Here's what we're reading this month!
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Welcome to my bookletter!

I look forward to sharing book news, fun learning resources, and reading recommendations with you each month. I'd love your feedback—drop me a note and let me know what you'd like to see in this space!


I've added a "Just for Kids" page to my website. It's a place for young readers to ask questions, learn more about my books, and enjoy some selections from Into the Thicklebit, the family-friendly webcomic I cowrite with my husband, author Scott Peterson, and illustrator Chris Gugliotti. 

Teachers and homeschoolers, if you're looking for resources to use with my books, I've updated the list on my School Visits page.

Books We Love

April 2013 edition

Odd Duck by Cecil CastellucciOdd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Sara Varon. Coming from First Second Books in May, 2013. My kids ages 4-17 enjoyed this amusing graphic novel about two ducks who quack to the beat of their own drummers. Yep, that's a pretty big age range—this is a book with wide appeal. My younger kids loved the whimsical art and the ducks' goofy antics (Theodora swims with a teacup on her head; Chad scratches his head with a fork); my tweens & teens were drawn to the book's humorous, sensitive exploration of embracing your friends' quirks—and your own, as well. Theodora and Chad are both decidedly odd ducks, and that's exactly what they come to appreciate about each other, despite their very different temperaments. This is a book with real heart. And Sara Varon's illustrations are wonderfully appealing, loaded with small, captivating details that keep you poring over the page. My kids especially love the pictures of constellations, complete with labels. (Theodora is a stargazer, just like us.)

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee. Chronicle Books, Dec. 2012. I love a picture book that plays with form, and this is one of the most playful I've ever seen. My younger kids (ages 9, 6, and 4) are enchanted by the clever book-within-a-book-within-a-book (and so on) story that unfolds between these covers. "Open this little red book and read about  Ladybug...who opens a little green book and reads about Frog...who opens a little orange book..." Each time you turn the page, you find a smaller book nested inside. Utterly delightful. And the art is simply scrumptious. This is a book you'll be asked to read aloud over and over.

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanderwaterForest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley. Clarion Books, March 2013. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's poems have been delighting my family for years—we are frequent visitors to her blog, The Poem Farm. Forest Has a Song is a collection of nature poems and is one of the loveliest things I've seen all year. Robbin Gourley's art is a perfect match for Amy's lyrical writing. The book inspired my six-year-old daughter to write Amy a fan letter; you can read it (and see Amy's reply in the comments) at my blog, Here in the Bonny Glen. April is National Poetry Month, and this gorgeous volume is a perfect way to celebrate. You'll want to get out into nature yourself, coaxing chickadees to your hand, studying fern fronds, and searching for fossils.

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie PopeThe Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Houghton Mifflin, 1958. Is there anything more promising than a novel that opens with a young person traveling to a mysterious ancestral home for the first time? The Secret Garden, The Children of Green Knowe, The Little White Horse; even, if you stretch it a little, Emily of New Moon. Delicious books with perfectly delicious beginnings. The Sherwood Ring is a book of this sort, and it’s one of the deliciousest. What a fabulous book: mystery, romance, humor, history. 

Seventeen-year-old Peggy’s father has died and she’s been sent to live with her curmudgeonly uncle in upstate New York, at a (you guessed it) mysterious ancestral home called, delightfully and evocatively, Rest-and-Be-Thankful. Uncle Enos’s passion and lifelong obsession is Revolutionary War-era history; he has spent his life preserving the late-eighteenth-century aura and custom of the huge family home in which George Washington himself was reputed to have spent a night.

Not only is Rest-and-Be-Thankful rich in history, it has ghosts... (Read the rest of my review.)

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A fun find at Wondercon!

"Fox and Crow" by David DePasqualeI love to browse the booths at comic-book conventions—rows and rows of authors, artists, and small presses displaying their wares. Last week at Wondercon in Anaheim, CA, I happened upon an art print that brought a big smile to my face. You see, my early reader Fox and Crow Are Not Friends (Random House Step Into Reading, August 2012) was inspired by the Aesop's Fable about a fox, a crow, and a piece of cheese. Browsing the work of artist David DePasquale, I discovered I'm not the only one inspired by that tale! 

(Naturally I couldn't resist buying a copy of the print to hang on my wall.)

Fox and Crow Are Not Friends by Melissa WileyAesop's Fables make a terrific jumping-off point for story ideas. When I wrote Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, I wanted to show what happened to the feuding pair after that first squabble. I had a feeling Crow wouldn't be content to let the matter rest with Fox making off with her cheese. It was tremendous fun to imagine what happened next, and who outfoxed whom. Sebastien Braun's illustrations perfectly capture the sense of fun and fury I hoped to convey.

Learn more about Fox and Crow Are Not Friends at my website.

Links to Share

• At in March I interviewed author/illustrator George O'Connor about the newest book in his Olympians graphic novel series: Poseidon: Earth Shaker

• Since it's Poetry Month, I'll share a poem I wrote about my daughter's desire to decorate our walls with poetry: "The Poem House."

• Are you a fan of the Noel Streatfeild "Shoes" books? I'm hosting a read-along of these middle-grade gems on my blog. Here's our discussion of Ballet Shoes—we'd love to have you chime in. Next up: Dancing Shoes!

App of the Month

Artgig Studio impressed me last year with i excellent Marble Math and Marble Math Junior apps for iPad. (See my GeekMom review.) Now they're back with another absorbing math game: Mystery Math Town. We're still testing it out—full review to come—but so far, so fun. Kids track down missing fireflies in a series of spooky (not too spooky) houses, solving math problems to unlock doors. You can customize each game to match a kid's skill level: addition, subtraction, multiplication, single digits, double digits, and so on. Great way to get some math-facts practice in. (Ages 6-12, but don't tell my 4-year-old. The game is teaching him how to subtract.)

More Fun Finds

• "Earth as Art"—free ebook and app from NASA, featuring stunning photos of earth from space

• 20 Embarrassingly Bad Book Covers for Classic Novels 

Books by Melissa Wiley

The Prairie Thief, a middle-grade mystery about life on the prairie—with a magical twist! A Junior Library Guild selection.

"Wiley has created a charming, inventive tale that reads like a delightful mash-up of Little House on the Prairie and Tony DiTerlizzi’s 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'."—School Library Journal
My newest Inch and Roly adventure: Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place. A Level 1 Ready-to-Read illustrated by Ag Jatkowska.

Author spotlight and letter to readers at Simon & Schuster's Ready-to-Read home page.
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