Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I'd Put on My Auto-Buy List

This week's topic over at The Broke and the Bookish is authors you'd put on auto-buy. I divided my list into two, one dedicated to children's book authors and the other to writers who pen for adults.

Authors Who Write for Children
1. Jack Gantos
Everything I've read of his I've loved. Gantos has a unique voice that captures children the way they really are, not how adults want them to be.
2. Kevin Henkes
From picture books to easy readers to middle grade fiction, Henkes does it all and does it well.
3. Polly Horvath
Horvath's characters are quirky, but in a believable way. And she's laugh-aloud funny.
4. Sara Pennypacker
Her Clementine books are some of the best early chapter books around.
5. Mo Willems
The mighty Mo. 'Nuff said.

Authors Who Write for Adults
1. Kate Atkinson
She's got a new novel on the horizon and it's already on my pre-order list.
2. Alison Bechdel
Bechdel can't write--and illustrate--them fast enough for me. My all-time favorite graphic novelist.
3. Amy Bloom
A master of the short story, Bloom writes about people you won't soon forget.
4. Ruth Rendell
Even though I've sometimes been disappointed by her work, I still read every Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine novel that comes out. When she's at her best, no other suspense writer can touch her.
5. David Sedaris
Who could pass up a David Sedaris collection? Not me.

So that's my list. What authors make your cut?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Look What Just Came Out!

Last year, right as we were moving into our new house, I was frantically at work completing my latest book. I'm proud to announce it was just released. A fancy coloring book for adults, not kids, Masterpieces of Art is part of Thunder Bay's Color Yourself Smart series.

Here's the book description:

Research has shown that there are many different learning styles, and adding a tactile/kinesthetic element helps your brain to retain the information you’ve learned. Color Yourself Smart: Masterpieces of Art does just that. Have fun while learning and improve your memory with this revolutionary new series. Author Catherine Nichols has selected 52 of the world’s most iconic masterpieces of art throughout history and has compiled them here, along with intriguing facts about the artist, the scoop on what was happening during history to make each masterpiece relevant, art terminology and the techniques employed, and information about the work of art itself. Everything you need for a crash course in art history is right here in one set, ready to open and begin, or to take on the go.

- This incredible set includes 52 plates to color, colored pencils from Faber-Castell, and everything you need to begin your introduction to the most iconic masterpieces.
- Journey throughout history and to the most famous museums in the world, page by page.

Color Yourself Smart: Masterpieces of Art offers a holistic and fun way to learn about the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

CYBILS Winners Announced!

Valentine's Day is here and you know what that means. I'm not talking about long-stemmed red roses, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and flutes of Champagne (although I sure wouldn't mind a glass or two tonight). No, I mean today is when the CYBILS announce the winners of the 2012 books they love best of all.  As a second round judge this year, I got to debate the merits of some fantastic books in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book categories. My fellow judges provided some top notch critiques and I'd like to thank them all for their passion and zeal. These folks seriously dig children's books. So a big round of applause to Julie Azzam, Stacey Loscalzo, Nancy Talan, and Zoe Toft! And a special shout-out to Terry Doherty, our fearless mediator!

As for the winners, we selected Frank Viva's A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse for best Easy Reader, an exceptionally gorgeous book with eye-popping illustrations and laugh-aloud text. For Early Chapter Book we chose Sadie & Ratz by Sonia Hartnett and illustrated by Ann James. I didn't know about this remarkable book about sibling rivalry run amok until judging time. All I can say is I'm so glad I got the chance to read it.

So hop on over to the CYBILS website and take a gander at all the other fine winners. You're sure to see many of your favorites as well as a few surprises.

Now where's that Champagne?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Pet Named Sneaker

If A Pet Named Sneaker has a traditional feel to it, perhaps it's because its author, Joan Heilbroner, penned several easy readers back in the day. Her most famous is the 1962 charmer Robert the Rose Horse (with illustrations by P. D. Eastman).

The hero of her latest book is Sneaker, a snake who can contort himself into seemingly endless shapes. At the story's start, he lives a lonely existence in a pet store until a boy named Pete takes him home. (I applaud the choice of Pete for his name. Beginning readers will learn how adding a final "e" changes the title's "pet" to "Pete.") Sneaker goes everywhere with Pete, including to school, where he learns to read and write, and to the park pool, where he saves a toddler from drowning and ends up as the lifeguard's helper.

The story has definite kid appeal and the cartoony illustrations humorously showcase the snake's antics. I'd have preferred the story to have been broken into two separate books, one featuring Sneaker's adventures in school and the other set at the pool. As is, the transition from school to summer vacation is abrupt. But I doubt kids will mind, and I bet many after reading this book will beg their parents for their own pet snake.

A Pet Named Sneaker
by Joan Heilbroner
illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre
Random House, 48 pages
Published: January 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Up, Tall and High!

Contrary to what you might think, the winner of this year's Theodore Seuss Geisel award, Up, Tall and High! isn't about an insomniac basketball player on speed. Instead a flock of cheerful birds demonstrates the differences between the directional terms up, tall, and high (but not necessarily in that order).

Using bright, bold colors, strong lines, and sparse text, Ethan Long successfully illustrates these words in a humorous way. Adding to the fun, each of the three stories has a gatefold that opens up or down and that further throws light on the concept. In the second story, for instance, a landlocked penguin bemoans the fact he can't fly. An enterprising bluebird hands him some balloons and off he goes. Lift the flap and our penguin friend is now floating into the sky as he exclaims, "Yes, now I can go very high!"

Beginning readers just starting out on the road to fluency are sure to rejoice in a book that has so much to offer--simple text, boisterous art, interactive flaps, and giggles galore.

Up, Tall and High! (but not necessarily in that order)
by Ethan Long
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 40 pages
Published: February 2012