Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

In Freddie Ramos Rules New York, the sixth book in the early reader Zapatos Power series, Freddie tests out his new super-power sneakers while on a trip to the city to visit his uncle.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with author Jacqueline Jules to chat about Freddie Ramos Rules New York, her inspiration, and a wish for a zapato power herself.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Freddie’s latest adventure?

 A: Whenever I do a school assembly, I always tell my audience how the plot for Zapato Power #4: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash and Zapato Power #5: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow came from student ideas. This generates lots of suggestions for other books in the series. I always listen carefully, because I am looking for inspiration. At a school in Atlanta, Georgia, a boy walked up to me and said: “Freddie should visit his Uncle Jorge in New York.” It was a brilliant idea and something that had not occurred to me before. I am indebted to that boy. After that, I considered situations in New York City where Freddie would naturally need to use his special sneakers. Running up the stairs in walk-up apartments came to mind. Also, New York City traffic jams. That’s when I came upon the plan to have Freddie use his special sneakers to deliver an important letter for Uncle Jorge.

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Artwork by Miguel Benitez

Q: Why did you decide to give Freddie new sneakers in Zapato Power #6?

A: I needed to answer a question that students asked me at just about every school visit. What happens when Freddie outgrows his special shoes? It was a question I had not worried about when I first began the series. As an adult, I don’t outgrow my shoes anymore. But young readers reminded me how this is an important consideration for a growing boy like Freddie. It was fun to address it in Freddie Ramos Rules New York because it also gave me a chance to give Freddie an extra power.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A:  As a rule, I struggle with titles for my stories. But for this book, I knew I wanted a title with three elements: alliteration, an action verb, and an indication that Freddie was on an adventure outside of his home in Starwood Park. Freddie Ramos Rules New York provided all three items and fortunately came to me right away.

Q: What do you like the most about Freddie Ramos?

A: Freddie reminds me of the students I taught while I worked as an elementary school librarian in Falls Church, Virginia. He is good natured, caring, and fun to be around. While his life includes some economic and personal challenges, he has a positive, often humorous outlook. I admire Freddie. He was originally based on a Latino student of mine named Freddie. When I began the first book, Freddie Ramos Takes Off, I had a picture in my mind of this student’s very winning smile. But as the story grew in the pages of my book, Freddie Ramos became a person in his own right. I hear Freddie’s voice in my head when I write. I know exactly how Freddie would view something or describe it.

Q: If you had Zapato Power, what would you want to do with it?

A: I would do all my errands and housework superfast so I would have more time for writing and my family.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in New York City?

A: I love the High Line. It is an amazing elevated park, where you can admire plants and artwork while also enjoying a view of the city.

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Artwork by Miguel Benitez

Q:  Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: If I don’t have an appointment or a presentation, I am usually at the computer writing. I start around 8:30 in the morning and work till about ten in the evening. Of course, I take breaks. Around 11 a.m., I ride an exercise bicycle. In the afternoon, I like to take a walk or do errands. I eat dinner with my husband but I eat both my breakfast and lunch at the computer. I will admit to being a bit of a workaholic.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I remember enjoying The Borrowers, The Jungle Book, Secret Garden, Ben and Me, and that blue biography series, Childhood of Famous Americans. I still read every day for a half hour or more on my exercise bicycle. As an elementary school librarian, I became hooked on children’s books and they are still my favorite type of literature.

At the moment, I am devouring a pile of advanced reading copies (all children’s books) I picked up at the American Library Association conference. I don’t have a strong genre preference. I read fantasy, historical fiction, realistic fiction, verse, nonfiction—anything that has a compelling narrative.

 

Thanks, Jacqueline! Catch the latest title in the Zapato Power series before it zooms away. For more from Jacqueline, check out her website.

Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

Welcome Back to School

There is a certain type of excitement in the air in September unlike any other time of year. It’s full of dreams and promise, new and old friendships, fun classes and activities. What do you want to accomplish this year? Who will you become? What will you learn?

 

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To welcome you back to a fun, rewarding, and educational school year we wanted to share a few fun activities for kids based on our titles—and discussion guides for their dedicated teachers and librarians.

 

For Kids

Keep the back to school fun going with fun downloadable activities staring Chloe Zoe, the adorable yellow elephant. There are activities like word searches, mazes, and spot the difference to go along with both preschool- and kindergarten-aged titles.

 

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Take out the new boxes of crayons and markers! Have fun coloring dogs from The Buddy Files series, dinosaurs (plus many other craft projects!) from One More Dino on the Floor, kids from Janine and the My Emotions and Me series, or plants from First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

For older students learning to read independently, there is no better series than The Boxcar Children series, a classic that will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. Read about the adventures of the Alden children—and once you’ve finished a book, you can take a quiz to see which kid you’re most like or even get in touch with them to ask a question!

Our recently relaunched website also has a slew of activities that keeps the fun going from classroom to home to backyard. Try your skill at word puzzles, your hand at crafts, or even bake up a delicious treat inspired by the books!

For Teachers and Librarians

Teachers get to have fun going back to school, too: meeting new students, sharing favorite books, and opening up a world of possibilities.

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General Info:

Did you know all of Albert Whitman’s books are leveled with Accelerated Reader, Guided Reading, Scholastic Reading Counts, and Reading Recovery? We also provide Common Core Curriculum Connections for our most recent titles. All this information can be downloaded on our School and Libraries page.

Picture Books:

Bring history alive with books about notable historical figures. Start with guides on The Original Cowgirl, The William Hoy Story, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. During this year’s election season, don’t miss the guides for Heart on Fire and If I Were President.

Plus, continue discussions about the natural world, science, and math with creative classroom activities based on the Wells of Knowledge or These Things Count series or the books Dig Those Dinosaurs, First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

Early Readers and Chapter Books:

Start classroom discussions for titles included in The Buddy Files series, Lulu series, and Zapato Power series with these engaging guides.

The Boxcar Children series:

The Boxcar Children have been a teacher-favorite since the very first book, which Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote for her students. She knew the vocabulary and content were appropriate for young readers—and that they would relish the Boxcar Children’s independence and opportunities for adventure. Today, teachers and librarians love the series for the message of teamwork and empathy, because even when the Boxcar Children uncover the villain of the mystery they’re solving, it’s more than just that: they care about the person and situation, and they work hard to set things right again. It’s easy to tie The Boxcar Children into your classroom with a Common Core-aligned guide. Plus, the same Boxcar activities mentioned above for kids are also available in easy-to-download themed packets.

AW Teen:

Bolster dialogues about young adult titles including Being Henry David, Down From the Mountain, Guantanamo Boy, Promise Me Something, and This Is How I Find Her.

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As the months of the year fly by, don’t forget to check our site frequently for more fun activities and helpful guides. Upcoming titles that will soon have these materials include the picture books From Here to There, Swimming with Sharks, Where Are the Words?, and The Nian Monster; and the early reader title Freddie Ramos Rules New York (Zapato Power #6).

Happy school year from the Albert Whitman & Company team!

Welcome Back to School

Thanks for Participating!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge! You all are great readers—and reviewers!

The Summer I Found You  A Different Me  Girl Last Seen copy  The Opposite of Love

We have one lucky winner…Penny O.

Penny will receive a prize pack of six AW Teen titles!

 

Future Shock (hardcover)

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Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life—or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporations selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future, and she’ll be set for life. Elena travels with four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy. Soon they find themselves running out of time, and deadly secrets are uncovered. Can Elena and her new friends figure out how to change their futures?

Resurrecting Sunshine (ARC)

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Seventeen-year-old Adam Rhodes is famous, but he’s been in a downward spiral since he lost the girl he loved, Marybeth, who went by the stage name Sunshine. Then, Adam is approached by Dr. Elloran with Project Orpheus, who wants to resurrect Sunshine. As the process sweeps Adam and Marybeth ever closer to reliving the tragedy that destroyed them, Adam must decide how far he’ll go to save her.

Until I Break (ARC)

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Two boys: One is a star athlete and top student with a deep-seated need to prove himself. The other is a chip-on-his-shoulder quarterback who will never settle for second best. When gunshots echo through the halls of Broadmeadow High School, whose finger is on the trigger? This unforgettable novel counts down the twelve months leading up to an explosive moment.

Biggie (paperback)

Biggie in paperback

At an obese 300+ pounds, Henry “Biggie” Abbott prefers classroom success to sports. As Biggie’s junior year begins, the girl of his dreams, Annabelle Rivers, starts flirting with him. He’s been told to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play baseball, but Annabelle might be the one to actually convince him to try.

Girl Last Seen (hardcover)

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YouTube stars and best friends Kadence and Lauren recently had a major falling-out over Kadence’s boyfriend. Kadence launched her solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal cords. And she knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. But nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with Kady’s disappearance.

Hurricane Kiss (hardcover)

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For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors—including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he’s now silent and angry. But their evacuation route is soon gridlocked. As the teens wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is more than just staying alive—it’s about fighting for yourself.

 

Thanks again to everyone who participated! Check back here for more news about AW Teen, contests, and even a chance to get to know your favorite authors better!

 

 

Thanks for Participating!

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

In Goodnight Bob by husband-and-wife team Ann and John Hassett, little Bob uses his flashlight when he sees mysterious eyes in the dark at bedtime. With a whimsical twist, this is a bedtime book unlike any you’ve read before.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Ann and John to chat about Goodnight Bob, their creative process, and favorite bedtime reads.

Q: Which comes first: the text or art?

A: Ann and John: The idea for Goodnight Bob began with a small drawing of a little boy in his bed. Somehow a story grew from that drawing. Finding the words was a little like putting together a puzzle. Every word had to fit just right. That was the hope anyway. Then came days of sketching, doodling, erasing, scribbling, paper-crumpling, and lots and lots of looking out the window. Artwork was finished three hours before deadline. Not really, but close.

Q: Were you ever afraid of the dark?

A: John:  I grew up in a house full of mice, and most of them lived in the attic above my bed. Late at night, a few scurrying mice can sound like a gorilla throwing furniture around up there. My brothers and I never got much sleep.

A: Ann: Yes, I’m still afraid of the dark. We don’t have mice in the attic; we have squirrels.

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Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?  

A: Ann and John: Sometimes a story idea will almost write itself and need very few changes till completion. But those are rare as Bigfoot sightings. Most stories need to be tinkered with over and over till they feel right. Even then, we always find something we wish we could change. Same with the pictures.

Q: What are your hopes for Goodnight Bob?

A: Ann: We hope readers find Goodnight Bob slightly spooky, but also safe and reassuring and fun to read. And if it’s read at bedtime, we hope no one goes to sleep before the last page is turned. Yawning is fine, but no sleeping till the end.

Q: Could you see a sequel in Bob’s future?

A: Ann: Yes! The next book has the working title Bob’s Rock.

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Q: What creature would you want to wish you goodnight?

A: John: The famous Cow that Jumped Over the Moon. That cow is amazing. The cows I know couldn’t jump a glass of milk.

A: Ann: I’d like an owl to wish me goodnight with lots of wild hooting right outside my window.

Q: What book do you like to read at bedtime?     

A: Ann: I love to read mysteries, but not at bedtime or I’ll have nightmares, so I usually read nonfiction that puts me to sleep.

A: John: Go Dog, Go, by PD Eastman was my favorite bedtime book as a boy, and I still keep it close by. It’s absurdly funny and the pictures are just right. A perfect book, though it may bother cats. Best to read this story while your cat is busy somewhere else.

Thanks, Ann and John! Love Goodnight Bob already? Don’t miss the adorable book trailer! And to find out more about Bob, including links for purchasing the book, check out our website.

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

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.

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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.

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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

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


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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.

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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.

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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