Rebecca Donnelly: October 8th, 2019

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All The Wonders This Week w/ Rebecca Donnelly: October 8, 2019


The CYBIL Award nominations, thoughts on the new Hunger Games prequel, #MGBooktober, and the latest in speculative fiction for young readers. We’ve got all this and more. I’m Corrina Allen and this is All The Wonders This Week.

Joining me this week to discuss what’s new and intriguing in the world of children’s literature  is Rebecca Donnelly - a children’s librarian in northern New York and author of the two middle grade novels How to Stage a Catastrophe and The Friendship Lie - and the newly released picture book, Cats Are a Liquid!



Upcoming Events

  • October is GREAT month for sharing your creative life and reading life on social media and getting a peek into what others are up to!  There’s #Inktober where every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. Each day there is a particular prompt like “ring”, “dark”, or “pattern”. A lot of children’s book illustrators participate so definitely check out the #inktober hashtag.
  • Also this month is #MGBooktober which is all about celebrating and sharing middle grade books and authors, with daily prompts like “Which middle grade book could you read again and again?” or “Who is your favorite teacher in a middle grade book?”
  • Also check out #MGSPOOKYtober 
  • Saturday, October 5th was World Teachers Day
  • SUNY Potsdam hosts a literacy conference every other year called Journey into Literacy, The conference is in lovely Potsdam, NY, October 24-25.

Today's New Releases

Picture Books

  • ABC’s of Art by Sabrina Hahn is a cute alphabet board book featuring a famous piece of artwork for each letter
  • Late Night host Jimmy Fallon has a new board book out today called This Is Baby - a book to teach the names of body parts
  • Christian Robinson (illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street and School’s First Day of School) has a new picture book out today with Julie Fogliano called Just In Case You Want to Fly - a celebration of heading off on new adventures, and knowing your loved ones will be there for you when you need them
  • Author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator Raúl Colón have a new picture book biography out today about NASA “human computer” Katherine Johnson called Counting the Stars

  • Birdsong by Julie Flett - about the relationship between a young girl and her elderly neighbor
  • Another picture book out today that has caught my attention is Far From Home: A Story of Loss, Refuge, and Hope by Sarah Parker Rubio and illustrated by F. Anaya . It tells the story of boy suddenly having to take refuge in another country in very simple, calm terms that are easy for children to process. 
  • And I know if was a couple weeks ago but I missed one show because I was sick so I want to give a HUGE shoutout to Josh Funk whose How to Code a Rollercoaster is now out!
  • Illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins (who you may know from This is NOT A Valentine and The Hungry Lion) has a beautiful, softly illustrated book out today with Anike Aldamuy Denise called The Love Letter about a hedgehog who finds a love letter and gets inspired to pass along his brightened mood.
  • SkippyJon Jones author Judy Schacher has a new picture book out today called Stretchy McHandsome about a butterscotch cat that sets off from home to find new adventures. 
  • Corrina: THE picture book that I am most excited about today is YOURS Rebecca!!  Cats Are A Liquid debuts today - congratulations!  So I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about what this book is about and your collaboration with Misa Saburi?
  • Rebecca: Sure! The idea for the book came from a scientific paper that won something called the Ig Nobel prize for 2017. The author, Marc-Antoine Fardin, hypothesized that cats have the properties of a liquid because their matter fills whatever shape container it’s put into, like when your pour water from one glass to another. It’s silly science, but it’s a perfect picture book concept. After I heard about the paper, I went home to write. I chose a simple, rhyming text that left a lot of room for the future illustrator to explore the idea, too, and Misa Saburi absolutely nailed it! She imagined a world of adorable little scientists trying to study the various liquid properties of cats, and the result is hilarious. Her illustrations give something for kids to pore over as they notice all the little details and jokes.

        Chapter Books / Middle Grade

        • The illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with illustrations by Jim Kay 
        • A Dungeons & Dragons’ style adventure series out today by Tom O’Donnell looks cool - it’s called Homerooms and Hall Passes
        • One of the THE books I’ve been really really REALLY excited to get my hands on today is Jason Reynold’s new upper middle grade titles  Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks with each of the 10 chapters told as a mini-story that culminates in the end
        • Today we also get to see The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy, which is called “ a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade debut about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.” 
        • A new Donna Gephart book today that has been getting rave reviews called The Paris Project

        • The 12th Candle by Kim Tomsic - about a girl who thinks she’s under a curse
        • Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow about a girl struggling to cope with 8th grade
        • A middle grade book that has hit me in the gut just reading the description is The 1,000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford. I have to read you this description! “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live forever? Well, Alfie Monk can tell you. He may seem like an ordinary eleven-year-old boy, but he's actually more than a thousand years old--and remembers the last Viking invasion of England, not to mention the French Revolution and both World Wars. This is a heartstopping, poignant, epic adventure story about a boy destined to live forever, who only wants to grow up.”  
        • Once of the highly-anticipated releases of today is  Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez 
        • And Abby Cooper’s latest middle grade books  Friend or Fiction is also out today. This one is about an imaginary friend come to life!
        • Surprise Lily - and it’s about a ten-year old girl named Rose whose life gets turned upside-down when her disaster of a mother suddenly shows up and some family secrets are revealed.
        • In anticipation of the new Maleficent movie out later this month, Disney has released a novelization of the movie today called Mistress of Evil
        • Another book coming out today with a movie tie-in is The Last Human by Lee Bacon. It’s about a future where humans are thought to be extinct when a robot finds a girl and has to help her out. I’ve heard that if you liked The Wild Robot, you’ll like this one.


            Other Media New Releases

            TV Shows / MOVIES

            The new animated  Addams Family movie hitting theatres on October 10th! There looks to be some great voicework here like Oscar Isaac (Poe from Star Wars) and Charlize Theron voicing Gomez and Morticia Addams and Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things as Puglsey,  This one is rated PG for macabre elements and suggestive humor, so maybe do a little research before taking your kids.

            Some news related to Sesame Street that came out this past week is that Sesame Street now has a 5 year deal with HBO’s streaming service called HBO Max.  All episodes will still be available for free on PBS a few months after they air on HBO Max, but I didn’t realize that Sesame Street has already been airing first on HBO since 2015.  So some people have been upset about that announcement, but it’s been going on already for four year.

            On Netflix, there is a Captain Underpants Halloween special coming today called The Spooky Tale of Captain Underpants Hack-a-Ween. There’s actually a lot of cool Halloween shows available on Netflix month so I’ll drop a link to a site that lists them all. BUT - obviously while some are family friendly, others may not be so use your judgement there.


            Dhonielle Clayton and Zoraida Cordova have started a podcast called Deadline City that’s focused on the writing life. They’re best known as YA writers, but they have experience all over the place. Dhonielle Clayton, for example, is the cofounder of the book packager Cake Literary that has put out wonderful MG titles like Anna Meriano’s Love, Sugar, Magic series. 

            Librarian, blogger, and author Betsy Bird announced a new podcast that will release later this year called Story Seeds, where kidlit folks will write short stories based on ideas from kids age 7-12.

            Currently Reading


            • I just finished reading Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott to my daughter, and I picked up Shug by Jenny Han for myself.


            • Right now, I am about about ¼ of the way through Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway which is our current family read aloud. There are TONS of references to The Great British Baking Show (which we love!) and it reminds me a bit of Barbara O’Conner’s Wish with a twist of Rajani LaRocca’s Midsummer’s Mayhem because of all the baking,  but there’s no magic! Yet, anyway!



            On my mind this week is how difficult it is to maintain a really strong reading habit when the national news is so bonkers right now. And how the stress and anxiety and uncertainty of our world trickles down to our children. One the one hand, I feel this urgency to make sure our kids know the gravity of what is happening so they don’t ever repeat this mistakes and on the other hand, I want to shield them from everything. It’s a balance I don’t know how to strike.


            The topic of the Twitter chat #MGBookChat this week was STEM for kids, and I got into a good conversation about kids and nonfiction with some of the participants. As a writer who’s also a children’s librarian, I have a little experience on both sides of the book--creation and seeing what kids are reading and what they’re asking for. I realized that I could do a lot better with recommending nonfiction to kids, not just when they want a book on x topic but, as one of the commenters said, to try nonfiction when someone is looking for something to read in general. So nonfiction is on my mind--how to use it, how to improve my nonfiction reader’s advisory skills, and how to booktalk it more when I do class visits.

            Thank You

            Thank all of you for listening and sharing your Tuesday with us!

            You can find an outline of the show and links to all the books and topics we chatted about at  If you have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you! You can contact me at or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram. And reviews on iTunes or Stitcher are always much appreciated.

            The All the Wonders This Week podcast is brought to you by All The Wonders, where children's books are for everyone. Journey beyond the page with podcasts, videos, crafts, and more at

            See you next week!

            About the Author

            Corrina Allen

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            Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York. She hosts Books Between, a bi-weekly podcast to help teachers, librarians, and parents connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love. You can connect with Corrina on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

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