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Showing posts from March, 2014

The Notebook of Doom: Subject - Chomp of the Meat-Eating Vegetables by Troy Cummings, 90 pp, RL 2

The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings is part of a new line of books (seven series and counting) from Scholastic called Branches that has been selling like hotcakes at the bookstore where I work. The books in the Branches imprint are exactly what I have been looking for all these years of helping customers and my own children make that leap from leveled readers to chapter books. Now, with the Branches books, this developmental step doesn't have to be a leap.   As their mission statement reads, the goal of the Branches books is to nurture independent readers by "bridging the gap between leveled readers and traditional chapter books." Having read a book in each of the new series, I can guarantee you that they are definitely bridging this gap.
The Notebook of Doom is the perfect mix of silly and scary (one review of this series used the word "horrorlarity") that kids at this age seem to love. When Alexander Bopp, son of a dentist, moves with his dad to the town of …

Breathe by Scott Magoon

I have been a fan of Scott Magoon's illustrations for several years now and I was excited by the title of his newest book, Breathe, and especially by the fact that he is both author and illustrator. When I finally had the book in my hands I had to take a moment to breathe myself. Breathe has to be the loveliest, most peaceful, beautiful, quiet book I have read in quite a while. It is also a bit of a change in illustration style for Magoon, which is exciting. Breathe introduces a more painterly style that blends wonderfully with the setting of Breathe and  his playful characters.
What I love most about Breathe, beyond the enchanting illustrations of the crisp Arctic landscape and the captivating baby beluga whale (a nod to Raffi and his Baby Beluga here, a sweet song and picture book that all three of my kids and I enjoyed) is the fact that the very act of reading this book automatically causes us to notice our own breath and maybe take deeper breaths and slow down and relax and be …

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff, 430 pp, RL TEEN

The Undertaking of Lily Chen is the newest graphic novel from Danica Novgorodoff, artist, writer, graphic designer, horse wrangler and marathon runner. While The Undertaking of Lily Chen is visually stunning, the brief excerpt from an article in TheEconomist from 2007 that inspired this book is equally stunning. The article detailed "ghost marriages," a strange custom started in the year 208 AD by the warlord Cao Cao, reappearing in rural China that was also accounting for a burgeoning market in female corpses. If a man died unmarried, sometimes his parents would procure the body of a woman, hold a "wedding," then bury the couple together so that the man would not have to go alone into the afterlife. While marriage brokers were most often called on to find corpse brides, hospital mortuaries, funeral parlors, body snatchers and murderers were also hired...


The Undertaking of Lily Chen begins with a prologue set on a military base in China with a fight between Deshi, …

Zoom! Zoom! Sounds of Things That Go in the City by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Tad Carpenter

Zoom! Zoom! Sounds of Things That Go in the City is the newest book from the prolific children's book author Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Tad Carpenter, acclaimed illustrator and designer and lover of Kansas City, MO. I'm sure that there are more cars and trucks and things that go picture books out there than I know of, but I feel like there is always room on the shelf for one more, especially a good one that captures exactly what little listeners are looking for in a book of this nature - action and onomatopoetic text, rhyming optional. And, of course, awesomely frenetic, colorful illustrations packed with details. I'm happy to report that Burleigh and Carpenter deliver on all fronts.

Burleigh's rhyming story takes the reader from sunrise to sunset. Joggers, garbage trucks and "Hustle Bustle Rush-Rush-Rush" gets the city going. There is a time of day for every activity going on in the city, with work time following wake-up and traffic picking up.

Lunch time…

Chickenhare by Chris Grine, 157 pp, RL 3

Chickenhareby Chris Grinewas published by Scholastic's Graphix imprint in 2013. It was originally published, in black and white, by Dark Horse Comics in 2006, with Book 2, Fire in the Hole, which you can preview here, coming out in 2008. A third book, Fish & Grymps, was planned but never published.  I'm pretty sure I would have instantly loved Chickenharein its original form, but the new color edition is FANTASTIC!! Grine's characters are very original but also feel like old friends. I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite, but think that the ghost of Mr. Buttons would probably be at the top of my list, with Banjo close behind. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...
When we first meet our hero, he and his best friend Abe, a rare bearded turtle, are chained to the back of Barley, trudging through the snow. Out to make a buck, Barley is hoping to sell them to an extremely eccentric, exotic animal collector. Chickenhare and Abe don't seem to distressed and even ma…

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by James Kochalka, 110 pp, RL 1.5

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is the newest graphic novel for kids from the multi-talented James Kochalka. I reviewed Kolchalka's Dragon Puncher a couple of years ago when my youngest son was on the verge of being reading to move up from leveled readers but not ready for chapter books. We filled the gap, and had a really great time, reading graphic novels, most of which were TOON BOOKS. Kochalka's Dragon Puncher books were a great visit to the land of Absurdia. With The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, Kochalka is back in fine form. And, what I love most about is books is that, just when it seems like the story is about to go off the deep end, Kochalka has a way of reigning it back in and wrapping things up quite nicely.


The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza will have a lot of familiar elements for young readers, starting with Super Backpack, a talking, battery charged backpack ready for adventure. The Glorkian Warrior, however, is more interested in his two feet...

Wh…