Showing posts from October, 2011

Mouse and Mole: A Perfect Halloween, written and illustrated by Herbert Wong Yee

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole by Herbert Wong Yee was one of the first books I reviewed when I started my blog in the fall of 2008. I am so happy to be able to review the sixth book in this series, Mouse and Mole, A Perfect Halloween
Opposites make for great pairs in early readers. Something that endeared me immediately to Yee's books was the dedication to"Friends of Frog and Toad" that appeared in Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole. Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories, along with many other books by Lobel, were a memorable part of my childhood reading and perhaps because of that mismatched pairs always resonate with me. But, beyond that, odd couples are great for some under-the-radar lessons about how to be - or not to be. With Mouse and Mole, A Perfect Halloween Yee goes meta and includes a story within his story that gently teaches the reader and Mole not to be so frightened by the spooky nature of the season.
Chapters "A Skeleton in the Closet," "…

Darkfall (The Healing Wars: Book III) written by Janice Hardy, 432 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

With DarkfallJanice Hardy brings to a close her amazing trilogy, The Healing Wars, which began with The Shifter and continued with Blue Fire. As always, the superb cover art is by the James Brown of kid's book cover illustration, Brandon Dorman. For an interesting look behind the scenes of how a cover is created, as well as incredible instruction and advice on writing a novel, check out Janice's blog, The Other Side of the Story.
With Darkfall Hardy delivers on the promise of the trilogy title, The Healing Wars. Jeatar and his Underground movement have been discovered by the usurping Duke of Baseer and forced to move from the capital of Baseer to a hidden farm in the countryside, which also means that Nya is forced to move farther away from the Undying (a hideous, unstoppable soldier created by the Duke) training camp that she believes Tali has been sent to. As Nya slowly moves forward without her sister, sometimes with the uninvited help of Danello, Aylin, Quenji and his gang,…

A Challenge From Picture Book Illustrator and Author Matthew Cordell to REAWAKEN YOUR LOVE FOR THE PICTURE BOOK

First a Proclamationand now a Challenge. It's been an exciting week for picture books.
Matthew Cordell, author and illustrator of one of my all time favorite picture books (click title for my review ofTrouble Gum) has written an eloquent, impassioned plea to the buyers and readers of picture books which he has generously allowed me to reprint here. It can also be read directly on his blog, which you should visit anyway for sneak peeks at his latest projects.
Why all the hubbub about picture books? If you read around the blogosphere or the New York Times, you might have noticed some hoopla surrounding the supposed demise of the picture book as a staple of childhood. And you may have also noticed stories (like a response at Publishers Weekly) trumpeting the opposite. As a longtime children's bookseller, I have noticed a drop in sales of picture books and the corresponding reaction by the bookstore I work for. The direct results of this have been a reduction in the number of titles…

Speaking of Mac Barnett (and Adam Rex...)

So, while reading the blog of one of my favorite author/illustrators, Adam Rex, creator of The True Meaning of Smekday, Fat VampireBilly Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, written by Barnett, Psst!, Tree Ring Circus and, of course, Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, I discovered that he has finished a new novel! COLD CEREAL is due out in February, 2012. On his blog he discussed the cover art and how students in a workshop he was teaching helped him to tighten it up.

He also shared some character sketches from the book. I can't wait to dig into it!!

Almost as exciting as a new novel from Adam Rex is the news that he is illustrating a picture book written by Neil Gaiman!!! Click here to read Gaiman's explanation of the subject matter for this book, which boils down to a blatant attempt to create something that the Chinese will not find too offensive to publish in China. Apparently his other children's picture books are too disrespectful of authority for the Chinese.

Gaiman deci…


Thanks to Travis at 100 Scope Notes by way of the fabulous picture book (and chapter book!) author Mac Barnett for calling this PROCLAMATION! to my attention. To view in a larger, more readable form, go to: Thank you to all the amazing authors and illustrators for stating your intentions and purpose so succinctly and to Carson Ellis for the elegant artwork.

(you can also "like" this on facebook here if you are into that sort of thing)

Blue Fire (The Healing Wars: Book II) written by Janice Hardy, 373 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

One of the (very few) downsides to writing this blog is feeling like I don't have the time to read more than the first in a trilogy or series of books. Tunnels series by Roderick Gordon and ND Wilson's 100 Cupboards trilogy are among the few I have taken the time to continue reading and reviewing. Add to that short list, Janice Hardy'sHealing Wars Trilogy. Book One, The Shifter, caught my eye earlier this year when I saw it on the shortlist for the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and I am thrilled that book three, Darkfall, is out now. But first, book two, Blue Fire.
In The Shifter we met narrator Nya de'Analov, a fifteen year old orphan, and learned about the hostile occupation of her homeland, Geveg. We also learned that Nya is a Healer, like her younger sister Tali and her mother and grandmother before her, but that, unlike these Takers, Nya cannot take the pain from an injured or sick person and dump it into the enchanted blue metal, pynvium. Instead, she…

Karma, written by Cathy Ostlere, 528 pp, RL: TEEN

I first heard ofCathy Ostlere'snovel Karma while listening to children's and YA author Julianna Baggott's piece on NPR Hooray for YA: Teen Novels For Readers of All Ages. I have long loved books set in India, for children, teens or adults, so I was immediately intrigued by Baggott's description of this book. I was especially intrigued by the fact that the book was set in 1984 and not the more common setting of the 19th and18th centuries when India was under British rule. Although I was daunted by the page count of the novel, the fact that it is a novel in verse and completely compelling meant that I was able to read it at twice the speed I might have, which is great because it was very hard to put down.
Before reading Karma I knew nothing about the the assassination of the prime minister, Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh body guards in retaliation for her decision to use the military to remove Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in Amristar, Punjab, or the riots and…

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 336 pp, RL 4

The word PRINCESS doesn't mean what it used to and I want to reclaim the meaning of this word from the pink swathed, tiara wearing, big eyed, marketing manufactured princesses now captivating the minds of most little girls under the age of eight. For a more astute, journalistic (but totally entertaining) exploration of this phenomena, I suggest Peggy Orenstein's most recent book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Otherwise, hang in there with me while I convince you to read (or have your daughter read) A Little Princess and join me on my crusade. When I began tapping away at my keyboard I did not intend to write a polemic against the ultra-feminization of little girls and the hijacking of the word princess (I'm looking at you, Disney), but as I mulled over A Little Princess, a book that had been a childhood favorite of mine, and thought about why I loved it then, what I love about it now and why some parents might not…