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A Year-full of Uses for Your Favorite Hat by Boni Ashburn

I Had A Favorite HatI Had A Favorite Hat is a new companion book to I Had A Favorite Dress, which Publisher’s Weekly called, “a spunky story about adjusting to change with creativity and style.” When our narrator outgrew her favorite dress, her resourceful mama helped her transform it into something new to wear. The themes of reinvention, growing up, and letting go are revisited with a twist in I Had A Favorite Hat. This time, our crafty girl solves a new problem all on her own, but with the same can-do attitude and sense of style she learned so well from her mama.

 Say you have a hat, a flippy-floppy, perfectly sloppy hat you wear at the beach to keep the sun out of your eyes. It’s your favorite hat. You wear it every day… until summer ends and you wave good-bye to the beach. Mama insists it’s time to pack away your hat until the next sunny, summery day. But, if it’s your favorite hat, you snatch it back from the pack-it-away pile (with a crafty smile) and get to work! Once Mama sees that some black fabric, ribbon, cobwebs and glue can transform your beach hat into the most wicked little witch hat for Halloween, she’ll let you keep it out of the box for sure! Then just about the time your candy loot is gone, you’ll be in need of a Pilgrim Hat for giving thanks on Thanksgiving. Off come the cobwebs, squash! goes the point, and on goes a big gold buckle! When December blows in with a big gust of snow, off comes the black and on goes some soft white fur, a red, satin bow, and a sprig of holly. Ta-da! It’s the merriest of holiday hats. In fact, with a little of this and a little of that, your hat can transform for any occasion all through the year. Who doesn’t need a birthday hat? Or an Easter bonnet? Or a tea party hat? Or a hat to complete the most fabulous dress-up outfit ever? When you’re not wearing your favorite hat, plop it on your favorite teddy bear so he can siesta properly.  Or, like the narrator in I Had A Favorite Hat, add it to a scarecrow to watch over your garden all the long summer day. Oh wait--summer? It’s back to the beach already with your flippy-floppy, perfectly-sloppy hat!

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Guest Post by Daniel Kirk, Author of the "Library Mouse" Series

Library MouseAnimals are my Business! Daniel Kirk’s books tell human stories with a menagerie of different animals.

The best thing about illustrating children’s books is that I get to make animals walk on their hind legs, talk, wear clothes, and act like people. That is good because, for me, drawing animals is so much more fun than drawing people!

My Library Mouse character, Sam, came to me after I saw a real-live mouse run through an elementary school library. I was inspired to tell his story… with a few changes, of course, including a wardrobe of mouse-sized outfits and a passion for writing and illustrating books. “If I were a mouse that lived in a library,” I said to myself, “I would hide out and read books all day and night! And maybe I’d get inspired to write a book of my own.” Sam is a timid fellow and he usually wears a buttoned down shirt buttoned all the way up, but his choice in hats shows he has a unique personality.

Sock Monkey in You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You was inspired by one of my own favorite childhood toys – a stuffed monkey called Jocko that was, for a time, my constant companion. What became of Jocko I’ll never know, but I made sure that when my own kids were young, they had sock monkeys, too. I chose a monkey to star in my story after first trying out a young girl, a cat, and various monsters. My character needed to be a little angry, a little silly, a little annoying, and a little sad. When I tried drawing a sock monkey, he seemed like the perfect fit for the tale I wanted to tell. His buddy, Dog, started off as a rabbit… but as I sketched the book, he slowly turned into a cute little pup. Funny how that happens!

For The Thing About Spring, I had my pick of woodland critters. I could have chosen a raccoon, opossum, snake, hedgehog, or groundhog for my main character. I have a gray pet rabbit at home named Chow Fun (after the Chinese noodle), and I’ve always wanted to put my bunny in one of my books. Chow Fun does not wear a scarf or talk or walk on his hind legs, but otherwise he’s pretty much the same bunny you’ll see in the book. Like Sock Monkey, Rabbit is a bit contrary and stuck in his ways. He loves his friends, though, and my books are often about the joys and challenges of finding and keeping friends.

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Hercules Hercules!

Mini MythsAuthor Joan Holub talks about how to turn Greek myths for adults into “Mini Myths” for preschoolers.

Greek and Roman myths are all about the gods delivering justice to wrongdoers. Kids like to see justice served, same as adults. What could be more satisfying, right?

There’s a lesson in every ancient myth. Usually, they’re about behaving properly to avoid trouble. The Pandora myth is a literal example of that. If she hadn’t been so impatient to open that box, all those troubles wouldn’t have escaped it to plague the world. Paying tribute to core, admirable traits like patience makes mythology perfect fodder for preschool-age board books.

But ancient myths were serious stuff written for adults. So how to translate them into relatable situations set in the world of kids today?

What are the first things you think of when you hear the name Medusa? Snake hair and turning people to stone? That’s what I thought of, too. So I considered how hair troubles might figure into the lives of preschoolers. Many of them do have a thing about their hair. Some don’t want it shampooed or cut. I didn’t want mine brushed. That became the spark for the plot of the Mini Myths board book, Brush Your Hair, Medusa!

It goes like this: Company’s coming. Dad repeatedly asks the preschool-age Medusa to brush her hair, but she’s got other ideas. First, she needs Dad to look at her somersaults! Then she says, “Okay, I’ll brush . . . (turn the page) . . . my mermaid doll’s hair.” (Ha-ha! Tricked you, Dad!) Grandma comes over. When she sees how wild little Medusa’s hair has become, she momentarily freezes like a stone statue.

Remember that justice that kids like to see? In ancient mythology, it can be cruel. For the crime of stonifying people, Medusa’s head was cut off by Perseus. Yikes!

In the Mini Myths version, that brand of justice is softened. It translates into the preschool-age Medusa being taken to get a haircut. In the end she munches a lollipop from the salon, appearing pleased with her new look. There’s a funny twist as Dad remarks, “Now it’s time to brush your teeth!”

Unlike a typical character in adult mythology, Mini Myths characters are allowed to make mistakes and still come out okay in the end. Kids like to see other kids facing the same problems they face, and dealing with the same extreme emotions they experience as they develop social skills. The notion that it’s not the end of the world if they trip up on the way to growing up is reassuring.

As a refresher for parents and an introduction for kids, a short summary of the original ancient myth is provided on the final page of each of the Mini Myths.

Joan Holub is the author of the Mini Myths mythology board book series for preschoolers, including Be Patient, Pandora!, Play Nice, Hercules!, and Make a Wish, Midas!(Abrams Appleseed). She is also co-author of the Goddess Girls series (Simon and Schuster) for middle graders.

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Embrace Your Inner Royal

by Meg Cabot, author of "The Princess Diaries"

Mia Thermopolis of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries isn’t the only princess in town anymore, and we royally approve. Meet Princess Oliva Grace in From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.
It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been fifteen years since we snuck our first glimpse at the diaries of that not-ready-for-royalty princess, Mia Thermopolis.  

But it’s true!

In the nearly two decades since we heard the words “Welcome to Genovia,” we’ve all grown up a little: Some of us have our own careers/children/tiara-wearing cats; Anne Hathaway, who starred in the two Disney films based on The Princess Diaries series, has her own Oscar; and Genovia has its own Wikipedia entry!

But now the little country so famous for its moderate climate, superb beaches, and pears has once again been thrust into the media spotlight.  

And this time it’s because of events so scandalous (but also, according to Kirkus, heartwarming), it took me two books to describe them: one, for adult readers, is called Royal Wedding, and the other is for readers aged eight and up: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.

Notebooks is a very special book for me, not only because it allowed me to follow a dream I’ve had since I was a kid—no, not of turning out to be a princess myself—illustrating one of my own books! But also because it introduces a new character to the royal family of Genovia:

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison, Princess Mia’s half sister, who has been living for the past twelve years in New Jersey, and is totally unaware of her royal heritage. How will Olivia—who considers herself a completely “average” sixth grader, even though she’s a pretty talented artist and “decent” at math—deal with the discovery that she’s second in line to a royal throne?  Is she up for the challenge?

Let’s hope so! In a world that lately seems lacking in civility, I think what we definitely need is more royalty. Not the spoiled-brat kind we see on reality shows (although personally, I believe we could all could use more glitter and limos in our daily lives).  

I mean the kind like Princess Diana, who was the first royal to be photographed touching an AIDS-infected person, or Queen Noor of Jordan, an outspoken advocate for anti-nuclear weapon proliferation.

And though not all of us are going to marry royals like they did, or turn out to be long-lost heirs to a throne like Olivia, we are all capable of fighting for the underdog, like Princess Leia from Star Wars, or loving our wayward family members even when they do crazy things like freeze the entire kingdom (see: Princess Elsa in Frozen).

Because that’s what being a true royal is all about: using your hidden strengths and talents to do the right thing, even when the odds against you seem insurmountable.

And the more people are willing to use their inner royal powers for good, the more happy endings we’ll have. And to me, that would be even better than a fairy tale.

Thanks so much for joining me on this new journey to Genovia. I just know you’re going to enjoy the trip.

Much love,
Meg Cabot signature

The Art of Writing About Villains

by Melissa de la Cruz, author of "The Isle of the Lost"

To write fully developed wicked characters, it helps to remember that villains are people too!

I’m not sure if there is an “art” to writing about villains, but I do find that to write convincing and three-dimensional villains, one must be sympathetic to their plight. I’m always drawn to stories where good and evil evil isn’t depicted in stark black and white but in infinite shades of grey. We need to understand what drives a person to do evil things in order to understand our own less than noble intentions.

When I was writing the "Isle of the Lost", I decided to have the protagonist, Mal, experience the same snubbing that befell her mother Maleficent. As we all know Maleficent was not invited to Princess Aurora’s christening, which set off the events in "Sleeping Beauty". In my story, Mal is six years old and not invited to Evie’s birthday party. This also sets off the events in my story, and it also gives Mal a little perspective into her own mother’s psyche.

Being rejected and excluded creates a pain that is as real as physical pain, and I think when you write about villains you have to remember that their desires and motivations are just as important to them as the heroes and heroines’ desires and motivations. The art of writing them is to humanize them, to me, they’re not these stick-figure dark lords glowing with a red eye on a horizon, they’re wounded and selfish people who are just trying to do their best to get rid of this pain they are feeling—by inflicting it on others.

In my vampire series Blue Bloods, the real villain of my story is a flawed hero, a failure. I love tragic stories, and I love stories about villains, I see our humanity reflected in their tales so much more clearly than the classic hero stories. Look at the current pop culture slate—Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, led by anti-hero characters who are much more complex and interesting than a do-gooder hero.

Root for the villain, if anything, they’re the hero of their own story.


Lincoln Pierce Talks About "Big Nate"

Lincoln Pierce, author of the New York Times bestselling "Big Nate" series, takes some time to answer questions for Kindle readers.

"Big Na"Big Nate Lives It Up"te" has been running in newspapers for almost 25 years. How did it get its start? I began trying to get a comic strip published when I was 18, and for several years had no success. But I could tell I was improving when the generic rejection letters became more encouraging. Finally, I submitted Neighborhood Comix, loosely based on the neighborhood in New Hampshire where I'd grown up. One of the featured kids was named Nate, who had a little brother, Marty. At the time, Nate was blond and something of a straight man; Marty had all the gusto. I combined the two brothers into Nate, but I gave him more of Marty's over-the-top personality. I renamed the strip Big Nate, and very quickly, I realized what really interested me was what took place in Nate's school. The more I wrote about Nate's adventures with his classmates and teachers, the more I enjoyed myself.

How do you find inspiration for the strip? What’s your process? I've never been one of those cartoonists who sees something happening on the street and thinks, “That would make a great strip.” Instead, I imagine situations Nate might find himself in or conversations he might have. Big Nate is a four-panel strip, so the dialogue in panel 4 might come to me first. Then, it's just a matter of writing the dialogue in panels 1, 2, and 3 that lead to the payoff. It also doesn't hurt that I can remember in vivid detail things that happened when I was Nate's age.

Which cartoons/cartoonists have influenced you most? It begins with Charles Schulz and Peanuts. I don't think it was possible to grow up reading comics in the 60s and 70s and NOT be influenced by Peanuts. I really absorbed the rhythm of telling a joke in four panels. There's just something about it that's so symmetrical and beautiful to me, and I always knew that any strip I'd create would have to be four panels. Next I would cite Garry Trudeau and Doonesbury, because I think he brought an entirely new kind of writing to comic strips. He almost always found a way to sneak two gags into one strip. There would be one joke—presented either in the third panel or early in the fourth—and then another, often times understated but somehow even funnier joke, to close out the strip.

I'd also pick a relatively obscure but enormously important cartoonist named Francis W. Dahl, who created multi-panel comics for the Boston Herald in the 30s, 40s, and 50s that were like nothing I'd seen before or since. They're part political satire, part social commentary, but there's no anger, no outrage. His cartoons poke fun, in a big-hearted way, at everyday people—usually, residents of New England. I discovered my grandparents’ collections of his comics when I was about 7 or 8. And while I'm talking about cartoonists before my time, I'll also mention George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Cliff Sterrett's Polly And Her Pals, and E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre, the strip that introduced Popeye.


The "Big Nate" series is full of hilarious adventures and is great for readers aged 8-12. Learn more


Author-Illustrator Salina Yoon Shares Artwork From Her Latest Book "Stormy Night"

Beloved author-illustrator Salina Yoon returns to the charming world of Found with her new book Stormy Night, a story about scary thunderstorms and finding comfort in family and friends. 










It’s a stormy night, and Bear can’t fall asleep! Thunder and lightning might be frightening, but with the help of his parents, his bunny Floppy, and a special song, Bear learns not to be afraid.




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Author Susan Verde Shares Five of Her Favorite Books About Friendship

You and Me
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” – William Shakespeare

Thank goodness for friends! They are what make life full of connection and adventure. They are the inspiration for my new picture book, You and Me, which considers the journey, the what-ifs, and the serendipity that brings friends together.

Friendship is a common theme in children’s picture books because it is the place where kids learn to navigate the world at large. Friendships teach us how to share, listen, empathize, work things out, be selfless and vulnerable, and learn about the kind of person we want to be. Through the years I’ve read countless wonderful children’s books about friendship and all of its components. I would love to share a few of my favorites.

Amos and Boris by William Steig: This is a beautiful tale of a friendship forged between a mouse and a whale. Their friendship begins as Boris the Whale saves Amos the Mouse, who finds himself fighting for his little life in the middle of the great big ocean. As Boris carries Amos to safety they share their stories and dreams and become fast and deep friends. Amos wonders how he can ever repay Boris for saving his life and ultimately gets the chance to prove the depth of his friendship when Boris becomes beached on the shore. I love this book because it shows how true friends find a way to be there for each other no matter the obstacles. I can’t help shedding a tear or two when reading this story.

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems: This is just one of the stories in the “Elephant and Piggie” series, all of which tackle the layers and challenges of friendship with simplicity and humor. This particular story makes me laugh out loud when a snake wants to join in Gerald (Elephant) and Piggie’s game of catch. The dilemma? Snake has no arms (albeit a great sense of humor)! But Gerald and Piggie are determined to include their new friend and keep his self-esteem intact. I must have read this one hundred times and with each read I laugh and feel proud of the way these friends find a solution.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers: This is the story of a boy who finds “a penguin at his door.” Deciding the penguin must be lost, the boy does everything in his power to bring the penguin home to the South Pole only to realize that “home” is being with each other. The boy’s empathy and kindness and the connection between these two characters, expressed in so few perfectly chosen words, makes me ache in my heart. 

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel: I like this series of short and sweet stories because they tell of a friendship that is already well established. Frog and Toad’s personalities balance each other out and they know just how to care for each other and run interference when life gets them down. Each tale is sweet and tender with a little bit of an edge and an appreciation for the occasional curmudgeon in all of us.

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann: This story is the ultimate friendship tale of acceptance and appreciation. Through bold and beautiful illustrations, Mouse expresses his love for his friend Rabbit, in spite of the trouble that always seems to follow him. We all have friends like this (or maybe we are that friend)! Although the situation is fantastical, the message of the story is real and full of fun!

These stories have touched my heart and captured the true meaning of friendship.

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Guest Post by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Author of "Lullaby and Kisses Sweet"

Lullaby_Kisses_SweetAuthor Lee Bennett Hopkins has compiled over one hundred books of poetry for children, but a book of lullabies was among the most joyous collections for him to put together.

Working with America’s most revered poets writing for children today, such as X. J. Kennedy, Marilyn Singer, and J. Patrick Lewis, as well as introducing a bevy of new voices, it was a delight to bring thirty newly commissioned works for children to life in Lullaby and Kisses Sweet. There are five sections: Family, Food, “Firsts,” Play, and Bedtime, and all are integral phases of child development.

From grandparents to big brothers, snacks to spaghetti, a first tooth or haircut, playing in a sandbox or being on a swing, each poet’s voice resonates the fun of growing, the thrill of the unexpected, and the love that family brings. Alyssa Nassner’s charming artwork adds to the melodious tone of this book.

Self-concept and awareness is stressed throughout. It is the child –every child – shouting, “Look, world! It’s me!”

Poetry is life and only the poet’s pen can reveal it via a lullaby, kisses ever so sweet, and enduring love.

Poetry is meant to be read aloud, shared. Here are five books of poetry that will enhance any child’s library:

Brothers & Sisters: Family Poems by Eloise Greenfield: From “My Little Brother” to “Grandpa and Great-Uncle Paul,” the bond between family members is portrayed in this poignant collection.

Forest Has A Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater: Journey through nature in an award-winning collection highlighting new looks at fossils, spiders, lichen, and a baby owl making its “First Flight.”

On the Farm by David Elliott: Thirteen brief poems evoke beautiful imagery about animals and insects, such as “The Bees” who “Tell their story,/sweet and old…”.

When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder by Rebecca Kai Dotlich: Twenty-nine rhyming riddles about familiar objects, such as a kite, soup, and a clock, are here for young readers to think about and solve.

 Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw: A shelter cat is adopted by a young boy in this book of haiku that will warm hearts.

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Four Middle Grade Adventures with Unforgettable Sidekicks

Dan Gemeinhart, author of the middle grade debut The Honest Truth– the exciting and heartfelt story of a runaway boy and his dog – picks four of his favorite middle grade books about kids on an adventure with a trusty companion.

I love a good sidekick. A stalwart companion. A faithful friend whose devotion is always steady no matter what the road brings. My debut middle grade novel, The Honest Truth, is about a sick boy and his loyal dog who run away together to climb a mountain. To celebrate its release, I thought I'd highlight a few other great kid-and-non-human-companion stories, some of my very favorites to recommend to kids looking for that next great adventure. This list is an eclectic mix: it’s got sled dogs, shipwrecks, talking badgers, and flying robots. But they all have two things in common: gripping adventure and super sidekicks.


Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

While on a family sailing trip around the world, 11-year-old Michael and his dog, Stella, get swept overboard one night and wash up on what he thinks is a deserted island. His struggle to survive is complicated when he discovers that the island is inhabited by a Japanese soldier stranded there since World War II.  An unforgettable adventure.


Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

A stunningly original story. Young Max finds himself wandering in a mysterious forest world with no memory of how he got there. With three unlikely sidekicks (a bear, a badger, and a barn cat) he sets off to learn the truth of his own identity and the world he finds himself lost in. Pursued by the sinister Blue Cutters, this ragtag team must stand together to survive a host of perils and complete their quest. The stunning, literary twist ending may change forever how you feel about stories, and heroes.


Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

A gripping, white-knuckle sled-dog survival story with an awesomely tough girl protagonist. It's a story as rugged and hard-bitten as anything by Jack London or Gary Paulsen, and just as absorbing. I can't wait for my young daughters to grow up and read this adventure that I read in one breathless evening.


Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout

A super fun sci-fi page-turner. Fisher wakes up to discover that he's the last person on earth, survivor of a botched hibernation project to preserve humanity through a global crisis. With a robot and a mammoth as his companions, he sets off on a dangerous journey to find more human survivors in a ravaged and menacing world. Post-apocalypse Earth has never been so much fun.