children's books

Terry Pratchett's novels have been turning up in bookstores for nearly 45 years now, which is more than enough time for fans to have become familiar with his style: a little absurdism, a little wordplay, a lot of inventive fantasy, a lot of heart, and a deep-seated fascination with the way technologies change societies.

A pacifier and a knife: These two images open The Graveyard Book, P. Craig Russell's graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2009 novel. They're oddly complementary devices, the tool of infancy and the weapon of grownups, expressing the quixotic innocence of a kids' book (well, young-adult book) set in a place of death.

Alan Rabinowitz is famous for studying jaguars. The renowned zoologist and conservationist is responsible for the world's first jaguar sanctuary, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve in the mountains of Belize. His books about working with big cats have sold millions of copies.

His latest book is different — it's not about conservation policy or animal behavior. It's a picture book about his own childhood. Rabinowitz grew up with a severe stutter, something he had to overcome before he could pursue the career that has made him a voice for endangered animals.



In the UK, Simon Mayo is a household name. Countless people grew up listening to him as the breakfast show host of BBC Radio One and BBC Radio 5 Live, where he was on air during 9/11. He still broadcasts a daily show for the B, but has in the last few years turned his hand to writing. The second book in his children's series is called "Itch Rocks." It is out now in the United States. And he joins us from our studios in London. Mr. Mayo, thanks so much for being with us.

Update: On Jan. 27, the American Library Association awarded the Caldecott Medal to Locomotive by Brian Floca. Three Caldecott Honor books were also named, including Journey by Aaron Becker and Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner.

Our original post:

The princess industry is lucrative: DVDs, dresses, crowns, theme parties. But the story of going to the ball and waiting for Prince Charming is outdated.

So one Southern California mom has created a new princess series with modern sensibilities. Creator Setsu Shigematsu recasts princesses as environmentally conscious and not waiting around to be rescued.

At the heart of her series, The Guardian Princess Alliance, is what animates any fairy tale: simple storytelling.

Not to judge a book by its cover, but just take one look at the jacket of Because of Mr. Terupt and you'll see it is the perfect book for December. It shows two mittened hands holding a snowball — a snowball responsible for a life-altering accident.

Mr. Terupt is a popular fifth-grade teacher at Snow Hill elementary school. And for seven students in particular, he is the center of their universe — a sage who gives them advice and confidence and helps them overcome obstacles and rivalries.

Hey there, befuddled aunts, uncles and family friends. Not sure what to get for all those nieces, nephews and offspring of other people? This year (for the first time!) we've included kids titles in our year-end best books roundup. Pay a visit to NPR's Book Concierge to see what our staff and critics recommend for kids and teens in 2013.

Every night, author Roald Dahl told his children a story: "Most of them [were] pretty bad," he admitted in a 1972 BBC4 interview, "but now and again you'd tell one and you see a little spark of interest. And if they ever said the next night, 'Tell us some more about that one,' you knew you had something. This went on for quite a long time with a story about a peach that got bigger and bigger and I thought, 'Well heck, why don't I write it.' "

That bedtime story became Dahl's first children's book, James and the Giant Peach.

You might know Gertrude Stein from that college class where you studied her experimental fiction, or maybe you remember her as the host of salons for famous 20th-century artists like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.

September Kids' Book Club Pick: 'Wonder'

Aug 14, 2013

When Madeleine L'Engle won the Newbery Prize for A Wrinkle in Time, she ended her speech with the thought that a book "can be a star, 'explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,' a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe."

This month, NPR's Backseat Book Club goes snooping in Nikki Maxwell's "private and confidential" Dork Diaries. But the secret's already gotten out; the series launched four years ago, and there are already 12 million books in print in 34 different languages. The sixth in the series — Tales From a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker — was just published in June.

It's no secret that the middle school experience can be not so fabulous, and that's particularly true for the teen at the center of Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life. The book, the first in the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell, is the July pick for NPR's Backseat Book Club.

Children's-book writer Maurice Sendak learned a lot from author and artist Tomi Ungerer. In Far Out Isn't Far Enough, a new documentary about Ungerer, Sendak says, "I learned to be braver than I was. I think that's why [Where The Wild Things Are] was partly Tomi — his energy, his spirit.

When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect?

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

July Kids' Book Club Pick: 'Glory Be'

Jun 21, 2013

In July, NPR's Backseat Book Club is heading to Hanging Moss, Miss., and boy, is it hot. Hanging Moss is the setting for Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood. The time is 1964, and this coming-of-age story intersects with the country's own coming of age during the civil rights era.

If there's one thing kids are scared of, it's the dark. In his latest children's book, The Dark, Daniel Handler — who writes under the pen name Lemony Snicket — takes on darkness itself, with the story of a young boy who confronts his biggest fear. Handler is known for his dry wit and matter-of-fact take on the mysterious and macabre.