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Florence Gonsalves on writing Love & Other Carnivorous Plants

Florence Gonsalves photoA couple of years ago, when I’d just graduated from college, scared out of my mind with no idea what the future would hold, humor kind of saved my life. “Ancient Greece isn’t hiring,” I told people who asked how my philosophy degree would influence my career path. “I’ll probably be permanently unemployed in the year 450 BCE.”


At first, I’d tried the whole, “I’ll probably go to law school!” approach, but that wasn’t the truth at all and telling that little white lie was making me feel worse and worse. The truth was I was petrified, and the only way I could access those emotions was by poking a little fun at myself. Once I started joking about my predicament, I was able to come to terms with it and eventually move past it.


Instead of law school, I ended up writing what would become my debut novel, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants. The story follows nineteen-year-old Danny’s summer after her freshmen year of college. It covers a lot of taboo subjects—eating disorders, mental health concerns, drug and alcohol abuse, and questioning one’s sexuality. Danny’s approach to such “touchy” issues is to joke about them, which results in a lot of humor for a book about some pretty serious stuff.


One of the beautiful things about fiction is its capacity to speak to real life issues in a person’s life, but to do that the characters (and of course, the author!) have to somehow find a way into what is otherwise hush-hush. So often taboo topics aren’t discussed at all because they are treated so seriously. And treating a subject as so serious that it can’t be joked ironically increases its taboo.


As a writer, humor gives me the permission to approach the things that society tells me I shouldn’t. It is the access point to otherwise unapproachable topics, and if we never approach such things, how can we expect to confront them at all? If Danny couldn’t joke about her bulimia, for example, she wouldn’t have been able to talk about it, which would have been a missed opportunity to really explore the pain (but also the occasional lol! moment) of her situation. Taboo creates shame and shame creates secrets, as well as shadows where even darker emotions hide. I think it’s much more important that difficult subjects be broached in the first place, especially because usually those difficult subjects make a person feel lonely and laughter is a universal connector. A good HAHA! brings people together at times when connection is most needed, and at some point the humor does fall away, making room for other emotions.


I am so grateful that humor exists as a way of shedding light on those parts of ourselves that most need it. Laughter allows transformation to occur through acknowledgment and acceptance of what is, regardless of how lousy things seem. When it comes to expressing our struggles, I say, as Vievee Francis does, “Say it. Say it any way you can.” Find a way in to a find a way out. Crying is inevitable. Why not let laughter be, too?


One Minute till Bedtime

One Minute Till Bedtime coverOne Minute Till Bedtime

60-second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep

Selected by Kenn Nesbitt

Art by Christoph Niemann

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: Anthology, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: Language Development

Grades: PreK-3rd


It’s time for tuck-in, and your little one wants just one more moment with you–so fill it with something that will feed the imagination, fuel a love of reading, and send them off to sleep in a snap. Reach for a one-minute poem!


Former Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt presents a blockbuster collection of all-new poetry penned by some of the most beloved and celebrated poets of our time, including Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Mary Ann Hoberman, Nikki Grimes, Lemony Snicket, Jane Yolen, and many more. Illuminated with dreamlike wit and whimsy by New York Times illustrator and award-winning artist Christoph Niemann, here is a new bedtime classic.


When the busy day is drawing to a close and the whole family is ready for rest, take a minute for poetry and send your little one off to sleep.



★ “These pithy poetic observations and Niemann’s engaging illustrations prove at once antidote and anodyne for the sleep-averse child demanding just one more…. A dreamy collection of bedtime poems and witty illustrations that’s anything but sleepy.” —Kirkus


★ “With a broad range of voices and sentiments, the collection delivers poems to meet any mood.” —Publishers Weekly


★ “Exuberant for the most part (with some serious musings to lend ballast) and in perfect harmony with its cartoonish, color-washed illustrations, this sleepy-time volume is just the thing for the rhyme-loving child who has graduated from Mother Goose.” —School Library Journal

Every Exquisite Thing

Every Exquisite Thing coverEvery Exquisite Thing

By Matthew Quick

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Teen Life: Personal Development & Identity; Poetry; Vocabulary; Mental Health

Grades: 10th & up


Listen to Author Interview


Nanette O’Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hardworking student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper–a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic–the rebel within Nanette awakens.


As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young but troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion sometimes comes at a high price.


A celebration of the self and the formidable power of story, Every Exquisite Thing is Matthew Quick at his finest.



★ “Quick continues to excel at writing thought-provoking stories about nonconformity.” —Publishers Weekly


★ “This will find a dedicated audience among teen readers.” —School Library Journal


★ “All of the elements of this novel work together to make this an outstanding coming-of-age story…This is a book that readers will want to read twice to take it all in.” —VOYA



One Today

One Today

By Richard Blanco

Illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: Patriotism, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: America

Grades: PreK-1


Educator Guide

President Barack Obama invited Richard Blanco to write a poem to share at his second presidential inauguration. That poem is One Today, a lush and lyrical, patriotic commemoration of America from dawn to dusk and from coast to coast. Brought to life here by beloved, award-winning artist Dav Pilkey, One Today is a tribute to a nation where the extraordinary happens every single day.



★ “There are themes, motifs, and details that will make this a book to be read and reread, or simply looked at–for the images tell many stories too.” —Booklist


★ “When it was read, the poem was instantly acclaimed; Pilkey’s visual interpretation fully—and joyfully—honors it.” —Kirkus Reviews


★ “Richard Blanco is a graceful wordsmith, and Pilkey transforms his poem into a story that children can make their own.” — Publishers Weekly


“A special historic moment, caught in lyrical words and joyous illustrations.” —School Library Journal



Should You Be A River

Should You Be a RiverShould You Be a River

By Ed Young

ISBN: 978-0-316-23089-6

Genre: Poetry

Curriculum Subjects: Family Life: Parents/Siblings/Babies; Guidance/Health: Death

Grades: Pre-K & Up


Should you be a river, I’ll race your rapids downstream.

Should you be a seed, I’ll dream you a vision of towering trees.


This personally inspired poem by an award-winning author and artist celebrates the trials and triumphs of unconditional love.


Using an innovative mix of cut paper, photographs, and calligraphy, Should You Be a River takes the reader on a breathtaking visual journey.


This book is a gift to treasure and share with loved ones of every age.


How many ways can you say “I love you”?




★“Similar in sentiment to Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny for young children, Young’s offering will touch a wide range of readers, with both parents and children taking something special away. Endpapers reveal the words in Chinese calligraphy and in English, completing the lyrical and heartfelt affirmation of unconditional love.” –Booklist


★“The heartfelt sentiments are unafraid to address real anguish and pain, and those who understand Young’s loss or who have known what it is to love unreservedly will be drawn to his testament.” –Publishers Weekly


“Mystifying and ultimately uplifting, this book challenges all of us to seek out the dizzying scope of love.” –Kirkus

Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the MallHeaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall

By Wendy Mass

Genre: Poetry, Teen Ficiton

Curriculum Subjects: Teen Life: Family; Teen Life: Personal Development

Grades: 6 & up



Educator Guide

When 16-year-old Tessa suffers a shocking accident in gym class, she finds herself in heaven (or what she thinks is heaven), which happens to bear a striking resemblance to her hometown mall. In the tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life andThe Christmas Carol, Tessa starts reliving her life up until that moment. She sees some things she’d rather forget, learns some things about herself she’d rather not know, and ultimately must find the answer to one burning question–if only she knew what the question was.


Written in sharp, witty verse, Wendy Mass crafts an extroardinary tale of a spunky heroine who hasn’t always made the right choices, but needs to discover what makes life worth living.



“Funny and weird and poignant.” –KLIATT


“Funny, thought-provoking, and at times heartbreaking, this story will entertain and inspire readers.” –School Library Journal


“An entertaining and thought-provoking story that teens will enjoy.” –VOYA



Knock at a Star

Knock at a Star: A Child’s Introduction to PoetryKnock at a Star

By Dorothy M. Kennedy & X.J. Kennedy

Illustrated by Karen Lee Baker

ISBN: 978-0-316-48800-6

Genre: Poetry

Curriculum Subjects: Songs/Poetry/NurseryRhymes

Grades: 5 & Up


Bursting with 75 new poems, this revised edition of a perennial favorite gives children who are learning to love poetry, those who already love it, and adults who want to show children the many things a poem can do, a reason to celebrate. First published more than fifteen years ago, Knock at a Star was a collection of poems that children would like rather than a collection of work that they should like. Now X.J. and Dorothy Kennedy have added new poems by such gifted writers as Jack Prelutsky, Barbara Esbensen, Mary Ann Hoberman and Judith Viorst as well as cutting several poems that no longer seem as fresh as they once did. The book retains the Kennedys’ words to those who teach poetry and their comments on the different sorts of poems they include. The result is an enormously appealing collection that should prove extraordinarily popular for the next fifteen years or more.



“Charming, delightful, witty, a treasure of a book – the superlatives come easily on inspection of this anthology.” – The Washington Post


“If any book can win young readers to poetry, this one can, for there’s not a poem in it that isn’t a chuckle, a scare, or an illumination.” – School Library Journal


“Fresh in both selection and presentation, this includes more than 150 poems, most of them uncommon to anthologies. There is in most of the poems a combination of brevity with depth of feeling or a twist of invention that takes the reader by surprise.” – Booklist


“The Kennedys have assembled a remarkably unassuming and accessible collection.” – Kirkus

The Red Pencil

The Red Pencil

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Shane E. Evans

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: Europe/Asia/Africa, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: School

Grades: 4-7


Educator Guide Listen to author interview


“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.

She collects both my hands in hers.

“The Janjaweed attack without warning.

If ever they come  run.”


Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in NyalaAmira’s one true dream.


But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mindand all kinds of possibilities.


New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.



Winner of the 2015 Children’s Africana Book Award
A 2015 ALSC Notable Children’s Book
New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2014
Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2014
School Library Journal Best Book of 2014


★ “Pinkney’s short, clipped verse expresses the harsh difficulties and intimate beauties of daily life—dust storms, orange soda, family devotion—in broken lines that capture Amira’s breathless anxiety and hope. And if the evocative poetry is the novel’s beating heart, Evans’ spare, open, graceful line drawings are its breath, recalling Amira’s own linear musings, drawn on the ground or in her own tablet. Ultimately, this is an inspirational story of the harrowing adversity countless children face, the resilience with which they meet it, and the inestimable power of imagination and learning to carry them through.” — Booklist, starred review


★ “Telling her story in first-person verse, Pinkney uses deft strokes to create engaging characters through the poetry of their observations and the poignancy of their circumstances. This tale of displacement in a complex, war-torn country is both accessible and fluent, striking just the right tone for middle-grade readers. Evans’ elemental drawings illuminate the spirit and yearnings of Amira, the earnest protagonist. A soulful story that captures the magic of possibility, even in difficult times.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review


★ “[P]otent… Pinkney faces war’s horrors head on, yet also conveys a sense of hope and promise.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review


★ “Set during the early years of the Darfur conflict, this stunning collaboration between Coretta Scott King Award winners Pinkney and Evans tells a moving story of the scarring effects of war but also brings a message of hope and inspiration…  Amira’s thoughts and drawings are vividly brought to life through Pinkney’s lyrical verse and Evans’s lucid line illustrations, which infuse the narrative with emotional intensity. An engaging author note provides background on the political situation in Sudan and explains the powerful motivations for telling this story. An essential purchase.” — School Library Journal, starred review



Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

By Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: African American Heritage, Personal Development: Diversity, Guidance/Health: Women’s Studies

Grades: 1-17


Educator Guide


They were each born with the gift of gospel.

Martin’s voice kept people in their seats, but also sent their praises soaring.

Mahalia’s voice was brass-and-butter — strong and smooth at the same time.

With Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s songs, folks were free to shout, to sing their joy.


On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney’s poetic prose and Brian Pinkney’s evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side — as they would one day walk — following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right.



The Black Media Archive – Hosts podcasts and other media featuring noteworthy African Americans.

Hear Mahalia Jackson sing I’m On My Way to Canaan Land.

Watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on TeacherTube.



A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

A Booklist Editor’s Choice

An National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book

An Association of Library Services for Children Notable Book


*”[A] colorful, inspirational resource.” — Booklist, starred review


“Sure to become an indispensable part of annual Black History Month celebrations and library nonfiction collections on important African-Americans.” — Kirkus Reviews


*”This fascinating new lens for children on the often-depicted “Dream” speech during the March on Washington reveals how Jackson’s powerful voice stilled the crowds for King’s… Historical context and artistic inspirations wrap up this informative approach to the two icons and the effect of their partnership on history.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes

Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes

By Marc Brown

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: Anthology, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: Humor, Songs/Poetry/Nursery Rhymes: Family

Grades: Pre-K-1st


Download Educator Guide

Fingers ready?

Fingers set?

Fingers play!


It’s time for Playtime Rhymes-a treasury of twenty favorite finger rhymes compiled and illustrated by the bestselling and beloved artist Marc Brown for the enjoyment of young and old.


From the clever Whoops! Johnny and funny Do Your Ears Hang Low? to the irrepressible Itsy-Bitsy Spider and rousing Wheels on the Bus, these are rhymes to say and sing aloud, each with pictorial instructions for the correlating finger movements.


An interactive experience at its very best, Playtime Rhymes will get little hands wiggling, jiggling, pointing, pounding, bending, stretching, and dancing as children animate the rhymes, pore over the vibrant pictures, and share the fun with family and friends.