Shower Power: Give a Book!

Kathryn Madeline Allen is the author of A Kiss Means I Love You (2012) and Show Me Happy (2015). She lives in Michigan, where she teaches and writes.

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I love baby showers! The gifts are precious: itsy-bitsy booties, teeny-tiny jammies, onesies, blankies, bottles . . . and books.

As a children’s author and college professor, I’m happy to give books as gifts and to see them being given. Some shower invitations these days suggest, “One request that isn’t too hard, please give a book instead of a card.”

So here’s a baby shower gift book idea: Mem Fox’s Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. I had the pleasure of hearing Fox discuss Reading Magic in person a while back and have recommended it to my children’s literature students ever since.

This week, I’ve reread it from a different perspective. Not as author. Not as professor, but as Grandma to two grandsons: a toddler and a newborn.

Reading Magic“The best time to start reading aloud to a baby is the day it is born,” Fox recommends. I quickly called my son after rereading this advice. Have you read to the baby yet? I asked (after all he’s almost two weeks old). It’s really important!

As Fox puts it, reading aloud “positively affects children’s brains, hearts, words, and futures.” In Reading Magic, she expands on each of these, telling why, when, how and what to read aloud. The book is divided into bite-size sections so busy parents (or grandparents, teachers and others) can easily read it and use the tips right away.

Which books do you like to give at baby showers?

Shower Power: Give a Book!

Fall 2015 preview: Picture books!

In anticipation of Children’s Book Week (next week!), we’re giving you a sneak peak into some of our Fall 2015 picture books!

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In Sarah S. Brannen’s second installment of the Madame Martine series, Max sneaks into the Louvre and sends Madame Martine and her friend on a chase around some of the world’s most beautiful works of art!

It’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and children throughout the pueblo, or town, are getting ready to celebrate! They decorate with colored streamers, calaveras, or sugar skulls, and pan de muertos, or bread of the dead. Join the fun and festivities, and learn about a different cultural tradition!

Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is back with another season-themed picture book, which is a realistic account of how apple cider is pressed, flavored with the charm and vigor of a harvest celebration. Every apple does its part,, whether juicy sweet or tart.

Rudy's Windy Christmas

While Santa and Mrs. Claus eat their dinner, Santa sneakily feeds his sprouts to one of the reindeer rather than eat them himself. The result is, uh, smelly, to say the least. Now, Rudy can’t seem to stop releasing windy pops from his backside as he and the other reindeer help Santa deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

Which one are you most looking forward to?

Fall 2015 preview: Picture books!

#Fridayreads: Middle-grade audio books

Editorial Director Kelly Barrales-Saylor shares her thought on a couple audio books for this week’s edition of #FridayReads!

A couple weeks ago Wendy wrote in her #FridayReads that she recently discovered audiobooks. There must be something in the water at AW&Co, because I recently made the same discovery. I have a fairly long commute to and from work, so I have plenty of time to listen to books on tape (when I’m not singing along to my iPod or listening to Howard Stern). So I borrowed a couple audiobooks from my local library and here are the results: sometimes audiobooks are awesome and sometimes they are not.

I’ll admit, I’m a little behind on my middle grade reading list… Er, maybe I’m a lot behind since I’m still working my way through the 2013 and 2014 Newbery lists. I picked up Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (read by Tara Sands) and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (read by Adam Grupper). Both of these books, as beautiful and imaginative literature, are awesome. But one worked perfectly as an audiobook and the other, not so much. Can you guess which is which?

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For those of you as behind on middle grade books as me, Flora and Ulysses is the story of a young girl (Flora) with divorced parents who witnesses her neighbor accidentally vacuum up a squirrel (Ulysses) in her backyard. She runs to rescue the squirrel and realizes the squirrel can communicate with her—and might be some sort of super hero! This book is also full of really awesome illustrations by K. G. Campbell. You know what you can’t see when you’re listening to an audiobook? The really awesome illustrations by K. G. Campbell. Womp womp. They did an ok job of conveying through the audio what was happening in the comic book sequences, but the whole time I was listening to the book, I felt something was missing. I might need to reread this book as a book because I think my inner-10-year-old would’ve loved this story (and wished to discover a poetry-writing super hero squirrel). I can tell you one good thing: I do look at the squirrels in my neighborhood with a little more compassion now.

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Ok, let me move on to The One and Only Ivan. This audiobook was amazing. It was a little slow to start because I struggled with the sad premise: A gorilla has been in captivity almost his entire life as the main attraction of a circus inside of a shopping mall. He lives in a glass enclosure and his friends include a stray dog and an elephant. It’s quite melancholy. But there was something so intriguing about the story. And each word Katherine Applegate chose was somehow so perfect I couldn’t stop listening. I’d stay in the car a few extra moments after I pulled into the driveway just so I could finish up a scene. There were quite a few times I had to finish crying in the parking lot before I walked up to our office building. Somewhere along the way, I found such joy and pain and love in this story. Adam Grupper’s reading and the voice he gave Ivan was so perfect. Just thinking about it now is making me tear up. As a book lover, I’m going to buy this one in hardcover just so I can have it in my collection.

I’m off to the library this weekend to pick a new audiobook. Any suggestions?

#Fridayreads: Middle-grade audio books