The Kids Are All Right

American Library Association Annual Conference Recap!

Hi Kid Lit fans!

I think I have officially recovered from my travels to Chicago for the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference. It was an amazing experience! What a glorious opportunity to geek out about all the amazing children’s book titles, meet other authors, and connect with awesome librarians.

Sponsored by When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, Illustrated by David Catrow

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.

‘Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knew

That the world needed someone exactly like you!

I started off with plane delays at LaGuardia Airport (no surprise!), and good thing I was prepared with two books because they definitely helped pass the time. Andrew Clements’s The Losers Club (August 1, Random House Books  for Young Readers) honors all the bookworms out there (I was definitely one of kids who read books during recess and while waiting for my mom to pick me up after school). It’s about a kid who is forced to join an after-school club, so he starts a reading club so he can do what he wants to do most: read! The other book I had with me was The War I Finally Won (October 3, Dial Books) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, the sequel to the Newbery Honor winning book The War That Saved My Life, continues the story of Ada during World War II. It’s a beautiful second installment to a story so many of us have come to love.

I did finally make it to the windy city and got to the exhibition hall early on Saturday. Because I had an exhibitor/author pass, I could enter before the doors opened to attendees at 9am. I wandered around and made sure I knew where all the publishers were located, then I hovered around the Disney-Hyperion booth because Jason Reynolds was signing Miles Morales: Spider-Man (August 1, Marvel Press) and Ronald L. Smith was signing Black Panther: The Young Prince (January 2, 2018, Marvel Press) both YA adaptions, right at 9am. Not wanting to be the first in line, I took a moment right before nine to submit an entry to win some books at the New York Review of Books booth. I turned away for about thirty-five seconds, and when I turned back the Disney-Hyperion booth was mobbed! The signing line had gotten so long I had to back up two aisles to find the end of it, then waited in line for about half an hour to get to Jason and Ronald. It was worth it!

I also connected with Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Scavenger series. She was at ALA promoting her second book in the series, The Unbreakable Code. In the first book, twelve-year-old Emily moves to San Francisco, home of her literary idol Garrison Griswold, creator of The Book Scavengers fame. What happens next is a literary scavenger hunt as Emily and her new friend James dodge book thieves and try to uncover Griswold’s new game. In Book Two, more encrypted notes hidden in Mark Twain-penned books plus arson fires cause Emily and James to be on high alert. These books are fast-paced and fun, perfect for fans of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein!

Over in the Albert Whitman booth, the staff were celebrating seventy-five years of The Boxcar Children series, created by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I remember reading this series when I was young, and now my seven-year-old daughter is obsessed with them. We bought all the backlist titles from a library sale, and she has read almost all of them multiple times. I received a galley of the new mini-series, Journey on a Runaway Train, which is sure to hook readers new to the Boxcar Children. Albert Whitman had commissioned the folks at the Little Free Library organization to make a Boxcar Children-themed little library, and it turned out amazing! Pictured with the adorable boxcar library is Albert Whitman publicist Tracie Schneider (who is the nicest, by the way!).

One of the illustrators I was so excited to meet was Elise Gravel, author and illustrator of If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel, published by Drawn and Quarterly and released last month. The signing line moved slowly because she drew personalized creatures for each person. I told her I had two daughters and that we all really appreciated her philosophy that art should be fun and have no pressure linked to it. She said that with her kids, she’s even stopped saying things like, “I like that drawing” or “That drawing is really good.” She said that type of feedback inhibits creativity because kids are trying to “get it right”. I tried her tips with my kids, and the results have been great! This was a page I did together with them last week, and my older daughter commented that she felt a lot better just drawing without worrying whether it was good. Yay for Elise Gravel!

And lastly, I have to give a shout out to my author hero Linda Sue Park, author of the Newbery award winning book A Single Shard. I had the privilege of sitting next to her at the Coretta Scott King breakfast (my nine-year-old daughter wrote her a long letter that started with, “You are my favorite author” and ended with, “I hope one day I will be an author like you”), and Linda Sue was so warm and supportive and had a story for everything! She had hand knit a hat for Ashley Bryan which she gave to him at the breakfast. (Ashley Bryan is the author of Freedom Over Me, which has won the Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Illustrator and Author Honor, and the Boston Globe Horn Book Picture Book Award.) The hat she had knitted had owls on it because, “Ashley is my wisest friend.”

The Horn Book published the 2017 Caldecott, Newbery, and Coretta Scott King acceptance speeches in their July/August issue, and you can follow these links to read them.

Read Javaka Steptoe’s 2017 Caldecott Medal acceptance speech here and his Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
acceptance speech here for his
book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Read Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Acceptance Speech here for her book The Girl Who Drank the Moon.


Okay, let’s move onto some of the new books that I’ve loved!




Picture Book New Releases!

Black Belt Bunny by Jacky Davis, illustrated by Jay Fleck (July 11, Dial Books)

Jacky Davis of the Ladybug Girl series does it again with this super cute and funny picture book that is sure to get lots of fans. Here’s the description: “Black Belt Bunny is fast and strong and has seriously awesome moves—from front-kicks to back-flips to air-chops. Then he’s faced with something new, something every bunny must learn, something he might not be as good at: He has to make . . . a salad. Black Belt Bunny tries to escape. He even disguises himself with a fake mustache. But when he finally hops to it, he discovers that his seriously awesome moves come in pretty handy, and that—in a funny twist that puts the narrator in the hot seat—he isn’t the only one who has to try new things.”

Lost and Found, What’s That Sound? by Jonathan Ying, illustrated by Victoria Ying

Victoria Ying’s illustrations are charming in this new book written by her brother Jonathan. Young readers are sure to enjoy guessing what item each character is looking for by their sounds. “‘Welcome to the Lost and Found, where we find items by their sound!’
It’s a busy day at Rabbit’s Lost and Found. Poor Squirrel has lost his drum, Elephant has lost her piano, and Bat has lost his entire band! Will Rabbit find their lost instruments before show-time?”

I Want to Be In A Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien (July 11, Candlewick)

This story is a great addition to picture books where the reader feels like part of the story (it reminds me a bit of Chester by Mélanie Watt). The purple monster is adorable, and the situations he finds himself in are very relatable. This is the synopsis: “Our author would like to write a funny story, but his main character — Monster — has a different idea. He wants to be the star of a chilling, petrifying, utterly terrifying SCARY story. But scary stories . . . well, they can be very scary — especially for their characters! Particularly when they involve dark forests and creepy witches and spooky houses . . . Oh yikes and crikes, this is definitely not the scary story Monster had in mind! Maybe he wants to be in a funny story after all!”

Middle Grade New Releases!

Cody and the Rules of Life by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

This is a wonderful chapter book! The themes of friendship, sharing, and injustice are sure to strike a chord with children, and the illustrations help younger independent readers visualize the story. Here’s the book description: “In Cody’s life, many things are hard to predict. Like why her older brother, Wyatt, is obsessed with his new bicycle called the Cobra, or why her best friend Pearl suddenly wants to trade favorite toys. Pearl says she will trust Cody with Arctic Fox because Cody is a trusty person. But Cody doesn’t want to give up her beloved Gremlin, and she regrets it as soon as she hands him over. When the Cobra goes missing, Cody has to decide for herself who is trusty and who is not. If only she had Gremlin to talk to! Surely Pearl wouldn’t mind if she secretly traded back . . . it’s not stealing if it belonged to you in the first place, right?”

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English (July 11, Clarion Books)

I loved this book. The language was beautiful and so very honest, and I recommend this for older middle grade readers. On a side note, I read somewhere that the cover artist did the cover entirely on an iPad! “It’s 1965, Los Angeles. All twelve-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she’s the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents’ marriage is rocky. There’s also her family’s new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life—and her own place in it—is even more complicated than she’d once thought.”

A Dash of Dragon by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski (July 11, Aladdin)
This was a fun debut by author team Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski, perfect for middle grade readers who like magic, cooking, and adventure. “For years Lailu has trained to be the best chef in the city. Her specialty? Monster cuisine. When her mentor agrees to open a new restaurant with Lailu as the head chef, she’s never been more excited. But her celebration is cut short when she discovers that her mentor borrowed money from Mr. Boss, a vicious loan shark. If they can’t pay him back, Lailu will not only lose her restaurant—she’ll have to cook for Mr. Boss for the rest of her life. As Lailu scrambles to raise the money in time, she becomes trapped in a deadly conflict between the king’s cold-blooded assassin, the terrifying elf mafia, and Mr. Boss’ ruthless crew. Worst of all, her only hope in outsmarting Mr. Boss lies with the one person she hates—Greg, the most obnoxious boy in school and her rival in the restaurant business.”

Pennybaker School is Headed for Disaster by Jennifer Brown, illustrated by Marta Kissi (July 11, Bloomsbury)

This was a fun, quirky read that is sure to tickle the funny bones of middle grade readers! “Thomas Fallgrout always thought of himself as a regular kid until the day he accidentally creates a little big of magic using his grandpa’s old potions. Suddenly, he’s pulled from public school and enrolled in Pennybaker Academy for the Uniquely Gifted, where kids are busy perfecting their chainsaw juggling, unicycling feats, and didgeridoo playing. Pennybaker is full of spirit thanks to its most beloved teacher: the late, great Helen Heirmauser. The school has even erected a statue of her head on a pedestal. Then, life is uprooted when the statue goes missing — and everyone thinks Thomas is behind its disappearance. Now his head is on the line. As his new friends turn on him, Thomas finds himself pairing up with the only person who will associate with him: his oddball next door neighbor Chip Mason. Together they work to hunt down the missing statue . . . only to discover that maybe what they’ve both needed to find all along was true friendship.”

Backlist Bump!

In honor of meeting Linda Sue Park, I thought I’d give a shout out to a few of her (many) books.

Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee

This is one of my favorite picture books! The rhythmical language and the fun illustrations make an unforgettable story. This was one my kids asked me to read to them over and over when they were younger. “Bee-bim bop (“mix-mix rice”) is a traditional Korean dish. In bouncy rhyming text, a hungry child tells of helping her mother make bee-bim bop: shopping, preparing ingredients, setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy a favorite meal. The enthusiasm of the narrartor is conveyed in the whimsical illustrations, which bring details from the artist’s childhood in Korea to his depiction of a modern Korean-American family. The book includes Linda Sue’s own bee-bim bop recipe!”

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

I read this book a few years ago, but recently we listened to this on audio during a family road trip. We found ourselves wanting the car ride to be longer so we could find out what happened next! “In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.”

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

There’s a reason this has been a New York Times bestseller for so long. It’s a perfect, compassionate, powerful book. “The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.”

These are just a few of Linda Sue Park’s books, but she’s written dozens more and I suggest you read them all!

Before I leave you, I wanted to let you know about Book Riot’s new podcast, called Annotated. It’s a documentary podcast series about books, reading, and language. As you know, I love my podcasts, and Annotated reminds me a lot of Planet Money (which I LOVE). The  current series is about the sudden rise in popularity in George Orwell’s 1984. The next five episodes in the Annotated series will come out every other week, and you can subscribe to Annotated in Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or in your podcast player of choice. Check it out, and let us know what you think!

What children’s books are you reading and enjoying this week? Find me on social media and let me know! I’m on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or send me an email at Have a great week!


Izzy stole my ALA badge as soon as I got home from Chicago. She demands that I bring her with me to the next book conference!

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