Bookish News on a Tuesday

The American Library Association Youth Media Awards are always a big deal at our house, and yesterday, my daughter was off from school, so we settled at the kitchen table with our breakfast to watch the live webcast. We cheered for a lot of books – but one in particular brought us to our feet (and may have woken up the later sleepers…)

Brian Floca’s LOCOMOTIVE won the 2014 Caldecott Medal!

We’ve been fan’s of Brian’s nonfiction picture books for years, and he’s also the illustrator of my Marty McGuire chapter book series with Scholastic. Speaking of that…the third book in the series, MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS,  is out today!

Marty McGuire really has her hands full this time — with a lazy boa, a hyper hamster, and a potty-mouthed parrot! Is her pet sitting business about to go OUT of business?

After visiting a sanctuary for retired lab chimpanzees, Marty wants to follow in the footsteps of her idol Jane Goodall and help with their care. But “adopting a chimp” is expensive, so Marty and her third-grade pals hatch a plan to raise money by holding a talent show at school and opening a pet-sitting business in Marty’s basement. It turns out that each pet has a personality of its own, and wrangling them is much harder than Marty expected. How will Marty keep her latest great idea from going to the dogs?

Ask for MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS at your favorite local bookstore, or use IndieBound to find a great, independent bookstore near you.

Marty is sharing a book-birthday today with some friends’ new books…

Laurel Snyder’s SEVEN STORIES UP is a magical blend of family, time travel, humor, and history – the story of a girl who goes back in time in an old Baltimore hotel and discovers her own grandmother living there as a young girl. I had the chance to read this book as an ARC and loved it to pieces. It’s full of humor and heart and really makes you think about how people come to be the way they are and the impact that our interactions with one another – even small ones – have on a person’s life.

And Jarrett Krosoczka’s new book LUNCH LADY AND THE SCHOOLWIDE SCUFFLE is also out today. It’s the latest in Jarrett’s hilarious Lunch Lady graphic novel series – perfect for graphic novel fans, reluctant readers, and really…anyone who has ever experienced life in a school cafeteria.

Happy Reading!

Bodies & Bookstores: An Open Letter to Russell Banks

Dear Mr. Banks:

I enjoyed your recent interview with The New York Times. I learned that we share a penchant for poetry, travel books, South Florida, and volcanoes, and that we both call Northern New York home, at least for part of the year. Actually…that’s why I’m writing.

When the Times asked about your favorite bookstores and libraries, you responded:

Six months a year I live in Miami Beach, a five-minute walk from Mitchell Kaplan’s Books & Books on Lincoln Road, where I can buy a book and start reading it over a lingering al fresco lunch and every now and then look up and peruse the passing SoBe parade of perfectly honed and tanned human bodies and tiny dogs. The other six months I live in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York where the nearest full-service bookstore is in Saratoga Springs, 100 miles to the south, and honed bodies and small dogs are nowhere to be seen. That’s when I rely on

This answer has me worried that you may be missing out on some of the greatest things about living in the Adirondacks. Have you ever been to Lake Placid during the IRONMAN or the half marathon? I can’t speak to the population of small dogs in town for those events, but I promise you’ll find honed bodies in abundance. Lake Placid is also the training ground for hundreds of Olympic level athletes. They, too, are seriously honed.

When you mentioned that your “nearest full-service bookstore” is 100 miles away in Saratoga Springs, were you talking about the fabulous Northshire Bookstore? You’re right about one thing — Northshire is fantastic. But it’s not your nearest full-service bookstore.

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is practically in your backyard. It’s independent and family-run, and its owners, Marc and Sarah Galvin, are incredibly supportive of local authors. I’ve seen your books on display there, right up front. In fact, I’m pretty sure The Bookstore Plus supplied the books for your reading at the Paul Smiths Visitors Interpretive Center a couple years ago.

Remember when one of our local libraries was absolutely ravaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene?


The Bookstore Plus hosted a major fundraiser and benefit auction to put books back on the shelves. It’s truly an amazing independent bookstore, and if you haven’t spent time there, you’re missing out.

So here’s a thought… If I were you, I’d stick with Mitchell Kaplan’s in Miami Beach for the next couple months (It’s really, really cold here this week), but once you come north this summer, perhaps you’ll consider taking a break from Amazon to visit The Bookstore Plus. It’s right on Main Street – the one with the green and white awning.

Inside, you’ll find some of the friendliest booksellers around and a great variety of books, including many of yours. There’s even a restaurant nearby with a porch, where you can sit and read your new books and watch all those Ironman-honed bodies pass by.



The making of a TED-Ed video

Through a crazy series of events, I had the gift of being a speaker at TED2012 as part of a session called “The Classroom,” which also included incredible people like NH Teacher of the Year Angie Miller, science teacher extraordinaire Aaron Reedy, Rafe Esquith, Bill Nye the Science Guy, sex educator and author Al Vernacchio, storyteller Awele Makeba, and STEM advocate/materials scientist Ainissa Ramirez, whose claim to fame was not only her great talk but also that she used a blow torch on the TED stage.

The TED Conference was an amazing experience, and you can read a summary of my talk on on world building on the TED blog.

Photo by James Duncan Davidson and courtesy of the TED blog

The video of my talk hasn’t been uploaded to TED’s website yet, but back in the fall of 2012, the folks at TED-Ed contacted me with an  idea. Would I be interested in adapting my talk on world building so that it could be animated as a TED-Ed lesson for use in the classroom?  I agreed to give it a try, and we spent the next year going back and forth, sharing drafts and revisions and ideas. The TED-Ed team is serious about putting out videos that rack up lots of views, so they actually have a team of screen writers who work with educators to include “key terms” for searches in many of the videos. It was a fascinating process.

Finally, this winter, we wrapped up revisions and animator Avi Ofer took over, creating a storyboard to show how he planned to bring the lesson to life with images. I recorded the narration, and once it was approved, Avi finished the animation. This is the result:


One of the most interesting things about all of this has been the reaction from viewers. The video has gone a bit viral since it was posted, with more than 700,000 views in about a week. I love that so many people are interested in the concept, and their comments about how they’re using the video – writing novels and screenplays, developing video games, and creating backgrounds for role playing games – have been so interesting to read. I love that about the internet…the way we share something with a particular purpose in mind, but then people end up seeing other value and sharing it with those circles as well.

If you know someone with a great lesson to share on TED-ED, or if you’d like to nominate yourself, check out the details here.

Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day 2014!

 Hi there! If you’re new to this blog, I’m Kate Messner, and I write books like these:

I also read lots of books, and reading aloud is one of my favorite things in the world. When I was a kid, I was the one forever waving my hand to volunteer to read to the class, and still, I’ll pretty much read to anyone who will listen.

For the past few years, I’ve helped out with LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by pulling together a list of author volunteers who would like to spend part of the day Skyping with classrooms around the world to share the joy of reading aloud. World Read Aloud Day 2014 is March 5th.

The authors listed below have  volunteered their time to read aloud to classrooms and libraries all over the world. These aren’t long, fancy presentations; a typical one might go like this:

  • 1-2 minutes: Author introduces himself or herself and talks a little about his or her books.
  • 3-5 minutes: Author reads aloud a short picture book, or a short excerpt from a chapter book/novel
  • 5-10  minutes: Author answers some questions from students about reading/writing
  • 1-2 minutes: Author book-talks a couple books he or she loves (but didn’t write!) as recommendations for the kids

If you’d like to have an author visit your classroom or library for World Read Aloud Day, here’s how to do it:

  • Check out the list of volunteering authors below and visit their websites to see which ones might be a good fit for your students.
  • Contact the author directly by clicking on the link to his or her website and finding a contact form or email.  Please be sure to provide the following information in your request:
    • Your name and what grade(s) you work with
    • Your city and time zone (this is important for scheduling!)
    • Possible times to Skype on March 5th. Please note authors’ availability and time zones. Adjust accordingly if yours is different!
    • Your Skype username and a phone number where you can be reached on that day
  • Please understand that authors are people, too, and have schedules and families just like you, so not all authors will be available at all times. It may take a few tries before you find someone whose books and schedule fit with yours. If I learn that someone’s schedule for the day is full, I’ll put a line through his or her name – that means the author’s schedule is full, and no more visits are available.  (Authors, please let me know that if you can!)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for March 5, 2014

Authors are listed along with publishers, available times, and the age groups for which they write.  (PB=picture books, MG=middle grades, YA=young adult, etc.)

 Anne Marie Pace
9am-2pm EST
JoAnn Early Macken
Disney-Hyperion, Candlewick Press, Holiday House
11 a.m.-2 p.m. CST
Laurel Snyder
Random House Books for Young Readers
8 am- 2pm EST
Erica S. Perl
Random House/Abrams/Scholastic
Elementary/Middle School
10am-2pm EST
Tricia Springstubb
10-2 EST
Julia DeVillers
Simon&Schuster, Penguin
Elementary/Middle School 
9a-11:30 am and 12:30-3 pm EST
Joy Preble
Soho Press & Balzer and Bray
Jr. High – High School
10 AM – 2PM CST
Erin Soderberg / Erin Downing
Bloomsbury / Simon & Schuster
Elementary / Middle School
10am-3pm CST
Donna Gephart
Delacorte Press/Random House
Elementary/Middle School
10am-3pm EST
Sarah Albee
(Numerous publishers)
Elementary/Middle School
10am-3pm EST
Nikki Loftin
Older Elementary (Third Grade & up)
10am-2pm CST
Monica Carnesi
9 am – 2 pm EST
Lisa Schroeder
7:30-9:30 PST; 10:30-12:00 PST
Kristen Kittscher
Harper Children’s
Elementary & Middle School
11am-6pm EST
David Macinnis Gill
YA/older MS EST
9am-2pm EST
Kami Kinard
Scholastic Press
Upper Elementary/Middle School
9am-2pm EST
Bob Shea
10am-2pm EST
Frances Bonney Jenner  
Irie Books
Middle School  
MST  8am-3pm
Laura Purdie Salas
Clarion and Millbrook
10am-1pm CST
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Elementary/Middle School 
1pm-4pm Mountain
Kate Messner
9-10:30 am EST
Jennifer Fosberry
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
10am-1pm PST
Barbara O’Connor
Elementary School (Gr 4,5 optimum)
12-1:30 EST
Patrice Lyle
Leap Books
Middle School
Most times, CST
Kim Baker
Roaring Brook Press
Macmillan Elementary
Middle School 
9am-2pm PST
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Disney-Hyperion, Two Lions, Abrams, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster

Melissa Guion
10am – 2pm EST
Jody Feldman
Elementary/Middle School
9am-3pm CST 
Amy Goldman Koss
Dial Books for Young Readers
Elementary / Middle School
10:00am – 2:00pm Pacific Time
Liz Garton Scanlon
Beach Lane Books/S&S/HarperCollins/Bloomsbury
10-1 CST
Ammi-Joan Paquette
Random House/Walker/Candlewick/Clarion
Elementary/Middle School
9-2 EST
Happy reading, everyone!

“World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.”              ~from the LitWorld website

Happy 2014!

I just went to look for a past event photo on my blog and realized that I haven’t posted in weeks so thought I’d send out a quick update. I have been busy revising my January 2015 novel with Bloomsbury, a magical middle grade story about a girl who finds a magic pencil, and that’s been great fun – but also a terrific challenge. Magic can be tricky sometimes, with all its rules and twists.  I’m sure you’ll hear from me more frequently again once it’s all worked out.

I’ve been watching Lake Champlain freeze – and thaw – and freeze again, which has led to some spectacularly chilly views.



If you’d rather be looking at pictures of warmer weather, there’s a new book in the world that you won’t want to miss.

I’ve been enjoying the text for HANDLE WITH CARE: AN UNUSUAL BUTTERFLY JOURNEY & ogling its gorgeous photos for a while because author Loree Griffin Burns is one of my critique partners. But friendship aside, it’s a stunning book. Teacher-friends…if life cycles are part of your curriculum, this is the most unique, gorgeous take on the topic you’ll ever see.

What else have I been up to? Reading and watching movies and playing card games and laughing with family over the kids’ school vacation. I’ve also been catching up on the email and regular mail that piles up when I’m locked in my writing room revising, so if I owe you a note, it’ll be on the way soon.  I’m happy to say that all of my reader mail is currently answered – a bigger feat than usual because an enormous pile of mail from my post office box got misplaced last year, leaving me with a newly-found pile the size of Mount Everest on my desk for most of the fall season. Accept my apologies, please, if you were one of the people who waited far too long for a reply.

Letters from kids always contain some gems, and this batch included some great student artwork. Sometimes, when kids write to me, they illustrate scenes from my book or even draw their own author photos, and those letters are always fun to open. This author drawing in a recent letter might be my all-time favorite, though.


Actually, if you look closely, you might see that I am, in fact, a unicorn. I am feeling very special indeed.