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Showing posts from January, 2013

On the Day I Died:Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming, 199 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave is the newest book from the multitalented (and multi-awardwinning) Candace Fleming with cool over art by Jeremy Holmes.  I am so excited by this book and hope that it heralds more to come. I loved a good ghost story when I was a kid, which was also a time when things of a scary and gruesome nature were not commonplace in the media unlike today. The stories I remember weren't gory and nothing my parents (who would not let me see The Amityville Horror when I was ten but did allow me to see Poltergeist three years later, much to my delight) would object to. These days, with so many violently graphic movies and video games on the market I think it's a true challenge to write a ghost story for young readers that is not explicit yet satisfying, which is exactly what Fleming does with On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave. I also think that most kids have a healthy interest in the supernatural, whether it exists or not, and like to be a l…

Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby, 256 pp, RL 5

** January 23, 2013: A report from a National Institute of Health council unanimously recommended that almost ALL of the 451 chimpanzees currently housed at their facilities for the purposes of research and testing be retired, as reported by James Gorman in the New York Timesyesterday. Sadly, the N.I.H does not have the funds to retire some 400 of the chimps OR enact the changes to the environment of the chimps kept for testing purposes as recommended by the report. In light of this, it seemed like a good time to re-post my review of Ginny Rorby's phenomenal book, first published in 2006. **

I have owned Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby for almost four years now and have pulled it off the shelf to read many time but, knowing it would be (for me) a very tough read, I never started it. Then I read Katherine Applegate'sThe One and Only Ivan, the slightly fictionalized story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who was raised like a human child until he became too big. He was then placed in …

Thank you SO MUCH to my anonymous gift giving family!!

A small thank you from my family for taking the time to help.Reading your Bio and your reviews has led me to realize something about you. Everyone, at one time or another either envies or admires the limelight sports figure, dancer, actor, musician or artist for making a living doing something they absolutely love. You are a Michael Jordan or Meryl Streep in your own right. Youve seemingly immersed every facet of your life from education and employment to your children and hobbies with your obvious passion for literature. Confucius said if you love what you do you will never have to work a day in your life. Im truly awed by your bliss. Thank you.


Monday I opened my email to find this wonderful, wonderful letter in my inbox (above). Along with it was a gift card for a tea shop! I absolutely love tea and am so excited to use my gift card for something really special to drink (and share with my older son, who is a tea connoisseur) but I am especially touched by your words. What you said…

The Wrap-Up List by Steve Arntson, 236 pp, RL MIDDLE SCHOOL

the wrap-up list by Steven Arntson could be added to the list of other "afterlife" or "do-over" books that are so popular in the YA genre these days (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, If I Stay by Gayle Foreman and Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin come to mind immediately) but it has so many other things going for it and going on in it that I hate to categorize it. And, despite the titular concept, this is not a "bucket list" book either. A bucket list is something that you plan and accomplish over time. A wrap-up list consists of things you want to make happen in the week before you die. In the world that sixteen-year old Gabriela Rivera lives in, one percent of the population are slated for "departure." Instead of dying from a heart attack, cancer or an accident, some people are slated to "depart" and given a week to prepare and compose a "wrap-up list" that their Death will help them accomplish to the best of his or her abilitie…

A Street Through Time, written by Dr Anne Millard and illustrated by Steve Noon

In 2004 my in-laws took our family to London for Spring break. It was an amazing trip despite my chagrin at finding books in the UK cost twice as much as books here, preventing me from bringing home suitcases full of the fantastic kid's books that are published there and not in the US. While I practiced great restraint, one of the best books that made it across the pond with us was A Street Through Time : A 12,000-Year Walk Through History by Dr Anne Millard, illustrated by Steve Noon. My history loving older son pored over this book many times over the years. I don't know why I never thought of reviewing it here before but, when I noticed my younger son, now eight - the age his big brother was when we bought this book - poring over it (in it's falling apart, much loved state) in the same way and I realized I had overlooked a real gem worth owning. 
One of the things that makes this book brilliant is the publisher - DK, the maker of the books that are responsible (along wit…

No Such Thing as Dragons, written and illustrated by Philip Reeve, 186 pp, RL 4

NO SUCH THING AS DRAGONS is now in paper back!!



Author (and illustrator!) Philip Reeve wrote No Such Thing as Dragons as an enforced break from writing the spectacular Fever Crumb, which was giving him trouble. On his blog in a post titled, The Old, Old, Storyhe shares that his main character, Ansel, was intentionally mute "since Fever Crumb getting clogged by long speeches." He tried to draw on "an echo of the first story ever told . . . the story of a small community being threatened, stalked and picked off one by one by a malevolent outside force; and the hero who eventually arises to save them." From this idea arose the story of a medieval dragon hunter who is not your typical St George and a quest that does not follow a traditional path, making it all the more suspenseful and breathtaking. Young Ansel, the hero of our story (or is he?), suffered two losses at the age of seven. His mother died and shortly thereafter his voice left him. A few years later his unf…

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, written by Jonathan Auxier, 381 pp, RL 4

PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYESis now in PAPERBACK!!


You don’t have to read far into Jonathan Auxier's debut novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes(for which he also provided the excellent chapter illustrations)to know that this is an author who has a happy and healthy relationship with classic children’s literature. In fact, the title alone reveals this. Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens and JM Barrie came to mind when I first glimpsed the title and cover art for this book on Chad W Beckerman’s blog several months ago and, upon reading I found that these impressions were not wrong. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes reads like a classic while at the same time standing out on the shelves as a book that feels new and uncommon. As I said about Cathrynne M Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, it is very hard to write a book that echoes the classics and sounds authentic, while at the same time creating a story that is filled with original char…

A Year Without Autumn, written by Liz Kessler, 294 pp, RL 5

A YEAR WITHOUT AUTUMNis now in PAPERBACK!!



Liz Kessler is the author of the very popular Emily Windsnap series of books about a twelve year old girl who lives on a boat with her mother. When Emily takes swimming lessons she discovers she is half-mermaid and her legs turn into a tail when she is underwater. Kessler is also three books into her Philippa Fisher series in which an eleven year old girl who's life is pretty miserable and gets worse for a time when she is sent a god-mother in training who has an attitude problem. Based on this, you might think that Kessler's newest book, A Year Without Autumn, about a quiet, order loving girl who takes a rickety old elevator to her friend's house and finds herself a year to the day in the future might be a playful comedy of errors as Jenni tries to figure out what has happened. And it easily and enjoyably could have been that book, much like Wendy Mass's wonderful Eleven Birthdays. However, Kessler makes a bold choice and choo…

Daisy Dawson at the Beach, written by Steve Voake, illustrated by Jessica Messerve, 89 pp, RL 2

DAISY DAWSON AT THE BEACHis now in PAPERBACK!

Steve Voake and Jessica Messerve's intrepid friend and interpreter of animals, Daisy Dawson, is back and this time she's on vacation! Daisy Dawson at the Beach begins with Daisy saying goodbye to her friends and fellow adventurers, classroom gerbils, Burble and Furball. As she walks home she says her farewells to her other friends as well, trying hard to explain to squirrels Hazel and Conker exactly what the seashore is.
Before she can even pack her suitcase, Daisy wakes up to find a little sparrow on her windowsill, coughing, a larger sparrow patting him on the back with his wing. Turns out the little fellow has a piece of toast stuck in his throat. Daisy knows just how to take care of that! She runs downstairs and returns with a bit of orange soda. The fizz makes Harry a little bonkers at first, but as he happily flaps around he tells her that it's all clear - "Throat clear, eyes clear, head clear. And my beak's all …

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West, illustrated by Poly Bernatene, 241 pp, RL 4

THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE : THE SHADOWS  is now in PAPERBACK!
Congratulations to Jacqueline West, author of the  2010 Winner of the CYBILS award for  Best Fantasy and Science Fiction for Middle Grades!


At first, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, written by Jacqueline Westand illustrated by Argentinian born Poly Bernateneseems like something like something you might have already read.  Olive Dunwoody is an eleven year old outsider, both in her home and at school. Her parents are "a pair of more than slightly dippy mathematicians" (West has her characters make some very funny math jokes  and they are so in love they are reminiscent of Gomez and Morticia Addams at times) and Olive clearly has not inherited their gifts in the world of numbers. While they are disappointed, they are loving and try their best to understand their child, seeing her as "some kind of genetic aberration - they talked to her patiently, as if she were a foreign exchange from a country no one had ever hea…