5 Books for the National #TimeToRead Challenge!

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This week (18-22 September) the wonderful Booktrust are launching their #TimeToRead campaign, which encourages parents to find ten minutes a day to read with their child. The campaign particularly urges parents or carers not to abandon story time once the child has learned to read. Just ten minutes of shared reading time can have amazing benefits for both parent or carer and child. You can find out all about the campaign and research here and can follow along with the hashtag on social media.

We’re supporting this fantastic campaign and have put together five(-ish) recommendations of current books to read with your child for ten minutes (or more!) each day:

  1. Say Zoop! by Hervé Tullet

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Tullet’s books encourage participation from their readers as they explore and interact with the physical book in all its dimensions. Liberate your imaginations as a family, make sounds together and experience the book’s magical response. Say Zoop! is perfect for sharing some reading time in those early years and for early learning. If you enjoy this interactive board book, check out Tullet’s Press Here.

  1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Ada Twist

 

Pack your ten minutes with the empowering, inspiring STEM picture book series from best-selling Andrea Beaty & David Roberts. Join Ada Twist, Scientist with her love of science, her curiosity and propensity for always asking ‘Why?’. Follow Rosie Revere, Engineer as she pursues her engineering dreams, inventing gizmos and gadgets and read about the creativity of Iggy Peck, Architect as he tries to inspire his new teacher and classmates with his inventive architecture and designs. Feeling inspired? Pair them with the companion Big Project Books for Iggy and Rosie, with Ada’s to follow next year!

3. Wordless Picture Books: Professional Crocodile & Lines

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Wordless picture books are great for shared and repeat readings, with new details to be found in each re-visit. Both adult and child can work together to interpret and interact with the art. Try the clever and witty Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli (illus. Mariachiara Di Giorgio) or the poignant Lines by Suzy Lee. The latter starts from a simple pencil line, morphing into different scenes, following the trail and story of a young skater. You’ll find yourself coming back to this format again and again over the years.

4. The Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka (illus. Brian Biggs)

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With the final book due next year, now is the perfect time to catch up on the Frank Einstein series! Frank loves to tinker, build and take things apart. He loves to observe, hypothesise, experiment and invent. He’s a kid genius, who also occasionally has to thwart evil doomsday plans when things go wrong. These adventures are packed full of humour and a good dose of zany science-fuelled shenanigans. (Ages 8-12)

  1. Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki and BOOM! (illus. Brooke Allen)

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This technically isn’t out yet… but have it on your radar because this hilarious, rollicking adventure brings the already beloved Lumberjanes characters into novel format. You won’t want to leave Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, with its ensemble of diverse lovable characters and quick-witted problem-solving. It’s full of heart, epic friendships and the occasional unicorn. Look out for it from 10th October – it’s unlike anything else out there and bursting with fun for all ages. (Ages 9+)

 

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Have yourself a very Merry Bookmas, Day Four!

Merry Bookmas

A very Merry Bookmas from Jon Scieszka! The 4th author to add a song to our Christmas playlist.

Christopher Hitchens put it best, describing Christmas as one gigantic “moral and aesthetic nightmare”.  To which I would like to add another word of description – creepy.

And nothing is more Christmas creepy than my favorite worst Christmas carol: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

How does this song even exist? If you got the lyrics in the mail (undoubtedly pieced together in anonymous, untraceable letters cut from old magazines), you would call the police. It’s not a carol. It’s a threat.

You better watch out.

            You better not cry.

            You better not pout.

            I’m telling you why…

No!  Please don’t! I don’t want to know why.

But it only gets worse.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.

            He knows when you’re awake.

            He knows if you’ve been bad or good…

How does he know? Why is he watching me sleep? Make him go away!

Then come coded threats of:

Rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums.

And if you haven’t got the message by this point in the song, the end bludgeons the message home:

Santa Claus is coming to town.

            Santa Claus is coming to town.

            Santa Claus is coming.

            Santa Claus is coming.

            Santa Claus is coming to town.

Well rooty toot toot for him.

But he’s not going to get me this year.

Stop by tomorrow (and everyday till Christmas!) for more Christmas songs!

MERRY BOOKMAS EVERYONE!

Have yourself a very Merry Bookmas!

Merry Bookmas

Here at Abrams & Chronicle Books HQ we go all out celebrating Christmas. From the 1st December it is all mince pies, Christmas songs and tinsel…everywhere. To spread our festive joy beyond the four walls of our office we asked a selection of our authors to share their favourite Christmas songs with us.
First to board the A&CB Polar Express is Shea Serrano, author of The Rap Year Book. 

My favorite Christmas song is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas! TV special. I like it because it’s the only Christmas song that’s actually a rap diss song. It’s super mean. Look at some of the things they say about the Grinch:

“Your brain is full of spiders.”

This is devastating. What if it’s a medical illness? What if those are cancer spiders? One of the most famous rap diss songs of all-time is Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up.” It’s just this really hateful, hurtful song about Biggie. And at the end of it, Tupac makes fun of a person for having sickle cell. I would argue that making fun of someone with cancer spiders in their brain is worse.

“You’re soul is an appalling dump heap.”

His soul? It wasn’t enough with the cancer? The hatred here has transcended the physical realm. We’re into existential hate, the highest level of hatedom.

“Your heart is an empty hole.”

Jesus.

“You nauseate me.”

I mean, you don’t just say that to another living thing. It’s not even clever. It’s just hurtful.

“You’re a crooked jerky jockey.”

Possibly a gay joke, which is never acceptable.

“You drive a crooked horse.”

I don’t even know what this means, but it feels very bad.

Anyway, but so “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is my favorite Christmas song.

Clearly someone needs to create an anti-bullying policy in Whoville!

Stop by tomorrow (and everyday till Christmas!) for more Christmas songs, including picks from Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Anita Grace Howard and Jeffery Brown!

MERRY BOOKMAS EVERYONE!

Psst – you can listen to the A&CB Bookmas playlist on our Spotify! See if you can guess who picked which song!

Summer Reads | Middle Grade Fiction | 8-12 Year Olds.

With the summer holidays fast approaching we are here to help get your kids away from their screens and into reading.

Join us on a trip through the best of our Middle Grade Fiction. Let’s get kids reading!

First up is our favourite boy genius…

Frank-E

Over the course of the six books in the Frank Einstein series, Jon Scieszka – a former teacher – takes his readers from Matter to Energy to Humans to Life to Earth and on through the Universe – from the smallest objects (atoms) to the largest (the cosmos). With side-splitting comedy and unique illustration from Brian Biggs, this series is a brilliant and hilarious 8-12 series that incorporates science into its story.

“I never thought science could be funny . . . until I read Frank Einstein. It will have kids laughing.”Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

“Dear Frank Einstein, Please invent time machine. Send your books back in time to me in 1978. Also a levitating skateboard. Tommy” - Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

“Kids will love Frank Einstein because even though he is a new character he will be instantly recognizable to the readers . . . Jon Scieszka is one of the best writers around, and I can’t wait to see what he does with these fun and exciting characters.”Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl

“Jon Scieszka’s new series has the winning ingredients that link his clever brilliance in story telling with his knowledge of real science, while at the same time the content combination of fiction and nonfiction appeals to the full range of the market.”Jack Gantos, Dead End in Norvelt

“Empowering boys to find a passion for reading is the life’s work of Jon Scieszka, the 59-year-old elementary school teacher turned multi-million-selling children’s author…a befuddlement that ‘the educational world cannot tap into the mania and energy’ that boys have for non-fiction, helped fuel Scieszka’s latest franchise. Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is the first in a six-part series centred on its eponymous child genius hero. It integrates real science, immersive and educational illustrative diagrams and experiments that children can (safely) undertake themselves. But this isn’t a jazzed-up textbook.” Jon was interviewed by The Telegraph

“What advice would you give to your 10-year-old self?
Nothing. He wouldn’t listen.”
Interview with Jon in The Guardian

“First in a new series by bestselling Jon Scieszka, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor  manages to successfully create a humourous and wacky story based around lots of scientific facts…The narrative is fast-paced and is greatly aided by the fabulous two-tone artwork by Brian Briggs which brings so much to the text.” Library Mice

“Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction. Young boys and robots with a life and mind of their own – the perfect combination!” Books Monthly

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9781419712180Frank Einstein loves to tinker, build and take things apart. He loves to observe, hypothesise, experiment and invent. Frank Einstein is a kid genius who loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination and definitely unusual.

After an uneventful experiment with a garage-lab artificially intelligent RoboBug, a lightning storm and a flash of electricity, Frank’s inventions—the robots Klink and Klank—suddenly come to life. Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wise-cracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank are a help nonetheless as Frank attempts to perfect his Dark Energy Drive . . . that is until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! With the help of his friends, Frank sets out to rescue the robots and stop T. Edison from carrying out his twisted plans!

Also available: 

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“I never thought I could read about the Hadron Collider and smile so all credit to Jon Scieszka for writing an accessible story about science…and I can’t wait for the second instalment of Frank’s adventures.” We Love This Book

‘Jon Scieszka’s new science fiction comedy series is charming, funny and unashamedly geeky. The story taps in terrifically to children’s natural curiosity and inquisition; a nuclear explosion of action, adventure and antimatter particles!’ Books For Keeps

“Magician? Anarchist? There’s something about Mr Jon Scieszka that can’t avoid twisting the traditional idea of a children’s book into something altogether more entertaining.” Sparky Teaching.

Frank Einstein Series

Our second Summer Reads book recommendation is The Terrible Two. A hilarious middle grade book full of pranks and cows…

The Terrible Two

‘Ingenious and hilarious! I couldn’t stop reading it! One of my favourite books of all time.‘ Victor age 11 Ottie & the Bea Bookclub

To continue reading you must solemnly swear you are a prankster, mischief maker and definitely up to no good…

Let us introduce you to Miles Murphy, pranking legend.

Miles Murphy is known for one thing and one thing only: pranking. He’s the best prankster his school has ever seen. So when he’s forced to move to boring Yawnee Valley (also known for one thing and one thing only: cows), he assumes he’ll be the best prankster at his new school too.

But, there’s one problem.

The school already has a prankster — a good one. A really good one…

The Terrible Two

 

What to do now?

1. Read a copy of The Terrible Two (for a taste you can read an extract here).

2. Laugh for a long time.

4. Watch Mac Barnett’s TED talk: Why a good book is a secret door.

5. Follow Mac Jory on Twitter.

6. Sign-up to our Newsletter so you don’t any news about the pranksters.

7. Wait expectantly for The Terrible Two Get Worse, out Autumn 2015.

Terrible Cow

Number Three in our Summer Reads book recommendation is El Deafo. Cece Bell’s uplifting & inspirational graphic novel.

El Deafo

El Deafo chronicles the author’s hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with a powerful and very awkward hearing aid called the Phonic Ear. It gives her the ability to hear–sometimes things she shouldn’t–but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her, Phonic Ear and all. Finally, she is able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

Recently nominated for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2015 & picked for inclusion in the 2015 Book Trust Best Book Guide this funny, deeply honest graphic novel memoir hits home for children and adults alike.

A serious subject treated with warmth and humour.’ Little London magazine

“Read El Deafo for the giggles, for the challenges, for the universal life experiences, and for the opportunity to be changed, even just a little. And for those readers who, like Cece, discover ways to turn the things the world calls weakness into the qualities they own as strengths, make sure to have a couple of capes on hand.” Matthew C. Winner, The Busy Librarian

‘It’s an honest and rather sweet tale of a girl coming to terms with her disability, and as such the kind of story that will strike a chord with any child who has felt ostracised or different. El Deafo is heartfelt, eye-opening, funny and beautifully drawn.’ The Financial Times

‘Inspiring and honest, this is a wonderful graphic novel.’ Book of the Week in We Love This Book and The Bookseller

Pages from El Deafo
©2014 Cece Bell

The Sisters  Grimm

Book Four on our Middle Grade Summer Reads List is Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives.

The Sisters Grimm

In book one of this much loved series we are introduced to orphaned sisters Sabrina and Daphne who have been sent to live with their mysterious grandmother, Relda Grimm. Relda lives in a town in rural New York State that experiences an extraordinary number of unexplained and unusual crimes. As it turns out, the two girls and their grandmother are the descendants of the Brothers Grimm, who rather than being folklorists, were historians and detectives of actual magical phenomena perpetrated by Everafters, a parallel race of magical beings. It’s the Grimm family’s legacy to keep the Everafters in line and Sabrina and Daphne are the last of the Grimm heirs. The girls quickly find themselves part of this fairy tale world…pitted against giants, who have been rampaging through town in their search for an Englishman named Jack, currently working at a Big & Tall store!

And that is only the beginning! 

Discover the entire series:

The Sisters Grimm Series

Our final Middle Grade Summer Reads recommendation is hilarious, The Templeton Twins Have An Idea!

The Templeton Twins

This book, the first in a funny, illustrated middle-grade series, is about two resourceful children who foil kidnappers bent on stealing their brilliant father’s ideas.

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With a fast-paced plot, clever heroes, evil (albeit buffoonish) villains, a sly sense of humour the book has everything your young reader could want! PLUS, the book is filled with puns, word games and puzzles! AND, the illustrations by internationally acclaimed artist Jeremy Holmes give the book even more kid appeal. We give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up, now excuse us while we go and find Book Two…

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Do YOU have any Summer Reads recommendations for 8-12 year olds? Let us know @abramschronicle!

 

The Evolution of Frank Einstein

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I first learned about this book series back in the fall of 2012. Jon had just come up with the idea and was tossing ideas around. I worked up some sketches (seen below), and the next thing I knew, there was a contract and a deadline. As Jon wrote the first book over most of 2013, I completed work on Everything Goes and some other books, checking in every now and then and producing the odd sketch here and there.

I’d never worked on a book where the author had not yet finished the manuscript. This created a very different kind of process, where I was sketching covers that included characters that did not even end up in the final script, for example. We didn’t know what the characters should look like, and we didn’t know what personalities the robots had. At some points, the tall robot would be the erudite, smart guy, and the short robot would be the emotional goofball. Jon felt that this overlapped C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars a bit much, so he went with the reverse in the end. In some ways, my early sketches influenced some of the characters and scenes in the book and it was pretty interesting to be part of the process so early. For this reason, these early sketches I’m posting here are different from early sketches of most of my projects. Interesting to note that on the cover sketch, the name of the book didn’t even exist yet. Jon went through several possible titles, some of which you’ll see in later sketches here.

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It's like looking at dinosaurs.

Early early cover design.

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Very early Klink. He became  Klank.

early versions of Klink and Klank

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Robot Army?

We tried various directions as we contemplated the cover art. One of the suggestions from former teenage heart-throb Charlie Kochman, the editor of the series, was to consider an invention of some kind on the cover. Like something Rube Goldberg would design. I love Goldberg and this made a lot of sense to me immediately, but I had no idea how we’d pull it off, and the idea of “inventing” my own Goldberg was pretty daunting. Here are a few that show the invention idea just kind of dummied in, and then a batch of sketches that show a more action-packed cover that I thought was reminiscent of a movie poster.

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We liked aspects of these, but I was having a hard time making them work. I really liked the movie-poster ones, but apparently no one else did!

Jon had suggested in various ways that the books might look like journals. Like something a scientist would carry around in their pocket to make notes and record observations. I knocked off this field-guide-looking version at some point, and Jon and I both loved it. There was no way that we’d ever get this to be “the cover” but it was an interesting place to start.

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

Not knowing then that this was eventually going to be a dead-end street, I started digging up reference and inspiration for this kind of thing. Journals, science-fiction manuals, and especially old text books had such a great look to them. I felt that with the older crowd that we were shooting for here (as opposed to 3-5 year olds as we might be for a picture book) that we might be able to do something with this that had a retro-sophisticated spin.

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Several directions came from this exploration. I loved the idea of breaking up the cover into these panels, where we could show various characters and scenes from the book, but also symbolize various scientific principles and ideas. They reminded me of comic-book panels, which I thought was perfect. I imagined they would be in three-color printing: black and two other colors. You can see that when the two colors overlap, they create a third.

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Amazingly, we got a preliminary go-ahead on this direction with the caveat that there was one more meeting coming up where the concept had to pass muster. I kept my fingers crossed. Alas, it was a no-go. One never knows exactly who said what or how things went, but the general consensus that I understood was something along the lines of “oh my god, everyone hated this.” It was too subtle and esoteric for the kind of audience they were aiming at, and it was just too weird and busy. The problem now is that we were late late late with the cover, and marketing really needed something to work with. Chad, the art director of the project, went back to some early concepts that were more straightforward, more direct, simpler to understand, and simpler to execute. Sounds like a plan.
I’d designed this type treatment for the Frank Einstein title, which was a nice anchor.

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Chad’s direction was something like “let’s just get the three main characters in the middle, doing something, and let’s put the type on the top.” It worked!

finally, something good!

Here’s a cleaner furthering of this idea.

Frank cover sketch

Everybody loved it! They had no choice! We had to get this done! But everyone loved it anyway!

Closer....

Ironically, there were some issues with the title typography which Chad solved with the sleek sophisticated logotype below. As a small aside, this is the first book I’ve ever illustrated that I didn’t hand-letter the title. Just a little trivia for you there.

Chad's type treatment

I designed this atomic-themed background pattern to replace the graph paper,

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Chad put everything together into a crazy complicated Photoshop file, and voila! We have a cover.

The final cover

Now that was easy, wasn’t it?

One of the cool, more subtle things about this cover (and the five remaining as well) is that it’s not just a scene of the characters “doing something.” We kept the Rube Goldberg-inspired riff, where the mechanics of the illustration are explained with text on the back cover. Here’s an example of a Goldberg cartoon:

Rube Goldberg

And here is the text as it was placed on the back cover of Frank Einstein.

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I’m also posting a few interior illustrations and some of the early earliest sketches of the same scenes. Certain aspects of the book Jon had locked in from the beginning. Like the climactic confrontation at an old industrial site/factory/power plant. And the Frankenstein riff at the beginning. It’s weird to see the drawings here, created more than a year apart.

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, after

Again, the book is out now now now and you can go get it at your favorite bookseller or, if you must, a big chain store or online retailer.

Read the book? Like the book? Leave a comment…
Thanks and please enjoy!