Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cover Reveal for the Upcoming MG Series RSVP, by Kidliterati's Own Jen Malone and Gail Nall

Hi everyone! Jen and Gail here- we're super excited to share our cover for RSVP with you!! We've seen a lot of cover reveals on the internet and while we love pretty, pretty art as much as the next girl, we thought we'd do something a wee bit different for our unveiling. We went behind-the-curtains for a chat with our talented Simon & Schuster cover designer, Laura Disiena. She's going to walk us through the steps that went into making RSVP's cover so adorable! We'll save the cover for last but to start us off, here's a short blurb about our co-written series which launches in May 2015.

Four tween best friends form a party planning business out of their abandoned-sailboat clubhouse, anticipating a summer of fun (and plenty of cake). But when mishaps occur, they'll learn that having good friends to bump through life with is the best cause of all for celebration. 

(psst: you can add this book on Goodreads, if you'd like.)

And now here's Laura, explaining the step by step process for creating RSVP's cover:

Step One: Hitting on a Concept
Typically when we begin a project, the editor and I will meet to talk about what we think will work for the cover. The editor will share a summary and character descriptions, and any other details that help define the story, like an interesting location or exciting event that takes place. This information will spark ideas for compositions that convey the individuality of the book in a way that is fresh and will grab a readers attention. For RSVP, Amy (side note: Amy Cloud is our amazing editor- J&G) and I wanted to showcase all four main characters, since each has such a distinct personality, and their friendship is at the heart of the story. And then there’s the party planning aspect of the book which brings to mind tons of fun stuff like garland and glitter, banners and balloons, confetti and, of course, photo booths! 

Step Two: Selecting a Cover Illustrator?
Going into the project knowing RSVP has a companion book coming, I was looking for an illustration style that would make a cohesive two-book package that really stood out from other books in the genre.  When I came across the work of Marilena Perilli, the organic, light and lively illustrations felt like the perfect match for RSVP’s carefree summertime theme. And the rest of the team wholeheartedly agreed!

Step Three: Playing Around with the Concept
One aspect of RSVP that I personally loved was the North Carolina beach town setting where the girl’s have a boat docked in a marina as their “clubhouse”. I could see the cover with a warm beachy color palette- gold, orange, teal and turquoise- and thought the boat was unique and fun. Even though it would be challenging enough to fit the four girls on the cover, I asked Marilena to try a version with this setting when sketching, which you can see here:

Though it’s an adorable sketch, another option she submitted immediately evoked an enthusiastic response from the everyone on the team because it was so reminiscent of that universal photo booth moment- it captures the excitement of a party and the close friendship between four very different characters. This was also a way to give all characters equal presence on the cover, which reflects how the story is told in four person POV, in a way that looks effortless and like nothing else out there.

Getting from this sketch to final was all just tweaks in getting the girls to look just the right age and to the perfect level of lovingly squished together.

Step Five: The Finished Product!! 

READY TO SEE HOW IT ALL CAME TOGETHER???  Scroll down to see the final cover for RSVP!

We can't wait for you to meet (from left) Lauren, Vi, Sadie, and Becca and we adore our cover!! Big thanks to Laura for letting us peek in on the process and for overseen such a perfect cover for RSVP! 

- Jen and Gail

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have absolutely no clue how to review this book without spoiling book one.

If you've read and enjoyed Throne Of Glass, know that Crown of Midnight is five times better.

More about Celeana's past is revealed but in a page-turner-edge-of-seat kind of way. This book was super hard to put down. You also learn more about the King and how he went about his conquest of Erilea. All the creepy things he did and still is doing.

Chaol and Dorian's relationship got tested numerous times. By the end of the book they have grown so much and are no longer as open with each other as they were in the very beginning. Allegiances and loyalties are tested to their limits.

The plot is even more twisted than before. A lot of new characters came into play. One of them is Archer, a former acquaintance to Celeana and he played a key role in the entire book. So anything else I said about him will be major spoiler.

I almost cried half way through the book. Something truly devastating happened. I'm still having a hard time getting over it and because of that, I believe I need a small break before I read book 3.

Everything I loved in book one still stands here. The complex plot, mixing mystery with thriller, romance and magic. The politics in the book. All the many agendas unraveling and crossing each other's paths. The world building is still strong even though a lot of this book takes place in the capital and the palace. Oh the palace. I thought it was immense before but I had no idea just how immense and now? Wow!

Oh! And even the palace has secrets to reveal. Yeah, the palace!
So, go read this book already.

View all my reviews

-- Akoss

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reaching Readers Through Your Local Bookstore

Tucked neatly into Watchung Plaza in Montclair, NJ, you can find Watchung Booksellers. I'm sitting down to talk with them this week because they are far more than an independent, community bookstore, they are a veritable author's paradise. For such a small space, their events calendar is enormous, with authors and readers coming from near and far to meet and interact in ways that truly bring both groups closer together. If I have any questions about how new authors can reach readers, the answers can surely be found here.

Specifically, they can be found with Marisela Santiago, Watchung Bookseller's Community Programs Coordinator and Children's and YA Bookseller. She's been a bookseller (her dream job) for six years, is an avid reader (with a particular preference for mysteries, science writing and cool dystopia), and a mother of two awesome boys.  She lives in Glen Ridge, NJ.

How does Watchung Booksellers work with new authors to help them reach new readers?

We have a couple of programs that are really exciting. One is the Authors in Schools program, where we pair authors who are touring in support of their books (whether they are in book 5 of a series or releasing their debut) with schools in the area for free author visits and programs. Anyone who works with schools knows author visits can be costly so this benefits everyone! The cool part is we get to do discounted pre-sales of the authors' books to the kids prior to the author visits and provide library sets as well so we have really enthusiastic and informed audiences. Also, we then feature these books in the store for a long period after, taking advantage of the (amazing!) power of kids' word-of-mouth.

We also have our Author/Illustrator Saturday Story Time which has also featured everyone from debut authors to superstars like Peter Brown. The fact that it is a series means there is a built-in legitimacy and audience that both the authors and audience members can count on. Again, these books are then featured for a while in the store and we keep signed copies around that become favorite gift items for folks buying at the store.

We have one more sort of fledgling program for YA Authors, a new series that has already seen the likes of David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski. We are collaborating with the Montclair and Glen Ridge Public Libraries on this series and, talk about getting the word out! Believe it or not, teens are a really tough audience to crack - especially that reading seems to be driven by movies and not the other way around. So, this collaboration not only gets us a broader audience for the author but it also gives the Series great clout. We are looking to start pairing authors off in the future and hopefully, this will include pairing new authors with experienced authors in conversations, again putting the word out for new writers.

Living in Montclair we have such a huge literary community that we are never short of new names to add to our phenomenal group of authors. Authors recommend each other, publicists bring us their clients and publishers rave about folks they know in the area. We host new events all the time at the store and are very committed to spreading the word about new voices. We all read constantly and if we can't get to a book we rely on an amazing (and varied) group of young readers that bring us back opinions and recommendations. Of course, the most important thing is to keep track of these opinions and recommendations and share them with our customers.

Which of those ways seem to work the best?

Hmm. I would say the combination of all of these really works very well for us, I'm not sure I can pick one thing that is working better than the rest. I think that really listening closely to the buzz, keeping an ear out for what our customers are loving, talking to each other about what we have read, loved and heard about, and constantly taking chances on new things is what matters the most.

In terms of reaching readers, do you think bookstores measure success the same way authors do?

I think that, while we are very cognizant of the importance of sales and numbers in measuring the success of a book or an author (trust me, we are as realistic as anyone about that), we also have the luxury as booksellers of witnessing the little moments, most of which are interpersonal, that rounds out that picture of success for us.

For example, even before a book like Percy Jackson or Wonder takes off with insane sales, we can see the one kid who responded to the book, run into the store for number two, drag his friends in to get them to read it and so on.  And this experience also happens with books that are "smaller" in sales scope. For example, I remember one little customer who was not excited about reading any more but who used to love horse books. She was getting too old for some of the traditional horse series so we paired her up with WILD GIRL by Patricia Reilly Giff, a phenomenal book about a girl who loves horses who moves to a different country and, voila! This kid was reading like a maniac again. That is a successful book as far as we are concerned - a book that changed a life! And talk about finding a new audience. Often a kid like that will like it so much she will pass it on to her friend and then she'll pass it on to her friend as well and before you know it, we have a run on it!

So, I guess the answer is not necessarily. For us reaching readers happens both in a big scale and a small, very personal scale.

Imagine I'm a new author reaching out to your store. What are some of the do's and don'ts you could share with me?

Hmm. That's a hard one! I think that's mostly a do list. I think that getting out there in front of as many different audiences as possible is very important. I have seen so many books catch life after kids meet authors, listen to them, watch them draw, hear them read, etc. Especially in a time when kids are bombarded by selections of books that often seem suspiciously similar, the personal backstory, that connection is really important. Also, along with events and as often as possible, make sample books available to school librarians, town librarians, local bookstores, bloggers, etc. Word of mouth is HUGE and that helps build it!

I remember when Lizzie K. Foley was promoting her debut novel, REMARKABLE, and we did a store event and then a school visit and she was so worried about how she would do as it was her first time talking to kids about her book. She did great of course, but she really had them when she told the story of the main character, Jane, a totally normal kid in a town full of amazing people and how that's how she felt growing up and that's where the story came from. Never mind that the cover of this book was lovely and that the story is absolutely fantastic (and it is!) I could see these kids where going to read that book no matter what. This book went on to do really, really well, by the way.

If you had an unlimited budget, what would you like to see your bookstore do?

Oh, that's easy.  Expand our programs with schools to include as many free books as possible. And, I'm thrilled to say that James Patterson, with his Saving Bookstores, Saving Lives Million Dollar Challenge, has made that possible for us!  Starting this year, with grant money from Mr. Patterson, we will be able to donate more books than ever in conjunction with our Authors in Schools Program. Making sure libraries have book sets, classrooms have book sets, kids who can't afford to purchase books have books sets. We are working on that dream and are off to a great start.

- Brian

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry FarmerUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

This is such a funny book, and the illustrations bring the chickens to life. Sophie tells her story through letters to her deceased grandmother and great-uncle, and letters to and from the woman who sold her great-uncle the unusual chickens. The chickens all have their own little personalities, which makes reading about them especially fun. Bonus: after reading the book, I knew a lot more about chickens than I ever thought I would. Unfortunately, the book isn't out until May of next year, but if you love quirky, fun middle grade, you should add this one to your to-be-read list now.

View all my reviews


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

K10: Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

The Kidliterati Ten is an interview series with young readers. We ask them about a favorite book and hope that you enjoy their answers.

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite ice cream flavor?
My name is Nic, I'm 10, and my favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?
I read Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex. I chose it because it was the seventh in the Artemis Fowl series and I was enjoying the series.

Can you describe this book in one word?
Mastermind plot- oh, that’s two words. I’m trying to think of a word that means “sinister and mysterious” and all that other stuff.... Interesting.

What was your favorite part of this story?
I like the part where one of the main characters (Butler) went to rescue his sister.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?
I would do exactly the same thing.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?
My best friend has read the first book in the series and this one is way better, so I’d say if he liked the first one, he should read this one.

What do you think about the book's cover?
Really, really, really cool.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?
Yes, there is another book in this series. This was a stronger book and the way of writing changed from the first through the seventh book in the series. I’d like to see another one.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?
It’s hard to match his style of writing. Maybe 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson.

If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?
Why did you make the main character have this sickness instead of another sickness?

**** Thank you for sharing with us, Nic! ****

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
When Artemis commits his entire fortune to a project he believes will save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and fairy, it seems that goodness has taken hold of the world's greatest teenage criminal mastermind. But the truth is much worse: Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex, a psychosis common among guilt-ridden fairies and most likely triggered in Artemis by his dabbling with fairy magic. Symptoms include obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, multiple personality disorder and, in extreme cases, embarrassing professions of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy.

Unfortunately, Atlantis Complex has struck at the worst possible time. A deadly foe is intent on destroying the actual city of Atlantis. Can Artemis escape the confines of his mind-and the grips of a giant squid-in time to save the underwater metropolis and its fairy inhabitants?

-- Becky A.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking NormalFaking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alexi Littrell is hiding a secret. Unable to face it and deal with the consequences, she fakes normal during the day and hides and self-harms at night.

Unlike Alexi, Bodee Lennox's tragedy has played out for the whole community to see. When Bodee comes to live with the Littrell's, Alexi and this shy boy find acceptance in an unlikely friendship. Bodee sees Alexi's pain even though it is invisible to everyone around her. Alexi sees Bodee as more than the Kool-Aid Kid who witnessed his mother's murder. As each struggles to deal with their own pain, they find strength in each other.

The themes in FAKING NORMAL are raw and painful. But I adored this book for the kindness that Stevens put on every page. It's not that the characters are nice to each other -- quiet the opposite. But Stevens reaches below the tragedy and creates empathy for her characters. The contrast between the public faces that Alexi and Bodee try to maintain and the small personal moments in their private lives is lovely.

FAKING NORMAL is a well-told story by an author to watch.

View all my reviews

-- Jean

Friday, August 29, 2014

If A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Here Are 12,000 Words (Why Can't Writing Be This Easy?!)

On Tuesday, At Your Service arrived on shelves and as friends and strangers tweeted and posted on Facebook and emailed me pictures, every single rejection letter, seemingly-impossible edit note, and self-doubt flew right out the window because KIDS (real, actual, breathing, laughing kids) were reading my book. And apparently, so was my sister's dog.

I’m hoping that whole “a picture tells a thousand words” saying is true because I can only come up with one tiny word today: gratitude.

 - Jen


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