Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cybils Nominations begin TOMORROW!

It's that wonderful time of year again! The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards are again upon us, with nominations opening up tomorrow! Can you believe it? It feels like just a few months ago we were learning the finalists and winners.

All the info on nominating your favorite books of 2009 can be found at the Cybils blog, which you can get to by clicking the button at the top of this post. Nominations only run until the 15th, so hurry up and get your favorites in! Anything published between October 15th of last year and October 14th of this year is eligible (I think I have that right, but check the rules for exact dates). That means that even if your favorite book was published at the end of last year, it's still eligible for this years voting.

While you're perusing the Cybils blog, show some love and get some bling!! I'm buying myself a big ol' Cybils mug and they have cool t-shirts and tote bags too. Click here to browse the selection.

This is really such a fun time of year in the blogging world and great way to get the word out about those books that haven't received quite as much press as those popular bestsellers. Help spread the word by grabbing a Cybils button, writing up a post, printing out a flyer, Tweeting, etc. Show the love!

If America Were a Village review

What a cool and informative book this is! If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States, written by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong is part of the "Citizen Kid" series put out by Kids Can Press. These books are put out to "inform children about the world and inspire them to be better citizens," which is an awesome message to send and this particular book does a great job of bringing this huge country to a bit smaller of a level for better understanding as to just what our impact is.

Jacket description:
" Today there are 306 million people living in America. This enormous number can be difficult to grasp, especially for a child. But what if we imagine America as a village of just 100 people?

In this village:
  • 75 are white, 12 are black, 1 is Native America and 4 are Asian. The remaining 8 consider themselves members of some other race or of mixed race.
  • 82 consider themselves Christian, 2 are Buddhists, 1 is Jewish, 1 is Muslim, 4 practice other world religions and 10 consider themselves non-religious.
  • 5 people have more than half of all the wealth, while the 60 poorest people share only 4 percent of the wealth.
If America Were a Village uses a simple metaphor to create a snapshot of America - past, present and future. Exploring the lives of the 100 villagers will help children - and readers of all ages - to discover a whole new vision of America and to better understand their own place in the global village."

Each page breaks down all types of subjects, from religion to employment to age to stuff we own and energy we consume. It's a really neat way of educating ourselves (children AND adults) as to how the United States compares to other countries on all of these different topics.

This would make an excellent classroom resource, especially if you were to use the previous title If the World Were a Village, as a companion. A great way to get your kids to start asking important questions and to open their eyes to discussions we all need to have.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States
David J. Smith
32 pages
Kids Can Press
9781554533442
August 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Mini-Reviews

It's time again for my monthly Mini-Reviews feature. If you haven't checked out one of these posts before, my main reason for doing them is simply because I read too many books during the month to write out full, long reviews about each one of them. Mini-reviews consist of books that have already gotten a lot of press and don't necessarily need my thoughts to boost sales, books that I didn't really enjoy, or books that I just didn't have a whole lot to say about, whether good or bad.

Ok, that being said, on to the short-but-sweet thoughts on these titles:

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo was wonderfully sweet, as I could only expect a work from her to have been. The main characters a lovely, the story magical and fantastical, and great for another read aloud. The illustrations are simple and wonderfully done by Yoko Tanaka.

DiCamillo's stories always flow so well, appealing to both child and adult, and always leaving the reader (at least this reader) with a calm sense of satisfaction when the last page is turned.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all ages. Go buy for all sorts of gifts...Christmas, birthday, etc. It's lovely, really.

The Magician's Elephant
Kate DiCamillo
208 pages
Middle Grade
Candlewick
9780763644109
September 2009



Another "magical" book, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, is an adult fantasy title that I picked up after reading so many positive reviews about it. Honestly, it's Harry Potter for adults. A magic school, magician-filled, with an infiltrator attempting to bring evil over good.

Long and at times quite wordy, I skimmed through some pages, though thought it was an overall enjoyable read.

The Magicians: A Novel
Lev Grossman
416 pages
Adult Fiction
Viking Adult
9780670020553
August 2009



A book I really did not enjoy this month, Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo, was a huge waste of my time. And especially so, because I listened to it on audio (and only stuck with it because I needed something to get me through the three miles every day).

Absolutely predictable from the very beginning, filled with the same charcters and plot you would find in just about any beach read mystery, except with less thrills. Do I dare compare to the latest James Patterson novels? Don't waste your time on this one. Well, I shouldn't say that, maybe you like this type of thing...goodness knows lots of people do, this book is selling like hotcakes, hence the reason I thought it would be a good read! Oh and did I mention it got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly? Maybe it really was just me.

Sworn to Silence
Linda Castillo
336 pages
Adult Fiction
Minotaur Books
9780312374976
June 2009



City of Bones by Cassandra Clare was a great start to the Mortal Instruments series I've been wanting to pick up this whole year. It was a fast paced read and I can certainly see the appeal to teens.

I did feel it was too long and could have used a good 75 pages cut. I'm not entirely sure why all these middle grade/ya authors feel the need to have 500 page books, it's not a contest to see who can write the thickest volume!

This one I read for the Fill in the Gaps Challenge.

City of Bones
Cassandra Clare
512 pages
Young Adult
McElderry
9781416955078
February 2008


Alright, that's it for mini-reviews this month! If you want more info on any title or to buy any of them and help make this unemployed lady some money, click on any of the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hate List (YA review)

I've been watching the reviews float around the blogosphere for this one and it's definitely getting a lot of positive press. Jennifer Brown has taken an incredibly serious and tragic subject and transformed it into story based on a girl very involved in a horrific crime and though I don't totally "buy" the way the story turned out, it made for a pretty good read.

Publisher's description:
"Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life."


The reader is given a unique perspective on the topic of school shootings - from someone who essentially helped to plan a school shooting, without really helping to plan it at all. Valerie was a depressing character, but with good reason and though I wasn't overly engaged in the first half of the book (I thought it a bit too long), as Valerie started to heal, it became more interesting.

I wasn't sure what to think about the main character becoming friends with some of the kids that terrorized her and actually returning to school. Part of me thought that it was totally crazy and would never happen, the other half liked reading about the process, in order to see what actually would happen if a child made a decision to return to school after a tragedy such as this.

Teens will enjoy this book and it would make for a nice discussion starting point on how we deal with tragedy, as well as the topic of hate lists. I liked the cover design too - very cool!

To learn more, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Hate List
Jennifer Brown
416 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown Young Readers
9780316041447
September 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Secret World of Walter Anderson

Hester Bass and illustrator E.B. Lewis have brought us a book about a very special man that most of us readers have probably never heard of, though I certainly am left wanting to know more about.

Jacket description:
" There once was an artist who braved storms, mosquitoes, alligators, and more to speak the language of nature in pencil and paint. His name was Walter Anderson.

Residents along the Mississippi Gulf Coast thought he was odd, pedaling his rickety bicycle in his rumpled clothes and his ragged hat. They thought it strange that he rowed across twelve miles of open water in a a leaky skiff to reach Horn, an uninhabited island swarming with gnats and flies and with no running water or electricity.

But Walter didn't care what anybody thought. he spent weeks at a time on Horn Island, his personal paradise, sleeping under his boat, sometimes eating whatever washed ashore. Here was the place he most wanted to be in the world, sketching and painting the natural surroundings and the animals that became his friends. Here Walter Anderson could fully breathe, and here he created some of his most brilliant watercolors, work that he kept hidden during his lifetime."

I was really impressed with the depth of such a short biography, especially when written for children. The illustrations are magnificent, done in beautiful beachy colors, perfectly accompanying the text and allowing the reader to see some of what Anderson felt when he looked at Horn Island.

The author's note at the end is several pages long and goes into more detail as to what illnesses Anderson suffered from, what his art looked like, and different aspects of his life, making the book appealing to both younger children and older kids. This would be a great asset to any library collection and would make a nice piece to use for a report on a man that many do not know much about.

Loved it!

To learn more, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Secret World of Walter Anderson
Hester Bass
48 pages
Non-Fiction
Candlewick
9780763635831
September 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My National Book Festival experience

I learned a few things from my first experience heading out to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.:

1. Even if you would rather pack books in your bag than a sweatshirt, you will inevitably be cold, so pack the warmth anyways (we were sooo cold!).

2. If you go with this wildly brilliant plan that you spent an hour figuring out in order to get books signed AND hear everyone speak that you want to, you're insane. It's not going to happen, so don't go with a plan.

3. If you don't want to spend a fortune on food, bring your own OR walk about a block around the corner from the National Mall and you'll find hot dogs and the like for half the price. (We ate on our way home instead, so we didn't make that mistake at least).

4. If you think you won't need the fancy camera with the nice lens, you're wrong. Instead of packing the super small, light camera, pack the bulky nice one and you might actually end up with decent pictures.

Ok, so we had a very good time with our first Festival outing, though nothing really went as I (the Type A planner), had assumed it would go. I had really wanted to get a lot of my books signed, but after seeing the craziness that was the lines for each author, I decided to completely forget the signing altogether and just listen to the authors speak. I would much rather hear what they have to say than have a signature inside my book cover anyways, so that was a pretty easy decision.

The listening started out with a fabulous group of authors, Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, Steven Kellogg, John Scieszka, Megan McDonald, Nikki Grimes, and Mary Brigid Barrett, who were all very silly together. Though John Scieszka was most definitely the instigator! They all have a new collaborative project going on at Read.gov, which you should all check out!



We then moved onto Jodi Picoult in the Fiction & Fantasy tent. I've heard her speak before, but she's funny and personable (and happens to be my one of my favorite adult authors), so we listened to her chat up her upcoming titles.



After listening to Picoult, my "plan" for the day started to go awry. I had wanted to bounce back and forth between signings and speakers, but saw the absolutely INSANE lines, we jumped back to the Children's tent to listen to Nikki Grimes. It had also started to rain by this point and we were lucky to get actual chairs to sit in, so decided to park it and sit through all the speakers until Mo Willems made his appearance. I would have loved to have seen some of the adult and teen speakers, but was not about to give up my seat to the masses.

So we saw Nikki Grimes....




Craig Hatkoff (of Owen and Mzee fame)...

Lois Lowry (ohmygosh, had a bit of a "fan" moment here)...



Kadir Nelson and Sharon Robinson...



Megan McDonald...



Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black...



and....

Mo Willems!!! He was hilarious as I assumed he would be, had my husband laughing pretty hysterically as well, and was the only author we saw yesterday that actually read his books! We heard Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Today I Will Fly (An Elephant and Piggie Book), and Pigs Make Me Sneeze (An Elephant and Piggie Book). Such a funny, nice man.

After Mo, we listened to a little bit of Patrick Carman over in the Teen tent, but by that point it was almost 4 and we were wet, cold, and starving! The other tents were mainly for children, with games and giveaways, so we quick walked through them and then were on our way back home. Very enjoyable day listening to my favorite celebrities in the book world!

(At least we remembered umbrellas and ponchos!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

My first pick of the week is a little unconventional as far as my typical picture book "taste" goes. It's sappy and is overtly obvious with it's message, but after flipping through it a few times, I really think your toddlers will appreciate the silly illustrations and sweet storyline.

Big Bear Hug is written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland and tells the reader of a bear that loves to hug trees. He loves hugging animals, big or small too, but he really, really loves hugging trees. Peach trees, apple trees, pine trees, you name, he hugs it! And when a man comes to cut down a tree? Well...that man gets a hug too!

From an adult point of view, Big Bear Hug might be a bit too mushy-gushy, but toddler-aged kids tend to appreciate the sweeter side of a story, often more than we do! The message is environmentally based, with a smidge of "one hug can change the world."

Big Bear Hug
Nicholas Oldland
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
9781554534647
September 2009


Would I Trade My Parents?, written by Laura Numeroff of "Mouse" book fame and illustrated by James Bernardin is filled with a fun look into the lives of one boy's friends and their parents, allowing the boy to wonder if he would indeed trade his parents.

One friend's parents make blueberry pancakes for breakfast, one's mom owns a convertible, and another's parents take him camping. When looking at all these cool things, the young boy can't help but be a bit envious, but when he remembers that his mom teaches him cool French words, his dad reads to him every night, and they always take bike rides on the weekends, he realizes his parents aren't too bad after all!

I think all children think about trading their parents once in awhile and Numeroff's book will be a nice reminder to be thankful for what we have been given. Bernardin's illustrations are great and make for a nice accompaniment to the text.

Would I Trade My Parents?
Laura Numeroff
32 pages
Picture Book
Abrams
9780810906372
October 2009


The Big Elephant in the Room, written and illustrated by the amazing Lane Smith, introduces children to just how big of a mess one little verbal misunderstanding can cause!

When asked if they could talk about the "big elephant in the room," one friend thinks it's about something he's done. Like told a girl that his friend peed his pants or ran away from a bully and left his friend there or the fact that he peed in the pool. When really, all that his friend wanted to talk about, was literally, the elephant in the room! Oops!

A very cute story and a great read aloud! I loved the illustrations and found myself laughing on every page. A winner for sure with this one.

The Big Elephant in the Room
Lane Smith
32 pages
Picture Book
Hyperion
9781423116677
July 2009


To learn more about any of these titles, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Off to the National Book Festival!

First thing in the morning, my wonderful husband and I will be packing up our books, jumping on the Metro and heading into D.C. for the National Book Festival. Tons of fabulous authors are scheduled to be there and I'm reading to hear lots of them speak and hopefully get lots of books signed (though I'm more into the listening than the waiting in line). I've wanted to go for the past few years, but haven't lived close enough...now it's in my own backyard, no chance of missing it!

The weather is probably going to be crummy, but ponchos and umbrellas are packed too, so no worries there. I hope to have an update tomorrow night, with lots of pictures for you all!

And if you're going too, I hope to run into you :)

Thirteenth Child (mg review)

This book was so unexpectedly cool! And believe me, I mean that in the best of ways possible. I expected a typical "magic" book, with spells, magicians, etc, which is definitely a large part of the plot, but the Patricia C. Wrede included a really cool dynamic with the time period being placed during Western expansion in the U.S. and a frontier lifestyle. A very interesting mix that really worked.

Jacket Description:

"Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he's supposed to possess amazing talent-and she's supposed to bring doom to everyone around her. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that protects settlers from the beasts of the wilderness.

Eff and Lan do not know what awaits them in such an unknown place. There are steam dragons that hover in the sk, and strange creatures that could undermine the homesteaders' very existence. Eff is allowed ot leave magic with the other students-but there's always the threat of it going horribly wrong. As a thirteenth child, Eff always feels one short step away from complete ruin.

As Eff and Lan grow older, they face challenges they never could have dreamed of. And then their magic is put to the test in a standoff that will alter their live forever."


I can definitely see a family reading this out loud together before bedtime each night. Nothing is too scary for little ears and the flow of the plot give a nice, homey feel. A comforting feeling. Is that strange?

There isn't anything overly exciting in any of the "action" scenes, but sometimes we need a book that isn't all thrills and chills. We so rarely just get a story anymore that has almost an old-fashioned vibe to it. Like a modern Little House on the Prairie. With dragons and magicians.

I did feel the book was long, probably too long for the upper-elementary age group it seems to target. 50-100 pages could be taken out and I would be ok with that. Some of the back stories on family members could easily be eliminated without harming the true plot of the book.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy :)

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Thirteenth Child
Patricia C. Wrede
344 pages
Middle Grade
Scholastic Press
9780545033428
April 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fire and Catching Fire, my thoughts

The last thing either of these two books need is more press, but I'm doing my best to give thoughts on everything I read this year, so I want to fill you all in on just what I think about both. No lengthy reviews here though, if you want those on either of these books I'm sure you won't have to look that far. Reviews are evvverrrywhere!

Fire, by Kristin Cashore definitely gets a starred review from me. Between Graceling and this sequel, these are great stories and Cashore is obviously amazing at creating characters to fall in love with. Though I was, at first, disappointed to not see the characters from Graceling in this one, but that quickly changed, as these characters were even more wonderful and rich as the previous.

Typically I think YA books over 300 pages could probably be cut down a bit, the almost 500 pages of this book were well worth my time. The descriptions of people and places felt entirely realistic, though also made the book quite long.

Definitely looking forward to more from Cashore.

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy :)

Fire
Kristin Cashore
480 pages
Young Adult
Dial
9780803734616
October 2009


Catching Fire was as fantastic as I thought it was going to be. Some bloggers think it was a disappointing sequel to The Hunger Games, but I expected high impact drama, a love triangle, and a whole lot of action, which is exactly what I got. I can't believe how creative Suzanne Collins is with her stories and though the whole Katniss/Peeta/Gale issue was somewhat overdone, I didn't mind as much as some. I expected it, so I think that made it ok for me.

I will say that very rarely am I vocal when reading a book (like gasping, sighing, etc.), but I was so loud when reading this is made my husband laugh hysterically. About halfway through, when the big twist hit, I happened to be reading in bed and gasped "NO!!" and he just could not stop laughing at me. Seriously though...heartstopping.

Now if only next year would come a bit faster...

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy :)

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
400 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic
9780439023498
September 2009

Fall Into Reading Challenge

I've been completely failing at my challenges lately. Haven't been in the mood to complete them, but this one I know I'll finish. I love Katrina's Spring/Fall Into Reading Challenges, because they are so casual, allowing you to make a list and change it up whenever you want. All the details are here. Or you can click the pretty button to link to Callapiddar Days.

You have all of Fall to read your books, from yesterday the 22nd to December 20st. An easy challenge, lots of fun, and a great chance to participate in blogging world activities!

My list is as follows:

1. Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga
2. Hold Still by Nina LaCour
3. Splendor: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen
4. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
6. Liar by Justine Labalestier
7. A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell
8. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
9. Karma for Beginners by Jessica Blank
10. Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen

Alternates:

After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Library Loot and some winners...

First, I have the three winners of Moose on the Loose by Kathy-jo Wargin. These lucky blog readers will have a copy of the book shipped to them by the publisher, Sleeping Bear Press. Congrats to:

evilredcaboose

Mama Librarian

and...

Brooke!

Ladies, be sure to email me your address by Friday at 11:59pm or I'll have to choose another winner. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Now on to Library Loot.


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I honestly picked up this ENTIRE pile of books just yesterday, as it seems all of my holds decided to come in at the same time, including several adult titles, which will take me a whole lot longer than YA or MG to complete.



We have:

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, which I've heard such good things about for so long.

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay, a recommendation from my friend Katie. I'm going to check it out, though it may be a bit too romancy for my taste.

Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parker

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Fill in the Gaps challenge)

The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nichols

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, which I'm reading with a friend that just moved overseas. It's our own mini book club

Can't wait to see what everyone else got!

The Listeners review

I've written many times how I really adore the different series put out by Sleeping Bear Press, especially the "Tales of Young Americans" series. Always written in a fictional, picture book format, these books give younger children a glimpse into history, without being too fact-filled. Just really nice stories, always beautifully illustrated, that can help start up family (or school or library) conversations about moments of our history.

The latest edition to the series is The Listeners, written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Mike Benny, telling the story of a Ella May, a young slave girl on a plantation. Every night Ella May and her friends are sent to do the "listening" by the big house, basically meaning they eavesdrop on the Master's conversations. It's the only way the slaves get any sort of news about the world or about what is going to happen to them.

Having no control over the amount of food they eat, the clothes they wear, or the treatment they get, the slaves are eager for any tidbit of information Ella May and her friends bring back. And when one bit of information is about Abraham Lincoln being elected President, the families finally have something to look forward to: a future filled with freedom.

The book is very nicely written, exhibiting the emotions of the children and their families without being overly melancholy...a good thing being the targeted age range for this book is listed as 6-10. Definitely could be read to younger children and older children could use this as an additional project resource.

The illustrations are beautifully done and the cover drew me in immediately. Very soft drawings done with muted colors that emphasize the character's features. Beautiful and lovely!

There is a really neat teacher's guide to go along with The Listeners, which you can find here: www.gale.cengage.com/pdf/TeachersGuide/ListenersGuide.pdf.

You can also find teacher's guides for other Sleeping Bear Press titles at: www.sleepingbearpress.com/educators.

(For some reason the links won't work when I embed them. So I typed out the sites for you :)

You can purchase the books here and here. Or click on the book cover above and link to Amazon.

The Listeners
Gloria Whelan
40 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
9781585364190
September 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

A book just screaming to be read...

Sometimes we readers come across books that are a bit gritty, somewhat disturbing, and definitely unsettling, but wonderful at the same time. I had this experience with my latest read, If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser, of Boot Camp fame. Such a realistic journey within a fiction novel, that really, is begging to be read by teens and adults. You probably won't like anything that you read, you'll hate it even, probably because most of it is true and completely real and going on in our country...and we like to forget about the bad stuff. Well this is the bad stuff front and center, and I think it's brilliantly done.

Publisher's description:

"WHEN YOU GREW UP IN THE PROJECTS, THERE WERE NO CHOICES. NO GOOD ONES, AT LEAST.

In the Frederick Douglass Project where DeShawn lives, daily life is ruled by drugs and gang violence. Many teenagers drop out of school and join gangs, and every kid knows someone who died. Gunshots ring out on a regular basis.

DeShawn is smart enough to know he should stay in school and keep away from the gangs. But while his friends have drug money to buy fancy sneakers and big-screen TVs, DeShawn's family can barely afford food for the month. How can he stick to his principles when his family is hungry?

In this gritty novel about growing up in the inner city, award-winning author Todd Strasser opens a window into the life of a teenager struggling with right and wrong under the ever-present shadow of gangs."


DeShawn is just a regular kid, in a world that he sees as completely normal. He knows that the entire world doesn't live in the projects, that most families don't have multiple gang members and drug deals in their midst, and that a lot of people have plenty to eat, rather than being so hungry they'll do anything for food. All of that is DeShawn's reality and though it's nice to dream about getting out of the projects, he knows it won't happen.

This was a heartwrenching book to read, but such an eye-opener. And if it opened my eyes, it might just open the eyes of our teens that take so very much for granted much of the time. The "projects" written about in this book are a frightening reality for many teens and to view that through DeShawn's eyes was a brilliant gift.

Read this. Definitely read it BEFORE your kiddos to make sure you're alright with the content. Again, it's scary. Guns, violence, drugs, etc., but I feel it has a very important message to give. I can see this being required reading for an English class.

The only downside of the book, was the slightly stereotypical portions of the plot (like the pair of lovebirds from rival gang territories) and the amount of devastation in one small period of time has the ability to seem contrived. However, these things DO happen. And they may not happen to one boy over the course of a couple years, but they do happen on a daily basis to people all over the country. So for that reason, I looked past the bit of excess and continued to love the story.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for a review copy :)

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

If I Grow Up
Todd Strasser
240 pages
Young Adult
Simon & Schuster
9781416925231
February 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Flags of the World

Hey teachers, need a great resource for your classroom? Filled to the brim with bright, bold pictures of country flags from all over the world, it's also full of handy facts, dates, and statistics, perfect for a quick reference.

Flags of the World was put together by Sylvie Bednar and is broken down into five regions: Europe, The Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia. Each region contains tons of flags from countries, as well as small snippets of facts about the country, how each flag came to be, and other, more random facts.

Some of the larger countries get a full page spread, complete with a large paragraph of country info and a statistic list.

Papua New Guinea, for instance, has a beautiful flag of red and black, with white stars and a yellow bird. The country is apparently home to more than 750 dialects (WOW!), though it's official language is English, and takes up an area of 178,704 square miles. And the fun fact on that particular page is this:

"Some tribal Papuans build houses in trees at heights of up to 160 feet in order to protect themselves from danger."

Cool huh? Flags of the World gives a great look into different world cultures, customs, religions, and values, as well as the brilliant flags they fly.

Though the actual text is written at a lower grade level, geared toward elementary schoolers, this book could be a vital resource from elementary up through high school for social studies class, geography, special projects, etc. Great for libraries, schools, classrooms, and homeschoolers.

To learn more, click on the link above to get to Amazon.

Thank you to Abrams for the review copy :)

Flags of the World
Sylvie Bednar
192 pages
Non-Fiction
Abrams
9780810980105
August 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

2 fun books for you this week folks! Hopefully you find something you and your kids can enjoy together!

The Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney has been making its way around the blogosphere and so far all reviews I've read have been fabulous. And yep, I'm tending to agree with the masses.

"In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes."

If the cover alone doesn't pull you in, the lovely retelling of Aesop's fable is certainly will. I loved everything from the artwork to the flow of the story, and the brilliant way Pinkney manages to make an "old" fable, his own.

The Lion and the Mouse
Jerry Pinkney
40 pages
Picture Book
Little, Brown
9780316013567
September 2009


Now, I don't know about you, but I just loved Paddington Bear when I was a kid. The first play I ever saw was in third grade and our classes went to see a show completely centered around the famous books. I read every one I could get my hands on and loved them all.

A new picture book about the famous bear is making its way onto shelves. Written by Michael Bond and illustrated by R.W. Alley is a sweet story about Paddington at the beach and the chatter of the seagulls as he plays.

In part, this is a counting book, which adds an educational note to the story. The reader counts up from 1 to 10 as each seagull makes an observation about Paddington's activities on the beach. Very cute!

I loved that the illustrations took up a full page and a half, with the text in the remaining portion of space. It made for visual interest...and along with a cute Paddington story, we are given a nice read aloud. These newer books aren't quite as charming as the old ones, but they're fun enough for the littler kids.

Paddington at the Beach
Michael Bond
32 pages
Picture Book
HarperCollins
9780061687679
June 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Faust (ya review)

Awww shucks...high hopes for this one. Brother and sister Daniel and Dina Nayeri write a novel with an intriguing cover and super interesting description? Awesome. And maybe my hopes are still high...for someone to explain this book to me. Please? Anyone?

Product description:
"One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish — only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary "gifts." But as the students claw their way up — reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty — they start to suffer the side effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary re-imagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption."

Ok, so this book starts out very cool. Yes, there are a bunch of odd kids, we've read that all before, but from page one the whole feeling of the plot and characters is somewhat of a different vibe, which I really liked. Unfortunately, my intrigue into where the story was going slowly turned into confusion and frustration.

In the first chapter or two, I was a little confused, but I suppose that's to be expected in the beginning of book, so I let it pass and kept on going. And then I fell into a pit of confusion. I didn't understand what was going on, who was doing what to whom, and where the story was supposed to be leading.

Am I alone in this? Anyone else a bit put off by the mysterious nature of the information actually given throughout the novel? Can anyone explain it to me? I get the Faustian bargain part, but the rest, I was lost on. I really wanted to like it...

Another Faust
Daniel and Dina Nayeri
400 pages
Young Adult fiction
Candlewick
9780763637071
August 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Sari Shop Widow review

Jacket description:

"Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents' sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. But as competition heats up, Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy.

To the rescue comes Anjali's wealthy Uncle Jeevan and his business partner, Rishi Shah-a mysterious Londoner. Despite her initial resentment, Anjali is wildly attracted to Rishi-and he to her. And though she has vowed to live without love, Anjali begins to let Rishi open a whole new world to her, beyond the shop and beyond New Jersey's Little India..."


When my only method of travel is through the books that I read, India is my favorite destination, by far. The sights, sounds, and beautiful colors surrounding the culture of the country is incredibly intriguing and even though this novel takes place in New Jersey, the Indian basis is front and center.

Shobhan Bantwal has created a romance novel with substance. Definitely romantic, at times waaay over the top with the sexuality, but overall a nice romancy vibe.

The backdrop of the plot being the upscale sari shop in need of financial assistance was a very nice break from the norm. I love the descriptions of Anjali's designs and could see them in my head as I read the sentences. Beautiful!

Definitely a lot of family drama, in a good way. I read more for this part of the book than for anything else, and got my fill! The relationship between Anjali and her parents and with her Uncle has a rich, cultural basis, which I very much enjoyed.

Again, the sexuality is blatant and graphic at times and yes, I skimmed over these scenes, as I felt they were unnecessary to the plot going forth. That's really my only "complaint." Just because a book is romance does not mean it has to have graphic sex.

If you're a fan of Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, or the like, you'll enjoy this one too :)

The Sari Shop Widow
Shobhan Bantwal
352 pages
Adult fiction
Kensington Fiction
9780758232021
September 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moose on the Loose (and a BIG Giveaway)!

Jacket description:

"What would you do with a moose on the loose?
Would you chase him, or race him,
or stand up to face him?
What would you do with a moose on the loose?

What would you do with a moose in your yard? Or in your house? How about in your room? Or in your tub?

Would you give him two boats?
Would you see if he floats?

What would you do?

Colorful, comic artwork highlights the hilarity that ensues when wildlife wanders infoord. Can boy best beast?

By story's end, young readers will know exactly what to do when a moose goes on the loose!"


In Moose on the Loose, author Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrator John Bendall-Brunello have created a very cute story that will definitely have your kids giggling. The consequences of a huge moose in the house are obviously vast and the illustrations, along with the rhyming text, exhibit that on every page. Lots of fun to be had with this one!

At times, the rhymes don't flow quite as nicely as I would have liked, but once you get the rhythm and get into the story, it works out well. The book would make for a nice read aloud for toddlers, up through elementary school.

The publisher of Moose on the Loose, has kindly offered THREE copies to give away to my readers. The book would make a great gift or just nice to have on your own shelves for your kids, so make sure you enter!

Leave a comment on this post by Sunday night at 11:59pm to enter. If you blog about it, Twitter about it, or Facebook about it, you get one extra entry for each, just make sure you leave an extra comment for each too.

U.S. only for this one!

Moose on the Loose
Kathy-jo Wargin
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
9781585364275
September 2009

Ash (YA review)

I've been reading reviews all over the blogosphere on Ash, written by Malinda Lo and was so glad to finally get to it myself. The concept of a reworked Cinderella story was incredibly intriguing, as was the unique idea of the main character falling in love with a woman, instead of a handsome prince, as our typical fairy tales go. A very refreshing concept!

Jacket description:

"Pushed into indentured servitude for her stepmother in the City to pay off her father's debts, Ash is consumed with grief. She misses her family and her happy life at the edge of the Wood where old magic used to linger in the air like fairy breath. Her only joy comes from the brief, stolen walks in the woods with the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean. Ash's single, unspoken hope is that someday he might steal her away, as fairies are said to do.

But on the day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, from Kaisa she learns the art of the hunt, how to ride and track. Their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, but it grows and changes, and with it, Ash reawakens her capacity for love-and her desire to live."

Though I really loved the Ash/Kaisa dynamic, the rest of the plot fell short for me. I felt the storyline moved very slowly and the intertwining of the fairy world/Sidhean dilemma, with the real world/Kaisa dilemma, was almost too much for this one book. I could see almost two plots, rather than one, though only featuring a single main character.

Ash, was a powerful character, first in grief, then in determination to live and be happy and Kaisa was incredibly refreshing as a character. Melinda Lo definitely pulled me in with her characters, I just wasn't feeling the overall story.

Love, love, love the cover! The story will appeal to fantasy fans and those enjoying fairy tales and the like.

Thank you to Little, Brown for the review copy :)

Ash
Malinda Lo
272 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
9780316040099
September 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A reader's meme...thanks Susan!

Memes are fun. Just admit it already! Some of you don't do any, some of you do a whole bunch...I like to think I fall middle of the road, only participating once in awhile, but enough that you're able to learn a bit more about me than you typically would in an every day post.

I saw this over at one of my favorite blogs, Bloggin' 'bout Books, where Susan also "borrowed" it from someone. Enjoy! Feel free to steal it or not, but if you do, leave me a comment, I would love to read your answers!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
I don't really have a preference between hardback or trade paperback. I like both equally. Mass market however, I do everything I can to stay away from. They are too chunky for my small hands, the print is a bit too small for my liking, and cosmetically, I just don't think they are quite as pretty as their larger counterparts.

Waterstones, Borders or Amazon?
I'm not aware of Waterstones, so that one isn't a contender here! To purchase books, I must admit I probably buy more from Amazon than anywhere else. I like that I can buy used if I want, helping to lower the price a bit. When I do go to an actual bookstore, it's usually Borders, because I get coupons emailed to me. I would LOVE to support physical indie bookstores, but having just moved here (and only having Google as my guide), I've only found one measly bookstore in a 30 mile radius. Have you ever sat in 30 miles of D.C. traffic? Enough said.

My favorite store for browsing is Barnes & Noble, because it's closest to my house. I spend probably an afternoon or two a month just browsing the new shelves, not actually buying.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Well just because I'm not currently working doesn't mean I'm not still a librarian. No dog-eared pages in this house! I do, unfortunately, fall victim to the desire to put my book down, open-faced to my spot and leave it hanging. I know...that's terrible too, but I do it.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?
It depends. If it's brand new and I really want it, probably a good, old fashioned store. If it's something that I can wait for, I want used, or want to wait for it to go down in price, Amazon.

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
I'm not exactly random, but I don't alphabetize. If I have multiple books by the same author, they're grouped together. Other than that, I attempt to keep most of my shelves cosmetically pleasing too, so whatever looks good.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
For as many books as I read, I don't own a whole lot. Blame it on moving around so much, I just don't want to carry boxes of books anymore! I keep what I really enjoy, what I think just may be an award winner, or something I think my future children just have to read. I donate hundreds of books a year to various organizations, give away most of my ARCs, and NEVER throw books away. If I really, really didn't like it, the book goes in the Goodwill pile. Someone might enjoy it.

Keep dust jacket or toss it? I keep all my dust jackets (I never knew people threw them out!), but I don't always keep it on when I'm reading it. I carry books in my purse, in the car, in bookbags, etc. and I like to keep the jacket looking nice, so I usually remove it until I'm done.

Short story or novel? I'm typically not a fan of short stories.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Harry Potter is definitely the winner of those two, though I do really love the Lemony Snicket books. Snarky, witty, super-fun to listen to on audiobook...I enjoy them quite a bit.

Buy or borrow? Both. I buy what I know I'm going to keep. If I'm adding to a certain series or have previously really loved an author's work, I'll purchase books unread. Other than that, the books are always purchased after I've read and loved them.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse? I always know what I'm buying before I go into a store. Well 99% of the time. Being currently unemployed (thank you, recession), money goes elsewhere, unless it's a book I just need. Like Catching Fire or Dan Brown's latest for the hubby.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger? I don't mind cliffhangers, though I do make sure I reread the first book before the next comes out. Tidy endings are great too.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
I read whenever I have a chance. Typically, most of my reading is done in evening and at night, because I'm done with the daily stuff around the house/dinner/etc. I sneak chapters in throughout the day, but don't usually sit and read until after dinner. I do read while in waiting rooms, in the car, anywhere I can or have time for.

Stand-alone or series? I guess both. I love following a character as he or she grows and the story develops, but some books just don't fit the "series" mold.

Favorite series? Well, we've established that I love Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket. I also really love the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan..and yes...that vampire series.

Favorite children’s book?
I don't think I can answer that with just one. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett is one. A Little Princess by Frances Hodson Burnett. Matilda by Roald Dahl. The Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish.

Favorite YA book?
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Favorite books read last year?
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend, Thaw by Monica Roe.

Favorite books of all time?
The Bible, The Book Thief, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?
Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Andrew Clements books. Or the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Favorite book to re-read?
I don't reread a whole lot, though I always enjoy Jodi Picoult the second time around. I reread the Bible, and lots of Mo Willems :)

Do you ever smell books?
I LOVE book smell!

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?
Not unless they're in book form.

What are you reading right now?
Working my way slowly (on purpose) through Catching Fire. Just started Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix. My adult book of choice at the moment is The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. And I'm in Daniel of the Bible.

What are you reading next?
I seriously have about 100 ARCs I need to get to. Probably The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carmen, and Snap by Carol Snow. Definitely subject to change.


I would love to know what you're reading!

Family Reminders review

Have a reader just starting out on chapter books? Want a nice, wholesome family read aloud? Family Reminders, written by Julie Danneberg, is a very simple book, short in length, but big on characterization. Some illustrations, done by John Shelley, accompany the text and allow for an easy transition for readers between picture books and easy readers, to a true chapter book.

Jacket description:

"Mary McHugh has a nearly perfect life in the frontier town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, but all that changes when her father suffers a serious mining accident. He no longer whistles, plays the piano, or carves the intricate wooden 'Reminders' that mark the milestones in the family's life together. Mostly he sits in silence at the kitchen table or sleeps.

As winter's chill gives way to spring's thaw, Mary tries to remind her family of how much they have to live for-namely, each other."


I really think this is a great transitional book for kids, both in format and in content. Mary is a sweet girl, a good child, and when her world comes crashing down it is obvious she is in pain, but the author has managed to exhibit those emotions, without traumatizing her young readers. Everything eventually ends up "happily ever after," which readers of this age group often still need.

The cover, does not do the little book justice at all. Though I understand it's a book set in an "old fashioned" era and one of the main plot points features wood carvings by Mary's father, the cover did not need to be done in boring beige and brown. It has no life and I can't see a child picking this one up off the bookstore shelf when the book next to it is probably bold and bright.

Other than that, very enjoyable!

To learn more, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Thanks to Charlesbridge for the review copy :)

Family Reminders
Julie Danneberg
112 pages
Elementary
Charlesbridge Publishing
9781580893206
July 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week...my favorite blogs


Book Blogger Appreciation Week is finally here and though I was not shortlisted for any specific category, I was nominated in three! Thank you to all that thought of this teeny little blog when asked to name your favorite...it means a whole lot :)

In honor of the first day of BBAW, we've been asked to name the blogs that really mean something to us or that stand out in our minds when we think of favorites. I have a bunch that instantly come to mind, but I'll keep it short and sweet and just name the ones I read/follow/talk about on a daily basis.

Abby (the) Librarian: Abby blogs mainly about children's and YA books, but also on daily occurrences in the life of a Children's Librarian. I love her review style, the fact that we have very similar taste in books, and we share a profession :)

Charlotte's Library: Charlotte jumps deep into the fantasy/sci fi world and always brings new titles to my TBR pile. She's a lovely person and was at the helm of the bookplate project to honor my son last year. I love the blog and the blogger is pretty darn great too!

Becky's Book Reviews: Becky has been SO helpful in my blogging journey, always answering questions about formatting/adding goodies to sidebars, as well as having an awesome review blog. We definitely share similar tastes, but have disagreed on some biggies (Looking for Alaska and Jellicoe Road come to mind :), leading to some fabulous discussions. She adds to my TBR pile several times a week, if not more!

A Fuse #8 Production: Betsy Bird is one of the most hilarious women on this planet. And she's a librarian. And she blogs about books. And did I mention she's hilarious? Every day she has something snarky and witty to say about the book world, often resulting in my poor husband having to read something he totally doesn't care about, but I just HAVE to share with someone. If you are living in a hole and haven't seen her blog, check it out!

MotherReader: Another blog that's a must read, if you aren't already. She hosts amazing events, is always super informative, has a very likable manner of writing, and links to a lot of fantastic booky stuff.

Before I leave you for the evening, I have to plug a great new blog that's on our scene and may just become a favorite for next year's BBAW. A good friend of mine and former colleague (darn the Air Force for making me move!) has started a book review blog, in which the turtles of the Children's Room are actually doing the "reviewing," with a smattering of patron and staff reviews thrown in as well. Witty, fun to read, and a whole lot of unique, go say hi to Ami and support the new blog!

Non-Fiction Monday: Peculiar Pets

As you've read many times before on this blog, I am a huge fan of Bearport Publishing and their offerings with non-fiction for kids. The books are incredibly sturdy, easily able to withstand the not-so-forgiving hands of children, and the content is informative, fun, and also bright and colorful. They have some great new offerings this season (which I'll be featuring throughout the fall), but I think my favorite new series is "Peculiar Pets."

I've only actually looked at two out of the four titles in the series, however I can't help but believe they are all just as fabulous as these two. Furry Ferrets, written by Natalie Lunis, introduces kids to the world of being the proud owner of a ferret, complete with the sounds they make, why they may smell, and what their daily activities typically are.

Fact bubbles and boxes on each page give tips to kids about how to best train their ferrets, what to feed them, or what toys they may like. Up close, bold photographs allow the reader to really see what is being written about, helping to decide whether or not a ferret may be the right pet for them.

In the last few years, I think ferrets are becoming less of a "peculiar pet" and more of a popular pet. My husband worked part-time in a friend's exotic pet store until we moved out of state a couple of months ago and he says ferret sales were right up there with snakes and lizards. Not a pet I personally would like to have (I prefer the 60lb dog variety), but I know kids and adults alike love these furry creatures!

Potbellied Pigs, also written by Natalie Lunis, uses the same format as Furry Ferrets with the text, bolded vocab words, and facts boxes/bubbles, focusing on a pet I WOULD love to have, the potbellied pig! I would definitely rank this adorable snouted, animal in the "peculiar" category, as they certainly aren't very common, so if you're looking for a peculiar pet, check out these guys!

There care and mannerisms appear to be quite similar to a dogs, as the book describes the pigs as very easy to train, loyal companions (and they wag their tales when they're happy!). Tips are given to readers as to how to best care for pigs in terms of diet and what they need if they are going to be spending time outside.

Other books in this cool series include Green Iguanas and Miniature Horses. Be sure to check those out too! And if you're going to order these two for your library shelves, order the whole series, I'm sure you'lll have a hard time keeping them on your shelves!

The targeted age for these books is elementary school children, however I think younger children would enjoy looking at the photographs and the material could be useful for older children looking at getting a pet. The information level and writing is best appropriate for elementary schoolers.

Furry Ferrets and Potbellied Pigs
24 pages each
Natalie Lunis
Non-Fiction
Bearport Publishing
9781597168601, 9781597168625
August 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

After a week off to spend with my lovely family, Picture Book Saturday is back! Enjoy the goodies from this week folks!

Though not out until November, The Steel Pan Man of Harlem, written and illustrated by Colin Bootman, is a must have for your order cards this fall.

A fabulous retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Bootman takes the famous story and plops it town into the Harlem Renaissance, complete with rats, an instrument playing magic man, and a no-good mayor out to get something for nothing.

I love when authors retell famous stories, as it gives a whole new spin on something very familiar from childhood. With this particular story, readers get the beauty and magic of the Harlem Renaissance mixed with a bit of mystery and magic of the Steel Pan Man.

The illustrations are beautiful and the author's note at the end of the story is a very nice personal touch. Great to have on library and home shelves. Awesome for a project on fairy tales or as a backdrop for a unit on the Harlem Renaissance.

The Steel Pan Man of Harlem
Colin Bootman
32 pages
Picture Book
Carolrhoda Books
9780822590262
November 2009


If you're wishing for a wonderfully old fashioned treat, Pennies for Elephants, written and illustrated by Lita Judge, is the perfect title for your family. Even the cover has an old-timey look and with a simple, yet sweet, story based on true events inside the pages, it's a great one to share with the family.

The children of Boston take up a fund to raise $6,000 to purchase three trained elephants for their zoo. The kids contribute every penny they earn, from 2 cents to over a dollar, eventually convincing the entire town to get involved in the drive. $6,000 is a whole lot of money in 1914, but all the children work together and manage to reach their goal.

With a great inspirational message, Pennies for Elephants is one to share with your young toddlers up to middle schoolers. Use during a unit on life in America during the early 20th century!

Pennies for Elephants
Lita Judge
40 pages
Picture Book
Hyperion
9781423113904
June 2009


\My super silly choice for this week is written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, the collaborators on my all time FAVORITE children's book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. In their latest piece of work, The Marshmallow Incident, food takes front and center once again, with equally silly results.

The town of Left and Right is separated right down the middle by a yellow dotted line, thoughy why, nobody knows. When an unlucky citizen crosses the line one day, the guard is instructed to take action....with marshmallows! 50,000 boxes of marshmallows in fact! What follows is incredibly silly, overly ridiculous, and a whole bunch of fun.

I love Ron Barrett's simple drawings that certainly illustrate the story, but without taking away from the silliness of the story. The Marshmallow Incident will make for a great read aloud, as well all need a little "ridiculous" in our lives sometimes!

The Marshmallow Incident
Judi Barrett
40 pages
Picture Book
Scholastic Press
9780545046534
August 2009

Finally, from one of my favorite publishing companies, Sylvan Dell, we have Moose and Magpie, written by Bettina Restrepo and illustrated by Sherry Rogers. I love the unique blend of fact and fiction that they effortlessly put out in each book they publish.

In this one, we have Moose and Magpie, two friends that love to be silly. Magpie is always telling Moose jokes, which though silly, elicit a fact about either moose or magpies at the bottom of the page. Your kiddos aren't only getting a cute story about the friendship between two species, but they're getting to learn on every single page.

The last few pages of the book include different activities to help young ones continue learning about the moose and the magpie, as well as more fun facts, and a "Moose Life Cycle" page. Another hit for Sylvan Dell!

Moose and Magpie
Bettina Restrepo
32 pages
Picture Book
Sylvan Dell
9781607180425
June 2009

All books were review copies from the publishers. Thanks to you all :)

To learn more about any of these books, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z (mg review)

Though only her first book, Kate Messner has a very obvious knack for reaching middle grade readers with great characters, a plot they can relate to, and a really fun project that is enjoyable to read about, but probably even more fun to do!

Publisher's Description:

"Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project—or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy, as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important."

What a charming, lovely little book for middle graders. I found myself learning a whole lot about different species of trees (like the fact that the evil black walnut tree in my backyard not only drops ugly walnut balls on the ground, but it's also toxic to any other plant around it), while enjoying a sweet story about family, friendship, and responsibility.

Gianna is expected to take responsibility of her schoolwork if she wants to compete in cross country at school, however, she doesn't understand why her mom won't take responsibility for her grandmother, a woman obviously starting to lose her memory and become a danger to herself. A great lesson for readers AND their parents, as we all need to take a look at our priorities and responsibilities at times and reevaluate what is really important.

The character of Gianna was very realistic and likable, as was her best friend Zig. She was a bit out-of-the-box, which I really enjoyed. The leaf project seems like a fabulous assignment for school, so teachers, pair up this book with a project based on Gianna's leaf project! I learned a lot, I'm sure kids are going to learn a lot as they read this one too.

To learn more, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Thanks to Walker Young Readers for the review copy :)

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
Kate Messner
208 pages
Middle Grade
Walker Books for Young Readers
9780802798428
September 2009