LauriHornik_photoHere’s the sneaky thing about books for young kids: They give those kids quite a lot of power over you the reader. The kids get to choose the book you’ll read to them, and then . . . whatever the words on the page say, you as reader HAVE to say. Out loud. Even if those words are tremendously silly and embarrassing and make you seem completely and utterly preposterous.

That’s the sly, ingenious, irresistible premise of B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures. You probably know B.J. as Ryan Howard on “The Office,” or as a supporting actor in the movies “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” I hope you know that he was also a writer of “The Office”; and if you’re lucky, you have already read his excellent, acclaimed short story collection One More Thing.

But none of us knew B.J. Novak as a child whisperer—as one of the rare class of grownups who understand what makes young kids giggle. Boy, does he understand! I had the pleasure of watching him read his book aloud to a group of first graders. They didn’t know him from his acting roles, but he knew them—he knew what they found unbelievably funny. Words like blork and bluurf and badoongy-face. Hearing an adult forced to talk in a robot-monkey voice, and to sing a song about eating ants for breakfast, all the while protesting that “this isn’t the kind of book I wanted to read.” I still have that roar of first-grade laughter in my head.

You don’t need to be a comedian like B.J. Novak to read this book successfully, though. I’ve tested it with lots of my colleagues and friends and family. Everybody is funny when reading this book. Deadpan, singsong, completely over the top goofy . . . doesn’t matter. It always works. And I am especially fond of B.J.’s hidden agenda: to teach young kids—through this hilarity—that words are exciting.  That words are powerful. This picture book, you see, doesn’t have a single picture in it, not even a jacket-flap picture of the author himself. Just words—goofy, nonsensical, wonderful words!

TheBookWithNoPicturesBonk. (I didn’t want to say that. The kids made me do it.)

 

This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)


Becca Cloyd pic

Becca Cloyd is a Digital and Social Media Marketing Coordinator at Penguin Young Reader Group. In her spare time she can be found either swimming in the ocean or counting down the days until the beaches are warm again.

 
 
 
 
 

devil

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by April Tucholke

Creepy, wonderful, and totally weird, this book is a fav that I’ve returned to three times already since its publication last year. It’s hot, too – literally. Set in a sweltering summertime coastal town, pick this one up if you’re looking for a page turner that will let you hold on to summer for just a little longer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

was true

What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Another coastal town, another hot summer. This one swelters for a reason aside from the weather – the romance. Huntley Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite authors to take with me on vacation over the summer, and I always find myself reaching for her books when September hits and I’m trying to hang on to those beachy August days.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

inland

Inland, by Kat Rosenfield

This one is disorienting, with a mysteriously unwell protagonist and disconcerting family history. Callie and her father have lived far from the coast for nine years, and as soon as they return she finds she can finally breathe easier. Are you sensing a theme yet?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

atlantia

Atlantia, by Ally Condie

Looking ahead to fall, I can’t WAIT for the rest of the world to read Ally Condie’s newest tale, Atlantia. Set just where it sounds like, Atlantia is an underwater city from which Rio longs to escape. Ally will draw you in with the descriptions of Rio’s underwater world, just like she did in her wonderful Matched series.

 
 
 
 
 
 

camp
Since I work with picture books much of the time, I’d be remiss not to let you in on one of my favorite picture books we published this year. Molly Idle’s art is hilarious and heartfelt as we follow dinosaurs on a camping trip. It’s my second favorite summer activity after swimming in the ocean, and Molly captures it perfectly, right down to the s’mores. Plus, she’s got Sea Rex, a beach adventure, coming next summer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Find more books on the Young Readers page!

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Mary_Stone
Mary Stone is the Assistant Marketing Manager for Putnam and Riverhead Books. Originally from Florida, she’s currently mourning the near-end of summer, because reading on a warm sunny beach is so much better than reading inside a snowed-in apartment.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

lastletter
I’m a huge Jojo Moyes fan: Me Before You had me in (admittedly!) ugly tears just a few pages in, The Girl You Left Behind completely transported me to World War 1 Paris – and made me never want to leave – and One Plus One had me thinking a long car ride with a handsome stranger might just be a great adventure. After reading those three, I knew I needed more, so this summer I picked up Jojo’s earlier novel, The Last Letter from Your Lover. Suddenly I was deep into another perfectly heartbreaking love story I just couldn’t quit – and the letters! Oh, just have tissues handy.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

overseas
Overseas was the first book I officially read for work when I started at Penguin three years ago, and one colleagues still remember my instant – and persistent – passion for! When the worlds of a modern day NYC city slicker and a oh-so handsome World War 1 captain collide with a dabble of time travel, the result is a guiltily perfect romantic ride that will have you swooning with every page.  Since then, Beatriz Williams has followed up with last summer’s New York Times bestseller, A Hundred Summers, and this year’s beach read favorite, The Secret life of Violet Grant both highly recommended as well.

 
 
 
 
 
 

savethedate
While this is by no means a romance novel – it is in fact, a wonderfully funny memoir – I think it’s a read all romance fans will adore. It brings to light what romance, love and happily ever after really means in today’s world – and how my fairy tale ending might just be very different than yours, and that’s OK.   
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

on the island
If you’re looking for a book that is just pure escapism, I invite you to take a trip On the Island in Tracey Garvis Graves’s bestselling novel. (Truth: I enjoyed this book so much that I dressed up as the lead female, Anna Emerson, for Penguin’s annual Halloween party; see photo above.) A shocking plane crash brings Anna Emerson and her student, T.J. Callahan, to a deserted island – and in to the arms of one another. The island heat isn’t even the hottest part of this book…  enjoy!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


MaxandRubyThis fall, Viking will publish Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the latest of Rosemary Wells’s books about the bunny siblings who star in their own popular show on Nick Jr.

Despite the fact that Rosemary has written more than fifty books about Max and Ruby, she always finds a way to keep the latest book fresh.  In Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the bunnies race through the Ritz Hotel, in search of a missing wedding ring, guided by the maps on Grandma’s iBunny phone.  In a typically witty Wells touch, the iBunny phone features a glittery green lift-the-flap cover decorated with a carrot with a bite taken out of it!

Rosemary always tries to teach as well as entertain, whether by teaching ABCs, counting, or nursery rhymes, and in this newest title she is subtly imparting early map skills via up-to-the-minute technology.

It’s hard to believe that Max and Ruby are 35; they certainly are not showing their age!

See the entire Max and Ruby series!


JDG SUN photoI’ll Give You the Sun made me realize just how many new YA readers, teens and adults both, had never heard of The Sky is Everywhere.

It’s been over four years since Sky, Jandy Nelson’s debut, made everything crystalline for me.  I used to have the hardest time explaining to agents and authors what I wanted beyond “really, really good manuscripts,” which is like having an online dating profile saying you like to do “really, really fun stuff.”  It was The Sky is Everywhere that broke it open for me.  I made everyone read it—my best friend, my teenage cousins, my husband, my mother, my grandpa (I have a kickass 96-year-old grandpa).  I began to tell people, “This.  This is what I want.  Novels like The Sky is Everywhere.”  Little did I know then that I’d get to work with Jandy Nelson herself one day, and that her second book, I’ll Give You the Sun, wouldn’t just break it open for me, it would break my effing heart.

I’ll Give You the Sun is a soaring, pinwheeling, forget-where-you-are, steal-your-breath, feel-it-in-your-bones, transcendent, transporting whirlwind.  It’s the kind of novel that makes you cry through the happy parts as much as the sad parts for the sheer depth of feeling, sheer aliveness of its characters, sheer boldness of its telling.  Reading it, I had the same falling-headlong feeling, the same zap of recognition I’d had at eighteen when I read Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat for the first time.  This is the kind of novel that stays with you, that you read over and over again.  It’s the kind of novel that lasts.

The voices here are the voices of two teen fraternal twins, one a boy, one a girl, telling their stories from two different, crucial points in time—one from before the event that changed their lives and one from after.  Both are magical, visceral, pop-off-the-page voices—so hard to find.  To do justice to these siblings, Jandy essentially wrote one novel, then another novel, and then wove those two novels together to create a third, I’ll Give You the Sun.  No wonder it took her four years.

It was The Sky is Everywhere that brought me to Jandy Nelson, and I’ll Give You the Sun that will make me stay with her.  What this novel accomplishes is raw and rare, and it will change some readers’ lives.  Is it too much to say that I’ll Give You the Sun redefines the boundaries of what makes a YA novel YA?  Nah, I’d say that’s just about right on target.

Read More Posts From the Editor’s Desk.


Nancy PaulsenphotoWe are publishing Jacqueline Woodson’s gorgeously written memoir on August 28, which is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That is a perfect date for Brown Girl Dreaming to come into the world, because so many of the stories Jacqueline tells are stories of hope, dreams, and having a vision.

Woodson came of age in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. In stories that are poignant, funny, and memorable, she shows us how family, religion, and the civil rights movement shaped her. In South Carolina, she was surrounded by the love of her grandparents and got her early education eavesdropping on the front porch. But she also felt the realities of Jim Crow. In poems like “Ghosts,” she writes:

In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn’t use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.

Moving to Brooklyn and starting school opened Jacqueline up to a whole new world, and she shows us how a notebook and a pen held infinite promise to her. We feel her delight when she finally discovers a book in the library with a character that looks like her and realizes she, too, has a story to tell. On her journey she finds her voice and her purpose.

Everyone who has read this finds it brings them back to their childhood and awakens their memories. These evocative poems—about friendship, siblings, beloved grandparents and teachers, favorite foods, funky music, and wanting to join the revolution—give us a vivid glimpse of American history, and our history. They also show us why Woodson is such a brilliant, lyrical writer, as in verse after verse we see her winning curiosity and integrity shine brightly through, and her respect for the art of listening:

Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.

We are incredibly proud to be publishing this and hope it will speak to readers of all ages and touch them with its stories that celebrate courage, creativity, dignity, hope, and mindfulness.

BrownGirlDreaming

Start Reading an Excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

“Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review


JillSantopoloThe concept of love is universal. And the idea of being free to love whomever you choose has been battled for centuries in many different countries on many different platforms. At its heart, that’s what Atia Abawi’s The Secret Sky is about—the freedom to love.

This book was inspired by many real events, but the reason it exists is because of a New York Times article published in July of 2011 called “In Afghanistan, Rage at Young Lovers.”  The article is about two teenagers from different ethnic groups who met in an ice cream factory and whose romance incited a riot of three hundred people that called for the teens’ death by stoning. Michael Green, Philomel’s publisher, came into my office with that article and said, “Have you read this?” (I had.) Then he said, “I think there’s a novel here. Do you know anyone who could write us a forbidden teen romance set in Afghanistan?” I figured the ideal person to write this kind of story was someone who was Afghan and who had spent a considerable amount of time in Afghanistan, but also grew up speaking English. And, of course, was a professional writer. Not necessarily the easiest person to find. I went through my mental rolodex and landed on Nick, a college friend who was then living in Islamabad and Kabul, reporting for ABC News. I thought perhaps he might know someone, so I sent him an email. He, in turn, sent an email to Atia Abawi. She was an Afghan-American journalist living in Kabul, reporting for NBC, and had been wanting to write a novel based on her experiences. Nick had found my ideal author for this project.

He connected me with Atia, and the result was The Secret Sky, inspired, in part, by the Times piece, but mostly inspired by the people and the villages that Atia visited during her five years reporting from Afghanistan. The story, which follows Fatima, a Hazara girl, and Samiullah, a Pashtun boy, as they fight their families, their village’s traditions, and the local Taliban to stay together, is not real, but it could have been. In fact, this past year, in March, The New York Times ran another article about forbidden love in Afghanistan, this one called “2 Star-Crossed Afghans Cling to Love, Even at Risk of Death,” which details a very similar story: two young people from a rural village whose declaration of love put them—and their families—in grave danger. 

What is most powerful about The Secret Sky is that it is so real. It captures, in beautiful, raw prose, what’s happening today, a fourteen-hour plane ride from New York City.  I’ve been editing books for the past decade, and I think Atia Abawi’s The Secret Sky is the one that has most changed me. It made me think—really think—about the privileges I take for granted every day and about how different my life would be if I had been born in a rural Afghan village.

I know this is a book about teenagers, written with a teenage audience in mind, but I think it will appeal to readers of all ages. As of the writing of this piece, The Secret Sky has already received a starred review pre-publication from Publishers Weekly and advanced praise from journalists and AtiaAbawi_TheSecretSkynovelists alike.  The power in Atia’s words has touched so many readers already. I’ll leave you with one of those reactions, from Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and anchor of Andrea Mitchell Reports. She said:

The Secret Sky brilliantly captures the magic and the heartbreak of Afghanistan as only someone rooted in its mystery can….This first novel by a top foreign correspondent has the authenticity of raw journalism and the poetry of a gifted writer.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Start Reading The Secret Sky here!


Rebecca

Rebecca Brewer is an editorial assistant/professional geek at Ace and Roc. When not working she can be found attending a show, at band practice, and forcing her favorite books onto friends and loved ones.

 

 

 

dark

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey

I knew from reading her previous books that Jacqueline Carey’s urban fantasy series would be good, but I didn’t realize how much fun it was! The small resort town where the series takes place effortlessly blends many different paranormal creatures who make up the tight community.  With action, romance, and Carey’s imagination, this is the start to an amazing series.

 

 

 

 

night

Night Owls, by Lauren M. Roy

When I read Night Owls, a fantastic ensemble urban fantasy about a vampire who owns a bookstore and her group of friends, I knew I had to have it. If you’re looking for characters as vivid as those in Game of Thrones, and a new take on paranormal creatures, you have to read Night Owls.

 

 

 

 

 

midnight

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is one of the best authors at combining genres, and this just cements her place as the master. This is a perfect blend of mystery and urban fantasy, with a fantastic setting that makes me nostalgic for my small town Texas home, though it’s just a bit more mysterious.

 

 

 

 

 

maplecroft

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

I’ve been counting down the days until this book is released and I can discuss it with others. In this perfectly atmospheric historical fantasy, Lizzie Border (with her axe) is fighting against something monstrous attacking people in Fall River. This is a perfect novel for those who love the Lovecraft mythos.

 

 

 

 

black wings

Black Wings, by Christina Henry

If a personable Agent of Death who guides soul to the afterlife isn’t enough to convince you to read this book, perhaps a very attractive (and potentially troublesome) neighbor will, along with a hilarious gargoyle with a penchant for junk food. The action packed plot and the fantastic voice will make any urban fantasy fan happy.

 

 

 

 

bloodring

Bloodring, by Faith Hunter

Most people encounter Faith Hunter’s work through her Jane Yellowrock series, but I fell in love with her book Bloodring first. It’s the first in her Rogue Mage series where Seraphs and Demons fight battle while the remaining humans must use their wits and our main character, a mage, fights for the ones she loves. Dark, exciting, and passionate, with an overarching mystery and an upcoming battle on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

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Marissa

Marissa Grossman is an Editorial Assistant at Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Like any self-respecting pop culture addict, she watches far too much television and loves all things social media. You can find her on Twitter @marissagrossman.

 

 

 

 

The Law of Loving OthersThe Law of Loving Others, by Kate Axelrod

I might be cheating a little, since this book won’t be available until 2015, but I can’t imagine leaving it off my list. The Law of Loving Others tells the story of Emma, who returns home from boarding school to find that her mother is in the middle of a schizophrenic break. Debut author Kate Axelrod’s stunning, emotional novel takes us inside Emma’s mind as she struggles with the shocking news of her mother’s condition and the questions it raises about her own mental health. Are Emma’s moments of anxiety and distant feelings toward her boyfriend a normal reaction to something so stressful, or could they be a precursor to her own battle with schizophrenia? Can she handle such upheaval in her family, or is she just too fragile? Even if you’ve never had to deal with mental illness in your own life, you’ll definitely relate to Emma’s heart-wrenching journey as she learns what it means to love others–and herself–unconditionally.

spudSpud, by John van de Ruit

Somehow, this South African import has remained a mostly undiscovered gem. Sharing Catcher in the Rye’s wit and prep-school setting, Spud is a rollicking update on Salinger’s classic. The novel takes place in 1990 South Africa, just as Nelson Mandela is being released from prison and the country is beginning its march toward the end of apartheid. It’s a seminal moment in South Africa’s–and the world’s–history, but it’s seen through the eyes of 13-year-old John “Spud” Milton, who’s just trying to get through his first  year at boarding school. Though the novel’s setting may be specific, the coming-of-age themes are universal. Spud deals with mischievous roommates, a hilariously eccentric family, his first crush, feelings of alienation, and even death. This novel is filled with moments of intense heartbreak and unbridled joy; it’s cathartic, relatable, and uplifting. If you’re a fan of grounded YA, this one’s for you.

ladybughalloween

Ladybug Girl series, by Jacky Davis and David Soman

So here’s the thing: if you had seen my three-year-old cousin dressed up as Ladybug Girl for Halloween, you’d adore this series too. Lulu/Ladybug Girl is spunky, fearless, and imaginative. She’s basically everything you could ask for in a children’s book character. And the fact that she has a basset hound named Bingo? Well that’s just icing on the cake.

 

 

 

zodiac

Zodiac, by Romina Russell

Ok, this is another one that isn’t available quite yet, but I promise it’s worth the wait. Do you love astrology? Great! Do you know little-to-nothing about astrology? Same here! While Zodiac’s premise may revolve around the astrological signs, it’s really the perfect novel for anyone who loves thrilling adventures, epic worlds, and compelling characters. Romina Russell’s world-building is magnificent, reimagining the Zodiac as 12 different solar systems, each populated with characters who personify the traits of their respective signs. The protagonist, Rho, is a sci-fi Katniss Everdeen: a badass leader with just the right mix of snark and empathy. You’ll fall in love with Rho, a protective and loving Cancer, and you’ll definitely have trouble deciding which of the men in her life you like best: the brooding, sensitive Mathias (a Cancer like Rho), or Hysan, the charming, confident Libra. No matter which sign you are, you’ll adore this jaw-dropping blockbuster of a book.

 

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Julie-Strauss-GabelThe publication of Isla and the Happily Ever After is a journey that has spanned five years and taken me to Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, and, most especially, to Paris. But before I traveled the world with Stephanie Perkins and her three strong, smart, romantic heroines—Anna, Lola, and Isla—our story begins, uncannily, in my own hometown.

I was coming from an appointment and had just missed a train, keeping me longer in the town that had witnessed my own teen years. Stuck in that station, as I read the manuscript I was not just in the familiar geography of my adolescence, but also transported back to its awkward, exciting promise.

From that first manuscript, for Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins has realigned my thinking about contemporary romance for young adults. She is an author who understands her field so well, and she celebrates and then breaks the mold in subtle, smart, unexpected ways. It’s no surprise that Anna (and, after, Lola) quickly became a book so close to readers’ hearts. Only rarely do we get to discover a new talent both as comfortingly familiar and completely fresh as Stephanie.

Amazingly, we now find ourselves celebrating the publication of Isla and the Happily Ever After, the third book in this (very) loose trilogy. Fans have been waiting breathlessly to return to their beloved School of America in Paris, and to meet Isla at long last. Isla joins Anna and Lola to complete a triumvirate of incredible and vulnerable young women who find love and, most importantly, discover themselves.

Read More Posts From the Editor’s Desk.