Interior Spread/Quote Roundup: Arcady’s Goal

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 / Share your comments...

From Newbery Honor–winning author Eugene Yelchin comes another glimpse into Soviet Russia. 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?

“Yelchin’s b&w drawings, interspersed throughout the text as both spots and spreads, add emotional depth and amplify the plot; ample soccer detail makes this a winner for fans of the sport.” – Publishers Weekly

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Out This Week!

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Picture Book:


Mr. Fox is going to the moon! Away he goes in his hot air balloon. . . . But wait! Can Elephant come too? Sure! Let’s bring along some pizza. What about Giraffe? And Squirrel?


On a warm night, a band of hunters sets out on a journey. As they travel over hills, through thickets of trees, and around mountains, nothing will keep them from their ultimate goal. What that goal is may surprise you.
Dennis Nolan’s remarkable, imaginative illustrations lead the way in this wordless picture book about an epic journey.

Middle Grade:


Introducing Isabel, aka Bunjitsu Bunny! She is the BEST bunjitsu artist in her school, and she can throw farther, kick higher, and hit harder than anyone else! But she never hurts another creature . . . unless she has to. This series of brief stories about Isabel’s adventures are a beguiling combination of child-friendly scenarios and Eastern wisdom perfect for the youngest readers.

BLUE MOUNTAIN by Martine Leavitt

Tuk the bighorn sheep is told he will be the one to save his herd, but he is young and would rather play with his bandmates than figure out why the herd needs saving. As humans encroach further and further into their territory, there is less room for the sheep to wander, food becomes scarce, and the herd’s very survival is in danger. Tuk and his friends set out to find Blue Mountain, a place that Tuk sometimes sees far in the distance and thinks might be a better home. The journey is treacherous, filled with threatening pumas and bears and dangerous lands, leading Tuk down a path that goes against every one of his instincts. Still, Tuk perseveres, reaching Blue Mountain and leading his herd into a new, safe place.


Dog & Bear: Downloadable Activity Kit

Monday, October 27th, 2014 / Share your comments...

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. And we’ve got the Activity Kit to go along with your Halloween fun! The activity kit includes a word search, a maze, character masks, and Halloween Party ideas and activities. You and your kids are sure to have fun with Dog & Bear!

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Halloween eBook Sale!

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Get in the Halloween spirit with some eBook sales! We’ve got picture, middle grade, and young adult eBooks downpriced for only $2.99 just in time for Halloween.

9781466827547 9781250018915 9781250042408 9781250042446 9781466819658 9781429943000 9780805074291  9781429946582



Hello Kitty Reading Day!

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 / Share your comments...

Today is Hello Kitty Reading Day! We are so excited to help Hello Kitty get the word out about how much fun and important reading is. Hello Kitty has some great books out right now, specifically for the youngest reader (1+). Each book, designed by Roger Priddy, helps children with specific tasks as well as learning how to read.

Our Hello Kitty: My Home Lift-the-Flap title encourages imagination, helps with speaking skills and hand-eye coordination.

Hello Kitty: My Town Slide and Find helps with hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and first words.

Hello Kitty Tea Party Set encourages hand-eye coordination, imagination, and problem solving.

And today is your lucky day. On Twitter we are giving away each of these titles! Follow us @MacKidsBooks and Retweet the images below to be entered to win. They will be tweeted our periodically throughout the day. US only.

Find even more Hello Kitty title here.

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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 / 3 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!