May 2, 2016
 New Titles, Author Notes, Book Giveaways, and More



Dear Readers,    
In this issue of KidsBookClubbing, you'll 
...get to know five gifted girls in 1814 who are secretly being trained for a world of spies and diplomacy in Kathleen Baldwin's A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS and EXILE FOR DREAMERS Caden and explore the depth of the human mind in Neal Shusterman's National Book Award winner, CHALLENGER DEEP

...find that the truth can't hide from the eye of the storm in Deborah Blumenthal's novel, HURRICANE KISS.

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

Ages 13 and up / YA Historical Fiction / Tor Teen  

Win a set of A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS and EXILE FOR DREAMERS for your book club. Enter to win by emailing the author (write "KidsBookclubbing" in the subject line). 

Dear Reader, 
Have you ever felt like you didn't fit in? Growing up, I did. I think everybody feels that way sometimes, don't you?

The Stranje House series is about girls who didn't fit into Regency England's rigid high society -- and the shrewd headmistress who is turning these gifted young ladies into spies in the war against Napoleon. 

Exciting research proves that throughout history young women really did serve as spies. Your book club or classroom can Skype with me and I'll tell you all about it.

I love meeting readers!

Live courageously!


P.S. Common Core Reader's Guide included in both books.
"...kept me reading until late into the night. Kathleen Baldwin has created a completely original -- and totally engrossing -- world, full of smart girls, handsome boys, and sinister mysteries."                                     
-Meg Cabot, bestselling author of The Princess Diaries

"...Those seeking period romance with a twist need look no further."
-Kirkus Reviews

"This spy school for girls . . . is impossible to put down! I recommend this book to anyone that loves brave girls, adventure and great friendships."

"Enticing from the first sentence....Baldwin has an ear for period dialogue as she draws us into this world of sharp, smart young ladies who are actually being trained and deployed for the British war effort.... Swoony moments also abound."
-New York Times Book Review
"Spellbinding! A School for Unusual Girls is a beautifully written tale that will appeal to every girl who has ever felt different . . . a true page-turner!"
-Lorraine Heath, New York Times-USA Today bestselling author 
Discussion questions:

1. Tess has unusual dreams. Sometimes they are prophetic and contain perplexing clues to the future. Other times her dreams merely represent Tess's fears. Can you decipher one of her dreams? If so, explain what it reveals about the future, or whether it symbolizes one of Tess's worries and what that might be.
2.  Do you have extraordinary dreams like Tess's? How does she learn to cope with her troubling dreams? How do you handle yours?
3.  Sometimes friends hurt our feelings, or even worse, they turn against us the way Lady Daneska turned against Tess and the other girls at Stranje House. How does Tess eventually come to deal with her anger about Daneska's betrayal?
4.  Robert Fulton's nephew, Mr. Sinclair, arrives at Stranje House after having assisted with Fulton's exciting new inventions, such as the submarine. Imagine if you were living in that pre-industrialized world and knew how to build a steam engine; what piece of equipment would you want to invent first?
5.  Suppose that you, like Mr. Sinclair, had the knowledge to invent something that would improve life in our fast-paced modern world-what might that invention be?
6.  Tess has an uncanny rapport with animals. Why do you think that is? How does she use her ability to understand animals to help her relate with Gabriel and other characters in the story? Do you have a special ability with animals?
7.  At Stranje House, there are many secrets. Some secrets must be kept as the fate of England might be at stake. Other secrets complicate things and make life difficult until they are exposed. Can you find an example in the story of a secret that ought to be kept and a secret that should be told? How do you think we can know the difference in our own lives?

To read an excerpt, watch a video about the series, get some historical extras and connect with Kathleen via Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads, visit her website.  
Author call-in Information: Kathleen Baldwin is available to call-in or Skype with your book club, or meet with your group in person if you live in the Dallas area. To arrange a meeting, contact Kathleen through her website or email her directly. 

 Ages 14 and up / YA Fiction / HarperTeen 
Win a set of CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman for your book club. Enter to win by emailing the author (write "KidsBookclubbing" in the subject line).

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your support of the hardcover of CHALLENGER DEEP! I can't tell you how excited I am about its paperback publication! CHALLENGER DEEP explores the depths of mental illness through fantasy blended with reality. It was inspired by my son, Brendan's, battle with schizophrenia, and the artwork he created in the depths of his worst episode. For that reason, it is my most personal, most heartfelt work - the book that all the others were preparing me to write.
I am thrilled that it won the 2015 National Book Award -- but more important than any award, are the countless people that this book is reaching. I'm sure you know someone who is struggling with mental illness - either themselves or a loved one. This is a book to help lift the stigma, and give people a sense of comfort in knowing they are not alone. For that reason, CHALLENGER DEEP is a book that needs to put in as many hands as possible. Thank you for being a part of that!
Neal Shusterman
Book reviews:

"Haunting, unforgettable, and life-affirming all at once."
-Booklist (starred review)

"Clearly written with love, the novel is moving; but it's also funny, with dry, insightful humor. Illustrations by the author's son Brendan, drawn during his own time in the depths of mental illness, haunt the story with scrambling, rambling lines, tremulousness, and intensity."
-Horn Book (starred review)

"A powerful collaboration...[Caden's] story turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won't easily forget."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A thoroughly realistic story...Both male and female readers will find this compelling while acquiring a deeper compassion and understanding."
-Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

"Shusterman does a masterful job...The intensity of living inside Caden's mind makes this a wrenching read."
-Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

 Discussion questions:

1. Describe Caden's relationship with the captain and the parrot. Are the captain and parrot allies? Why or why not? What fears does the captain have about the crew members? How does he elicit Caden's assistance?
2. Note the times when the story slipped into second-person narration, and when it came back to first person.  Why do you think the author did that? 
3. Discuss the changes that Caden's family and friends notice in his behavior. What steps do they take to try helping him? In what ways do school officials try to help him?
4. What parallels can you draw between Caden's visions about the ship and the captain and Caden's life? For example, what role does Caden's lack of preparation for a science test play in the vision in which he is branded? Identify and discuss the meanings of other parallels.
5. How does Caden feel about being in the psychiatric hospital? Describe his time there. Does group therapy work for him? Why or why not? In what way does Caden feel betrayed while in the hospital? Trace the development of one central idea in Caden's real world and the world in his mind.
6. The story has a number of pivotal characters. Who is the parrot and what role does he play? Does the parrot have control over Caden? Why or why not? What does his death symbolize in the story? Hal is another key character in the story. What happens to Hal and how does his character move the story forward?
7. Compare and contrast Calliope and Callie. Discuss the ways in which they are connected in the story. In what ways do they provide "safe" places for Caden? How would the story be different if Caden's experiences were told through either Calliope's or Callie's eyes? 
To see the book trailer, watch an interview with the author and hear his acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, visit Neal Shusterman's website

Author call-in information: Neal Shusterman is available to call-in or Skype with your book club. Email the author to submit your request.

Ages 13 up / YA Fiction - Contemporary Romance / Albert Whitman & Company

Win a set of HURRICANE KISS by Deborah Blumenthal for your book club. Enter to win by emailing the publisher (write "KidsBookclubbing" in the subject line).
Dear Reader,

HURRICANE KISS is closer to my heart than any of my other books.
Hurricanes scare me, and like Jillian and River in the book, I had to run from one approaching my home in Houston in 2005. Just weeks before, we had seen the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in nearby New Orleans, and now Hurricane Rita looked like it was about to make a direct hit. I packed up the house, grabbed our daughter, the dog and the cat, and said goodbye to my husband, a journalist who was staying behind to cover it.

The book was inspired by that true story.

HURRICANE KISS explores how an oncoming disaster can change who we are.

On foot, Jillian and River struggle to outrace the storm, searching for a refuge as the tempest closes in. They need each other to survive and in the terrifying days and nights they spend together, their inhibitions slip away and they share their passions and darkest secrets.

I hope the book spurs you to think about how you would react if you were facing a life-threatening storm.

Deborah Blumenthal

Book reviews:

"Readers expecting a romance between Jillian and River will finally be satisfied, but the focus remains on the character development of the two teens. Exciting descriptions of the savage storm sustain the suspense nicely. A neatly wrought, effective survival tale."  
-Kirkus Reviews

"A touching story mixed with breathtaking survival, the work was inspired by the author's real-life encounter with a terrifying story."
School Library Journal

"Readers won't be able to put this fast-paced novel down."  
Discussion questions:
  1. During HURRICANE KISS the volatile weather parallels River's moody uprising. Did you see a parallel of Jillian in nature throughout this book? Where?
  2. The author, Deborah Blumenthal, goes from present to past throughout the book. Why do you believe she does this? What does it add to the storyline?
  3. Natural disasters tend to strip people of their inhibitions as they are solely thinking of survival. Did you see any instances of this between Jillian and River? Do you think this is why Jillian chooses to follow River?
  4. When River finally opens up about his past Jillian didn't know exactly how to respond. How did you feel Jillian should have responded? Why do you think she responded in the way she did?
  5. Animals, such as phantom animals during the storm, are a large component of this book. What do you believe these phantom animals represented?
For more information follow Deborah Blumenthal on Facebook and Twitter or visit her website
Author call-in information: Deborah Blumenthal is happy to call-in to or Skype with your club. She can also meet with your group in the New York City area. Email Deborah to submit your request.

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