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new release tuesday

New Release Tuesday: New Books Published November 16, 2021

It’s another New Release Tuesday!  Tuesday is the day of the week when most books are typically published and available for purchase online or wherever books are sold.

Below are a few of the books released today that you should add to your TBR or holiday wish list.  These books include traditionally published books in different genres by authors and illustrators from around the world.  Support some of your favorite authors, independent bookstores, and quality literature by purchasing any of these books that catch your eye.  Spy any of your favorites in this list?  Which ones are you most excited about?

Please note: The book descriptions listed are the publishers, unless otherwise noted. Happy Reading!

By Age Range

New Release Tuesday: New Books Published November 2, 2021

It’s New Release Tuesday!  Tuesday is the day of the week when most books are typically published and available for purchase online or wherever books are sold.

Below are a few of the books released today that you should add to your TBR or holiday wish list.  These books include traditionally published books in different genres by authors and illustrators from around the world.  Support some of your favorite authors, independent bookstores, and quality literature by purchasing any of these books that catch your eye.  Spy any of your favorites in this list?  Which ones are you most excited about?

Please note: The book descriptions listed are the publishers, unless otherwise noted.

Additional book releases from today can be found HERE on Bookshop and HERE on Amazon.  Happy Reading!


Muted by Tami Charles + A Giveaway!

Meet seventeen year-old Denver and her friends Dali and Shak. They are three high school friends who dream of escaping from their white hometown and becoming famous singers. The girls end up meeting one of the hottest R&B stars, Sean “Mercury” Ellis who takes them under his wing.

Muted is a young adult novel written completely in verse, and this is where this story excels. The format of the verse does an excellent job portraying Denver’s story. It has a diverse cast and an LBGTQ+ main character who is in love with her best friend. The ending of this book left me in complete shock…WOW! Check out the synopsis below from the publisher.

For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.

So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.

Until they’re not.

Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.

Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back.

About the Author
Tami Charles is a former teacher and full-time author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. While it was refreshing to see a better selection than what she was accustomed to as a child, Tami felt there weren’t nearly as many diverse books as she’d hoped for. It was then that she decided to reignite her passion for writing. Tami is the author of the middle grade novels Like VanessaDefinitely Daphne, and Becoming Beatriz, and the picture book Freedom Soup.

The Giveaway!
Enter to win a Muted prize pack that includes:
1 copy of Muted by Tami Charles
1 wireless rechargeable bluetooth speaker
1 retro tape cassette wallet

Muted by Tami Charles

Young Adults (13-17years)

Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe (An Interview with Author Carole Boston Weatherford)

Today, I’m thrilled to chat with New York Times best-selling author Carole Boston Weatherford about her forthcoming YA novel entitled Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe. It’s the first YA novel written about Marilyn Monroe’s life. The book publishes September 8, 2020 from Candlewick Press.

Carole is one of the leading poets writing for young people today. She believes that poetry makes music with words. Her work spans poetry, nonfiction, biography and historical fiction. She wrote her first poem in grade school when she was in the first grade.

In Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe, Carole channels the actress hailed as the sexiest woman of all time. She is reflecting on her life as she prepares to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. Born Norma Jeane, Marilyn had more than her share of baggage. Not just the duffel bag her troubled mother stuffed her into to steal her from foster parents. Not just her Louis Vuitton luggage or the designer handbags that held her pills. But also parental neglect, sexual abuse, failed marriages, miscarriages, mental breakdowns, and the manipulation she endured under Hollywood’s studio system. For all her misery, Marilyn was also a businesswoman and the brains behind her brand—so much more than the blond bombshell that she portrayed. Through poems that conjure Marilyn’s voice, Beauty Mark goes inside her head and heart, inside the hopes and dreams of a Hollywood legend.

What ideas or influences did you have in mind when creating this work?
I was drawn to Marilyn Monroe for several reasons, chief among them her iconic status. I saw young adults rocking Marilyn t-shirts and accessories and decorating their rooms with posters of her. As a child of the 1960s, I could remember hearing about her tragic death. I later learned more about her troubled childhood, marriages, miscarriages, mental illness, and premature demise. To me, Marilyn was not just a movie star; she was a mood and a mystery. Her life was a poem. Though typecast as a blond bombshell, Marilyn was so much more. She was a producer, poet, painter, gardener, avid reader, and, most importantly, the brains behind her brand.

How did you approach writing this verse novel? What were the various stages in its development?
I read many biographies of Marilyn—ones that were narrative and others that included collected her mementoes. I approached her story chronologically, reading chapters from various references about the same period or episode. Then, I synthesized the information to come up with my own take. I recreated not only her voice but also emotional backdrops for her narrative.

Can you recall particular problem solving /decisions you had to make in the writing process?
First, I had to decide on the novel’s premise. I decided that the story would unfold as a flashback. The first scene shows Marilyn a few months before her death. In a Madison Square Garden dressing room, she is being sewn into her gown to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John Kennedy. During that styling which required Marilyn to stand still for hours—thus the first poem’s title—I imagine Marilyn reflecting on how a former foster child born as Norma Jeane rose to worldwide fame.

There was also one poem that I wrote out of sequence—the one where she is committed to a psychiatric hospital. I feared the darkness of going there with her. So, I wrote that poem next to last.

Which poetic / narrative techniques did you decide to employ, and why?I used first-person point of view to allow Marilyn to speak for herself. In life, her voice was often ignored or minimalized by studio executives. It was important to me that she be heard, that she have agency. Like my book Becoming Billie Holiday,

If there were places in the book where you felt it was best to emphasize the poetic strategies over the narrative strategies, or vice versa – what guided these decisions?
Among Beauty Mark’s most poetic lyrics are “The Seven Year Itch: Nine Months Hitched”; “The Physics of Ferragamos”; “Miscarriage Blues: Ectopic Pregnancy, 1957”; “Who is Marilyn Monroe”; and Late: A Litany of Excuses. The rhyming poem, The Seven Year Itch, documents the marriage-ending photo shoot which produced the iconic image of her skirt billowing atop a subway grate. That poem is playful but also bluesy. “The Physics of Ferragamos” shows the interplay between her stilettos and her wiggle. The six-line poem, “Miscarriage Blues: Ectopic Pregnancy, 1957” conveys her deep and unrequited maternal yearnings. One of several list poems in Beauty Mark, “Who is Marilyn Monroe?” views her mystique through the lenses of photographers, film directors, history, and finally herself. “Late: A Litany of Excuses” employs repetition to explore her chronic lateness. The book’s epilogue is a found poem of headlines and quotes.

What poetic / narrative effects were you hoping to achieve?
I wanted the narrative to read like a one-woman show, in which Marilyn was recalling her story in an intimate setting.

What are your thoughts on the verse novel as a form?
I love to read and to write verse novels. The form resonates with me as a reader and as a poet. With spare text and distilled emotions, verse novels can pack a more powerful punch than prose. The economy of language can also make verse novels more appealing to reluctant readers who are put off by the dense text in novels.

Have verse novels you have read been influential on this work in some way?
My own Becoming Billie Holiday probably had the most influence on Beauty Mark. In the twelve years between writing about two iconic female entertainers, I faced mental illness in my own family. That allowed me to take an even deeper dive into Marilyn’s life, loves and losses.  

What have you learnt about writing verse novels from the verse novels you have read?
There is no limit to the subject matter than verse novels can tackle. The form is ripe for experimentation. That stimulates me as a writer.

Carole Boston Weatherford reading a poem entitled Age Three from Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe
  • Title: Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe
  • Grade Level : 9 – 12
  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher : Candlewick (September 8, 2020)
  • Reading level : 14 – 17 years

About the Author

Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling author and poet, was selected as the Children’s Book Guild 2019 Nonfiction Award Winner. Her numerous books for children include the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book Becoming Billie Holiday, illustrated by Floyd Cooper; the Caldecott Honor Books Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes; and the critically acclaimed Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Carole Boston Weatherford lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Visit Carole’s website to learn more about her and her work.

Your turn: Have you read any of Carole’s books? If so, what are some of your favorites? Feel free to share in the comments.

Books for Adults

Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Tonya Bolden + Saving Savannah


Tonya Bolden is one of my favorite writers for historical fiction for both children and adults.  It was such a treat to have the opportunity to interview her to chat books.  Her forthcoming novel, Saving Savannah will be published January 14, 2020 and I’m so excited to read it since I thoroughly enjoyed Inventing Victoria

Check out the publisher’s synopsis for Saving Savannah:

Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation–black or white–and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society–the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women–has started to suffocate her.  Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.  Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

Author Interview

How did you come up with the characters for Inventing Victoria and Saving Savannah?
Characters come to me in shadow, in outline. Then I ask questions. What does she want? What are her fears? And so forth. With Crossing Ebenezer Creek and Saving Savannah I was very much driven/led by an antique photograph of a young black woman that said to me, “This is Mariah!” and another one that said to me, “This is Savannah!”

Do you enjoy writing children’s books or adult books more?
Don’t make a choose, please! (smile). Given that the majority of the forty-something books I’ve authored/co-authored/edited are for young people . . . Yes, my first love is writing for children. History is my passion and I believe that if we hook our young people on history—if we make history come alive for them—we really put them on the path of lifelong learning, critical thinking, curiosity, and making some sense of the world.  Without history you have no context for your life, for your present era.

Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?
Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers. My “to-read” list includes Jennifer Swanson’s Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II and Nikki Grimes’s memoir Ordinary Hazards.

What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
That’s a tough one!  I really believe that each home library should be tailor-made for a particular family’s interests and needs. The only must-have I can think of is range: books about the present and the  past, books about people familiar and not familiar. In this global village of a world of ours, to borrow from the eminent Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, all our young people need mirrors, windows, and sliding doors.

Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?
Not really. Growing up I was crazy about books. Couldn’t get enough of books! And I have my parents to thank for that. My mother, who only had a sixth grade education and my father who only had a ninth grade education, were avid readers. There is a lost picture of me, maybe I was about two or three. And there I was propped up in my parents’ bed. I had my mother’s glasses sprawled on my face. I had a book in my hands. Upside down. I was imitating my parents. There is also a photograph of the living room of our apartment in East Harlem. We had recently moved in. The furniture was the old furniture we had in Brooklyn. There was no carpeting on the floor (at a time when carpeting was pretty much de rigueur). Front and center in this photograph is our family’s bookcase.

Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
Engage them in critical thinking, early and often.  Encourage them to create stories of their own. And while you’re at it, tell your children family stories. 

Do you have a favorite book that you have written?  If so, what is it and why?
My favorite book of mine is always the one that is just about to come out or the one that has just come out. So right now Saving Savannah is dearest to my heart. But really it’s like a family with many children. Each is unique and you love them all equally (we hope) though each child has something in particular that endears you to her or him.  With Saving Savannah I think Savannah Riddle is the character most like me. I didn’t realize this at first. My sister pointed this out after she read part of an early draft. As  she gave me feedback, I shared with her that compared to Mariah in Crossing Ebenezer  Creek and Victoria in Inventing Victoria, I found Savannah the easier character to write. My sister snickered, then said something like, “That’s because Savannah is you!” 

If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
Discussions of books is vital. What did the young reader learn? What puzzled her or him? Is there anything the reader misunderstood? And don’t stop reading aloud!  Whether your child is five or fifteen—or fifty—always make some time for gathering around a book and reading aloud. I don’t think we ever lose our love for being read to. I know it may be difficult to do read-alouds with teens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be precious. Consider trying to get into the business as a writer for hire. That’s how I began. If you have a big hit out of the gate, save your money.  You never know. Some careers do nothing but skyrocket. Others have peaks and valleys.  Once you get your foot in the door consider diversifying. Being able to write for different ages, different genres can come in handy when there are shifts in the industry. On year picture books are hot! Two years later not so much. Have many arrows in your quiver—especially if you don’t have a day job.

Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
I like e-books for research because when traveling I can take so much research with me and still travel light. 

Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
Nonfiction tops the list. But really as my fiction and nonfiction require so much research, books I pick up just for pure pleasure are few and far between.

Name an adult book that:

  1. a) Inspired you Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Paula Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones, Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place, Charles’s Johnson’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Oxherding Tale, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, probably every Anton Chekhov short story I read, Eugene O’Neill’s plays, Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, Toni Cade Bambara’s  Gorilla, My Love, Toni Morrison’s Sula.
  2. b) Made you laugh out loud  Several stories in Bambara’s Gorilla, My Love and in Naylor’s Brewster Place. 
  3. c) You recommend to others often
    To be honest, I don’t often have the occasion to recommend books to others.

What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now? Charles Johnson’s The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling.  

Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
I’m brainstorming on the fourth linked novel that began with Crossing Ebenezer Creek. So next up after Saving Savannah is an as yet unnamed novel about the daughter of a character in Saving Savannah. I have the main character’s name (I think) and I have a photograph that says to me, “This is her!”

How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
Please visit!

Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Inventing VictoriaCrossing Ebenezer Creek, which received five starred reviews; Finding Family, which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award.

Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

Your turn: Have you ever read any of Tonya Bolden’s books?  Feel free to share some of your favorite Tonya Bolden books in the comments below.

Books for Adults

Celebrate National Read a Book Day with PBS the Great American Read

National Read A Book Day is observed annually on September 6th.  It’s a day that invites us ALL to grab a book we might enjoy and spend the day reading (as many hours of reading you can spare).  National Read a Book Day is the perfect time to revisit your favorite novel or maybe finish that book you started, but put down months ago.  So mark your calendars now you don’t miss out on all the bookish fun!

Today I partnered with PBS to remind you about National Read a Book Day (September 6th) and the return of the hit show The Great American Read (September 11th).

Throughout the summer, the multi-platform PBS initiative THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has been encouraging people across America to read as many books as possible from its list of America’s 100 Favorite Novels and to vote for their favorites. While many readers find great joy in becoming immersed in a beloved book, busy schedules can prove a challenge for making time for pleasure reading. To assist those who need help making the most of their reading time, PBS’ THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has partnered with the Library of Congress to offer tips on how to make reading an essential and beloved part of a daily routine.

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ aims to provide a place for all Americans to discuss the books that they love; books that have inspired, moved and shaped them in one way or another,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming & Development for PBS. “Through this eight-part series and associated events and activities taking place in communities throughout the country, we hope to help readers fall in love with the act of reading all over again whether that’s through discovering new titles or revisiting favorites from the past.”

“We all have busy lives, and while many people want to read more for pleasure, they feel like they just don’t have time for it,” said Becky Brasington Clark, Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress. “The fact that we have such hectic schedules is even more reason why we need to make time for reading; it’s one of the most effective ways to detach your mind from the stresses of daily life.”

Summer is a perfect time to develop better reading habits, since people often have vacations planned that result in more leisure time. It’s important, however, that these habits carry over into daily routines when vacation is over and fall rolls around. Here are some reading tips from Clark and the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to build reading into your daily life throughout the year:

  • Make the most of spare minutes sprinkled through your day. Keep a book with you so you can read it whenever you have an extra minute or two. They really add up.
  • If you have trouble putting down your phone, put a book on it. Read a few pages instead of checking social media.
  • If the weather is amenable, read outdoors! In the yard, at the bus station, under a tree, or at a museum, reading outdoors engages all of your senses and helps improve your mood.
  • Try downloading free apps from your public library so you can borrow e-books and audio books.

Reading on the move:

  • Whether you’re going on an end of summer vacation or staying in town, make sure a visit to a bookstore or library is on your itinerary. Pick up a book. Read the jacket copy. Flip through the pages. If it grabs your interest – grab it!
  • If your phone is in “airplane” mode, that’s a sure sign that you should be reading a book. Put a book in your carry on – your time in the air and in the airport will be much more rewarding.
  • Family time in the car, whether that’s commuting to school or going to an activity, is also a great time to listen to an audio book.

Choosing what to read:

  • Can’t find something new you want to read? Re-read a favorite. You’ll be surprised by the new discoveries found in an old favorite.
  • Embrace your not-so-guilty pleasures. It doesn’t have to be Tolstoy or Joyce – reading for enjoyment should be, well, enjoyable! Grab what you like and dig in. Sci-Fi? Check. Comic books? Yep. Graphic novels? Roger that.
  • Join reading challenges, such as Reading Without Walls by Gene Luen Yang, the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Also, peruse lists of award-winning books on topics and perspectives that interest you.

Reading with the kids:

  • Pick a book to read out loud together as a family activity. Take turns reading. Act out the parts. Use funny voices. Have some fun playing, reading, writing, talking and singing with the young members of your family.
  • Read your favorite childhood novel to your kids! Your child is never too young or too old to enjoy listening to a book being read out loud.
  • It’s all about choice. The more formats and books your child can choose from, the more likely they are to develop a lifelong love of reading. Show that reading is a part of life by your example, and always give them opportunities to self-select. Respect their choices and, together, enjoy what they enjoy.

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ launched on April 20 with the release of America’s list of 100 favorite novels as chosen by a demographically and statistically representative survey (the full list is available at A two-hour launch special hosted by Meredith Vieira premiered on PBS stations on May 22. The series will return this fall on Tuesday, September 11 at 8:00 p.m. (check local listings) to continue its search for “America’s Best-Loved Novel.”

The initiative is supported by an extensive multi-platform digital and social media campaign designed to inspire Americans to read, vote and share their personal connections to titles on the top 100 list and beyond over the course of the summer. Since voting began during the two-hour launch episode, avid readers across the country have cast more than two million votes for their favorite books. For more information on how to vote, visit

As part of the campaign, more than two dozen local public television stations across the country have planned over 125 community engagement activities, including book clubs, author appearances and readings, screening events, book-themed family activities and more. The Library of Congress will host the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 1, and attendees will be able to engage with THE GREAT AMERICAN READ.

About PBS

PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

Your turn: Do you plan to celebrate National Read a Book Day?  Will you be tuning in for the return of The Great American Read?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

15+ Diverse January 2017 Picture Book and YA Releases

2017 promises to be a year filled with some amazing literature for kids, teens and adults.  Below I’ve rounded up 15+ diverse picture and young adult books being released this month.  Which ones are you looking forward to reading with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.  Enjoy!

January 3, 2017

Martin’s Dream Day by Kitty Kelley

Bestselling author and journalist Kitty Kelley combines her elegant storytelling with Stanley Tretick’s iconic photographs to transport readers to the 1963 March on Washington, bringing that historic day vividly to life for a new generation.

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta

In this picture book biography of Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

Midnight without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation.

The Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston

For ten-year-old Cadence Jolly, birthdays are a constant reminder of all that has changed since her mother skipped town with dreams of becoming a singing star. Cadence inherited that musical soul, she can’t deny it, but otherwise she couldn’t be more different – she’s as shy as can be.

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden

Award-winning author Tonya Bolden offers an insightful look at 16 figures, from Venture Smith, who bought his freedom; to Sadie Alexander, who contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the United States; to Katherine Johnson, who helped the United States land on the moon.

Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt.

January 10, 2017

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout: Dance, Spin & Turn It Out: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African-American Childhood by Patricia McKissack

Parents and grandparents will delight in sharing this exuberant book with the children in their lives. Here is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more, all rolled into one. Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a circle for games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a family to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom,” or to read aloud the poetry of such African American luminaries as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the Spider. Read my review of this book here.

Zoo Day by Anne Rockwell

A young boy and his family visit the zoo for the very first time. From gorillas to lions, polar bears to parrots, Anne Rockwell and her daughter, artist Lizzy Rockwell, celebrate a day he will never forget. With simple, lyrical text and bright illustrations that jump off the page, Zoo Day brings the joys of visiting the zoo vividly to life.

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins

A sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision. Edmonia Lewis was just such a sculptor, but she never spoke or wrote much about her past, and the stories that have come down through time are often vague or contradictory. Some facts are known: Edmonia was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-Haitian man. She had the rare opportunity to study art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she became a successful sculptor.

January 17, 2017

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal

A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.  Read my review of this book here.

January 24, 2017

Love Is by Diane Adams

Perfect for Valentine’s Day—or any tender moment—this story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned.

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

Fredrick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

In this picture book biography, the late New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

January 31, 2017

The Wall of Fame Game (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs #2) by Crystal Allen

Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is in a triple heap of trouble. As the Tibbs household prepares for the new baby, Mya is extra excited to spend time with her mom watching their favorite Annie Oakley marathon before her new sister arrives. Until she’s cornered into a bet with her number-one enemy, Naomi Jackson, that she can beat her in the famous fourth-grade Wall of Fame Game—which means Mya is stuck studying every night instead of hanging out with Mom. As if that wasn’t enough, Mya just entered Bluebonnet’s annual chili cook-off, even though she doesn’t know how to cook! Holy moly!

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time, but can’t tell anyone who she really is. Elvin’s living on Harlem’s cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

Book Reviews

Letters to My Series…One of Oprah’s Favorite Things!

Have you heard about the adorable Letters to My… series yet?  Oprah named this book series as one of her favorite things in 2015.  If you know me you’ll know I love all things Oprah.  I’m all over anything she endorses like “white on rice” and these books are certainly no exception.

With over 750,000+ copies of these books sold since 2014, each book in this series is an absolute treasure.  These innovative books contain 12 fold-and-mail style letters.  Each letter bears a prompt to inspire self-reflection. Once written, the letters can be sealed with the stickers included and postdated. The keepsake bundle of letters is like a dozen diary entries for the future.

There are currently 9 books available in the series including:

Letters to Me, When I Grow Up (New this season!  Young Writer’s Edition – perfect for kids ages 7 – 13)
Letters to My Future Self
Letters to My Baby
Letters to My Grandchild
Letters to My Love
Letters to My Mom
Letters to My Dad
Letters to Open When
Letters to the Bride

letters to my...

Letters to Me, When I Grow Up is the kids’ version of the bestselling Letters to My Future Self.  It brings young writers a fun new way to capture their childhood. Twelve prompted letters bound into a keepsake book invite kids to share stories, draw, or make lists reflecting on what they know now, and what they imagine for their future. When they’re grown, this paper time capsule becomes a cherished—and likely hilarious—look back on who they once were and who they have become.

I think these books make absolutely wonderful gifts – and they’re affordable…yay!  They are so creative, memorable, compact (slightly larger than the size of a dollar bill) and beautifully packaged.  What a fantastic alternative to a journal for people who aren’t very good at keeping up with journaling!  These books allow you to capture and share your hopes, thoughts, goals, dreams and experiences with your loved ones or your future self.

Although the writing space is somewhat limited on each page, I think it’s just enough space to get your heartfelt messages or words of wisdom across.  Also, you’re not limited to only writing on the pages.  You can draw, make a small collage, include wallet sized photos – whatever.  Have fun and use your creativity to share your messages. Think of these books as mini paper time capsules sure to fill the recipients with joy and emotions as they read through it.  My book is currently blank, but I’m looking forward to filling the pages with my thoughts, dreams and memories.  I can just see myself now looking back at my book to reflect on the person I used to be when I wrote the letters.  It will also be fun to watch my kids flip through their books when they get older.

I created time capsules for each of my children when they turned one.  I wish I had the Letters to My Baby book back then so I could have included it in their time capsules.  Now that I know about these books they will definitely be my staple gifts for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day and more!  They are perfect for giving your loved ones a glimpse into your heart or finding out what you wished their future or your own future.

P.S. Although you can actually mail these letters, I like the idea of keeping them all contained within the book.  I just think it makes for a nicer presentation when it’s all completed.

Check out this unique series of books and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here are the writing prompts for one of the books we received:

Letters to My Future Self contains the following 12 writing prompts:

These are my roots…
Where I want to go…
All the things I’d like to try someday…
This is what I live for…
It was an extraordinary day…
I promise to myself…
There’s no place like home…
A pep talk for the future me…
This is a letter about my love…
I never want to forget this…
[Blank – write your own]
[Blank – write your own]

About the Author
Lea Redmond is a collector of curious objects and a maker of unusual experiences. She is always looking for the poem hiding inside things: a salt shaker, a clothes tag, a hand gesture, a cloud. Lea is infinitely intrigued by the way experiences can slip from the ordinary to the extraordinary and she designs things that hold this possibility. Leafcutter Designs, her creative studio in Berkeley, CA, makes the world more playful and peaceful one little experience at a time. Visit Lea’s world at

Disclaimer: I received two complimentary copies of these books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.


What’s Your Book Fate? Plus A Giveaway!

Lisa Papademetriou, author of the newly released novel A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic wants to know:

What is your book fate—what book has changed your perspective, your heart, your life?

If you participate by posting a comment on this blog post, I will randomly select 1 winner to receive a copy of the book for FREE!  Giveaway ends October 24, 2015.  Good luck!  Below is a synopsis of the book.



Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

“Magic! It’s everywhere—in music, in moths, in an old handwritten book. But the real magic is the exquisite storytelling that sweeps us along until the last wonderful page. This is a book that leaves shimmers in the very air.” — Kathi Appelt, New York Times bestselling author of The Underneath and Keeper

“Lisa Papademetriou’s prose and sense of place dazzles the ear and eye, while the adventure and mystery binds us from page to page. Now that’s sleight of hand!” — Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor Winner

“A beguiling tale of… enduring love and nascent self-discovery.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A rollicking adventure of forbidden love and magic”  –School Library Journal

“Begging to be read aloud… a fun book for middle-grade readers, and it will surely inspire them to read—and write—more.” –Booklist

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Papademetriou is the author of Middle School: Big, Fat Liar and Homeroom Diaries (both with James Patterson), the Confectionately Yours series, and many other novels for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books have appeared on the Bank Street Best Books of the Year list, the NYPL Books for the Teen Age, and the Texas Lone Star Reading List, among others. A former editor, Lisa has worked for Scholastic, HarperCollins, and Disney Press and is the founder of the humorous online grammar magazine, You can visit Lisa at:

The Giveaway
Enter to win a FREE copy of bestselling author Lisa Papademetriou’s latest book A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic.

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