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Showing posts from May, 2014

About Average, by Andrew Clements, 128 pp, RL 4

ABOUT AVERAGE is now in paperback!


Andrew Clementsis a prolific author of the bestselling (as in, 2.5 million) story about a boy who makes up a new word, Frindle. Published in 1996, Frindle is often part of the fourth and/or fifth grade curriculum at many elementary schools. In fact, Clements, who began his career as a teacher, sets almost all of his books (excluding the "Things" trilogy, which are for slightly older readers) squarely in school. Even his new mystery-adventure series Keepers of the School series, while a change in genre, is set in a school. And, coincidentally, the only other Clements book I have read is his novel titled The School Story, which is about a girl who writes a school story titled, "The Cheater." I loved The School Story and have no idea why it has taken me this long to read more of Clements's books because he truly is a phenomenal writer, gifted at thinking like a kid and expressing those thoughts on the page, while also crafting lay…

Closed for the Season byMary Downing Hahn, 182 pp, RL: Middle Grade

Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn, best known for her ghost stories, is a fantastic (and rare) mystery for young readers. Winner of the Edgar Award for juvenile mystery in 2010, Hahn maps out a realistic mystery that could (for the most part) believably be solved by kids, making for an exciting read. The foundation of Hahn's mystery is the friendship that grows by fits and starts over the course of the story between main character Logan Forbes and his new neighbor, the odd, outcast verbivore, Arthur Jenkins.
Closed for the Season begins with the Forbes family driving to their new home in Bealesville, VA,  where his father has taken a job as an art teacher. After the long, sweaty ride, to say that thirteen-year-old Logan is disappointed by the run-down, overgrown house that will be his new home is a huge understatement. On top of that, his new neighbor is Arthur Jenkins, a boy who seems to be lacking in any and all social skills, walking right into the Forbes house and eati…

The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn, 128 pp, RL 3

The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn is a great book for a young reader who is looking for a good ghost story but needs a gentle start. The ghosts in this story are not malevolent, although there is a very cranky, mean old lady who hates cats. Approximately the same reading level as a Goosebumps book, Hahn's story offers a genuine ghost story without the creepy-quasi-horror plot line that Stine employs.
The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story is narrated by almost eleven-year-old Ashley Cummings. After the death of her father, Ashley, her cat Oscar and her mother move to Monkton Hills where they rent an apartment on the top floor of the house owned by Miss Cooper, the crotchety old lady. After harassing Ashley about her cat, telling her what part of the yard she is and isn't allowed to enter, and asking her age, she says, "I'm eighty-eight, and I know what girls your age are like. Don't think you can get away with anything just because I'm o…

Farewell to Shady Glade by Bill Peet

The picture books of Bill Peetwere a big part of my childhood. To learn more about Peet and his long career (including working at Disney Studios as a story editor during the heyday of their animated films) read my review of Bill Peet: An Autobiography, his Caldecott winning, wonderfully illustrated memoir. Today, on the birthday of Rachel Carson, the marine biologist, founder of the contemporary environmental movement and author of the book that started it all in 1963, Silent Spring, it seemed like a good time to review Farewell to Shady Glade. Published in 1966, Peet dedicated this book to Rachel Carson, writing, "To Rachel Carson, with the hope that the new generation will carry on her all-important work toward preserving what is left of our natural world."

Farewell to Shady Glade begins, "Shady Glade was a towering sycamore and a cluster of willows and cottonwoods along the bakns of a winding creek." Shady Glade is also home to hundred of birds in the spring and …

Wait til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, 184 pp, RL 4

I have long known (from personal and professional experience) that somewhere around fourth grade, readers get a serious taste for spooky stories. Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories Trilogy, the first of which was published in 1981, is perennially popular with all readers and just received a cover update by the inimitable Brett Helquist, although I do miss Stephen Gammell's original, creepy covers. Schwartz's stories aside, it seems that mostly girls become very interested in ghost stories while boys tend to prefer R.L. Stine's tame horror stories. Recent work as a substitute librarian in elementary and middle schools has reminded me of Mary Downing Hahn. While not quite as prolific as R.L. Stine, Hahn has written a handful of ghost stories (as well as mysteries and historical fiction) that have serious staying power on the shelves and are still being devoured almost 30 years after being published. Interestingly enough, ghost stories seem to be a genre that not many kid…

Oddfellow's Orphanage written and illustrated by Emily WInfield Martin, 126 pp, RL 3

ODDFELLOW'S ORPHANAGEis now in paperback!

With her first book for children, Oddfellow's OrphanageEmily Winfield Martin combines her many talents and uncommon vision to create a book that I would have adored as a child. Martin's first book, The Black Apple's Paper Doll Primer, caught my eye one day last year while I was shelving in the craft section and I was entranced. Martin doesn't just draw and paint, she fabricates a complete world for her creations, be they human, animal or other. That a children's book should emerge from her teemingly creative imagination is no surprise at all. For those of you who are Etsy fans, you may already know Martin and her Official Black Apple Shoppe. In fact, as I learned in this article, editor Mallory Loehr, admitted Etsy enthusiast, was so taken by Martin's works and the descriptive blurbs that came with every piece of her art that she began communicating with Martin and as, as Loehr says, "Emily agreed to work wit…