Happy Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to all of our May Sky Pony new releases!

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Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer

Ministry of Ghosts_coverWhen they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .

Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!

Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.

Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers

Tone Deaf_coverHis world is music. Her world is silent.

Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.

When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.

Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor

9781510704008-frontcoverI believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

My Amazing Dad by Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tom Jellett

My Amazing Dad_cover-REVISEDThis dad is not like other dads. He is not good at:

Mowing the lawn,
Getting his children to school on time,
Baking cakes,
Fixing a leaky faucet, or
Remembering bed time

But, he is good at:

Making mazes,
Getting his children to school eventually,
Eating cakes,
Making bubble baths, and
Telling bedtime stories.

And this is what makes him so special.

With bright illustrations from award-winning illustrator Tom Jellett and minimal text by award-nominated Ezekiel Kwaymullina, My Amazing Dad celebrates the unconventional father who may not always get it right but certainly knows how to turn every day into something special.

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

My Grandpa Is a DinosaurThis little girl has been watching her grandpa for a very long time, and she is almost absolutely certain that he is a dinosaur. So why is it that nobody believes her? Why can’t anyone else see what she sees? He roars! (And no, it’s not just a snore.) He has green skin! (And no, he’s not from outer space.) He even has a tail! (And no, he’s not a horse!) Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the little girl goes straight to the source. It’s time to ask Grandpa once and for all: is he a dinosaur?

Just like Gorillas in Our Midst, this book is all silliness and fun. Comic artist Richard Fairgray’s illustrations are filled with wonderful, quirky details for kids to discover with each read. Kids will love that they can see that Grandpa is a dinosaur when nobody else can. And, of course, a story like this can’t end without a surprising twist!

Izzy the Very Bad Burglar by Amy Proud

9781634501743-frontcoverIzzy comes from a family of excellent burglars. But every time Izzy takes something that doesn’t belong to her, she gets a bad feeling in her stomach that won’t go away. She tries to tell her parents about the bad feeling, but whenever she mentions it, they tell her she needs to be a good burglar.

Izzy finds ways to make the funny feeling in her stomach subside. She and her friend, Frog, start by tidying up as they burgle. They make the beds, dust, wash the dishes, and do the laundry. When the people come home, some of their things will be gone . . . but at least they won’t have any chores to do.

But that isn’t quite enough. So Izzy also starts baking her special double chocolate brownies with gooey caramel chunks. When the people realize they’ve been burgled, at least they will have a nice, tidy house with no chores to do and something sweet to eat.

But that isn’t quite enough either. Will Izzy ever find a way to get rid of this funny feeling she gets every time she has to steal? Will she find a way to be a good burglar and a good person, too? Readers will fall in love with this little troublemaker with a very big heart.

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

9781634501811-frontcoverLucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

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Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

While the exact birth date of English poet, actor, and playwright William Shakespeare is unknown, it is believed to be April 23rd (which is coincidentally also the date of his death). And 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death! The author of plays such as Romeo and JulietHamlet, and Macbeth, Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.  He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.”

To celebrate this important anniversary, two of our wonderful authors, Stephanie Kate Strohm (The Taming of the Drew) and JoAnne Wetzel (Playing Juliet) are here to talk about their love of Shakespeare and why their books are perfect for young and teen readers that love him, his plays, and theater in general!


 

Stephanie Kate Strohm, author of YA novel The Taming of the Drew (on sale now!)

How did your love of Shakespeare start?
I was one of those kids who was firmly committed to spending her entire summer in the library. School was a pesky distraction from plowing my way through an enormous reading list; the minute the last bell of the year rang in June, I was firmly planted in the “Fables and Fairy Tales” aisle of the Fairfield Public Library. In between reading grisly accounts of Cinderella’s stepsisters slicing off bits of their feet, I stumbled across a volume entitled Tales from Shakespeare. I’d never heard of any of these stories, but they were just like fairy tales—or at least, the dark and disturbing German ones I’d been reading. There were fairies! Princesses! A true love’s kiss that didn’t totally work! (Sorry, Juliet) And plenty of stabbings! I was enthralled.

Soon after, my parents took me to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare on the Sound, and to this day, I can vividly picture Malvolio’s yellow stockings, and remember how hard I laughed—even if I didn’t totally understand the language, it didn’t matter. The story transcended what I didn’t know. By the time I was eleven, I was playing Bianca in a production of The Taming of the Shrew that my family assures me was excruciating, and notable only for the obscene number of scene changes involving middle schoolers parading candlesticks on and off stage. They might have been in agony, but I was all bliss. I’d fallen head over heels in love with Shakespeare, and I’ve never looked back.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?
My favorite Shakespeare play is King Lear. (Remember how I said I love the grisly ones?) Edmund is my favorite villain, Cordelia is one of my favorite roles I’ve ever played, and I think the play has some of the most blisteringly beautiful lines in the English language. I like the comedies, too—I love Much Ado About Nothing—but I really like to leave a Shakespeare play sobbing and clutching my eye sockets in sympathy.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare movie adaptation?
When it comes to movies adaptations of Shakespeare plays, there is no contest, there is only 10 Things I Hate About You. Heath Ledger and Julia Styles have the kind of chemistry that crackles onscreen—just as the bard intended.

Why is your book great for young Shakespeare fans?
The Taming of the Drew is the book I would have wanted to read when I was in high school, back when my life’s ambition was to stab myself on stages around the country. The characters in The Taming of the Drew love Shakespeare the way that I did then, and still do. It may be the first YA novel that uses lines from Richard III as romantic banter—scratch that—it’s probably the first anything that uses lines from Richard III as romantic banter. I wanted to make Shakespeare’s plays feel the way they do to me—visceral, present, and alive. And if you don’t like Shakespeare . . . give him a try. He may surprise you. There’s a lot more to him than neck ruffs and the word “forsooth.”

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink and Confederates Don’t Wear Couture. She graduated with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiancé and a dog named Lorelei Lee.

 


 

JoAnne Wetzel, author of middle-grade novel Playing Juliet (on sale now!)

How did your love of Shakespeare start?
I fell in love with Shakespeare at a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was in the front row, watching the feuding fairies fight with flowers as their weapons. As leaves and blossoms flew everywhere, a trumpet flower landed in my lap. I inhaled its sweet scent and knew I was hooked. I had to see a production of every one of Shakespeare’s plays. How could I miss another experience that splendid?

There are 37 plays in The Complete Works of Shakespeare I’d used in college. Over the years, I checked off each play until King John was the only one left. It’s so rarely staged, I was lucky to find it opening in San Diego, only 450 miles away. It was the first time it had been produced in that city in 40 years. I flew there, checked King John off the list and congratulated myself. I’d seen all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.

That week an email arrived from my daughter with HA! in the subject box. Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio had been found and The Royal Shakespeare Company was putting it on as a rediscovered work. I flew to England to see it. Scholars have continued to add more plays to his canon. So far I’ve seen 39 plays by Shakespeare and will be seeing number 40 later this year, but this time I hope I’m not done. His plays are so good, wouldn’t it be wonderful if another one was discovered.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (and The Tempest)

What’s your favorite Shakespeare movie adaptation?
The 1935 Warner Brothers film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A teen-age Mickey Rooney played Puck and his joyous screeching laugh was perfect for the mischievous fairy who created such chaos in the story.

Why is your book great for young Shakespeare fans?
Playing Juliet introduces the reader to the world of the theater. It starts out with the fact that William Shakespeare’s Scottish play is considered so unlucky, no actor will say its title out loud. While that play is never named in the book, one of the characters figures it out, and provides enough clues that the reader can too. Not only does each chapter start with an epigraph from Shakespeare that foreshadows the next plot twist, he also wrote part of the dialogue. When our heroine is grounded, she keeps quoting Juliet as she trudges back to her room after dinner every night, from “O, sweet my mother, cast me not away,” to “O, shut the door, and when thou hast done so, come weep with me; . . .” Sadly, even Shakespeare’s words don’t work on her parents.

And, as Jane Yolen said in her review of the book, “. . . there’s an extra bonus in the back for teachers introducing the Bard to middle schoolers.”

JoAnne Stewart Wetzel
is a self-proclaimed theater geek, and she recently completed a twenty-year quest to see at least one production of every play written by Shakespeare. She is also a published author of two previous books for children, including a nonfiction theater book, Onstage/Backstage (Carolrhoda). Her picture book, The Christmas Box (Knopf), was named a Noteworthy Book for Children by Bank Street College of Education. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

 


Shakespeare lovers, what’s your favorite play and movie adaptation? Let us know in the comments!

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