Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let us now praise school visitors

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G. Neri visits Krasnoufimsk, Russia

I get to work with many authors and illustrators who have school-visit schedules that would make your head spin. John Coy, Nancy Carlson, and Greg Neri to name only three Nancy Carlson takes input from students on what should be included in her doodle of her popular character Harriet. Harriet is based loosely on many of the experiences in Carlson’s own life. Carlson showed step by step the process she uses for drawing her favorite character.rack up more miles and passport stamps than I care to contemplate. I consider myself a good traveler and something of a road warrior where car trips are concerned, but I’ve seen school visit schedules that would make me cut up my driver’s license and let my passport expire. And as taxing as this work is, I think this travel is also one of the most important things authors and illustrators do today.

Don’t take my word for it though. John Coy has written with characteristic eloquence on the matter.

“Like any school visit, once I’ve agreed to come, teachers and librarians start preparing students. Because of those efforts, I never cancel and am reluctant to postpone. That’s true with winter driving in Minnesota, and it’s true with unforeseen situations at international schools.”

 Read his whole piece here.

Author John Coy speaks to West Carroll eighth-graders Thursday. Oct. 7, 2010, at West Carroll Middle School.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

All Hallows Read Recommendations

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When I was in college, my extra-awesome English department started the October Unhappy Hour to celebrate Halloween. We'd all get together, dress up, eat food (the more sugar and unnatural orange dye, the better), and listen to each other read spooky stories in the library for a few hours.

Designed by Jennifer Williams
Dressing up wasn't mandatory, but many of those who did don costumes pulled out all the stops. One professor completely steam-punked himself, wearing, among other things, knee-high boots with way more buckles than necessary, a bowler hat, and some kind of futuristic eye goggles. My literary theory professor had a Victorian black-and-white striped dress on with a spray of black feathers shooting off from one shoulder. One of my friends wore a cloakwe usually didn't let him out in public with it, but we made an exception for Halloween. His backpack crammed with physics homework underneath gave the appearance of a hunchback.

Reading material varied, too. Poe was a favorite, but Neil Gaiman's work showed up as did Stephanie Meyer's. Let me tell you, a passage from Twilight read aloud in a creepy voice by a classmate in a cape is a frightening thing undead. Er, indeed.

Also designed by Jennifer Williams, the aforementioned literary theory prof
Our Unhappy Hours were anything but unhappy, and I encourage all of you to host a Halloween story time yourself, no matter how old your audience members are. If you're not sure which books to read, Neil Gaiman's All Hallows Read website is a great place to start looking. (If you're not familiar with All Hallows Read, it's basically an encouragement from Neil Gaiman to buy your friends and relatives scary books for Halloween.)

Here are a few spine-tingling Lerner titles to share:

by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff
Attention, YA fans! This collection of eerie short stories by celebrated YA authors includes doodles and notes (see picture below) from the authors themselves and is perfect for fans of the weird, magical, and paranormal. And, drumroll please, there's a sequel coming soon from these talented, slightly twisted authors.

A spread with the authors' notes

written by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Adam S. Doyle
This middle-grade book is probably my favorite title of the season. The standalone-yet-intersecting stories revolve around slightly supernatural events that take place on a farm. Farmer Bald has just died, leaving his son Bones in control. Fat the fairy, Bones's bitter enemy, is not happy about this. While their simmering resentment comes to a boil, a mouse fords an ocean of tears to reach his true love, a spider composes sonnets, and a pig dances fancy-free while the farmer's wife prepares to make pig's foot stew. This book will delight and terrify fourth graders on up.

These books are definitely more cute than terrifying, but they're great for young readers who might have heard of creepy creatures but aren't quite sure what they are. The eight-book series covers werewolves, zombies, vampires, fairy-tale witches, dragons, mummies, aliens, and ghosts.

by Samuel Hiti

Waga may not be the biggest or slimiest or hairiest monster around. But he has a secret weapon: a big scare! One day, Waga loses his scare. He looks everywhere for it: the graveyard, the creepy woods, the dark cave. Readers will love following Waga as he searches for his lost scare in this picture book, and they'll never guess where he finds it!

written by Laurie Friedman and illustrated by Teresa Murfin
Teresa Murfin's quirky illustrations perfectly complement Laurie Friedman's playful, rhyming text in this picture book about Simon Lester Henry Strauss, a boy who's not afraid of haunted houses, vampire towers, Frankenstein's monster's wedding reception, or (nearly) anything else he and his scaredy-cat friends encounter.

For more All Hallows Read titles, take a look at our Pinterest board dedicated to the most haunting stories we've published. Happy Halloween! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Life at Chernobyl?

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When the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded in April 1986, no one could possibly have foretold the dramatic resurgence of plant and animal life that scientists are witnessing in the region in the twenty-first century. Rebecca L. Johnson interviewed some of the key scientists who are working in Chernobyl’s so-called Dead Zone to try to better understand how life continues and perhaps even adapts to survive after nuclear devastation. The book--new for TFCB this fall--includes photos from the field, and this month, Kirkus gave the fascinating account a star, commenting that “the appropriate background and clear, easy-to-understand explanations make this one-of-a-kind title both accessible and interesting. An important story clearly and engagingly told by an experienced science writer."

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone is a one-of-a-kind read you won’t want to miss. Try pairing it with a (free online) viewing of PBS’s Radioactive Wolves, a 2011 Nature documentary focusing on the wolf packs in Chernobyl’s Dead Zone.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Free Book Friday's Countdown to Halloween: Ghostly Evidence!

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Congratulations to Elizabeth Meyers! You've won Monster BuddiesPlease send an email to with the subject line "Free Book Friday" and your mailing address so we can get your books in the mail.

We've got another great book for Halloween to give away: Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal!

It's late at night, and you're on a tour of a so-called haunted house. You see something out of the corner of your eye and quickly snap a photo. Your hands tremble as you lower the camera. Your eyes widen as you stare at the image you've just captured. A face seems to be lurking in the background. But when you look up, there’s no one standing there! Was it a ghost?

Ghost sightings are reported all the time. Many are easily explained. Others are harder to dismiss. But is there any proof? To find out, Kelly Milner Halls explored haunted houses. She examined photographs and investigated eyewitness accounts from ghost hunters, mediums, and paranormal experts. What's the verdict? Are the spirits of the dead wandering among us? Explore her findings and decide for yourself.

If you'd like to win Ghostly Evidence, please leave a comment on this post (including your first and last name), or tweet this line: "Free Book Friday! RT to win @KellyMilnerH's GHOSTLY EVIDENCE from @LernerBooks."

We'll announce the winner on Friday, October 31, so check the blog then to see if you've won!

Good luck!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


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You guys! It’s almost Halloween! And we can celebrate big-time this year, because the Night of Fright is falling on a Friday. This means later trick-or-treating, lots of Halloween party potential, and the option to stay up late eating candy and watching scary movies (provided that’s your thing).

9781467738347fc_Large Since this Halloween is bound to be extra fun for many, I thought I’d share some ideas for living it up courtesy of Plan a Holiday Party (cover pictured):

Want to make a tasty, festive holiday snack? Just toss some mini pretzels or peanuts in a bowl and mix in a little candy corn for color. If you want, you can add bagel chips, Bugles, raisins, chocolate chips, or anything else you like.

Need a drink to wash down that salty treat? Fill a punch bowl with ice and 2 liters of lemon-lime soda. Mix in 1 liter of lemonade, pineapple juice, or cranberry juice. Add several drops of red food coloring, and there you have it—“bloody” punch! You can also go for green food coloring and toss in some gummy worms for a little extra creepiness.

Looking for an easy way to decorate your door or yard? Put some cotton balls in the center of a tissue and secure the cotton by tying the tissue with some string. Draw eyes on with a marker. Hang these guys from a tree or suspend them over your door.

● Make a playlist to keep your party hopping—or to set the mood as you hand out treats to little ghosts and goblins. Our suggested spooky tunes include “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, and “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

Happy Haunting, everyone!