Monday, March 27, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

You guys! We’re just one week away from Major League Baseball’s opening day. Of course, the opening-day game I’m most looking forward to is the one between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals, right here in Minneapolis at Target Field. Who’s your favorite baseball team? No matter which big league team you root for, you’re sure to have a ball (ha) reading these baseball-themed books from Lerner.

Emergent readers will devour this book that’s all about America’s favorite pastime. School Library Journal's Series Made Simple calls the title “[a] dynamite choice for beginning readers … [and] a nice introduction for kids who are thinking of trying a new sport.” Find a free teaching guide for it here.

Middle-grade baseball fans can indulge their love of the sport with this offering from our Playing Pro Sports series. What does it really take to become a pro ball player? This book has all the details on the talent, hard work, and dedication required to play at baseball's highest level.

For a little fictional baseball fun, middle-grade readers can turn to The Prospect, as well as its accompanying titles in the Travel Team series. The Prospect follows Nick Cosimo, a young player who eats, breathes, and lives baseball. Nick’s a catcher with a cannon for an arm. His baseball teammates place their trust in this leader, both on the field and off. But when Nick spots a scout in the stands, will he alter his game plan to try to get drafted? Or will be put his team before himself?

Finally, young adult readers will discover a thoughtful and intelligent read in this award-winning, star-reviewed book about sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge, who has always been aware of two facts about herself:

1. She’s a standout baseball player.

2. She’s adopted.

And despite facing some teasing, being a biracial girl in a white family had never made much of a difference to Alex as long as she's a star on the baseball diamond, where her father—a former pro baseball player—serves as her coach. Yet things begin to change when Alex meets Reggie, the first black guy who’s wanted to get to know her, and she discovers letters from her biological father. Suddenly, Alex questions whether she really fits in with her family, what it means to be black, and whether baseball is truly her passion in life.  

Sink your teeth into these meaty, informative, and page-turning reads about baseball this spring. They are sure to hit a home run, no matter where your team loyalties lie.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What's real and what's made up? How you can learn to find out

Real or made up: Most kids need help learning how to read. (Real!)
Real or made up: Kids born in the digital age instinctively know how to navigate sources of information. (Made-up!)

Do your students know how to find information, either at the library or online? Or do they frequently demonstrate to you that they don't understand why plagiarism is wrong or that they can't find or cite reputable sources?

Would you like to help them sift through the information currently available in our world, more than we've ever had access to in the past? Here at Lerner we work pretty darn hard to research, write, and fact-check all our nonfiction books. And since we have learned and practiced these essential skills, we believe we're good candidates to put together books that can help kids do the same. These titles can help young readers learn about research, genres, advertising, media, and information literacy as a whole.

In early grades, kids are learning how to read and find information. The six titles in our Library Smarts series will give them a great start, helping to answer questions such as: How can you find out things you don't know? How can you find a good book? Which websites are safe and fun for kids?

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Even at the tender ages of five through seven, modern kids are bombarded with advertising. But at this age, not all of them can differentiate between fact-based content and ads. Our Learn about Advertising series, from the much-loved First Step Nonfiction brand, can help. Kids will learn to identify ads in everyday life, as well as understanding that ads mean someone wants them to do or buy something.

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Second and third graders are becoming stronger readers. They often branch out into different genres. But do they understand that different genres do different things? The books in our Name That Text Type! series explore different age-appropriate genres. Books answer questions such as: How is nonfiction different from other kinds of writing? How are plays different from poetry? Each book includes lots of examples to help readers identify the genres in real life.

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As students reach upper elementary grades, they research and write nonfiction reports. Our Info Wise series walks them through that process, including how to find and evaluate sources for reliability. The series also contains a special title on how to identify and assess advertising. These books address the Big6 skills for information and technology.

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And finally, for fifth- through eighth-grade readers, we have Media: From News Coverage to Political Advertising. This book explains how the media works during an election cycle, including a critical thinking component that asks readers to look at opposing viewpoints and consider their own beliefs and experiences.


Please let us know if there are other critical thinking and information literacy resources that would help you and your students. We publish new books every season!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Open Call for YA Literary Horror Submissions

What’s most frightening: The play of unfamiliar shadows in a once-familiar place? The sight of a distorted face, remorseless, teeth bared? The unreliability of the human mind itself?

Different scares resonate with different people, of course. But if you were prepared to answer, ‘Honestly, none of these are more frightening than the threat in my YA manuscript,’ then please read further.

Carolrhoda Lab is looking for carefully crafted works of prose horror for young adult readers. An ideal submission might resemble a YA echo of Brian Evenson’s grim surrealism, an Angela Carter-esque exploration of the scary side of a classic tale, a story with the terrifying topicality of Get Out, or a work in the tradition of Suspiria’s sublime creepiness.

Please send all submissions to carolrhodasubmissions [at] lernerbooks [dot] com. Pitches from the general public welcome. Complete manuscripts only. Although horror thrives on the unknown, please include complete contact information and a one-page synopsis of your novel.

I cannot guarantee a reply to every submission. This open call begins today, March 22, and will last until the end of April.

Greg Hunter - Carolrhoda Lab

Friday, March 17, 2017

Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with Sara Latta and Jeff Weigel of 'Smash!'

In the eye-popping graphic novel Smash!, arriving this April, two cousins, Nick and Sophie, take a tour of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest machine. Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research use the collider to accelerate particles and smash them together. They study the results to find the hidden building blocks of matter. The trip’s a chance for Nick and Sophie to explore what the universe is made of—and what holds it all together. It also gives readers a new window into the history of particle physics, captured by Sara Latta’s witty, intensively-researched script, as well as Jeff Weigel’s inventive artwork.

To learn more about how this feat of pop science came together, and the challenges of explaining complex concepts in a visual manner, the Lerner blog asked Sara and Jeff to unpack their process.

Sara, let’s start with a question for you: When did you first begin to see the potential for a book about the Large Hadron Collider, and about a history of particle physics? Did you know from the start that you wanted to pursue it in the form of a graphic novel, or did that come later?

Sara Latta: It must have been around 2010. My husband is a particle physicist, and he was part of the collaboration searching for the Higgs boson* at the LHC. So we’d had lots of dinner table conversations about the search for the Higgs boson, and I thought it would be exciting if I could somehow find a way to make the science accessible to younger readers. I knew from the start that I wanted it to be illustrated; at first I had something in mind like Larry Gonick’s excellent series of cartoon guides to science. At the same time, I was starting to read a lot of graphic novels as well as graphic nonfiction (thanks to my kids!), and saw the potential of using visual and literary narrative to explain some pretty complex ideas. I knew and admired Jeff’s work, and approached him at a conference to ask if he’d be interested in working with me on this project. Thanks for saying yes, Jeff!

* Scientists found evidence of the Higgs boson, an elusive particle, as a result of work conducted at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The Higgs boson had been suspected to exist since the 1960s, and its detection reinforces the ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics (the most widely-accepted theory of particles and their interactions).

Jeff, what were your initial reactions to the idea? Did your brain start buzzing immediately? Any moments when you wondered, ‘How the heck will we do that on a comics page?’

Jeff Weigel: I’m a great believer in the medium of comics, and I’ve also done a lot of layperson’s reading on the history of physics, atomic structure, and astrophysics. The idea of employing comics to explain these subjects to kids immediately intrigued me when Sara brought it up. Comics’ potential to teach and convey abstract ideas isn’t mined nearly enough, and the challenge of dealing with these sorts of subjects graphically felt like it was right in my wheelhouse. I immediately told Sara I was on board if she decided to move ahead with it. Once I got her early script draft, I did—I’ll confess—wonder just how to convey a lot of the wonky subject matter in visuals that would make her ideas clear. Thumbnailing out the action in this book is absolutely the toughest comics storytelling problem I’ve ever tackled.

Sara: I want to add, Jeff, that your expertise in the visual aspects of storytelling absolutely brought the wonky aspects to life! One of my favorite examples is where you illustrated a description of particle collisions with a scene in which Sophie and Nick play pool. I love the way in which the ordinary act of pool balls colliding is transformed into the tracks of a particle collision.

OK now, a question for you both—what surprised you the most about the end result?

Jeff: The most surprising thing about the book to me was how tricky and delicate a storytelling problem it turned out to be. There’s got to be a consistent internal logic to how the characters react to and interact with all the impossible things that the narrative presents to them: conversations with dead scientists, interaction with diagrams and demonstrations of abstract ideas, transitions between the real world and an imagined world, etc. For instance, if the kids meet Albert Einstein, how should they react—should they be shocked? excited? awed?—or just treat it like an ordinary conversation, since the whole thing happens in their imagination as they discuss scientific principles? Allowing the kids to, say, stand on top of [an imagined, physical version of] the formula “E=mc2” hinged on important and delicate choices as we tried to keep the reader in the story without wondering, “How did that happen?” We can ask the reader to suspend disbelief as long as there’s an internal logic to how the surrealism is presented. If we violated that logic, the reader would be distracted and confused.

Sara: Scientific progress can move quickly, and sometimes unpredictably. When I first began thinking about the book, the Higgs boson had not yet been discovered, and so my thinking about the book was about the progress toward a scientific discovery. By the time we finished the book, and while the book was in production, the Higgs boson had not only been discovered but there was some evidence that the scientists at the LHC might have discovered a new Higgs-like particle. Fortunately for us (but maybe not for science), the data didn’t pan out, so we didn’t have to make significant changes to the book. Writing about cutting-edge science really keeps you on your toes!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Meet Kirstin Cronn-Mills and Alex Jackson Nelson

By Domenica Di Piazza, editorial director of Twenty-First Century Books

Domenica says:
I'm beyond thrilled that LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality (TFCB, Fall 2016) is a finalist in this year's Young Adult Literature category for the Minnesota Book Awards. The book's brilliant author, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, will be at the award ceremony along with Alex Jackson Nelson. Alex is a certified ASL interpreter and the director of training and a senior therapist at RECLAIM!, a non-profit agency that provides mental health services to queer and trans youth in Minneapolis. Alex identifies as transgender and contributed the introduction to the book and served as our much respected consultant throughout the research, writing, and production life of this project.

I invited Kirstin and Alex to share some thought about working on this book together.

 Alex Jackson Nelson (left)

Alex says:
This book is important because seeing reflections of ourselves makes us real. Reflections can magically create a world where existing authentically becomes possible.  Not only inside of our identities, but alongside the sports we play, the music we listen to, and the communities we build. Seeing others like me in the world has created an opening for me to live authentically in my trans identity. Through her writing and advocacy in the LGBTQ+ community, Kirstin has created a platform for me to support the visibility of queer and trans folks through writing. I am grateful for the projects that have formed our friendship, and I’m thrilled that this book has been recognized for the Minnesota Book Awards.

 Kirstin Cronn-Mills (left)

Kirstin says:
I’ve known Alex for more than ten years, and I deeply respect all I’ve learned from him in our work together on three different projects. It’s an extra joy to be his friend. Being able to support him and the trans community is something I care deeply about. Creating this book was a way to say, “Hey, these folks are important—important to ALL OF US,” and to participate in a tiny dismantling of barriers for LGBTQ+ kids, especially young LGBTQ+ athletes. It’s also incredible to be recognized by the Minnesota writing community. There is no greater honor than respect from our peers. 

Winners will be announced at the ceremony on April 8, 2017. Stay tuned!