Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School with Charlie Bumpers

Though it still feels like summer in Atlanta, fall is around the corner and school will soon start again! Families around town are stocking up on supplies and students are waiting excitedly at the mailbox for their teacher letters, crossing their fingers and hoping to get the easy teacher, the nice teacher, the cool teacher. Maybe some more excitedly than others.

Guys, Charlie feels your pain. Not only is he starting fourth grade this year but he's got THE MEANEST teacher in the whole school. Want some tips on how to cope? Some stories to get you through the day from a kid who gets it? Follow along on his blog and see what he's up to!

For more books to get you in the 'Back to School' spirit, check out:

 Happy Reading and have a great year!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Where is Baby?

If you live on the earth, chances are you've heard a thing or two about the royal baby. First, crowds gathered and speculated when Kate -- er, Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge -- would go into labor. Then there were rumors about a change in hospitals. Now that the little prince is finally here, everyone wants to get a look at him

Well, royal babies aren't the only ones who are good at hiding! 

Where is Baby?
by Kathryn Galbraith
Illustrated by John Butler

Babies love to hide—beneath blankets, under tables, and behind chairs. And some babies are found in unexpected places. Like baby deer, who disappear in dappled spring sunlight. Or baby leopards, who scramble high in the African trees. Or baby elephants, who fade behind a forest of legs. But all babies, no matter where they are, can always be found by their loving parents.

Keep an eye out for this sweet new picture book from Kathryn Galbraith and John Butler, arriving October 2013!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A is for Art!

Ever wonder what goes into the design of a picture book? How do publishers pick the "just right" image for a cover? Want to know how to become a children's book illustrator yourself? 

Children's Illustrators recently interviewed our very own Loraine Joyner, art director extraordinaire! Check it out and get a behind-the-scenes look at our art department here!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ramadan and The Garden of My Imaan

 The holy month of Ramadan marks the ninth month in the Islamic calendar during which Muslims around the world fast between sunrise and sunset, focusing their energies on purifying their souls for Allah through sacrifice.

The Garden of My Imaan, page 69
written by Farhana Zia

With Ramadan beginning, we invited author of The Garden of My Imaan, Farhana Zia to share both about her book and the traditions of Ramadan. 

Q: First, for those who aren't familiar, could you tell our readers what Ramadan is about and its significance? 

Ramadaan  is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.  It is believed that the Koran, the holy scripture of Muslims, was revealed to Prophet Muhammed during this month.  Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars (religious practices) of Islam.  The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.  Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, unable to fast due to medical reasons, traveling, pregnant, or menstruating. 

 During the course of the fast that lasts from dawn to sunset, Muslims abstain from consuming food and drinking liquids.   Smoking and engaging in sexual relations are also prohibited.  They prepare for the fast by eating a meal before sunrise and they break the daily fast at sunset.  Eid ul Fitr is the celebration at the end of Ramadan when families and friends gather together to celebrate their personal success.  Children look forward to getting presents.

Muslims will tell you that Ramadan is more than just about giving up food and water temporarily. It is more about self purification, personal introspection and self growth. Ramadan is a time when one can seriously work to repair one’s relationship with one’s creator. This is mostly why Muslim actually look forward to the month of Ramadan!

Q: How did the storyline of The Garden of My Imaan evolve during the writing process? Did you always plan on writing about Ramadan/setting the story during Ramadan?

My journey with The Garden of my Imaan was pretty circuitous.  I originally intended merely to pay homage to what I thought was a very creative take on Eid celebration (the celebration that comes at the end of Ramadan) I had happened to observe, by writing a story about an Eid garden—a Muslim version of Christmas tree,  if you will.  Needless to say, things changed.  My original idea of a picture book grew into the present chapter book with an expanding story line that started to take on larger issues.   Still, at the root of an altered story, was the persistent idea of Eid ul Fitr, an important celebration for Muslims. But if one is to write about Eid, one needs to write about the reasons for Eid and thus, the focus on Ramadan.  Ramadan is an important month for observant Muslims and while technically it is about abstaining from food between the hours of sunrise and sunset, it’s actually about worship and spiritual cleansing and rejuvenation.  In its truest sense, the greatest challenge in Ramadan is not giving up food and water but improving oneself as a human being.  And so, the story of Ramadan became the perfect vehicle to show Aliya’s personal journey toward self-growth.

I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose Ramadan and Thanksgiving to show both sides of Aliya— her Muslim side, as well as her American side.  But this was a little tricky since Ramadan which is based on the 12 month lunar calendar does not always fall in the November.  But a feature of the Islamic lunar calendar is that the months (approximately 29 – 29.5 days) drift each solar year by 11 to 12 days and every so often the calendar comes back to the position it had in relation to a solar year.   Another important point I wanted to get across was that while Ramadan is about abstaining from food and Thanksgiving, is about food, both observances expect a turning to the divine with humility and gratitude.

Q: Did your own childhood/family experiences influence your writing? 

I think that one’s experiences, whether direct or vicarious, are generally at the root of one’s writing.  I personally feel that the best writing arises out of some form of emotional connection with the subject.  My picture book, Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji is an example of how both personal as well as observed cultural experiences worked collectively to shape a story line.  When I wrote it, I was thinking primarily of things immediately and familiarly Indian and so food, inter-generational family arrangements and storytelling jumped out naturally. Memories of my grandmother telling stories, the remembered smell of the incense stick, the sights and sounds of roti making, multi-generation relatives interacting on a daily basis…those were the experiences that came into play into the writing of that book.  

The earliest version of The Garden of my Imaan drew more heavily from family experiences than the present version does.  Still, certain anecdotes that appear in the story, such as the one about Aliya unwittingly breaking her fast, came out of personal experience and even as I say that, I’m sure that many young Muslim readers will claim it as their own experience and perhaps get a chuckle out of it.   The Thoroughly-Mixed-up Turkey chapter is another place where familiar experiences played a part. But what’s most meaningful to me in the book is the sense of family as illustrated by the Aliya-Amma-Badi Amma relationship.  There is no way one can put a price on it.  One can only hope that others are fortunate enough to experience it and reap its rich benefits. 

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from Aliya's story?

It would be great to hear that readers enjoyed the book and talked about it and discussed it.

 As far as what I hope they will take away from the story, several things come to mind.  First of all, there is a subtle message at the heart of Aliya’s story and this is what it is:  what lies at our core determines who we are. Marwa has an identifiable core that makes her stronger, more intact as a person and ultimately a little more sure of herself. We can all hope to work on our inner core (our value system) so we are able to walk with surety, and with our head held high. It might be ambitious on my part, but still, this is what I hope readers will take away with them.  

There is another message that I hope will be useful.  It’s especially pertinent in a society that’s increasingly multicultural. We try to impart this message to our youngsters but we need to state it over and over again:  Search out the similarity in others but also respect them for their difference.

 Aliya’s story could be the story of any girl her age treading some choppy waters and navigating some bumps along the way.  Readers will recognize themselves in her as perhaps they too have tried at times to fit in or be included.  Perhaps they too have had a run in with a bully.  I hope then that they will see Aliya’s struggles as their struggle and be on her side and cheer her on as she works to resolve her issues and find her bearing.  

When we first meet Aliya she is tentative but with time she grows more self assured.  I tried to speak to the inner strength that we all possess in varying degrees.  I hope the story will be uplifting as it is about faith in the human potential to do the right thing and walk the path that’s right for them.  

Aliya receives a lot of help along the way. She has a supporting family and good friends.   I hope that young readers will see that if they are enmeshed in problems, there are people around them who can be counted on for help.

 One of the finest things one can have is a good sense of self.  I hope the readers

will take that away from the book, if nothing else, and seek out opportunities that will nurture their own self identity.  

Finally, I attempted to dispel certain misconceptions about Muslims and Islam in

the book and I hope  readers will see that Muslims come in all skin tones, ethnicities and degrees of religious fervor and that they are no different in this from Christians, Jews or Hindus. They are people with similar aspirations and ambitions as their neighbors. Most of all, I hope the readers will see that it’s not what’s on our head that matters but what’s in it. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts and Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslim readers. 

Farhana Zia is an elementary school teacher who grew up in Hyderabad, India. Her stories blend humor and tradition, memories and contemporary moments. Her first picture book, Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji received a starred review from Kirkus.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Little Things & Summer Reads

Summer is here! That can mean a lot of things for different people. For most: Hooray! Freedom! Vacation! Time off!

If you're a student: We've got some great new books for you to read while you have all this free time! 

If you're a teacher: We've got some great new books for you to take with you into the fall!

If you're a parent: We've got some great new books for your kids to read and fend off the dreaded Summer Slide! 

See what I did there?

Summer is a great time to jump into some new books -- especially if your child is in between those crucial grade levels where reading in the summer months can make a huge impact on their success during the school year. Even a little bit of reading every day can mean a big improvement! (After all, little things make a big difference!)

To get them reading, we're rolling out a fun Summer Reads Contest! It's simple: 

1. Keep track of your or your child's reading minutes over the summer and what books they've been reading.

2. Beginning September 3, email me here with the following information: 
       -Number of total reading minutes this summer
       -Titles of the books read
       -Favorite Peachtree author/book

*I'll pick a winner (or a few!) who will win a prize pack of Peachtree titles to start the school year with! The contest will be open all week, closing on Sun. September 8th.

Meanwhile, we'd love to see what you're reading throughout the summer! Here are some easy ways to let everyone know what you're up to these summer months: 

On Twitter:
Tweet some of your favorite ideas or a quote from what you read that day! Include the title of the book and #summerreading. Feel free to tag us @PeachtreePub!

On Facebook:
Post a picture of the cover of what book you're reading or your favorite quote from that day's reading to our wall!  

On Pinterest:
Create a board dedicated to your summer reading titles! Email us the link, or leave a link in the comments and we'll be sure to follow it! Every time you read, pin the cover or an interior image from the book. Make a note about how long you read or what your favorite part of the book is! 


Happy Summer Reading, everyone! 

*US residents only, please
*Contest ends Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

I love July 4th activities. Going to the parade and festivals in the morning and having a pool party in the afternoon. And who can forget about fireworks at night. Although, here in Atlanta it is shaping up to be a pretty rainy 4th. If you also get caught inside tomorrow, here are some fun, patriotic books to read!

The Other Side of Free
by Krista Russell

In 1739, England and Spain are on the verge of war. Slaves begin running the underground railroad south to St. Augustine, Florida where the Spanish will give them their freedom in exchange for their loyalty. Fourteen-year-old Jem is one of these former slaves who has high hopes for his new future. That is until he becomes subject to a difficult and angry guardian. As war looms on the horizon, Jem must decide for himself what he believes, who he trusts and what freedom really means.
Coming OCTOBER 2013!

Land of Liberty
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

Sweet Land of Liberty reveals the little know story of civil rights advocate Oscar Chapman, who helped Marian Anderson perform on the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of 1939. When Chapman heard that Marian was not allowed to sing at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin, he took it upon himself to find her an appropriate place to sing. With the support of high levels of the U.S. government, he was able for one evening to break the color divide. 

First Dog Fala
Written by Elizabeth Can Steenwyk
Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

Long before there was Bo Obama, there was a Scottish terrier named Fala, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's dog. Fala attended meetings with FDR, travelled with him across the country and the world, and remained loyal to him. This story follows the life of the president through the eyes of a loyal dog in a heart-warming adventure about over coming challenges. 

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells
Written by Phillip Dray
Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells is the story of a former slave Ida B. Wells, who, after being exposed to Jim Crow laws and violent injustices, set out to lead a national movement for civil rights. She began writing articles and pamphlets about the social injustice toward African Americans and the lynch mobs that still existed in the South. Ida B. Wells helped to end lynching in America and left a legacy for equality to all Americans. 

14 Cows for America
Written by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
In Collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah

14 Cows in America is a true story about the generosity of one Maasai tribesman after the September 11th tragedy. Kimeli Naiyomah was visiting the United Nations Head Quarters in New York, where he witnessed the disastrous events of 9/11. After returning to his small remote village in western Kenya, he expressed his sorrow for the American people to the rest of his tribe. Reacting to Naiyomah’s sorrow, the village offered America the ultimate gift of a Maasai tribe, a herd of cows. 14 Cows for America is heart-warming story of generosity and hope in the face of tragedy.

Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt
Written by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! tells the story of FDR's eldest child, Alice. Instead of being conventional and reserved like most women of her time, Alice choices to do what she wants, whether it’s driving a car or keeping a pet snake. When her father tells her she needs to obey his rules while she lives under his roof, she decides to spend time on top of the roof. Mind your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! Is a wonderful story about the bond between a father and daughter and a sense of individuality. 

What are some of your favorite 4th of July activities (both indoor and outdoor)?

Make sure to check out, follow and re-pin our July 4th Pinterest board!

Happy Reading!