ in a humble manger, our family would sleep in the hay loft of our barn on Christmas Eve. The smells and sounds of barn life all through the night truly made for an authentic experience. And though we didn’t have a crying newborn baby, there was plenty of crying about the cold, which kept us close as ever until Christmas morning. The first year my own children were old enough to participate was truly a special Christmas memory. The smell of the barn would linger in our clothes as we celebrated, but the memory of that unique tradition will remain all my life.

Luke Flowers, illustrator of One More Dino on the Floor


The year was 1976, and my parents had just built a brand new house. New, except for everything in it was made to look like it was 1776: three huge brick fireplaces, teeny-tiny kitchen, pine plank floors, beamed ceilings. (They took that bicentennial year to extremes.) But the best thing about living that way was that, at Christmas, the 1700s also applied to our transportation. My fondest Christmas memory was hitching up our shaggy horses to an antique sleigh, pimping the mares out in jingling sleigh bells, the family cuddling up under a bearskin rug, and driving the team three miles to my cousins’ house for Christmas Eve. I’m sure it was freezing. (It was Minnesota, after all). But my memories of that night are nothing but warm.

Anne Greenwood Brown, co-author of Girl Last Seen


I was in my early teens when I stumbled across this book about N. CReidNCWyethCover. Wyeth. My head nearly exploded at the realization that this artist whose work I loved from books was a real person who made his living as an illustrator. It was very expensive, so I read as much of it as I could in the bookstore. On Christmas morning my head nearly exploded a second time when the book appeared under the tree. That was it: I decided to become a book illustrator. Thanks mum and dad!

Barbara Reid, illustrator of The Night Before Christmas


My Grandpa Sam loved Christmas movies. I used to sit with him for hours on the weekends as he watched reruns of The Bells of Saint Mary’s, The Bishop’s Wife and Boys Town on his old black and white television in our two-family home in the Bronx.

Nancy Churnin grandpa

“Why do you like Christmas movies so much?” I asked. My unspoken question was, why would a Jewish man who’d fled anti-Semitism in Russia enjoy sentimental stories about priests and nuns? “Everybody is so nice to each other in these movies,” he said blissfully. That’s when I realized that what my grandfather believed in more than anything else was kindness. I squeezed his hand and we enjoyed the movies together.

Nancy Churnin, author of The William Hoy Story

Creating Holiday memories: from our Authors

Authors in the Wild

by author Alison Ashley Formento

Writing about nature is fun, especially when it comes to research. Long before sitting at the computer to compile my notes to write, I’ve met dozens of wonderful scientists such as apiarists, biologists, botanists, and geologists, who love nature as much as I do. Thanks to these experts, I’ve climbed many trees, surveyed the seas, and met a million or so buzzing bees, too.

AFormento Bee pic 1

Alison Formento Star Wars

I’ve found that it’s good to go little wild in the natural world, which helps me write a stronger story from what I’ve learned in my extensive research. Authors research and learn from other authors, too. We compare notes, writing tips, plotting techniques, and even share educator guide advice and bookmark designs, which we hope will help sell our books.

I’ve been fortunate as an author to meet friends who also have books published by Albert Whitman. My publishing mates Nancy Viau and Jacqueline Jules also research the topics they write about and they both share my passion for meeting young readers.

Nancy Viau with student
Nancy Viau reading her book to a student.

Jacqueline Jules speaking

We’ve appeared at educator conferences, book festivals, libraries, bookstores, and shared our unique author journeys at our favorite outings—schools visits. As in any job, sometimes there are down days for authors, such as an educator event with low attendance or the huge outdoor festival that had to be quickly moved indoors because of whipping winds and rain due to an approaching hurricane. These down days are few, and my author friends agree that it only takes one young reader, one smiling face to change a less-than-perfect event into a great author day.

Alison Formento with kids
Alison at a school visit.

In the wild, sometimes authors climb trees and sometimes we meet a storm trooper who is interested in bees. Sometimes we get a group hug. Most authors I know agree—if people are reading our books, we’re smiling.

Who changed your perspective on reading?

Authors in the Wild