Monday, February 8, 2016

The Truth about Bullying

9781467794886fc_Medium I try not to play favorites with Lerner books. When it comes to our Spring 2016 list, though, I do have a title I'm particularly proud of. That title is Digital Safety Smarts: Preventing Cyberbullying (cover pictured).

In this title, author Mary Lindeen takes a truly innovative approach to the topic of cyberbullying. Too often, the anti-bullying books I've seen take a subtle-yet-noticeable “blame-the-victim” tack. They suggest that there’s a “reason” some kids get bullied. The truth, however, is that—just as in any situation where one or more persons abuses another—bullying victims do nothing to bring on the attacks. The reason bullying happens is because someone’s really hurting. That someone is the person doing the bullying.

If I could say just one thing to a kid who’s facing bullying, it’s this: It has absolutely nothing to do with you. Nobody posts cruel things about another online (or bullies them face-to-face, for that matter) unless they are struggling. Mary Lindeen realizes this, and for this reason, she implores kids who witness online bullying to report it. Kids who bully need help. They are in pain, and they need an adult to offer them constructive ways to deal with that. Adults so often don’t see what kids are saying to one another online—and so it is especially important when it comes to cyberbullying that kids take a stand and report it.

If the “report-it” and “it’s-not-about-you” messages were the only great messages in Digital Safety Smarts, that would be enough for me. But there’s more. This book has information on how to think critically about what you see online. It has tips on how to stay safe when navigating the digital world. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of many readers this spring, both old and young alike—for it has messages that I believe we all need to hear and take to heart.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Valentine's Day Picture Books

First, congratulations to Alyssa Annico, who's won a copy of Don't Call Me Grandma. Alyssa, send your address to and we'll get your book in the mail.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Okay, we know it's more than a week away, but we thought we'd share a seasonal set of picture books and two very cool stories of readers who are making a difference in honor of the holiday.

What could be better to read on Valentine's Day than Laurie Friedman's Ruby Valentine picture books?

These sweet stories will delight readers of all ages and show fans how they can make a difference in small ways. 

One Ruby Valentine fan, Annabelle Celkis (also known as Annabelle Valentine) decided to follow Ruby's example. Every year since she was four, she has handed out Valentine's Day cards and cookies to people in Manchester, Michigan. One year, she visited the local Veteran's Hospital, and another year she handed out valentines at a family homeless shelter. 

This year, eight-year-old Annabelle will be traveling to Flint, Michigan, to deliver cookies, suckers, valentines, and bottled water on Valentine's Day. To learn more about Annabelle's mission and to make a donation, check out this article in the Manchester Mirror.  

Ruby Valentine has also inspired another young reader, Carly, to give out valentines in assisted living residents, crisis centers, and cancer patient residences in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for the past eight years. She's also raised money to make donations to some of the places she visits. To learn more about Carly Valentine and to make a donation, visit her website.

Way to go, Annabelle and Carly!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Congratulations to R. Gregory Christie!

Last month, R. Gregory Christie received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore! This is Gregory's fourth CSK Illustrator Honor, so we wondered: does it feel new each time?

Here's what Gregory has to say about his previous CSK Honors and The Book Itch

"It feels amazing to be in such great company once again. The first time I won the [honor] award was in 1997. I was in my 20's and really didn't have an in-depth understanding of its prestigious legacy before getting that congratulatory phone call. [However,] I was elated that I was being given any type of honor on my first book and still feel such grateful excitement today. 

"Each book project that comes my way is not only a chance to showcase art techniques but also an opportunity to open up doors. Doors of diversity, imagination, empathy, and whichever human response a book is able to evoke from a reader. 

"When it came to being the illustrator for The Book Itch, creating the visuals for this story had such a special meaning for me. As a bookstore owner myself,  I really read the book with empathetic feelings. Much of what Vaunda Micheaux Nelson wrote about Lewis' long hours and fervor for changing lives through self-knowledge resonated with me. I know that the times were different, but for me much of the psychological points of view and day-to-day events told through Lewis Jr.'s eyes hold true today. 

"I feel that the book is a peek in to the past, mostly for those who were not there to live it; so I tried to create images that would pay homage to the art of that time period. I was very painterly and kept the tonal values down because I felt that a retro style would really fit the text. It certainly was new territory in terms of technical skills for me, but I'm glad to play my part in the Michaux family's legacy and thankful that the 2016 Coretta Scott King Award committee will help to keep this book alive on the library shelves."

Congratulations, Gregory!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Research and the Magic of Reality

This guest post comes courtesy of the fabulous Rebecca L. Johnson.

Kids often ask me where I get ideas for my nonfiction, science-focused books, such as my new title with Millbrook Press, Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters. The simple answer is that I read—a lot. Science journal articles, science blogs and magazines, science digests online. And rarely does a day go by that I don’t come across a reference to some new discovery that is so marvelous, so unexpected, and so delightfully “cool” that it cries out to be shared with young readers.

Masters of Disguise got its start when I read an article about Acanthaspis petax, an assassin bug that catches ants, sucks out their liquefied insides, and then stacks the carcasses on its back to create a unique form of camouflage: a backpack of dead ants that almost completely obscures the bug’s body. The disguise fools ants into thinking the bug is a pebble or lump of dirt. Ants that wander within striking distance are dispatched with frightening speed, and their remains added to the bug’s
camouflaging cloak. How could I not write about something like that!?


Equally exciting and rewarding to me as a writer is interacting with the scientist or scientists who have made such discoveries and hearing firsthand about their research. In the case of the A. petax, I communicated with two New Zealand scientists, Robert Jackson and Simon Pollard, both from the University of Canterbury, about their studies with this splendid little bug. They related wonderful stories about their experiments with A. petax and jumping spiders, experiments that showed the bug’s “coat of many corpses” serves as protective camouflage against predators as well.

I love crafting books that introduce young people to living things with unique adaptations. But I get just as much delight in introducing my readers to the scientists behind those stories, the men and women whose unquenchable curiosity brings new wonders to light all the time. We call it “nonfiction,” but to me it’s the “magic of reality.”

Happy Book Birthday!

We may only be halfway through winter, but you can pick up one of these new releases to brighten your day:

written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Anna Wadham

written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell