LITTLE BOO Downloadable Activity Kit

Friday, October 24th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Halloween is quickly approaching! It’s time for apple picking, trick or treating, and jack-o-lantern making! LITTLE BOO is the perfect book to go along with your family’s pumpkin carving activities. Your kids can create their own Little Boo and help a tiny seed turn into a big scary jack-o-lantern. The Little Boo activity kit includes a trick-or-treating maze, a growing activity, and of course plenty of jack-o-lantern faces. If you are interested in even more Halloween books check out our Halloween Book roundup page! Click on the pictures to check out the full activity kit!

Little Boo Activity Kit

Pumpkin-Carving Templates


Quotes Roundup: Rain Reign

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 / Share your comments...

You may know Ann M. Martin from her previous works including The Babysitter’s Club series. In her new middle-grade book Ann introduces readers to Rose, a lovable character obsessed with homonyms and rules. When Rose’s father lets out Rose’s dog and best friend Rain, Rose must leave her rules and routines to search for him. Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view. Here at MacKids we’ve absolutely fallen in love with Rose and her story. We’ve been sharing some of Rose’s story through our social media channels over the past couple of weeks. Now you can find all of those quotes right here, and boy are there a lot!

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Reviews for RAIN REIGN:

*”Rose is a character we root for every step of the way. She is resilient, honest, and, in her own odd way, very perceptive; a most reliable narrator.” – The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW
*”Though Rose’s story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-face narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
*”Simplicity, clarity, and emotional resonance are hallmarks of Rose’s first-person narrative, which offers an unflinching view of her world from her perspective . . . A strong story told in a nuanced, highly accessible way.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
*”Martin has penned a riveting, seamless narrative in which each word sings and each scene counts.” - Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
*”Newbery Honor author Martin (A Corner of the Universe) is extremely successful in capturing Rose’s perspective and personality…”- Publishers Weekley, STARRED REVIEW


Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 / 2 Comments

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was inspired, in large part, by watching tons of British farces staged in black-box theaters. As I wrote my own farcical Victorian murder mystery, I always saw it performed in my mind’s eye. I decided to make a tiny movie to show my young readers, who may not be familiar with farces, just what this recipe for dark humor and mayhem could look like, complete with goofy characters, mistaken identities, slamming doors, and inconvenient corpses. I needed a scandalous trailer.

In my former life as a director of marketing for a software company, I’d written, produced, and directed a handful of animated commercials, so I knew I needed a rock-solid script, and a phenomenally talented team.

I first approached Chris Becker of Becker Studio to help with the animation, and next, my sister, Sally Gardner, for character design and illustration. Sally’s characters are brilliant; dark humor is her forte. Chris, I knew, could bring anything to life with his magic Mac.

I next approached musician and music historian Andrus Madsen to brainstorm ideas for music that would evoke the late 19th Century and be lively and appealing to a modern audience. I was thinking of something like ragtime, but Andrus had bigger plans. He offered to extemporize and perform the music, live, while the voice actress performed the script. This, he explained, would fit the silent film flavor of the piece, and harken back to an early German performance art form called the melodrama. It was a play with live orchestral accompaniment that responded to the performance. “If I can’t have your love, you must die!” Dum-dum-dum-DUM, etc. (For more on the use of “incidental music” in melodrama, go here.) Andrus and I met several times to improvise and test different modes, tempos, and styles.

Screening actresses was fun. I got to audition many talented voices for the role. Lindy Nettleton was the hands-down winner, with her dramatic flair, and her warm, rich cadence that made me want to pull up a chair, and a blankie, and listen to storytime.

The secret key to my team was my husband, Phil Berry, an actor and film buff whose instincts I relied on heavily. I wanted the trailer to feel, visually, like a black and white silent film; it was Phil who saw the potential in juxtaposing that with elements of an action superhero film trailer. That’s how we got the girls standing in a don’t-mess-with-us V-shaped phalanx formation at the end, just like Justice League superheroes.

vox3f8Justice League PhalanxWhile all this recruiting and brainstorming was happening, I worked on the script for months. One concept would feel so close, but not quite right, so I’d scrap it and start again. All this, for a one-minute movie! How does Pixar do it? Finally I settled on a draft. I made a dummy voice recording, and handed it over to Sally and Chris. Sally then produced a storyboard document, with images like this:

17B Girls Spooked at Night03 Buried

This step showed us areas where there was little of interest to illustrate, and areas where I was trying to cram too much into too few seconds. The process also suggested new possibilities for humor and drama. When we felt good about the storyboard, Chris roughed it together in an animatic, which is a choppy and scribbly animated movie made from storyboard sketches. It is used to test timing, and see if what you envisioned at the storyboard stage is what you actually get when you animate it. At each of these stages, we made new discoveries; this meant that the script kept on changing. Finally, after several rounds, we had a storyboard we loved.

Sally got to work drawing the hundreds of pictures it took to make the movie. Chris then took those pictures and turned them into convincing motion with all the right effects and timing. Here’s a photo of Sally swishing liquid in a pitcher and photographing it so she could convincingly draw Pocked Louise swishing her vial of poison:


While the art was moving forward, I assembled the dramatic team at the church where Andrus works as music minister, and where he keeps an 18th Century pianoforte like those the Victorians might have had in their drawing rooms. We ate sandwich wraps and macadamia nut cookies in the sacristy while we discussed our vision for what the project could be. Then audio engineer Angus Lansing got everyone miked up, and we began recording.

In a short trailer, every word, every pause, every inflected syllable matters, and when you’re trying to integrate that with live music, it demands many, many takes. We wanted the humor, the drama, and the scandal of the story to ring through loud and clear, but we also needed a high-energy tempo to keep things lively and interesting. It took two hours of recording to get a perfect 90-second take. We had a great time, with lots of bloopers and laughs. Sound engineer Angus Lansing edited a lovely sound file for us. (See the video, above, “Recording the Trailer for The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place” for an up-close look at the process.)

Next we handed the file over to Sally and Chris, and they knit all the pieces together. Phil sat in with Chris during a four-hour final editing session and helped make every piece of timing pop. As with books, so with film: the magic is in the editing.

The trailer fulfilled the hope of every creative collaboration. The whole, we all felt, was greater than the sum of its parts; every person’s unique contribution was magnified by the interplay with the other elements. I’m so proud of everyone’s work.

The real proof that we were doing something right has come from sharing the trailer with hundreds of schoolchildren. I doubt I’ll ever tire of seeing the way they light up, laugh, and cheer for the trailer. If visualizing a story in this way helps budding readers see all that a book can offer them, I say, let’s have more of them. I hear from many school librarians who tell me that they use book trailers heavily to book-talk new titles with their students. I hope I get the chance to assemble this dream team again someday soon, and send another goofy book trailer out into the world. It was too much fun not to do again.


New Releases: Oct. 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 / Share your comments...

Picture Books:

Born in the Wild by Lita Judge

Middle Grade:

Rock and Roll Highway by Sebastian Robertson; illustrated by Adam Gustavson

The 13th Sign by Kristin O’ Donnell Tubb

Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen


Genre Roundup: Halloween Reads

Monday, October 20th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Boo! These Halloween books are sure to make you pull out the costume box and practice your door bell ringing, because it’s time to trick-or-treat! Go to our Halloween Book website to see a full list of our favorite Halloween books!

LittleBoo jkt loresLittle Boo by Stephen Wunderli

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and one little pumpkin seed tries and tries to be scary. But he doesn’t scare anyone . . . not the snowflakes in winter, not the bees in spring, not even the watering can!

The wind tells him to be patient—he’ll be scary soon enough. But waiting is hard. Will the little seed ever be really, truly scary?

This simple story is more than a fun Halloween read—it is a heartwarming tale perfect for any child who can’t wait to grow up.

dog and bearDog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Ready for a treat? How about a trick or two? Dog and Bear are back in three new Halloween stories that are sure to delight their many fans and win them new ones. Join them as they search for the perfect costume, hand out candy to trick-or-treaters (or not!), and then go trick-or-treating themselves in this latest installment by award-winning author Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

not very scaryNot Very Scary by Carol Brendler; Pictures by Greg Pizzoli


Melly is a brave little monster who is not afraid of anything. She loves surprises, and when her fun-loving cousin invites her over for a big surprise, Melly excitedly sets out for a visit. On her way, she notices skittish skeletons, a coal-black cat, and even ghoulish goblins following her. But Melly is not scared, no she’s not! Well, maybe just a teensy bit . . .

the monsteratorThe Monsterator by Keith Graves

When he entered a dusty costume store,

one that he hadn’t seen before

He got what he’d bargained for . . . and more.

Enter the Monsterator if you dare.

Put a coin in the slot . . . but beware!

Join Master Edgar Dreadbury as he discovers the Monsterator, a machine that changes people into monsters in this spooky Halloween adventure from Keith Graves.


only a witch can flyOnly A Witch Can Fly by Alison McGhee; Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Only a witch can fly.
But one little girl wants to fly—more than anything. So on a special night, with the moon shining bright and her cat by her side, she gathers herself up, she grips her broom tight, and she tries. And she fails. And she’s brave. And she tries again. Until . . .
Utterly enchanting, New York Times best-selling author Alison McGhee’s lyrical language and Taeeun Yoo’s transcendent linoleum block prints create a bewitching tale about finding one’s own path that will send your heart soaring.
Only a Witch Can Fly is a 2010 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Don’t forget to visit the website for more Halloween fun!

National Bullying Prevention Month

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 / Share your comments...

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. A month long project where schools, organizations, businesses, and others join together to raise awareness for bullying. Bullying and cyber bullying can be a major problem for young children. Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, but these books teach us how to deal with our biggest fears and face them in enthusiastic, funny and uplifting ways! Head on over to our bullying website to find all our bullying titles and to find out where you can purchase these books!



AND TWO BOYS BOOED by Judith Viorst

On the day of the talent show, a boy is ready to sing his song, and he isn’t one bit scared because he has practiced a billion times, plus he’s wearing his lucky blue boots and his pants with all ten pockets. But as all of the other kids perform before him, he gets more and more nervous. How the boy overcomes his fear of performing in front of the class makes a charming and funny read-aloud, complete with ten novelty flaps to lift.











BEN RIDES ON by Matt Davies

Ben loves his new bike. In fact, he loves it so much he even likes riding to school (especially if he can take the long way around)! That is, until an encounter with the local bully, Adrian Underbite, leaves Ben bike-less. When Ben discovers where his bike actually is, the reader is in for a dramatic, and literal, cliffhanger. Will Ben ever be able to get his bike back?









OH HARRY! by Maxine Kumin

Harry isn’t the most handsome or graceful horse in the barn, but he has a knack for calming even the most excitable filly. All’s well until the arrival of six-year-old Algernon Adams the Third–a boy with a talent for mayhem. When Algernon finds himself in a pinch, will reliably helpful Harry come to his rescue or go back to sleep and let the little terror figure his own way out of a sticky situation?


Teacher’s Guide: Arcady’s Goal

Friday, October 17th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Here at MacKids we love teachers! For books we think would work perfectly into the classroom setting we create teacher’s guides! Arcady’s Goal by Newbery Honor–winning author Eugene Yelchin is one of these books. For twelve-year-old Arcady, soccer is more than just a game. Sent to live in a children’s home after his parents are declared enemies of the state, it is a means of survival, securing extra rations, respect, and protection. Ultimately, it proves to be his chance to leave. But in Soviet Russia, second chances are few and far between. Will Arcady seize his opportunity and achieve his goal? Or will he miss his shot?

The teacher’s guide includes discussion questions, point of view exercises, learning theme lessons, and more!

Download the full teacher’s guide!

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Interior Spreads: Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 / Share your comments...
Drywater Gulch has a toad problem. Not the hop-down-your-britches, croaking-all-night toad kind of problem. The thievin’, hootin’ and hollerin’, steal-your-gold never-say-thank-you outlaw toad kind of problem.
Then hope rides into town. Sheriff Ryan might only be seven years old, and he might not know much about shooting and roping. But he knows a lot about dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. And it turns out that knowing a thing or two about paleontology can come in handy when it comes to hoodwinking and rounding up a few no-good bandits. From Bob Shea and Lane Smith comes this hilarious picture book, Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads
Here are some of our favorite images from this hilarious book!
“Smith’s over-the-top goofy townspeople are a perfect partner for Shea’s stylistic shenanigans.” - The Horn Book
*”A crowd-pleasin’ knee-slapper that’ll have ‘em rolling in the aisles, yessirree.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
*”Shea’s humor is spot-on in Sherriff Ryan’s unwavering logic . . . and Smith’s illustrations match the deadpan silliness to a tee . . . Another stellar job by Shea and Smith.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“Shea and Smith, the duo behind Big Plans, deliver a western yarn that’s long on cowboy slang and longer on screwball comedy.”- Publishers Weekly

National Book Awards Finalist: The Port Chicago 50

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Congratulations again to Steve Sheinkin. A couple weeks ago we announced The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin had been nominated for a 2014 National Book Award. The finalists have been announced and The Port Chicago 50 has been named a finalist in the Young People’s Literature category. We are so very excited for him. 3d_book_PortChicago50

On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution.This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.


“Through effective research, Sheinkin re-creates a story that remains largely unknown to many Americans, and is one of the many from World War II about segregation and race that is important to explore with students.” – School Library Journal, starred review

“Sheinkin delivers another meticulously researched WWII story, one he discovered while working on his Newbery Honor book, Bomb….Archival photos appear throughout, and an extensive bibliography, source notes, and index conclude this gripping, even horrific account of a battle for civil rights predating Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review 
In this thoroughly researched and well-documented drama, Sheinkin lets the participants tell the story, masterfully lacing the narrative with extensive quotations drawn from oral histories, information from trial transcripts and archival photographs. The event, little known today, is brought to life and placed in historical context, with Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson figuring in the story.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Sheinkin follows Bomb (rev. 11/12) with an account of another aspect of the Second World War, stemming from an incident that seems small in scope but whose ramifications would go on to profoundly change the armed forces and the freedom of African Americans to serve their country.” – The Horn Book
Visit Steve’s website to learn more about Steve, Bomb, and his other projects!

Out This Week: Discover Something New

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 / Share your comments...

This week is all about learning something new. From what it’s like to live in Soviet Russia to learning about Kwanza, books can open doors and imaginations. This week’s books are filled with great history lessons about . We’ve got Star Stuff which introduces children to Carl Sagan and Iridescence of Birds about Henri Matisse. These beautiful picture books entertain as well as teach! Find a book that sparks your little one’s interest and get to learning!

Picture Books:

Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan

Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti

Love Monster and the Perfect Present by Rachel Bright

Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten by Daniel Pinkwater

Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas by Ludworst Bemonster

Middle Grade:

Escape by Night by Laurie Myers

Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin

The Good, the Bad & the Beagle by Catherine Lloyd Burns