This One Summer

by Mariko Tamaki

Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

There have been many coming-of-age tales about friends growing together and apart, but few have been written and illustrated as gracefully as this one. The story revolves around Rose and Windy, two girls encroaching on adolescence, during their annual family vacations at Awago Beach. The girls’ summer begins as anticipated with visits to the beach and renting horror movies from the local corner store; however, something is different this year. The girls find themselves slowly drifting apart, as Rose is interested in a local teen, or “The Dud” as Windy refers to him and his dramatic relationship his girlfriend. Meanwhile Windy’s immaturity starts shining through. Rose is also dealing with family issues as her parents’ marriage is becoming strained due to her mother’s depression. The Tamaki’s have written and illustrated a true masterpiece, one that avoids clichés and feels real enough to be biographical. The tension between Windy and Rose, as well as Rose and her parents, avoids becoming melodramatic and seems to settle naturally on a hopeful, yet poignant note. The illustrations mesh perfectly with the text and were drawn using a purple ink that fits the mood of the tale. The book is moving; brimming with subtleties and charm. It is a treasure for any collection.

Reviewer: Brandon West

Nuts to You

by Lynn Rae Perkins

Adventure and humor abound in this cautionary tale populated by squirrels and narrated by the author, as told to her by the elderly squirrel Jed. As a young squirrel Jed is snatched up by a hawk but manages to escape practicing an ancient squirrel defensive martial arts technique. While most of his community gathers to memorialize him, two of his young friends see Jed escape the hawk’s talons. They set off to find him and bring him home. Along their journey, they meet other squirrels and humans, along with misfortune, territorial conflict, and environmental disaster. TsTs, Chai, Jed, and their new friend Tchke must warn the squirrel communities of the impending disaster and convince them to move to safer parts of the forest. This is not an easy task; as one notes, “Getting squirrels to listen to reason is like getting a tree to drop its nuts at your front door.” Perkins nails the interactions between the squirrels, which is not far removed from that among humans. The friendship and environmental themes are blatant but far from overbearing. Witty asides in the form of footnotes add insight and levity to the squirrels’ predicament. That levity is evident in Perkins’ delightful sketches scattered throughout the narrative. This should have broad appeal as a read aloud, class use, and for independent reading. Its themes make it a good literature addition to a science or social studies unit. Reviewer: Peg Glisson.


by Jason Chin

As in his stunning books, Redwoods, Coral Reefs, and Island: A Story of the Galápagos, artist Chin brings his multiple talents to bear on a scientific subject and, with a combination of fact and fantasy, makes it understandable and exciting for young explorers. Gravity is a wide, horizontal volume, which allows long, spacious spreads as well as a few divided into sections. It begins with a dark blue book falling onto a beach where a boy is playing with his space toys. He and a gull show interest in its subject: gravity. Suddenly, he is caught up in a world where gravity disappears—everything floats into space: crabs, the book, his toys, a banana, even the sand, and water. In huge capital letters, words describe, and successive pictures show, how the moon and Earth would drift away from the gravitational centers that pull them. Huge spaces and a brilliant, burning Sun illustrate mass and its relationship to gravity, keeping Earth near the Sun and our moon near its Earth. Attention shifts back to earth again as the floating objects fall and readers can marvel that the space toys (and a banana now rotten) land on astonished girls who must have been selling lemonade under a tree. A final spread tells more about gravity along with some witty explanatory pictures, while a fun surprise waits on the end page. From its space-blue endpapers to its silky pages and brilliant images, Chin’s book is extraordinary. His artistry, like gravity, pulls young scientists into a disorienting experience they will long remember. A bibliography of eight books lists more information about gravity and physics.

Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen never thought that she would grow up to become a writer. As a child she had any number of professions that bounced around in her head–model, president of the United States, carpenter, lawyer, and doctor. As a graduate of the California Institute of Technology with a degree in biology and having returned to Cal Tech as a Ph.D. candidate, a career as a writer still seemed an unheard of idea. That is, until Sudipta had her two children, Isabella and Brooklyn, and took time off from the pursuit of her degree to be a stay-at-home mom. It was during this time that she realized that she had stories to tell, and, after a half-dozen rejections, had her first story published in 2003 in the magazine Highlights for Children. From there, Sudipta branched out into nonfiction, including books on science and biographies. Her first love, however, was still picture books, and in 2006 her debut picture book, Tightrope Poppy, the High-Wire Pig, was published. Since then she has gone on to publish a growing number of picture books.

Sudipta visits schools to share her stories and experience, and teaches writing to children and adults. She lives in New Jersey with her family (now comprised of three children, with the addition of son Sawyer in 2006) and an imaginary pony named Penny.

Selected Reviews of Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s Books>

Half-Pint Pete the Pirate
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Half-Pint Pete “sailed the seven seas/and plundered with ease” but with only one half of a treasure map he never found the booty he coveted. He and his rowdy crew boarded the ship of Half-Baked Belle intent on pillage and found not only a feisty female with a pink eye patch but the other half of the treasure map. Rather than fight the two joined forces to find the booty. When the hole they dug failed to reveal any loot it was clever Belle who noticed that Pete had the map upside down. Soon they were awash in coins and jewels and decided since they made a perfect pair to sail the seas together. The lively bright acrylics on watercolor paper are filled with humor and will keep the reader engaged. 2012, Putnam/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 4 to 6.

Chicks Run Wild
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Ward Jenkins
Sometimes there’s no way to get chicks to sleep except to wear them out. Mama Hen, gorgeous in her red-brown feathers and patterned purple robe, tries being sweet, firm, and finally threatening, but every time she closes their bedroom door, “those chicks run wild!” Five little chicks in pajamas somersault, leap, do cartwheels, throw pillows, feathers flying. What’s a hen to do? Clever Mama joins the fun, teaching her chicks “how to prance / and how to do the chicken dance,” till the exhausted little balls of fluff beg for bedtime. As they settle in their five identical beds with tan-checked covers, Mama tiptoes out. Surprise! Mama’s ready for some fun herself–painting her toenails red, with chocolates and a mug of hot tea nearby, she’s watching a DVD of Gone with the Wing. (Parents will relate!) Jenkins’s horizontal double-page spreads extend the action in pencil drawings richly colored by computer. Inventive Mama, more than a match for her frantic offspring, is a remarkably expressive actress, too, especially when she glowers. Kids and adults can have fun checking out details like chicken art and book titles like “The Egg and I” and “On the Wings of Love.” Bardhan-Quallen’s rhyming text rolls smoothly along through the action to its satisfying climax and witty ending. This lively picture book will make a great read-aloud. 2011, Simon & Schuster, $15.99. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).

Ballots for Belva
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Courtney A. Martin
Belva Lockwood believed in “will-power and mental effort, combined with indefatigable labor” to combat 19th century sexism. Wanting to attend law school, she remained undaunted despite rejections from universities fearing she would “distract the attention of the young men.” Denied her diploma, she complained directly to National University Law School President Ulysses S. Grant (who at the time also happened to be the President of the United States). And she ran legally for U.S. president at a time when women were still denied the vote. Though she had her detractors, others supported her, and the Washington Evening Star wrote that “Mrs. Lockwood, if elected, will have a policy [which] will commend itself to all people of common sense.” Young readers will cheer Belva’s can-do spirit while being astounded (and probably outraged) by the obstacles in her path, including men who dressed as women to mock her and vote counters who threw away her votes. Courtney Martin’s artwork depicts intriguing period details (Belva commuting on a large tricycle, for example) and portrays Belva as a strong-bodied woman with determined eyes. 2008, Abrams, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Smooch, Roar, Plop, and More

This presentation centers on the main characters of Sudipta’s pictures books, The Hog Prince, The Mine-o-Saur, and Tightrope Poppy. Sudipta reads the books and the children are encouraged to join in the storytelling experience by acting out the stories–all the smooching, roaring, and plopping! The presentation includes an overview of what Sudipta does as a writer and how the publishing process works. PreK-3.

From Inspiration to Printed Page: How a Writer Takes an Idea and Crafts it into a Publication

Sudipta talks about the writing process, from finding and refining an idea to the final published piece. She will read excerpts from her current projects, discuss how she structures a book, and share funny stories aobut her career as a writer. The session concludes with a short writing activity that everyone participates in. All ages.

Writing Workshops

Sudipta guides the audience through the process of creating a story. She discusses with the group how strong characters, interesting settings, and challenging conflicts are the heart of good stories. The group then begins a guided writing assignment to let each child’s creativity take center stage. Grades 3-5.


A full day includes four 45-minute sessions (or three 45-minute sessions for older students and two 25-minute sessions for younger students). The price is $800 for a full day, plus lodging, meals, and travel expenses.

Additional Information

To learn more about Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and her publications please visit

Anjali Banerjee

Anjali Banerjee began writing at an early age, having been read to by her parents she had a strong love of words and story. Her first book, stapled together with her own hands, was about a lost puppy on a beach in Bengal. Anjali’s fascination with animals and nature was already a strong part of her personality. Her family immigrated to Canada from India when she was two months old, and she greatly enjoyed playing on the shores of the Winnipeg River. However, her parents did insist that she attend school, take ballet and figure skating lessons along with swimming and piano lessons. They later moved to California where Anjali received degrees in anthropology and psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. After working at a variety of jobs, including veterinary assistant and as an office manager, she rediscovered her love for writing and began her career as an author. Currently, Anjali and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with three crazy cats and a black rabbit named Friday.

Selected Reviews of Anjali’s Books

Looking for Bapu
Anjali Banerjee
Almost nine-year-old Anu has lost his beloved grandfather, Bapu. If only Anu had had the cell phone that Dad gave him for emergencies; if only he’d run faster to reach home and call the paramedics. It is unthinkable that Bapu is gone forever; there must be some way to bring him back to life. Inspired by a video of an Indian holy boy, Anu shaves his head, fasts, tells fortunes, rolls (somersaulting his way to school), and finally visits Karnak, the great magician–anything to have Bapu in his life once again. In the end it is Anu’s father who suggests that Anu can’t let Bapu go because of his unspoken feelings of guilt. “It wasn’t your fault that he died. If you’re keeping Bapu here because you want to be forgiven, you can let him go. Bapu doesn’t need to forgive you. He knows it wasn’t your fault.” This touching (and at times humorous) story of a young boy coping with death is also a wonderful introduction to Indian culture. Woven seamlessly into the story are the Hindu gods and goddesses that Bapu worships and many Hindi traditions and customs. This is a wonderful addition to any school library. Recommended. 2006, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, $15.95. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children’s Literature).

Maya Running
Anjali Banerjee
Thirteen-year-old Maya wishes her glamorous cousin Pinky could come for a visit. That wish comes true, but turns out to have repercussions that Maya in her impulsiveness has not anticipated. Gripped by jealousy, she begs the elephant-headed god Ganesh to remove all obstacles from her life–is not that what his role is? As Maya crosses the threshold from the real to the magical world, at first it seems to her that the rules have changed in her favor. Suddenly, however, it becomes apparent that there are no rules and she is caught up in the runaway consequences of her thoughtless wishes. In the end, when her cousin leaves and it feels the life she knew is tumbling in ruins about her shoulders, Maya and her father make a whirlwind trip to India to seek the precious Ganesh statue and set things straight again. Banerjee’s novel effectively juxtaposes the cultural ins and outs of being a Canadian of Indian origin, with the universality of teenage longings. The narrative voice rests securely with Maya, even when she has to stretch to make meaning from her rapidly changing sense of the world. The time period of the story is sketched in with a light hand–the Parti Québécois has just asserted itself, and the Bee Gees are featured on tee-shirts. Banerjee is at her best when she is peeling the layers of family relationships. Mrs. Ghose’s shock at Maya’s lack of Bengali skills, Dad yelling on the phone line to India, Pinky’s takeover of Maya’s bathroom–these can amuse all readers while ringing ruefully true to those who have been there. Finally, her treatment of Lord Ganesh himself succeeds in capturing that subtle combination of familiarity and respect customarily invoked by this delightful Hindu deity. 2005, Wendy Lamb/Random House, $17.99. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami (Children’s Literature).

The Silver Spell
Anjali Banerjee
The eighth title in a new fantasy adventure series for young readers. The Silver Spell continues a new series of adventures written specifically for readers ages 8-12. Sized to fit the young reader market, the series follows the adventures of three children who, through their heroic deeds, become members of the Order of the Knights of the Silver Dragon. This opportunity will be extended to readers of the series as well, whereby young readers can become Knights of the Silver Dragon. Young readers are encouraged to join and participate in the club, and in turn they will receive free giveaways, special correspondence, and other benefits. The series will be given extensive support through
From the Publisher

Program Details

“A Writer’s Journey from India to the Pacific Northwest” is a customized Power Point presentation suitable for students 10 and up. It includes fun maps, family photos, and images of manuscripts and book covers, tracing Anjali’s path to becoming a published author.

Group size: 500 for Power Point Presentation
Presentations: 2 per day maximum
Fees: Negotiable

Additional Information

To learn more about Anjali and her publications please visit

Rona Arato

Rona Arato was born in New York and lived on a busy street in Brooklyn. One of her first memories was going downstairs to buy an ice cream cone at the candy store–maybe this is why her first picture book was called Ice Cream Town! When she was six years old her family moved to Los Angeles. There, her two favorite places were the local movie theater, where they went for the double matinee every Saturday, and the library. She decided that when she grew up, she would write children’s books.

She went to college to become an elementary school teacher. She spent a year in Israel and traveling around Europe. When she returned to Los Angeles, she met her husband Paul. They then had three children and made a move Toronto. When her children were growing up, Rona started to write professionally. She wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, press releases and advertising copy for companies and charities, she even wrote blurbs that you read on the sides of packages. Once Rona’s children were grown, she decided it was time to work on those kids’ books she’d always wanted to write!

Now, Rona is a published children’s author. She writes fiction and nonfiction. She especially loves historical fiction; she likes to do research and learn how kids lived in different times and places.

Selected Reviews of Rona Arato’s Books

The Last Train: A Holocaust Story
Rona Arato
The hardest decision to make, when introducing children to the history of the Holocaust, is when a child is old enough to understand the horrors that were perpetrated. Most young people become familiar with the events around age twelve through Anne Frank’s writings or Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. Arato, in the fictionalized account of her husband’s life experience, has brought the actual experience of the concentration camp to a slightly younger audience. Arato’s husband, Paul, was rounded up from his Hungarian village in the days before D-Day, therefore his time in captivity was shorter than some prisoners. He was also part of a somewhat “privileged” group of prisoners who were designated by Adolf Eichmann to be held in case they were needed for a prisoner exchange. Despite these factors, Paul and his family were transported as slave labor to work on a farm and, ultimately, transferred to Bergen Belsen in the last days of the war. Paul’s treatment was inhumane but survivable. He was able to remain with his ailing mother and brother and even make contact with his uncle in another part of the camp. Arato touches on Paul’s encounters with stacks of dead prisoners and a child being shot to death for the “crime” of having a happy birthday. These horrors are touched on, but not lingered upon. The conclusion, in which a grown-up Paul meets his liberators and, after years of silence, tells his story is an emotionally moving conclusion. Honestly, this is the best true chapter book I have read on the Holocaust in quite some time. The fictionalization places enough distance between the young reader and the truth to make it palatable, yet the facts are undeniably present for discussion. With witnesses dying every day, every documentary such as this is critical. 2013, Owl Kids, Ages 10 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

Mrs. Kaputnik’s Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium
Rona Arato
Set at the time of Teddy Roosevelt, this saga of a Russian Jewish family who escapes Cossacks in a tiny village named Vrod to come to America is based on stories that the author has told her husband and children over the years. Fortunately, the children have a pet dragon, Snigger, who protects the Kapustins from the Cossacks’ blows, and from young bullies and gangster Nick the Stick in New York City. Hatched from a magic egg found in the woods near their home, Snigger grows bigger and bigger as he travels with mother and children to the Golden City. Amber amulets given by their now-vanished father protect the children too. Still, Mrs. Kaputnik (her name changed at Ellis Island), daughter Shoshi, and son Moshe must find their “imprisoned” patriarch, suffer robbery by relatives, and deal with a failing restaurant. A mysterious stranger, a circus owner, and a pirate all play crucial roles. Hard matzo balls are essential too. It is an entertaining tale for middle readers, who can learn much about the immigrant experience. Humor lightens the otherwise harsh realities of such a journey. A tongue-in-cheek subplot features the Brooklyn Slobbers and the New York Yoinkles. The villagers, as well as the East Side residents, come across as genuine. A glossary would be helpful because Yiddish words are included. Two cute dragon are featured on the cover and at the heads of chapters. 2010, Tundra Books, $9.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

On A Medieval Day
Rona Arato
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Whether challenging a corrupt uncle to an archery contest or stowing away on a great Venetian galley, the tweens in On a Medieval Day are anything but ordinary twelve-year-olds. Each long to find his/her place in the world and demonstrate the plucky courage to face whatever challenges may come his/her way. Presented as a collection of story-journeys, On a Medieval Day follows a single day in the life of eight youngsters scattered throughout the world and through time. Readers get just a taste of life in ancient America, China, Baghdad, Finland, England, Japan, Timbuktu, Venice, and Toledo from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Hana struggles with how to maintain her fierce independence while accepting her arranged marriage; Jamal hopes to become a doctor if only he can recover from what seems to be the smallpox; Richard dreams of becoming a knight but fears he will be sent away from the castle. Brief historical notes follow each story, placing terms, events, and places in context. The breadth of this collection offers a fresh view of the medieval era, going beyond the knights and ladies we often associate with this part of history and delving into the advances made in trade, medicine, political empires, and learning all over the world. 2010, Maple Tree Press, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Leah Hanson (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Rona’s readings and presentations are geared to students in grades 3 to 8 and to older ESL students. She also presents to adult groups. As a former teacher, she understands what teachers and school librarians want from an author’s visit. Rona uses an interactive reading/discussion approach to involve children and excite their curiosity. She links stories to current issues such as immigration and social responsibility. A theme that runs through much of her work is that one person can, and often does, make a significant difference. By involving the children in examining these issues, Rona helps them think about the way they interact with friends, family, and the community at large.

Her interactive presentations involve the students at all levels. She tells them about herself and how and why she writes and discusses the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction and research methods. Rona gives background on the book she is presenting abd talks about what motivated her to write it. She will read and then discuss the section she read.

Children often ask Rona the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. She explores the writing process in each, emphasizing the need for good research and accuracy, whatever the genre. She discusses how she does her research and how she blends real and fictional events and characters in historical fiction.

The Last Train Presentation:
The Last Train: A Holocaust Story is the culmination of five years of research into one of the most heartening events of World War II. The book’s journey began with an email from Rona’s son, Daniel. The email said, “Mom, read this article and then show it to Dad.” The article was titled “A Train Near Magdeburg.” The instant she opened the link, she knew the article was about the death train from which her husband Paul, then a child, his brother Oscar, and their mother Lenke were liberated by the U.S. Ninth Army on April 13, 1945.
The Last Train is the true story of the Auslanders’ (Paul’s original surname) tremendous ordeal and the incredible coincidence that saved their lives. It is also the true story of Matt Rozell, a high-school teacher from upstate New York, who uncovered the story of the train and organized a symposium that brought Paul and other train survivors face-to-face with the soldiers who had liberated them 64 years earlier.
Her presentation includes a PowerPoint presentation of original photos taken at the moment of liberation. She will also share the details of the bizarre and little known “Jews on Ice” program, which kept 21,000 Hungarian Jews (including Paul’s family) out of Auschwitz, and put 6,500 of them on three death trains out of Bergen-Belsen. The presentation will include a reading from The Last Train including the speech that Paul gave at the symposium that brought 800 students to their feet.
This book is a crossover that is being read by adults and children. Her presentations are geared to the age group of the audience and are popular with children and adults.

  • Fees: $300 for 1 presentation, $550 for 2 presentations, $850 for 3 presentations
  • Presentations are 1 hour
  • Average number of students per session: 75-80. Rona has presented to groups as small as 20 and as large as 150.
  • Writing workshops available for grades 4 – 8 (flexible)

Additional Information

To learn more about Rona Arato and her publications please visit