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Showing posts from October, 2010

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin, 215 pp, RL 4

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin, a puzzlemaster who's work is often seen in the pages of the New York Times, is a very unique book indeed.  On the surface, it's not too different from a Hardy Boys mystery, but just crack the spine and you'll see how special it is.  Berlin has included eighteen puzzles (and their solutions) within the book, weaving them into the plot in many different ways.  By my best guess, I think that a 10 year old child with a bit of experience at puzzling can work these out alone.  Younger children or those without puzzling experience will most likely need help from an adult. I know I did. The puzzles range from pattern puzzles (wrapping paper and pizza toppings) to number puzzles (1111121 - turn this sequence of numbers into a correct equation using any math symbols you like) and, of course, word puzzles.  There are word scrambles, word finds and a couple of variations on crossword puzzles.  Some of the puzzles are made up by Winst…

The Lighthouse Family Series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Preston McDaniels, 57pp RL 1.5

The Lighthouse Family series of books was among the first that I reviewed when I started my blog in August of 2008.  As much as I loved the books, I reviewed them a bit reluctantly because they weren't all in paperback at the time and it seemed as though they might go out of print, even though Cynthia Rylant (Henry and Mudge, Mr Putter and Tabby, Missing May)is the winner of multiple Newbery and Caldecott awards and honors.  However, I was THRILLED to see a copy of The Eagle show up on my cart of books to be shelved the other day and, after a quick check to make sure the series is still all in print and in paperback, I decided to re-post the review.




Cynthia Rylant's experience and skill show in her series The Lighthouse Family Series. Despite being only 57 pages, a good number of which have illustrations, often full page, Rylant creates a detailed world, rich with images and vocabulary that is also gentle and slow paced. While these books all have exciting events in them, the …

Just Had to Share This...

Thanks to Travis over at 100 Scope Notes for sharing this amazing site on his blog  - along with the possibility of a real version of Willy Wonka's "Three Course Meal Gum".  Featured on FastCoDesign, the D'Espresso coffee shop in NYC, located a block from the public library and designed by Anurag Nema and his team at nemaworkshop is an incredible, mind bending homage to its neighbor.



The floors, walls and ceilings are covered in tiles that have been printed with sepia toned photos of bookshelves at a local travel bookstore.  The walls are covered in a dark-wood herringbone pattern that looks like a typical floor covering.  And the lighting is affixed horizontally, as if it is hanging from the "ceiling" of this upended library!


Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends at Halloween written by Megan McDonald, illustrated by G Brian Karas, 48 pp, RL 1.5

Ant and Honey Bee:  A Pair of Friends at Halloween, written by Megan McDonald of Judy Moody, Stink and Sisters Club (all series) and illustrated by  G Brian Karas was originally released in 2005.  The cover has been revamped and and the title has been changed from Ant and Honey Bee:  What a Pair to better reflect the holiday theme of the story. G Brian Karas has illustrated over 90 picture books and I am sure that his work is familiar to most of you.  His illustrations are often cartoon-like but also painterly and his color palette is often quiet and warm, the perfect mix for a playful story.
Halloween is only a few hours away and Ant does not want to be a pilgrim for the third year in a row.  Ant is full of ideas and Honey Bee, content to be a pilgrim again, lets Ant spin her wheels. Ant decides that the two should be a pair of something.  Honey Bee, thinking Ant meant the fruit, suggests Ant be the stem.  




After sorting through several ideas, all of which are wonderfully illustrated,…

Half-Minute Horrors, edited by Susan Rich, 131pp. RL 4

Half-Minute Horrors, edited by Susan Rich, is a compilation of over 70 snippets of creepy, gruesome, ghoulish, spine tingling fun with a website the encourages readers to submit their scary stories. I wish I could list every contributor here, but it would take up the whole review. Authors and illustrators are all listed on the back of the jacket and in the brilliant index that lists page numbers for both authors and themes. Everything from animals, basements, beds (under and around) and betrayal to zombies, water, summer camp and siblings has an entry. Best of all, this book is published in partnership with First Book, an organization that provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy: access to books.
Besides the short stories, including Jenny Nimmo's two sentence entry, "Soup," there are poems, haikus (or "Horroku," as Katherine Applegate titles it) and cartoons. Contributing authors and illustrators …

Scream Street Series by Tommy Donbavand, illustrated by Cartoon Saloon, 116 pages

I have to confess, I probably would not have even given this series a second look if it had not been close to Halloween. But, having read the first two books in the Scream Street series, I'm glad I did. While the series name and titles of British author Tommy Donbavand's books (the first two in the series have just released in the States) sound a bit gruesome, the plots rarely are. As Donbavand says of his books, "Imagine if Stephen King had written Scooby Doo," and this definitely rings true. While the blood, fangs and rotting flesh are present but low key, the books are rich with imaginative details and humorous twists on otherwise gory subject matter. When I was a kid, horror stories were the province of adult novels, which Donbavand ended up reading as a kid in order to feed his interests. I was fascinated by ghosts and witches, but their stories made up a small fraction of the books on the shelf in my elementary school library. The great John Bellairs, aut…

Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost by Cornelia Funke, 120 pp, RL 3

Cornelia Funke is a diverse writer who began her career as a children's book illustrator and went on to write her own picture books, beginning chapter books and the best selling, epic Inkworld Trilogy as well as the very popular Dragon Rider and Thief Lord books for young readers. TheGhosthunters series represents her foray into the world of chapter books, with the specific intention of enticing boys (and girls, she notes on her website) who are reluctant readers. While RL Stine and his long running Goosebumps Series probably have the market cornered on spooky, spine tingling, suspenseful (and gross) books that might get boys to read, there is always room for more.
Approximately the same length and reading level as the Goosebumps books, the Ghosthunters series is different in tone. Whereas Goosebumps are written and marketed to come off like watered-down versions of horror movies, Ghosthunters is more along the lines of the movie Ghostbusters. Funke is intent on creating a real…

Araminta Spookie Series by Angie Sage, illustrated by jimmy Pickering, 132 pp, RL 2

Angie Sage, creator of the magnificently magical world of Septimus Heap, book 5 of which was just published, has also authored a series for younger readers. The Araminta Spookie books are perfect for the reader who wants something a little different from the usual Magic Tree House and Junie B Jones. Araminta is brilliant, brave and has a different bedroom for every day of the week! She's not afraid to turn on her Fiendish Stare when necessary and she is a pro at throwing together a kit for any emergency - be it secret passage ways, ambushes, or werewolf trapping.

Araminta, or Minty as her Uncle Drac calls her, lives in Spookie House with her uncle and her Aunt Tabby (Tabitha). Her parents,who were last seen hunting vampires in Transylvania, disappeared when she was young. In My Haunted House, the first book in the series, Araminta is shocked into action when Aunt Tabby, exhausted from taking care of a big old house with a boiler that keeps breaking down, declares that she is pu…

Halloween Picture Books

Holiday themed picture books that I am happy to read at story time (at the bookstore or in my own home) are rare. However, these are a few Halloween picture books that I never get tired of reading!


I don't know how I forgot Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler in my list of books last year.  I read it every October at story time and every year my appreciation of Donaldson's masterful rhymes grows.  A witch out for a spin with her cat keeps losing things - her hat, her bow, her wand - and animals help her to find them then hop on the broom for a ride.  The broom finally breaks sending them crashing to the ground except for the witch, who falls into the clutches of a hungry dragon.  The animals band together the rescue her and she rewards them with their own seats on a really cool, new broom.  This book is great anytime of the year!  Don't miss Julia Donaldson's other excellent books, especially The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child,…