We like books.
We're interested in ways to help more people (especially kids) like books.
You can read more about our company at www.capstonepub.com.

Monday, November 3, 2008

We Know Jake Maddox!

Last Wednesday, we were calmly perusing the blogosphere when a familiar name caught our eye. "Do you know Jake Maddox?" the blog post's headline asked. Of course we know Jake Maddox, the figurehead of our wildly popular series of sports and adventure chapter books! Upon reading further, we found that Tennessee librarian Diane Chen had a lot of great things to say about good ol' Jake. We already knew that librarians loved the Jake Maddox books, and we've gotten multiple letters from kids who love them too--but it's always nice to hear it again, and it's even nicer that someone felt strongly enough about our books to tell the whole Internet. Thanks, Diane!

(And we're glad to oblige: we've got 12 new Jake Maddox books headed to libraries in December, bringing the series total to 46. As always, we'll let our blog readers be the first to know when they're available!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stone Arch Books on TV!

Our very own Michael Dahl was interviewed for a CBS news story on getting boys to read. The story aired Monday night on CBS in Austin, Texas.

You can read an article and see part of the interview here!

And let us know: how do YOU get boys to read?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Heroes for every day

Alison Morris of PW's Shelf Talker blog recently asked writers and publishers to think about creating books in which characters perform community service. A customer had requested such a book. She and her 5th grader were about to start volunteering, and they wanted books to read about other kids doing good work. Alison and her colleagues found a great book to recommend, but perhaps if they'd been aware of our We Are Heroes series, she'd have recommended them, too!

We've talked about the We Are Heroes series before on this blog, but now that school is back in session it's a great time to remind our loyal readers about this set of books. One of Capstone Publishers' owners, Jim Coughlan, sent out a mandate to his staff a while ago: create books in which kids are everyday heroes, doing work that helps others.

Jim's children participated in the Kids Against Hunger (KAH) organization, a group that packages a nutritious meal that can be sent to starving children. (Read about two SAB staffers helping at a school working with KAH here.) That inspired us at SAB to create the first book in We Are Heroes, Kids Against Hunger. Five other books followed, about normal, run-of-the mill kids doing such things as taking care of animals in the aftermath of a storm, participating in a bike ride to help a homeless shelter, building a house with Habitat for Humanity, and more.

We wanted to show readers that some heroes are made by doing good to help others. Oh, and we wanted to tell some good stories, too!

Check out all six of the We Are Heroes books here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome Sam!

Missed us? The brains behind the blog was having a baby!

Beth and Steve Brezenoff welcomed Samuel to their family on August 20. "He's 6 pounds 10 ounces and nineteen inches of pure perfection," boast the proud parents.

We're so happy for Beth and Steve, but that doesn't mean we don't miss her around the SAB office.

Regular posts will resume as soon as we can find someone to fill Beth's shoes. But keep watching and reading, as we will keep you notified of other cool stuff happening here at Stone Arch Books before Beth gets back!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good Books or Gross Books?

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently claimed that to get boys to read, you’ve gotta give them blood and guts. Here at Stone Arch Books, we understand the balance between what boys want and what kids want. Our (proven, kid-tested) method of getting boys to read simply consists of publishing books that contain elements boy readers are looking for—action, sports, humor, adventure, and just a pinch of irreverence. At the same time, we’re publishing books that librarians and teachers and parents can be comfortable with.

In the WSJ article, Jan Harp Domene, the president of the PTA, asks why boys won’t read the classics, like Tom Sawyer and books written by Jules Verne and stories from Greek mythology. Our answer: they will, if the package is cool, the format is right, and the book is presented to them as something fun—not something they’re being forced to read. Our Graphic Revolve books (which include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, two Jules Verne sci-fi classics, and next season, will include stories from Greek mythology) combine a format boys love (graphic novels) with content teachers, parents, and librarians can feel confident about.

Do we have to publish “gross” books to appeal to kids? Of course not—but sometimes it’s fun, like our Jimmy Sniffles books about a boy with a super-powered schnozz, our retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the sure-to-be-classic Boy Who Burped Too Much. But even these books are safe—not gory. Boys, however, won’t even notice the lack of blood . . . they’ll be too busy reading. And that’s the point.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Krista Monyhan

Name: Krista Monyhan

Occupation/role at Stone Arch: Planning Editor, specializing in prek-2nd grade. I look at new products, brainstorm with all the wonderful people at Stone Arch, and decide what we will publish. This can be such a challenge!

Years at Stone Arch:
Two years in September.

Education: I have a BS in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN.

What's your favorite SAB book? I have so many favorite SAB books. This season, if I have to narrow it down to one title, I would choose Red Riding Hood. I have always loved this fairy tale, and the Stone Arch version just made it better in a new format with the great art. Another book that I really like is Legend of the Lure. It reminds me of all the time that I spent fishing with my dad when I was growing up. Even if we weren’t catching fish, it was always fun to be with my dad.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
I had so many favorite books when I was a kid! The series I could not read enough of was The Babysitters Club. I loved those books because of the friendships and the problems the friends had while babysitting. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to babysit.

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I was very shy in elementary school. I loved to read and pretend I was a teacher and my sister was my student. From this early age, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher. You may be asking why I’m not teaching. When I graduated from college, a lot of school districts in Minnesota were going through budget cuts and couldn’t hire new teachers. I was a substitute for 3 years hoping the financial situations of schools would change. It did get a little better but I never landed a full-time job and had enough of substituting. I was trying to decide what other career I could go into while still using my education. I started looking at children’s book publishing and saw that Stone Arch had an open position. I was so excited at the thought of working with books every day all day.

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time? In my free time, I love to be outside as much as possible. I love to camp and hike. I also like to spend time with my family.

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year. The day the new and much-anticipated Graphic Spin books finally arrived in our office. We had all seen the files, but holding the finished book in your hand is great. The books turned out just as beautiful as we all expected.

What’s the best part of your job? The best part of my job is that it’s always changing. I learn new things every day and I’m constantly being challenged. That makes every day a new surprise.

What’s the hardest part of your job? The hardest part of my job is keeping everything organized and staying up to date on what’s popular with kids. Part of my planning process is finding out what kids are doing in their spare time and what they think is cool. It can also be hard to decide what we will publish. We plan our seasons years in advance, and we try to stay around 100 titles per season. We occasionally purchase books from other countries, but we develop the majority of our books here. I need to make sure that the purchased product contracts are approved and that the rest of the books are on schedule. If anything’s delayed, it is a mad rush to find titles to replace it. Even though it’s a big puzzle, it’s a very fun one!

This is the sixth post in a multi-post series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff. Drawing of Krista Monyhan by Brann Garvey.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jake Maddox--Olympian?

The Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics are this week!

Jake Maddox won’t be participating in this year’s Games, but many of the sports in the summer Olympics have been featured in the Jake Maddox Sport Stories series. From BMX, basketball, track, and volleyball to soccer, wrestling, skateboarding, and tennis, eager sports fans (boys and girls!) will find their favorite sport both on television and in the pages of a Jake Maddox book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New stuff online!

If you’re not on our catalog mailing list, you haven’t been able to take a peek at our latest books. Well, the wait is over—our Fall 2008 books are now available on our website. Take a look at all of our new products, including brand-new series (Graphic Spin, We Are Heroes) and fresh additions to old favorite series (Claudia Cristina Cortez, Jake Maddox, and Graphic Flash, among others!). While you’re there, you can also check out our vast repository of educators’ resources, including free Reader’s Theater scripts, book report forms, and create-your-own-graphic-novel pages. Check it all out at www.stonearchbooks.com!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


(Clockwise from top: Michael, Brann, Bob,
Sean, Heather, Krista, Beth, Carla, Michaela,
Donnie, Blake)

The Stone Arch Books staff works hard, but we love having fun, too! At our recent sales rep meeting in Minneapolis, the SAB staff played Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, mingled with sales reps from all over the country, and had a great time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Being a Stone Arch Books Intern

The word “intern” evokes many reactions—most of which are somewhat unsavory. Before becoming an intern, I held my own prejudices: I thought an internship meant low pay, long hours, and repetitive work—a test of one’s motivation to become, in my case, an editor. As it turns out, being an intern at Stone Arch Books has been something entirely different.

I had scoured the SAB website for information about the company prior to applying. What struck me about SAB was the constant focus on getting kids interested in reading—something so important in the education of today’s youth. I knew that this was a special opportunity. Instead of near-crippling nervousness before the interview, I felt giddy, and any anxiety felt more like anticipation than worry.

Sitting down to interview with Stone Arch’s editorial director, Michael Dahl, was a unique experience. Rather than pose the regular questions that I’ve fielded elsewhere, Michael asked me about my opinions on the education of children, my favorite fields of literature, and how my inclinations in these areas would suit me for the SAB internship. We discussed James Joyce, graphic novels, and civic responsibility. A short while later, I was given the position.

My first day of work was actually Michael Dahl’s birthday. At our celebratory lunch that day, I had the opportunity to get to know the small, friendly staff. My supervisor joked that I shouldn’t expect every day at SAB to be as fun and exciting as my first, but she was wrong; my time here has never felt like a chore, even while I’m doing the occasional mundane, but necessary, task.

What, then, you might ask, have I worked on during my time here? A (very brief) list: I edited a fantastic series of 12 graphic novels (out next season—I’m certain it will be a big hit with fans of our other Graphic Sparks books), worked on spreadsheets, filled out applications for the Library of Congress, proofread hundreds of pages, created the additional information at the end of our books, attended graphic novel storyboard meetings . . . the list goes on and on.

Through it all, I’ve felt a sense of pride and purpose in my work. Stone Arch Books is the kind of company that is formed when you take dedicated, thoughtful, creative people and give them a task they can believe in.

--Sean Tulien
Intern, Stone Arch Books

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mr. Strike Out

Anastasia Suen has launched a new blog! On her new blog, she’ll be featuring one of her books every week, and posting tips and activities to go along with the books she’s written. This week, she’s showcasing Mr. Strike Out, one of our Jake Maddox Sports Stories. She’s got some great baseball activities and information that kids, teachers, and parents are all sure to love. Check out Anastasia’s blog, and browse through our other Jake Maddox books at www.stonearchbooks.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Press check

When our books are ready to print, I sometimes visit our printers for press checks. Coming from a writer’s background, I’m always amazed when talking to the people working for our printers. They view books as more than words and pictures. To them, books are physical things made of paper, cardboard, and ink. Instead of worrying about the correct usage of “to”, “two”, and “too”, the people who work for printers concern themselves with paper weight and ink coverage. It’s completely different from what we do every day in our offices at Stone Arch Books, and has given me new insight into the effort that goes into making a printed book.

I recently visited Worzalla Publishing Company, who was printing our new Graphic Spin titles. Here’s how a typical press check there goes: Every hour or so I’m shown a large sheet of paper with several pages of the book printed on it. I either approve the pages or reject them, depending on how closely they match proofs of the book. As I do this, I usually have the pressroom superintendent or the pressroom supervisor standing next to me. We’ll discuss any issues I see, such as if the page looks too yellow or the black is too heavy, making the page look dark. Then they’ll come up with possible solutions. Afterward, another set of pages, with the new specifications, will be printed. We’ll keep working on it until everything looks satisfactory—this can go on for hours.

From concept to the final book, it always amazes me how many people, and how many hours of hard work, are necessary for the creation of a single book. When it’s all finished, it doesn’t feel like work at all, since we were able to create something that we – and our readers – can enjoy.

--Blake A. Hoena
Production Manager, Stone Arch Books

Friday, July 11, 2008

ALA Newbery Dinner

As promised, here are some photos from our ALA Newbery Dinner table!

Left to right: Gay Patrice (Dallas ISD), Gloria Miller (Charlotte-Mecklenberg ISD), Diane Chen, Kathy Baxter, and author Caroline Arnold

Gay Patrice, Gloria Miller, Kathleen Baxter, Nick Sykora (Capstone Publishers' nonfiction distributor sales manager), Maureen Hatteberg (Capstone Publishers' marketing/communications director)

Deanna Spears (Book Wholesalers, Inc.), Sarah Johnson (Perma-Bound), Jennfer Allen (Perma-Bound)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From the silver screen to the library

Looking for a way to draw your movie-fan readers into the library? The (PG-rated) movie version of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth opens this Friday, July 11, and our graphic novel version of the classic book is a perfect complement—and a great way to introduce movie lovers to classic fiction. Check out our version of Verne's novel, and the rest of our Graphic Revolve set, here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ALA Report

What a fun and exhausting weekend we had in Anaheim, meeting up with old and new friends to discuss future plans for Stone Arch Books. As busy as it was, the real buzz was in our booth! Of course the fact that we have safe graphic novels continues to draw attention. A well-known graphic novel illustrator told us that his son searches for our “Safe Graphic Novel” symbol to find graphic novels that are as cool as the books Dad creates and wholly accessible for younger readers. Maybe someday Dad will illustrate a graphic novel for SAB!

Another hot topic in our booth was our new We Are Heroes series. Everyone wants to show kids how to be active in their communities and be good citizens. These books show how kids can get involved. Several librarians were especially happy to see that all the proceeds from our book Kids Against Hunger are going to the Kids Against Hunger organization. We’re excited that educators can use our books to show kids that they can influence their communities and at the same time, the proceeds will directly benefit an admirable community activity.

Watch for photos of our Newbery Dinner table, coming next week!

--Maryellen Gregoire
Director of Product Planning and Public Relations, Stone Arch Books

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Donnie Lemke

Name: Donnie Lemke

Occupation/role at Stone Arch:
Senior Editor. I work mostly on the graphic novel titles at Stone Arch Books, developing these authors, managing projects, and shaping manuscripts from inception to final product.

Years at Stone Arch:
About a year and a half, although I’ve worked within Capstone Publishers for nearly six years now.

Bachelor of Arts degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I’m currently working toward my Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What's your favorite SAB book?
Each season I have a new favorite, and this season it’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Both the author and the illustrator did an amazing job of updating this classic Sherlock Holmes mystery into a modern graphic novel (you’d never guess Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the original version more than 100 years ago!). I also really like the new Graphic Spin titles (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, etc.). Each of these fairy tale retellings is unique in both mood and style, giving the stories a fresh new life for new readers. Great stuff!

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
Like many young boys, I suppose, my favorite book was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Every afternoon in sixth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Henderson, would read a chapter to the class (or, Heaven forbid, call on one of us to read), and each day I was left hanging in anticipation for the next installment. Will Brian find shelter? Will he learn how to build a fire? Will he ever see his parents again? Or will he succumb to the harsh Canadian wilderness? I tell you, it was torture. I also really liked another survival story called Avalanche by Arthur Roth. I can’t find this book anywhere today (believe me, I’ve tried), but if you can, be sure to check it out (and let me know where you found it!). It’s about a boy who’s trapped beneath the snow for a week, and the author gives all of the gruesome details of his survival. What’s not to love?

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I was a pretty quiet kid, got good grades, and stayed out of trouble. Actually, I distinctly remember the only time I was ever disciplined in elementary school. It was second grade, and I was standing in the lunch line. My teacher, who shall remain nameless, supposedly asked the class to stop talking. Now, even to this day, I don’t remember her (or him) giving this instruction. But anyway, I talked, and she (or he) gave me a “Sad Snoopy,” a disciplinary slip decorated with the frowning face of the Peanuts pooch. That night, I had to take the slip home and get it signed by my parents. Honestly, I still can’t look at a Peanuts comic without getting a little teary-eyed.

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time?
I spend most of the day with my face buried in a book or crammed against a computer screen. So, during my free time, I like to get outside as much as possible. During summer evenings, you’d probably find me relaxing by the lake or the pool. I also like to run, and I just recently completed my fourth marathon in an excruciating 3 hours, 9 minutes, and 26 seconds (Boston, here I come!).

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year.
Several months ago, the editors and designers at Stone Arch Books visited a nearby school library in Edina, Minnesota. While there, we had a chance to observe a classroom of elementary students. Seeing actual kids reading and enjoying the books we had created was extremely fulfilling—kind of like a publishing circle of life, or something like that.

What’s the best part of your job?
The constant variety. Every day at Stone Arch Books is different than the last. One day I’ll be editing a Graphic Sparks manuscript, trying to come up with a booger joke that’ll make boys laugh. The next day, I’ll be working on a Zone book, thinking of ways to make them scream. It’s never boring.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
Keeping up with the kids. The hottest trends are always changing, and we’re always trying to figure out the next big thing. Everyone at Stone Arch Books spends countless hours reading comics, playing with the latest action figures, and watching Saturday morning cartoons. Okay, I guess it’s really not so hard (Pass the Cap’n Crunch!).

This is the fifth post in a multi-part series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff. Drawing of Donnie Lemke by Brann Garvey.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Headed to ALA!

ALA is this week in Anaheim, CA. This is one of the biggest library events of the year, and we can’t wait to attend. We’ll be in booth 2478—please stop by, pick up one of our popular Jake Maddox or Library of Doom posters, preview our brand new books for Fall 2008 (hot off the presses!), and grab a new catalog so you can browse our complete list of contemporary fiction once you’re back at home. We’re featuring our new We Are Heroes set—come by and take a look. And we love to hear from and talk to librarians. If you have thoughts about our books or books you’d like to see, come on by and let us know.

Maryellen will have a recap of events next week—hope to see you in Anaheim!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Diane Chen on Interactive Books

Diane Chen, one of the librarians who visited us a couple of weeks ago, talks about Capstone Publishers’ Interactive books on her SLJ blog.

Take a look—she’s posted a few of her favorite Interactive books (including books from our own Library of Doom and Tiger Moth series!). She’s also made it easy for you to get a free trial of the entire Capstone Interactive library. Be sure to let her (and us!) know what you think.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kids Are Still Reading

Reading is still alive and well, reports a new Scholastic study. According to the study, 62% of kids like to read and think reading for pleasure is important. While the percentage of kids who like to read decreases as kids grow up, even 55% of teenagers ages 15-17 like or love reading.
This is great news for parents, teachers, librarians, and people like us, who are invested in getting kids to read (and loving to read, too!).

Perhaps one of the more interesting findings of the study was that when kids don’t spend time pleasure reading, it’s because they’d rather be doing other things or because they don’t have enough time to read due to schoolwork. Kids also reported that they don’t spend more time reading because they have trouble finding appealing books, but there’s good news—when Scholastic published its last report in 2006, the number-one reason kids chose not to read was because they couldn’t find books that appealed to them. In the 2008 report, that answer moved down to the third most-frequent response.

So what does this mean for us? It means we—as parents, educators, and book lovers—are still creating a love of reading in children. We’re still writing, illustrating, and publishing great books—maybe even better books now than before. We’re on the right track, and kids are still reading.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Four Tennessee Librarians

We had a nice break from the norm yesterday when four librarians from Tennessee came to visit the Capstone Publishers Twin Cities office. Becky, Allison, Lynn, and Diane drove thirteen hours to Minnesota, and we took the opportunity to pick their brains about what librarians want in their libraries. It’s always great to hear from librarians about what’s working and what’s not.

Stone Arch Books staff met with the librarians for over an hour yesterday afternoon. We barraged them with questions, both about books we’ve already published and about books we dream about publishing. Afterward, we were all inspired, full of new ideas and with new thoughts about books we’re already working on.

We absolutely love feedback from librarians, teachers, and other educators (and from kids!). We’re especially interested in what we can do to make your job easier and in what fiction your library needs and can’t get enough of. If you have comments about our books, or questions about how we make decisions, or anything else, please contact us either by leaving a comment on this blog or by one of the methods on our website.

Thanks for visiting, Tennessee librarians! We can’t wait to see you again soon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Stone Arch Books's Fall '08 Catalog

Our new catalog is here! The marketing team finished working on it just two weeks ago, so it was a great surprise when finished copies showed up on our desks on Thursday afternoon.

This season, our catalog is full of tons of new books we’re really proud of. Our new series, Graphic Spin, does for fairy tales what Graphic Revolve did for classic stories—in each Graphic Spin book, a fairy tale is lavishly told in graphic-novel format. You’ve never seen fairy tales like this before!

In Graphic Sparks, we have new books in our Eek and Ack, School Zombies, Time Blasters, and Buzz Beaker series. We also have the first two books in a brand-new series, Zinc Alloy, written by our own Donald Lemke. Kids will love the escapades of Zack Allen, the world’s newest superhero.

Our Graphic Flash set has grown by four new books—all stories of war that will fit in wonderfully to American history classes. And Graphic Revolve contains four new classic stories.

Jake Maddox is back with twelve new books—four boy stories, four girl stories, and four new extreme outdoor adventure books. Our bestselling and well-reviewed Claudia Cristina Cortez set is back, too—with four more stories from Claudia’s point of view. We also have four new Vortex mysteries (including Curtains!: A High School Musical Mystery by our own Michael Dahl) and six new Shade Books, perfect for the kid who’s looking for a little bit of creepy suspense (that’s still safe!)

And we’ve mentioned the We Are Heroes series before on this blog. This new series contains six high-low books about ordinary kids making extraordinary changes in their communities. Whether it’s planting trees at school or painting a room in a house built by Habitat for Humanity, these books show real ways kids can make differences. (And, of course, proceeds from the book Kids Against Hunger will go to the nonprofit organization Kids Against Hunger™.)

These books aren’t available yet, but they will be on July 15. Keep your eye on this blog for more information about all of our new products over the next couple of months! Take a look at all of our books, or request a catalog of your own, at www.stonearchbooks.com.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kids Against Hunger in action

On Friday, Krista Monyhan and I drove to Mankato, MN to take part in a really special opportunity. We headed to Franklin Elementary School, where the school principal had contacted Kids Against Hunger and organized a special volunteering day for the kids there. As we’ve mentioned before in this blog, we have a book (which I edited) coming out this summer about Kids Against Hunger, and it was my first chance to get to see for myself what the organization does.

When Krista and I arrived at Franklin Elementary, the day was already in full swing. We entered a noisy, crowded gym, where five long tables had been set up. Ten kids (and two adult supervisors), each wearing a special Kids Against Hunger apron and a hairnet* were at each table. The tables were covered with big plastic containers, each full of a different component of the special rice-soy casserole. As we watched, the kids scooped up rice, soy, dried vegetables, and “chicken” powder**. Each scoop went into a funnel, which led to a plastic bag with cooking instructions and nutrition facts. Once the bag was full, one of the kids brought it to the weighers, who made sure that the package was the right weight. If it wasn’t, they’d add or subtract some ingredients. Then another kid sealed the package using a special heat-sealing machine, and passed it on to be packed into a box.

None of these jobs sounds particularly thrilling for a kid, but it was incredible to see how all of the kids in the room were working together. They’d race, trying to fill more boxes than the table next to them. They’d relay orders--"less rice! More soy!"--and box counts down the line. Every so often, they’d trade jobs, so that everyone got a chance to try different parts of the line. And they kept saying “Come on, it’s for the kids! Hurry up, it’s for the kids!”

As I helped one fifth-grade girl learn to use the sealing machine, another girl looked at me and said, “I’ve been helping Kids Against Hunger for like, longer than I can remember.” I smiled and said, “That’s great! Today’s my first time.” But I have the feeling it won’t be my last—it was such a fun experience, made even more fun by a really great group of kids and their teachers, and other volunteers for Kids Against Hunger.

While Krista and I were there (and we were only there for half of the day!), the kids packaged enough food to make more than twenty thousand meals. That’s a lot of good, filling, healthy food for people who don’t have enough to eat—and all it took was one afternoon, a gymnasium, and a bunch of really great kids. These are exactly the kind of kids we had in mind when we came up with our series We Are Heroes (which includes the book Kids Against Hunger)—everyday, ordinary kids doing extraordinary things.

You can learn more about Kids Against Hunger at their website. And we’ll give you more information about our book Kids Against Hunger when it’s available for purchase.

--Beth Brezenoff
Senior Editor, Stone Arch Books

* I thought the kids would be embarrassed to be wearing hairnets, but no! At first, they seemed hesitant—when we handed out the hairnets to a new group of kids, one of them said, “Well, we look dumb, but at least we ALL look dumb.” But by the end of each session, they were begging to be able to keep their hairnets.

** The chicken powder is vegetarian, to accommodate the needs of various diets throughout the world.

Krista Monyhan and Beth Brezenoff at Franklin Elementary School.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Visual Change

For the past several years, I’ve presented at the Young Authors, Young Artists Conference in Rochester, MN. The event, sponsored by the Southeast Service Cooperative, is a gathering of 800 talented, energetic, and artistic fourth through sixth graders from schools in southeastern Minnesota. My presentation, “Creating Graphic Novels,” discusses the steps involved in creating graphic stories.

Initially, when the event was called the Southeast Young Writers Conference, my presentation was about poetry. After I wrote my first graphic novel, Matthew Henson: Arctic Explorer, on the cusp of the recent graphic novel boom, I switched to my current presentation. After all, these students are the same age as I was when I first delved into comics. I brought in samples of each step involved in the creation of a graphic novel, from my outline and script to the storyboards, inks, and final colors, and discussed the reasons and importance of each of these steps. And I always ended the presentation with an activity where we’d create and share
a one-page comic. At first, few students really understood what a graphic novel was, and usually only a handful hands would raise when asked if they read graphic novels, but the final activity was always a hit.

A lot has changed, visually, over the years. I now show art from my Eek and Ack books. The name of the conference has evolved to include “Young Artists”, and there are nearly as many art sessions as there are writing ones. In each of my eight presentations, nearly all the students raised theirs hands when asked if they read graphic novels. Young readers get the idea of telling a story through pictures, and understand the concept of sequential art. And they can’t get enough. They’re also excited to create their own comic stories and learn the art of storytelling through illustrations. During my most recent presentations, I was continually asked, “Is it time to draw yet?” “Can we start drawing now?”

It thrills me, as an author of graphic novels, knowing that they are not only getting kids more excited about reading, but they are also animating their creative talents. Graphic novels can cultivate reading skills as well as energize artistic ones.

--Blake A. Hoena
Production Manager, Stone Arch Books
and author of the Eek and Ack series

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graphic Novels in New York City (and your library)

Are you still having trouble getting your administration behind your graphic novel purchases? We know that not everyone understands why and how graphic novels are revolutionizing reading. But here’s more ammunition if you need help convincing the powers-that-be: the New York City Department of Education has launched a new program focusing on graphic novels. (Check out the SLJ article here.)

Our graphic novels even have curriculum hooks, like our Graphic Flash books, fiction based on major events in American History, and our Graphic Revolve, which retell the world’s best stories in graphic novel form. Science classes will love Buzz Beaker (use any of the Buzz books to get kids fired up for science fairs), and units on outer space will be brightened up by a visit from Eek and Ack, two twins from the Great Goo Galaxy.

See? Graphic novels aren’t such a stretch after all. New York City knows it, and soon, your school will too.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How Books Get Their Names

We’ve finished up our books for Fall ‘08. Proofs (the last final look at the pages, so we can double-check for errors) are rolling in, and soon we’ll see the first finished copies of our books. But that doesn’t mean we have time to relax and slow down. We’re already moving on to our Spring ‘09 list!

Next week, the entire staff will meet to talk about titles for each book that we'll publish in Spring ‘09. First, the editors meet to talk about the book’s plot and brainstorm initial title ideas. Then we run it by the large group. At Stone Arch, it’s important to us to get feedback from multiple staff members before we decide on a title for a book. We know that titles matter when librarians are ordering books, so we try to get as much information about the book into the title as we can. We also want kids to find the titles appealing, so we try to use kid-friendly words. And finally, we want unique titles, so once we’ve come up with a list of titles for our books, we search for other books with those titles. If we find a match, we start over!

Here’s a fun exercise for your classroom or library: Read the class a new story—try reading one of our Graphic Sparks books, using tape to cover up the title as you’re reading. Then ask them to come up with a title for the story. They can create covers for their newly titled books, too. Try the same exercise with a story they already know (one of our Graphic Revolve books would be perfect for that exercise). The results might be surprising!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Blake Hoena

Name: Blake Hoena

Occupation/role at Stone Arch:
Production Manager — basically, I help coordinate the process of creating books from contracting authors and illustrators to receiving bound books from the printer vendors, and schedule all the many steps in between.

Years at Stone Arch:
Nearly three years, but I was at Capstone Press for seven years before joining the staff at Stone Arch.

Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin (I’m the staff cheese head), and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

What's your favorite SAB book?
Right now (since it’s always the new books that get me stoked) my favorites are our Zinc Alloy books: Superzero and Revealed (coming out in August). They have some cool, retro-looking art and the quirky humor pokes some jabs at the whole superhero thing.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
In fifth grade, the RIF truck stopped by Emerson Elementary in Stevens Point, WI (my hometown), and I picked out The Hobbit, mostly because of the bright orange cover. Seriously! I had read a lot before that, but The Hobbit was my first “real” novel and the first fantasy story I had read. Reading about elves and dwarfs and dragons was the magic that sparked my interest in writing.

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I was a nerd then just like I am now, and as it was in school, my life is still all about books (I even own boxes of comics), writing, and computers. I’ve been lucky that my adolescent interests have turned into a career.

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time? Outside of reading and writing, which would be the obvious choices, it’s disc golf. I’m not really that good, but with the weather thawing here in MN, I’m gearing up to get out there and toss a few Frisbees into the woods.

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year.
Okay, this isn’t Stone Arch specific, but it involves one of our books. Actually, one of the books I wrote: Ooze Slingers from Outer Space. I was reading it to a friend’s son, and at the point where Ack is about to eat a snottlebug, he gives me this sly, knowing look that says he got the joke. That was quite a thrill.

What’s the best part of your job?
Seeing the books, bound and ready for eager readers, after all the hard work that’s gone into creating them. It’s part relief and part jubilation.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The pace. We always have something new and exciting in the works, when one set of books is down we have to get cranking on the next set, and with our creative staff ideas are buzzing about. It can get quite dizzying at times, yet the energy behind it all is invigorating.

This is the fourth post in a multi-part series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff. Drawing of Blake Hoena by Brann Garvey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sooner (or Later) Kids Love Books!

Kids are wild about reading down in the Sooner State. I recently returned from a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma where I spoke at the Young Author’s Conference, the Tulsa Reading Council, and made a few school visits. On Saturday, the young authors surprised me. Whether in first grade or fifth grade, they all liked scary stories! And they all loved graphic novels. I showed the artwork and read from my Library of Doom series. They wanted more! After the workshops, the conference sold books written by the participating authors. Kids snapped up 5 or 6 books apiece of the Doom books. “Which one’s the scariest?” they would ask.

On Monday night, before the Reading Council dinner, I spoke with a number of educators and librarians whose students had been at the conference Saturday. One woman told me that one of her boys, Justin, who was not a reader at all, had his nose buried in a book at the back of her class. It was one of the Library of Doom books, The Book That Dripped Blood. He was supposed to be writing in his journal. So when the teacher walked over to his desk to remind him, Justin looked up, pleading, and said, “But I just have to finish this first!” And she let him.

As an author, that’s about the best praise I can get—the knowledge that my books have done just what I (and the rest of the staff at Stone Arch) intended them to. They’re not just creating spooky atmospheres—they’re creating environments of reading success.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kids Against Hunger

This season, we worked on a book about a really special organization, Kids Against Hunger. Kids Against Hunger (KAH), which works to eliminate starvation worldwide, was featured on the Minneapolis ABC affiliate last night (May 11). You can watch the story here. In this powerful, moving segment, Emmy Award-winning reporter Jason Davis travels to a KAH feeding site in Haiti with KAH founder Richard Proudfit and the director of KAH's Mankato, MN division, Tim Stromer.

Stone Arch Books will publish Kids Against Hunger in Fall ‘08. The book, part of our “We Are Heroes” series, is one of six new books that focus on kids making a difference in their communities. Stone Arch Books will donate the profits from the sale of our Kids Against Hunger book to the organization.

Keep an eye on our website and this blog for more information. We’ll tell you more about our Kids Against Hunger book and the other books in the "We Are Heroes" series when the books are available in August.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


We’re at the International Reading Association’s national conference in Atlanta this week! Stop by the Red Brick Learning booth (#2817) to see the new products we’re working on with Red Brick Learning.

We’re launching our new Reader’s Theater at IRA. We are also doing a special punch card. Attendees can hear about our four featured products (one of which is Reader’s Theater) and enter to win a complete set of products of their choosing. We hope we’ll see you there!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our SUPER news

It's been incredibly hard to not tell everyone we know this news, but now we can: Stone Arch Books and DC Comics are teaming up!

Here's the press release. We're so excited!

DC Comics, Stone Arch Books Announce New & Easy Super Hero Chapter Books

DC Comics and Stone Arch Books are teaming up with a new set of easy chapter books based around DC Comics’ iconic characters Batman and Superman. The new DC Super Heroes will premiere with 12 titles in Spring 2009.

The full offering will include a total of 48 titles released over four seasons. The second season will add Wonder Woman, the world’s most famous female super hero.

“We are excited to provide young readers with books that will be appropriate for our safety and readability concerns, but will also stay consistent with the dynamic storytelling and thrilling characters that have made the DC super heroes so popular,” says Heather Kindseth, Stone Arch Creative Director.

“The books will showcase brand-new, original stories featuring popular DC Comics characters,” says Michael Dahl, Stone Arch Editorial Director. “The stories will be appealing to both new readers and those already fans of the super heroes.”

The books will be illustrated by veteran DC Comics artists. Stone Arch will handle development, design, and distribution to the school and public library markets.

“These easy chapter books are just one more way to hook a reluctant or struggling reader,” says Joan Berge, President of Stone Arch Books. “The DC characters are well-known and of high interest to the striving young reader, and we hope they will spark a growing interest in reading."

About Stone Arch Books
Stone Arch Books publishes safe graphic novels and chapter books for the striving reader. Stone Arch is part of the Capstone Publishers group based in Mankato, MN, with offices in Bloomington, MN and San Diego, CA. Stone Arch Books' Web site is located at www.stonearchbooks.com.

About DC Comics
DC Comics, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, is the largest English-language publisher of comics in the world and home to such iconic characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Sandman. These DC super heroes and others have starred in comic books, movies, television series (both animated and live-action) and cyberspace, thrilling audiences of all ages for generations. DC Comics’ Web site is located at www.dccomics.com.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Books kids fight for.

Librarians and teachers, warn your principals! We’ve heard more than one report lately of renegade groups of students refusing to leave their principals’ offices unless the administrations agree to fund the purchase of the entire Stone Arch Books catalog. We’re working on our Fall 2008 catalog now, so there’s not much time before there’s a whole new collection of books that students will fight for!

In the meantime, you can direct your kids to www.stonearchbooks.com (where, if you’re not currently receiving our catalog, you can also sign up to get on our mailing list). Consider this your fair warning—let that catalog (or any of our high-interest, kid-friendly books) slip into your students’ hands, and you can’t be held responsible for the results!

We love hearing anecdotes about kid reactions to our books—please comment if you have any! And if your students need a better way to communicate their feelings about books than storming administration offices, we’re always looking for kid reviewers—click here for more information.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Educators at NY Comic Con

At the Comic Con convention recently held in New York City, I noticed a surprising change. During the preview hours, before the general public is allowed in and when people with professional tickets wander the floor, the folks crowding the aisles weren’t only collectors and artists trying to hunt down some exclusive, Comic Con-only action figure or hoping to corner one of their idols for an autograph (the likes of Stan Lee, Joe Kubert, and Neil Gaiman were in attendance). Rather, their numbers had been infiltrated by librarians and teachers. They were hoping to either build or add to a graphic novel collection. They were also searching for the latest trends in comics.

Along with the big names like Dark Horse, Marvel, and DC Comics, many independent publishers were represented at the convention. And it was at the booths of these smaller publishers, such as Stone Arch Books with our ever-popular “safe graphic novels” message, that the true treasures were found. People were especially thrilled about our Graphic Flash books, which are a hybrid of sequential art and traditional paragraphing, and also have curriculum appeal with their historical fiction stories.

Of course, once the preview hours were over, the aisles of the convention floor filled with Manga characters, Strom Troopers, and an assortment of superheroes, along with aspiring artists willing to show their portfolios to just about anyone involved in the publishing business. That’s typical fare for a large convention. But I was pleasantly surprised to see the professional crowd include those who matter most to us, the people who help kids reads: teachers and librarians. It’s a sure sign that the literary merits of graphic novels are being embraced as their popularity grows.

If you feel like you missed out by not making it to the New York Comic Con, don’t worry; there are several other large comic conventions yet to be held this year. The largest international convention is the San Diego Comic Con, July 24th – 27th. Stone Arch Books will be there—we’ll give you more details as we get closer, but we hope we’ll see you—and other teachers and librarians—there!

--Blake Hoena
Production Manager, Stone Arch Books

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fun from TLA

Check out our website to see pictures of the librarians who waited in line for a picture with the Librarian of Doom at TLA! (Just click on the box on the right side of the page that says TLA 2008 Pictures.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TLA: Flying Off the Shelves

We kept hearing throughout the Texas Library Association conference that our books fly off of library shelves, but we’d never seen it in action. Until, that is, the last day of the conference. It was the wildest, most fun day. That’s when – at the stroke of 11:00 AM – the Stone Arch Books booth began to give away books. No, not sell them at a discount, like most of the other publishers at the conference. Ours were free! But only if a person could get at them in time. The madness began several hours before 11, when librarians walked through our booth, checking out titles, examining the art and the back matter, and spotting the best books to fill their collections. Then, as soon as the clock struck 11, the booth looked like a Lord & Taylor white sale. Librarians everywhere. Books flying off the shelves. And the coolest part of this amazing bibliophilic chaos is that the librarians are not doing this for themselves. These books are for their kids. That’s one of the reasons I love this business. The adults I work with all have the same focus, the same passion, the same goal – we want kids to read and have fun reading! We know it will only enhance their lives. So the more books we can get in their hands, the better.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crunch Time

Readers of this blog might think that all we do here at Stone Arch Books is travel around the country, visit librarians and teachers, and talk about our books. But most of the time, the SAB staff is in the Minneapolis offices, working on the awesome books you’ve come to expect from us.

Right now, we’re in what we lovingly call “crunch time.” Our books for the Fall ‘08 season are due to the printer at the end of the month! Many caffeinated and energy drinks are being consumed by the editorial and design staff. Lunches are being eaten at desks. Red folders (the way we pass manuscripts from person to person for approval) cover our desks. Twice a year, we enter this crazy, high-stress, high-pressure time. We probably single-handedly boost the stock at various local coffee shops just in the two months a year that we’re in crunch time!

So far, we’ve sent about eight books to the printer (of a total of 58). All 58 of the books need to be at the printer by the end of April in order to be printed, bound, and in our warehouse by July 15. It’s going to be crazy around here for the rest of April! So if our blog is a little quieter than normal, don’t think we’re just out having fun and ignoring you—we’re hard at work here, pumping out more of the books you know and love.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stone Arch Visits the Lone Star State

This week, we’re off to Dallas for TLA. If you’re in town for the conference, please stop by our booth (#2414) and say hello! Joan Berge, Maryellen Gregoire, Michael Dahl, and Heather Kindseth will be at the conference representing Stone Arch Books.

As always, we’ve got special events planned! Come have your picture taken with the mysterious Librarian of Doom, star of our bestselling series, in the Stone Arch Books booth on Thursday from 9-2. Those photos will be on display in the booth on Friday. At various other times on Thursday and Friday, author Michael Dahl will sign Library of Doom posters and books—stop by the booth and see if he’s there! Even if he’s not, take home a poster featuring our incredibly popular Impact Books sports series by Jake Maddox.

There’s more! If you attend a Capstone Interactive Library presentation at the Technology Showcase area in the exhibit hall from 9:00-9:50 a.m., Thursday, April 17, OR stop by the Capstone Publishers Interactive demo area (located between booths 2409 and 2415), you’ll receive a coupon for a free interactive CD of your choice.

See you in Texas!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bringing books to life!

Reader’s Theater continues to be a huge buzz. The session on the subject was packed at PLA, and as more and more teachers and librarians become familiar with this great way to improve kids’ fluency, it’s only getting more popular.

Educators know that the leveled play scripts from Stone Arch Books’ Reader’s Theater help build oral fluency for individual readers. The scripts also support confidence as kids learn public speaking. They promote listening skills, build student cooperation, and most importantly, add another way to make reading fun! Stone Arch has always made Reader’s Theater easy for educators by leveling our scripts so that assigning roles by reading level is simple.

Now we’re making it even easier by selling Reader’s Theater kits on our website. Each kit contains a teacher’s version of the script (complete with leveling information), enough scripts for each character in the play, six copies of the paperback book, and a handy storage bag. It’s never been so simple to help your students bring books to life!

For more information on Reader’s Theater, check out the Educator Resources tab on our website.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Joan Berge

Joan Berge with her daughters, Claire and Annie, and her husband, Jeff

Joan Berge

Occupation/role at Stone Arch Books:
President. I am responsible for providing strategic leadership for the company by working with other management and staff to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans, and policies.

Years at Stone Arch:
Since the beginning! Stone Arch Books was just a gleam in my eye for most of 2005. Back then, we had a staff of 5 creating 34 titles, a catalog and other marketing materials, and everything else that goes into launching a new imprint.

BA, Business and finance, The College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN

What's your favorite SAB book?
I have really enjoyed being involved in the Jake Maddox sports titles. I particularly like Free Throw and Full Court Dreams. Both of my daughters played basketball from age 5 through high school (and my college girl is still playing, although she spends most of her time on the bench) and I recognize the themes in both these stories. Hopes and dreams, competition within the team and with other teams, and self-imposed expectations are all part of my girls’ experience with this game. These books brought back so many memories!

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
It was From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg. I received the book as a gift from my much older brother who was away at college. I suppose this is one of the reasons is still resonates with me—he thought of me! In addition, the whole idea of a child in the big city, in such beautiful surroundings . . . my imagination went wild!

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I guess my siblings would say that I was that weird combination of studiousness and trouble-seeking. As the seventh child, I had two things to live up to: the grades and intelligence of the older kids, and the clever antics that they had all pulled. I think I pulled it off. Good thing my parents had seen it all by the time I came around; nothing rattled them!

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Traveling, shopping, spending time with my adult daughters and my husband, and of course reading! I recently finished Pillars of the Earth (900 pages) and World Without End (1100 pages) by Ken Follett. These, combined with my daughter’s interests, have got me going on reading more about the Middle Ages, especially the lives of the Saints.

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year.
Every week something memorable happens. It was truly a memorable experience for me two weeks ago, when PLA was in Minneapolis. Because it was here, I was able to send the whole staff to experience a tradeshow and interact with book lovers and librarians. I was pleased and encouraged to watch my team soak up this opportunity. It was evident to me, and I hope to our public library customers, that everyone at Stone Arch Books, from the designers, to the editors, to the marketing department, takes our mission seriously and wants to know how to better deliver to our readers and to these gate-keepers. The commitment and excitement in their work thrills me! I am so lucky to have such a motivated staff!

What’s the best part of your job?

The staff, the customer, the product, the thrill of success . . . it’s hard to identify just one part that is the best part.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that it may incriminate me!

This is the third post in a multi-part series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Jon Scieszka has created a monster—a joyful, galumphing juggernaut called Guys Read. Ever since he launched his website, Scieszka has inspired teachers and librarians across the country to start their own Guys Read programs. On March 25th I was able to attend an all-day workshop on Scieszka’s brainchild, hosted by the Hennepin County Libraries and Stone Arch Books as part of the PLA preconference. The workshop couldn’t have been better organized. After Scieszka gave the opening remarks, we heard from public policy makers, politicians, lawyers, public librarians, mentors, fund-raisers, and parents of Guys Read programs from around the US. Their message was clear, focused, and overwhelming: Guys Read is a success. Boys want to read and will read if given the right material.

Scieszka warned us that we need to learn the language of boys. Boys think differently than the majority of librarians (whom he characterized as predominantly female and mostly middle-aged). One female librarian echoed Scieszka from her own experience, saying she had learned what not to say to a boys’ reading club. “Never ask them how they felt about the story,” she cautioned. “A lot of young boys don’t know how they feel about anything. Instead, ask them what they would have done if they had been in the story.” Boys prefer the hands-on, feet-on, jump-on approach. One librarian said his boys’ group created rituals to start and end each meeting. They have a march and a chant, and carry a flag created by one of the boys’ moms. Another club leader said he sometimes spends half the time playing football with his readers. The point is to make a Guys Read group fun, to teach boys to associate books and reading with pleasure and excitement. “This is not school,” says Scieszka. “There are no quizzes, no questions, no grades.” We also heard the responses from parents and grandparents, how reading had changed the lives of their boys.

During one of the breaks from the workshop, I wandered over to the chaotic PLA exhibit hall where the booths were being assembled, including ours. I visited with Heather Kindseth, Stone Arch Books’s creative director. As we talked, Jon Scieszka walked down our aisle. I stopped him and told him how much I enjoyed his books. Just an hour earlier he had mentioned that when thinking about books for boys, he paid attention to two things: the spine couldn’t be too thick, and the cover had to be eye-grabbing. He said he could tell, just by looking at the Stone Arch books, that we were on to something. “This is exactly what boys will want to pick up and read,” he said. Then he asked for one of our catalogs.

Scieszka has been made the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. Spend a minute with him and you’ll know why. He’s approachable, he’s smart, he’s funny, and he’s passionate about getting kids to read. And Guys Read is an idea that anyone with an interest in boys and books can get behind. You can’t stop it. As Dr. Frankenstein said about another literary monster: “It’s alive!”

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

PLA Recap

PLA was a huge success for us. We started things off with a bang on Tuesday, at the Guys Read preconference with the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, Jon Sczieska. We sponsored the refreshments at this event and gave away our popular Stone Arch Books bags, filled with Capstone Publishers books and catalogs. Michael and Maryellen were able to attend. They learned a lot (more about Guys Read here!) and even talked to Jon about our books and the Guys Read mission.

On Wednesday, the show and exhibits opened. Special guest Jake Maddox, in his football uniform, was at our booth, signing posters and taking pictures with librarians.

Jake Maddox takes a break with a good book on opening night of PLA.

SAB Editorial Director Michael Dahl gets in on the fun on PLA's opening night.

Thursday was another busy day in the booth. We kicked it off with author signings. Michael Dahl signed copies of the Library of Doom books, and Donnie Lemke signed copies of Gulliver’s Travels (a Junior Library Guild pick). We talked to a ton of great librarians.
By that evening, everyone was pretty tired, but we kept it going with a Capstone Publishers open house at our Bloomington offices.

Maryellen Coughlan Gregoire, SAB Director of Product Planning and Public Relations, sets up the snacks at the Capstone Publishers open house.

A magic show, cooking demonstration, another author signing, and more—about 80 attendees enjoyed food and merriment. Stone Arch set up a display giving the attendees a peek at how graphic novels were made. The display was a big hit. Our offices never looked so good, or so clean! It was great fun to give librarians a behind-the-scenes look at the offices of a book publisher.

SAB senior editor and author of Gulliver’s Travels Donnie Lemke, with librarian fans, at the Capstone Publishers open house.

Finally, on Friday Blake Hoena signed copies of Eek and Ack: The Puzzling Pluto Plot. We talked with more librarians from Hawaii to Alaska to Long Island. Later, when we announced that we’d be giving away all the books in our booth at 3 p.m., craziness ensued! The shelves were empty in minutes. We also gave away tons of our Jake Maddox and Library of Doom posters. We tore down the booth and spent the weekend recovering!

The staff at the SAB booth on opening night.
From left to right: Carla, Michaela, Donnie, Michael,
Maryellen, Jake Maddox, Heather, and Joan.

If you were in Minneapolis for PLA, how was your conference?

Next, we’re on to Texas for TLA!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Time for PLA!

PLA is this week! We hope you’ll come and see us at our booth in the exhibit hall. We’re in booth #1611, and we’ll be giving away posters featuring our bestselling Jake Maddox sports books. We’re also part of a giveaway with Capstone Press and Linworth Books. The drawing has a great prize—9 of our Graphic Revolve books, 14 of Capstone Press’s Graphic Science books, and two books by Michele Gorman (Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids and Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens) will go to one lucky winner. Simply sign up at our booth during exhibit hours. We’ll ship the prize to the lucky winner after the show.

Stone Arch Books staff will be busy manning the booth. You might even run into some of our authors while you’re there. So come and see us—we can’t wait to meet you and tell you all about our awesome books.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Minnesota publishing

Looking forward to traveling to Minneapolis for the PLA conference? We’re looking forward to having you here! If this is your first professional trip to Minnesota, you might not be aware that the area is a hotbed of publishers—we’ve got all kinds of publishing houses here, but the educational publishing in Minnesota is especially outstanding. Check out this article in SLJ for more (including some comments from our president, Joan Berge).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On oral language

Oral language -- language that is similar to the way kids speak and hear it -- is vital in fiction books for struggling readers. According to Kylene Beers’s book When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, “fragments, run-ons, short sentences, and slang all help create what readers call ‘real talk’ or ‘slang lang’ in a book.” This is the language kids hear in their heads. When this type of language is used in a book, it becomes easier for them to relate to the text on the written page.

This is something the editors at Stone Arch Books are constantly thinking about. We want our characters to sound real. Characters who speak with words and phrases appropriate to the situation, and are contemporary without being too trendy, help the reluctant reader enjoy the story. No kid wants to read about a hero who sounds like a grammar textbook. Bullies should sound mean, not literate. We take care to make our books sound the way kids talk, paying close attention to things like contractions, limited narrative passages, lots of dialogue, and sentences ending in propositions. They’re not always a part of exceptional literature, but they help students get into reading and eventually transition into more difficult literature.

In short, oral language gets kids reading. Specific elements of oral language, however, need to be kept to a minimum, or sometimes even deleted, to aid the struggling student. These include figurative, or flowery language, unnecessary use of idioms, homophones, and homographs. Whatever is not a part of a kid’s natural speech habits needs to be introduced in small and deliberate doses.

This approach extends a helping hand and gently moves the reader from oral language to the basics of written language, and then upward to more complex and more engaging material. No one will read Hamlet unless they can first get excited about ghosts, graveyards, and swordplay. And no one can get excited about ghosts, graveyards, and swordplay unless they are given the material in words that are familiar. At Stone Arch Books, we want to get kids excited about reading. To do so, we take time to make sure that our books echo kids’ words as well as their world.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Friday, March 14, 2008

More graphic novel news

We’ve been looking forward to March for a long time—and not just because the temperatures are finally starting to rise. This month is the first time one of our books is a Junior Library Guild pick. Frankenstein, one of the graphic-novel retellings in our Graphic Revolve set, was chosen as one of the March Junior Library Guild selections. It’s just the first of many of our books that the JLG has honored in this way (look for upcoming selections in the next few months), and we’re thrilled! The Junior Library Guild looks through more than 3,000 manuscripts each year before determining its 288 selections, so we feel very honored to have been chosen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Catch the Reading Bug!

In March in Minnesota, it doesn’t feel anything like summer, between the frigid temperatures and the piles of snow—although with Daylight Savings Time upon us and temperatures above 40 this week, we’re starting to believe summer will come eventually. Of course, once summer comes, we won’t be excited about the bugs. But right now, bugs sound pretty great.

We’re getting excited for summer with our new summer reading collection, the Bug Collection. Moths, beetles, mosquitoes, and more are the focus of these fun novels and graphic novels, all part of the summer reading program at public libraries this year.

For more information on the books, check out our website, and for more information on the summer reading program, head to http://www.cslpreads.org/ .

Monday, March 10, 2008

Have no fear!

Last week, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on a new graphic novel course offered at Hazel Park Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Not surprisingly, at least to Stone Arch staffers, the instructor, Linda Morrison, raved about her students’ interest in the course and their reading progress. All was good in the world . . .

The real story, however, came the day after the article’s publication. In several follow-up responses, a number of people voiced strong opposition to the course, stating, “Comic books have no place in a curriculum.” This type of public feedback shocked us, to say the least. Hadn’t graphic novels secured their place as a respected literary genre? Didn’t the New York Times, the National Book Foundation, and even the Pulitzer Prize Board embrace the format long ago? Wasn’t the Maryland State Department of Education Comic Book Initiative enough to prove the benefits of graphic novels for reluctant readers? Maybe we’ve read too many comic books, but it sure felt like we’d slipped into the Bizarro world.

Have no fear! We were rescued from the depths of disillusionment by the most likely of heroes—the students themselves. In the original article, one of Morrison’s students, Noushoua, exclaimed, “Reading graphic novels makes you want to read more.” Can entertaining, inspiring, and educating students really be that simple? Well, at Stone Arch Books, we believe it can!

Check out our website for tons of graphic novels your readers will want to read. And while you’re there, browse our Educator Resources, sure to help calm any, um, unearthly fears.

--Donnie Lemke
Senior Editor, Stone Arch Books

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Calling All Kid Reviewers

A big part of my job at Stone Arch Books is to get reviews and awards for our books. We get excited about reviews that are in magazines, but we REALLY like hearing directly from kids. That’s why we need your help.

Have your students read any books from Stone Arch Books? We would love it if they would write about the books they’ve read. What was their favorite part of the story? Did they like the illustrations? Would they recommend this book to a friend? Why?

After they have written the reviews, they can either email them to me at k.monyhan@stonearchbooks.com or they can mail them to:

Krista Monyhan
Stone Arch Books
7825 Telegraph Rd.
Bloomington, MN 55438.

Once I get the reviews, I will post them on our website. (We won’t use the students’ names, but will identify their grade and city with their review.)

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I hope this will be a good way to get your students writing after they read books!

--Krista Monyhan
Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Stone Arch Books

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Great Graphic Novels

Two of our graphic novels are featured in an School Library Journal article this month. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, from our Graphic Revolve set, and Tiger Moth, Insect Ninja, from our Graphic Sparks set, are spotlighted in Michele Gorman’s list of 25 great graphic novels for young readers. The books are among some great company--our sister company Capstone Press's The Shocking World of Electricity with Max Axiom, Super Scientist! is listed, as are a bunch of other great books.

Check out our website to see the other graphic-novel retellings of classic books in our Graphic Revolve set, and other funny, goofy books in our Graphic Sparks set.