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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Look at you, Katie Woo!

The Association for Library Service to Children recently included Fran Manushkin's Katie Woo, Where Are You? on their list of Great Early Elementary Reads. In this book, Katie visits the mall with her parents. She wanders off, and doesn't even realize she is lost! Illustrator Tammy Lyon's great paintings add to the fun! You can download all of the ALSC recommendations on their website.

Way to go, Katie!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Return to Titanic finally arrives!

Over the summer, I gave a quick sneak peek at some exciting new books I was working on, but that seems like ages ago! Well, the last of our ISO copies arrived yesterday, and I'm just so excited I had to share. In the box was the brand-new, 4-book set I've been dying to see on my desk . . . Return to Titanic.

In the books you'll meet Maya and Tucker, two best friends who get the chance of a lifetime when they discover a magical collection of Titanic artifacts at a local museum. The two friends are sent back in time, to Titanic's maiden voyage, to experience the doomed ship for themselves. Along the way, they meet new friends and discover mysteries that must be solved. The books are filled with twists, turns, a few laughs, and best of all, adventure. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed working on them!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Music to our ears, part 3

It's another addition of our series on the music we listen to while we work. Graphic designer Hilary listens to a long list of great musicians. Are any of your favorites in there?

Death Cab for Cutie, The Bravery, Pretty Recklace, The Killers, Rilo Kiley, The Innocence Mission, Muse, Snow Patrol, Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Carolina Liar, The Afters, Puscifer, The Black Lips, and of course Johnny Cash!

The man in black is a favorite of Hilary's...and mine!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Childhood Memories

A few weekends ago, I met my mom and sisters for a shopping weekend. I love shopping and I love my family, but the best part of the weekend was when my mom brought out boxes and boxes of books from our childhood. It was a magical moment for me.

I remembered almost every book/series that was pulled out (Sleepover Friends, Babysitters Club, Girl Talk, Pen Pals, Sweet Valley High—the list goes on, but I'll spare you the details). I even found my first picture dictionary, which was beyond exciting for me! (Clearly I was meant to be in the book business.)

My entire life has been filled with books, and I am happy to say that books have created unforgettable experiences and memories for me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

My favorite local bookstore, Wild Rumpus is participating in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. If you live in the Twin Cities, you must check this place out, they have cats and chickens that roam the store while you shop!

Tomorrow (Dec.3rd) is the 2nd annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, have you heard about it? It's purpose is to not only support independent booksellers, but to give children the opportunity to spend time in a bookstore around the holidays. It's so easy to shop online, something I am very guilty of! But the experience of browsing through the shelves and hand selecting titles is so special.

I honestly wish that we didn't even need to have a specific day to reinforce the importance of this kind of experience, every day should be bookstore day! But it's nice to have a yearly reminder, especially around the holidays.

Will you be taking the child/children in your life to a bookstore tomorrow? If you are interested, this website has a list of the participating bookstores through out the country.

Image Source

Monday, November 28, 2011

My new friend, Zeke.

A funny thing happens when you edit a series of books built around one character — you begin to think of him or her as someone you know. When I see a bright, colorful outfit, it isn't unusual for me to think, "Katie would love that! It is perfect for her." The Katie I'm referring to, of course, is Katie Woo. I also find myself thinking things like "What kind of birthday would Katie have? What would happen if she got to bring home the school pet? What if she got lost?" The great thing is author Fran Manushkin always has the answers to these questions. And best of all, I know that Katie is real to Fran, too.

Recently, I've gotten to know a new kid on a personal level. Zeke Meeks is a little older than Katie, and he doesn't have the same interest in fashion (though his sisters try to force it on him.) But like Katie, he is funny and memorable and real. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this new series of chapter books by D. L. Green. They were written with boys in mind, but girls love them, too. And our illustrator, Josh Alves, has a gift for taking D. L.'s hilarious words and making them come to life. As a result, I find myself noticing video games that Zeke might like and wondering what is on his Christmas list this year. But most of all, I just can't wait to hear his latest story, because that boy can tell a tale!

Take a look at our trailer and see why I am so excited to make a new friend in Zeke:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Travel

Whether you're ready or not, the holidays are almost upon us. And with holiday fun comes a not-so-pleasant aspect: holiday travel. Ick! Like many others, I'll be heading to the airport tomorrow afternoon to join a long line of travelers heading home for Thanksgiving. (I have my fingers crossed that I'll beat some the holiday travel rush by leaving a day early!) Will you be doing any traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday? Where are you headed?

To help you and the kids mentally prepare for hitting the road (or the airport, as the case may be), check out some of our books involving travel or visiting a new place:

Katie Woo is so excited to spend the night at her grandparents' house. But once she gets there, she feels a little nervous.

Zoom! Juan and Anna are flying to Mexico to visit their grandma. From the airport to the clouds, Juan and Anna experience what it's like to fly.

Three Claws is visiting his friend Snorp in the city. Snorp is so nervous. He always gets hurt when he plays with Three Claws. Maybe if they play it safe and stay inside, no one will get hurt.

The Cortez family is going on vacation! They're headed to Florida for a family reunion. But when they arrive, Claudia doesn't get to relax - she's stuck babysitting her younger cousins. She has to miss out on all the fun, and can't hang out with her new friends. What kind of vacation is that?

On a class trip to New Orleans, Catalina Duran and her friends find themselves in the middle of a voodoo mystery!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November is Picture Book Month . . . what's your favorite?

You've probably heard that November is Picture Book Month. For many of us, our earliest reading memories involved a favorite story read by a parent, grandparent, or school librarian. Books that became favorites were requested over and over, until the grown-ups in our lives finally memorized the words.

A few of the fiction staff members shared their favorite childhood picture books with me recently:

For me, it was definitely Lon Po Po by Ed Young. My mom said it scared me every time she read it, yet I kept asking her to read it to me again and again and again. It’s kind of fun to think back on, because to this day I love wolves and comics (and this book was one of the few picture books to have sequential art in the form of panels). Second place has to be The Story of Ferdinand. I’ll never forget the way Ferdinand looked back at me with his sad, timid face. For whatever reason, it captivated me as a kid.
Sean Tulien, Editor

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. When Harold had nowhere to walk, he draws his own path. That notion has always resonated with me because it challenges the notion of fate and empowers us to determine own destiny—that as individuals we have ability to “draw” an idyllic world to own liking. It balances on an utopian dream and a humbling reality.
Russell Griesmer, Graphic Designer

My favorite book as a child was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I’m not sure why I loved it so much, but I do love cookies and milk and predictability, so it might just be that simple. I’m happy to say that I now get to read this book (and many others from the series) to my children and I still love it, which is the mark of a true classic.
Christianne Jones, Managing Editor

My favorite picture book from childhood is There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss. The cover and binding on my childhood copy looks like it predates the Civil War, just to give you an idea how much I read this book. Also, this story made me feel less nervous about monsters in the house, since according to Dr. Seuss they’re mostly just lazy furry things who sit around on your couch and eat bon-bons all day. “But that BOFA on the SOFA...”
Bob Lentz, Art Director

Mine was (and is) Goodnight, Moon. I loved all the details—the tiny mittens, the little mouse, the lit fire, the bowl full of mush. And now I love reading it to my son, who at one point a year or so ago asked for it so often that I had it memorized. It’s such a lovely book.
Beth Brezenoff, Managing Editor

My dad read a ton of picture books to me growing up, most of which were a bit fractured or skewed, but since the holidays are coming up, I’ll pick Berkeley Breathed’s A Wish for Wings that Work: An Opus Christmas Story as one of my favorites. It’s so adorable and funny, about a penguin who makes a Christmas wish that he could fly and ends up saving Santa’s sleigh. I could probably recite the whole thing from memory at any given time. My family still reads this book every Christmas!
Alison Deering, Editor

My favorite picture book from my childhood was titled Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate Pudding. Our school librarian often read it to us, and I loved the stubborn boy who would only eat . . . you guessed it: cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding. But the best part is its funny ending. It is out of print now, but when I need to hear it, I can watch a video of a stranger reading it on YouTube.
Julie Gassman, Editor

What about you? What is your favorite picture book? Do you love any of the same ones from our list? And has anyone out there ever read Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate Pudding?!

Friday, November 11, 2011

What day is it? Oh yeah...

Is today really a lucky day? Are you placing bets and buying lottery cards like a crazy person? I've heard so much hype about today that I've become completely immune to all the hoopla. According to David's Bridal wedding store, 57,000 weddings will take place today. Maybe Kim Kardashian should have waited until today to get married. It might have been luckier for her! I digress...

Anyway, what do you think about today? Are you all about the spirit of 11-11-11 or could you care less?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What if you were eaten by a book?

At Capstone Fiction, it is always fun to hear how librarians and teachers use our books. Most recently, we learned about a special project featuring Michael Dahl's Library of Doom series at Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough, England.

The school's librarian selected the series to be the focus of a regular DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time at the school. The school has a DEAR Homepage, on which the librarian shares information about the various themes she chooses. To get the students excited about the Library of Doom series, the librarian included some great links on the DEAR author site, including Michael's website, a book trailer for the Library of Doom, and an interview with Michael.

A highlight of the project was a contest that asked students to consider what it would be like to be eaten by a book. They were asked to write a letter to the librarian telling her which book ate them. What did it look like inside? What did it smell like? And so on. The winners received signed books by Michael Dahl.

Hearing about the project made me consider, what would it be like to be eaten by a book? It sounds awful, but if it was a book in a great library, like Thomas Deacon's, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Music to our ears...continued

In our latest edition of posts about music to work to, we get a look at the many musical moods of art director Bob Lentz. Who knows why Metallica unlocks his creative blocks? It just does. Read on:

When I’m working on a new design: Personal faves such as Ben Folds, Jason Mraz, Fountains of Wayne, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters.

When I’m stumped creatively: Punk music like MXPX and NoFX; and heavy metal legends such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Metallica.

When I’m doing production work: 70s and 80s R&B, including Al Green, Lionel Richie, and lots of Motown. A great accompaniment to relaxing, monotonous tasks.

When I’m designing a series with a more epic, cinematic scope: Classic film
scores like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and E.T. There’s something very inspiring about the works of John Williams, especially, that elevates a book visually from so-so to film-worthy.

Guilty pleasures: Let’s just say that I’ve been busted on two separate occasions for listening to Hall & Oates and Olivia Newton-John, respectively.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An AASL Highlight

Last week, the 2011 AASL conference (American Association of School Librarians) came to Minneapolis.What a crazy week it was! I worked at the Capstone booth the last day of the show during our book giveaway, and oh my, librarians really love our books — the line was roughly 150 people long!

But the real highlight for me was meeting the author of the Kylie Jean books, Marci Peschke. She came up from Texas for the show, and it's always so fun to meet the author of a series that I've worked on. I love to hear about their process and find out more details about the books (like there really is a Kylie Jean and a dog named Ugly Brother!). Check out Marci's jean jacket and pink cowboy boots. Aren't they fabulous?! So nice to meet you, Marci!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from everyone at Stone Arch Books!

Just because you work in an office doesn't mean you can't proudly sport an impressive costume on Halloween — if anything it makes the work day go faster! (Well, that and the excessive amount of candy floating around...) Check out some of the creative costumes our office has seen. What are you dressing up as this year?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Music to our ears...

This week, I asked the fiction crew what they like to listen to as they write, design, edit, and work in general. The answers were surprisingly detailed and varied. So I thought, "Why not make this a reoccurring feature?" It is interesting to consider how one art form influences another.

First up is our editorial director and in-house writer, Michael Dahl. Michael recently created a whole new world for his upcoming series Troll Hunters. And this is what he listened to while he was there....

I needed to get my mind into a new universe, a world of light versus darkness, good versus evil, epic battles, close escapes, and otherworldly creatures. Sounds like Beethoven to me. I love big, sweeping, emotional, orchestral music, and Beethoven is perfect for that. I can put on his 5th or 6th or 9th Symphony. What power! And the music changes so much, just like a battle, first one side gains power, then the other, back and forth like ocean waves.

For some specific sections of the story:

The ending of Book 3, I listened to Widor’s
Toccata from his 5th Organ Symphony. Turn out the lights and listen to this at night! It sounds like something swirling and rising and soaring into the heavens. Inspiring and triumphant. Perfect for the action at the end of the final chapter.

For the encroaching battle in that same book, I listened to the weird, war-like song
O Fortune! from the eerie and dramatic Carmina Burana by Orff.

And when I was writing the chase scene at the end of Book 1, I put on John Williams’ soundtrack for
The Empire Strikes Back and selected The Asteroid Field. One of the coolest, most exciting pieces of music ever written, not to mention that it’s pure fun. You can see the asteroids rolling toward you, or in this case, the giant trolls at your heels! Run!

-Michael Dahl

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moving on Up

After working in an old, windowless space for almost 10 years, I am happy to report that we are relocating today! While I will miss some aspects of our current location (namely the beautiful campus), it is exciting to move to a newer building in a different part of town. Here's hoping the move will bring more creativity, comradery, and positive vibes for everyone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New York Comic Con

Last week was a crazy one. I was lucky enough to go to New York with a few co-workers to attend NY Comic Con, a huge convention that hosts the latest in comics, graphic novels, video games, toys, movies, television, publishers, you name it. There were more than 100,000 people packed into the Javitz Center in Manhattan, many of whom came dressed in elaborate costumes. Needless to say, it was a crazy experience.

Luckily, I was able to take a break from the madness while I was there and meet with Kate McMullan, the talented author behind our Myth-O-Mania series! Kate and I had a great lunch with our editorial director, Michael Dahl, and even discussed the possibility of adding to the Myth-O-Mania series in 2013 with a title about the Trojan War, tentatively titled, "Hit the Road, Helen!"

One of our other authors, John Sazaklis, also stopped by our booth at Comic Con. John has written several DC Super Pets books for us, and we were lucky enough to have him and legendary illustrator Art Baltazar do a signing at our booth!

John Sazaklis and the Stone Arch Books crew at the booth.

John Sazaklis and Art Baltazar signing DC Super Pets books at the booth.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We received great news last week that some of our books had won Moonbeam awards!

In the Picture Book-Preschool category, Crabby Pants by our very own Julie Gassman won a Gold! Roger the cat shouldn't be so crabby now that he has that gold medal.

In the Juvenile Fiction-Early Reader /1st Chapter Books category, Kylie Jean Blueberry Queen by Marci Peschke won a Gold! I think Miss Kylie Jean would be mighty pleased.

And last, but certainly not least, in the Pre-Teen Fiction-Historical/Cultural category, A Time For War, from our Bloodlines series, won a Silver. This set is amazing!

Congrats to all of the winners!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sometimes Design Nature Takes Over

During every book production season, there are moments you will always remember and treasure until the end of time. Certain "Je n'est-ce pas" that make you hold your breath, like the moment before sending a cover to print, or even the day before you start designing a book you love. The excitement builds up and makes you push the project to a higher level. You are guided by so much conviction and truth that it gives you chills to work on it. Yes, I know it sounds funny, but I know people out there understand what I'm talking about.

This season, I had these sort of experiences while designing Fairieground, a series co-written by Beth and me. I've never had to design anything I've written before. This was a first, and it was definitely a challenge. It took many drafts, many hours of research, and many trials and errors. Yet, Beth and I are very proud with the outcome. It was a joint effort. Odessa Sawyer, our super talented illustrator, influenced the design and the book narratives with her gorgeous realistic illustrations.

The books come out this spring, but here is a little sneak peak of what the fairies in the Willow Forest are hiding from all of us. Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Heartwarming Letter

Below is a letter from a struggling reader to a librarian about Michael Dahl’s Library of Doom and Dragonblood books. And this is why working for a children’s book publisher is an incredible job!

Dear Mrs. Grigsby,

Thank you for helping me find some interesting books now I know that reading can be fun now!!! Now when I go in the library, I know what to pick out now. I found three fantasy books. When I go home I can read it to my little brother now and when he gets to middle school he'll want to read books a lot too. I'm learning a lot from the books I got from the library. Every one in my class loves their books!!! You lighten my life now it was dark when I hated reading. Like they say out with the old and in with the new!! For this I say thank you.



Friday, October 7, 2011

Ready for some mystery?

If you're anything like me, a crisp fall day always seems like the perfect time to curl up with a good mystery. Whether it's a mystery novel or a marathon of cheesy Halloween movies (I'm looking at you, ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween"), there's something about fall that just puts you in the mood. In that spirit, I'd like to introduce you to Echo and the Bat Pack! These adorable, funny chapter books revolve around a group of mystery-solving siblings and their pet bat, Echo, and provide just the right amount of spooky mystery. They're perfect for kids — or scary-story wimps like me! The books won't be available till this winter, but here's a sneak peak at the covers. Whether they're unearthing the truth behind a mysterious mummy at a local museum or discovering treasure in the graveyard, there's always another mystery to solve for Echo and the Bat Pack!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kylie Jean is a Football Queen!

For many, fall means football. While personally, I am not a really a fan of the sport, Kylie Jean certainly is! In one of her new adventures, she is on a quest to prove that she is THE #1 fan. We love Kylie Jean because she is so positive and never gives up. I think young readers will love her too. The next four books in the Kylie Jean series will be out this winter. Go Team!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Do you like crafting?

As the weather turns cooler and the days shorter, many of us pick up our knitting, quilting, or, in my case, felt play food making. So it is fitting that October 7-16 is American Craft Week.

Did you know our Katie Woo books feature a fun craft in the back? Why not get a stack of them together and get ready for American Craft Week?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fiction Friday: The kid becomes the adult, the adult becomes the child.

I heard a concept that was foreign to me last week while watching a training video. It said that opposed to what many people believe, our own traits as children stay with us forever. That each trait is something that we’ll never grow out of and is so engrained to our personality that it only gets stronger with age. The video explained that deep inside we feel the same way we did when we were kids and if anything, it makes you more passionate about what you do, about your “super powers” as I call them, or “strengths” as everybody else does.

That thought brought me back to my childhood. I was an introvert, but yet I loved to tell stories and draw them out. I wanted to be able to tell the story more accurately to help other people get it. When I grew bigger, I started talking to my friends about what I’d dreamed the night before. I would paint scenes and color with pencils for hours, softly so there wouldn’t be any lines on the paper. I didn’t wanted people to get distracted by the lines, but to take the scene fully in. Then at age 17 I started to write. I had a stack of white paper under my bed and I would turn my light on right after my parents went to bed. My pages were fully handwritten, and my friends would borrow them to read the next day so that we could decide where the story was going from there on.

That was me as a kid and now that I think of it, that’s exactly me now. This year I got an amazing opportunity. I’m an art director, so my responsibility is the look and feel of the books, but yet, one of the people I look up to when it comes to writing, asked me if I would co-write something with her. 

Beth and I came up with a super cool concept while having tea in our afternoon break. A hi-low series for girls. A story about two best friends, girls who are opposites. They fight over a boy, and one wishes the other away. We hammered out all of the details over cups of tea and coffee. And that is how Fairieground was born 9 months ago. 

Beth and I have been writing, editing, art directing and designing these books together. They have some of the best parts of both of us mixed and entwined together for kids to enjoy for years to come.

Here is the cover of one of the four books, all illustrated by Odessa Sawyer. Sincerely, I would say childhood and adulthood have gone full circle. What is your story?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in a name?

Starting new books every season is always a thrill, but new books inevitably mean new titles. While some people love coming up with titles, others dread the looming deadline. But no matter how you feel about titles, you can't have a book without one. Often, our helpful authors provide title suggestions with their manuscripts, but ultimately it's up to the editor to come up with the perfect title. For me, the perfect title can often come at the most unexpected time: while I'm driving, while I'm cooking dinner, while I'm trying to fall asleep. (Clearly I'm a really effective multi-tasker...or incapable of concentrating, although I prefer to think it's the first option.)

No matter when it comes to you, creating a new title is always a challenge. After all, a title has to shoulder a lot of responsibility. It's more than just a name. A title has to effectively convey what a book is about and still be interesting and attention-grabbing. Without a strong title, would a book ever get read? It's no small feat, especially when you consider the number of books published each year. That's why every season, I'm continuously impressed by the creativity of the other editors I work with. They make coming up with new, unique, creative titles look easy (or at the very least manageable).

So, help us out. What do you think makes a good title? What grabs your attention?

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Almost Fall!

A photo from one my last trips of the summer. A perfect sunset, don't you think?

While it's still technically summer, the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler. Kids are back in school and the lazy days of summer seem to already be long behind us. It's getting to be the perfect weather for a cozy cardigan, a mug full of hot chocolate, and a good book. Here are a few appropriate titles as we transition into the next season and say our last goodbyes to summer.

A beautifully illustrated book about the joys of fall, and the perfect introduction to the concept of seasons.

Whenever I think of fall, apples are one of the first things that comes to mind. This graphic novel tells the story of Johnny Appleseed in a new and interesting way.

In Katie Woo's world, jumping into a pile of leaves is part of a perfect day. Learn about the other things that make Katie really happy in this sweet little book.

An easy- to-read graphic novel that has a nice lesson about how to deal with a difficult classmate.

Max and Zoe are at it again! In this story Max's desk is so messy he can't find a thing, and he may have to miss recess. What will he do?!

Happy Fall and Happy Reading!