Showing posts from August, 2014

Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 352 pp, RL: TEEN

Unwind is the first book in the Unwind Dystology by Neal ShustermanUnwindwas published in 2007, fourteen years after the thought provoking, conversation starting Newbery winner, The Giver and one year before the book that made "dystopian" a household word, The Hunger Games. I was a bookseller when The Hunger Games was published and my fellow booksellers and I avidly passed around the advance reader copy we got then struggled to explain the book - and convey how amazing it was despite the disturbing plot - to customers once it was released. In terms of thought provoking and disturbing plots, Unwindhas The Giver andThe Hunger Games beat. Once the three main characters of the book are on the run together, Unwindunfolds at a fast pace with Shusterman revealing more and more horrifically logical elements of the dystopian world he has masterfully created.
In The Giver, a purportedly utopian community relinquishes literature, music, art and the ability to see color while also comm…

Dog Days of School by Kelly di Pucchio, illustrated by Brian Biggs

Dog Days of School is a very funny flip-flop-school-story written by Kelly DiPucchio and  illustrated by Brian Biggs. Charlie does not like going to school and is tired of everything about it. In fact, Charlie is "tired of being tired." Norman, Charlie's dog, seems like he has it all - a soft bed to sleep on and nothing to do. As he falls asleep in Sunday night, Charlie wishes he was a dog. When he wakes up the next morning, his wish has come true - Charlie is in Norman's dog bed and Norman is in Charlie's bed, being shaken awake by his mom!
Norman follows the human routine pretty well while Charlie kicks it in the dog bed, a big smile on his face. Despite a few odd looks at first, Norman fits in at school and gets the job done. At home, Charlie finds he can stare out the window watching leaves fall for hours on end and is not above a "long, cold drink . . . from the toilet."

Of course, all good things come to an end. Charlie's behavior gets him a ver…

Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex

Earlier this year in a Literary Celebrity Guest Review, Elissa Brent Weissman reviewed the charming Chu's Day, written by Neil Gaiman and brilliantly illustrated by  Adam Rex. Now, just in time for fall, Chu is back and headed to school in Chu's First Day of School!

Chu is nervous. School is starting and he worries whether the other students will like him and what will happen. His mother and father reassure him, but he is still apprehensive. The teacher has a friendly face and she wants to get to know the class by having each student said his or her name and tell the class "one thing that you love to do."
If you have read Chu's Day, then you know, as the first lines of Chu's First Day of School inform us, there is a "thing that Chu could do." As with all the illustrations in this book and inChu's Day, Rex adds a layer of depth to the story with his richly textured, detailed illustrations that really make the both books. The first page of Chu's…

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin

Last year I reviewed Mike Austin'sMonsters Love Colors. Austin took a pretty standard concept book and turned it into an energy-filled-outing with some scribbly-but-sweet monsters who are very fun to spend time with. In Monsters Love School, Austin and his monsters work their magic again, this time taking a pretty standard starting school story and making it special.
Monsters Love School begins with something adults and kids know to be true - summer is awesome. But, what all adults and older kids know, summer always comes to an end. 

However, as the title tells us, Monsters Love School! Well, all monsters except one - Blue, who already knows his "ABGs and 413s and XYDs!" and wonders just what school is for?

With Miss Wiggles the crossing guard, Principal Blinkin, a cyclops, and Miss Scribble, the art teacher, Blue learns that Monster School is really cool! And he gets the what-for from all his friends who fill him in on all the great things about school.

Austin's monster…

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen, 267 pp, RL 4

I have had a copy of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood on my shelf since 2010 when it was released. While the plot sounded interesting, I have hung on to it for over four years, hoping to get to it someday, because of the completely charming  illustrations by a favorite of mine, Jon Klassen. Now, four years later and four books into the series (Klassen illustrated books 1 - 3 and the cover of book 4 with Eliza Wheeler taking over interior illustrations) I have finally read/listened to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious HowlingThe Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling, which is narrated beautifully by the brilliantKatherine Kellgren, an added incentive and bonus. Kellgren does a fantastic job on the many exclamations of "Ahwoooooooooooooo!" that come throughout the book, but I'm getting ahead of myself!
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1:…

If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor

There are a lot of great things about If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor, creator of the Olympians series of graphic novels, but what I like most is the way that O'Connor subtly replaces the expected with the uncommon. A raptor stands in for a cat and, in this time when the conversation about the abundance of white boys in children's literature is starting to take precedence, a little girl of color takes the place of what would undoubtedly,  even a few years ago, especially in a book about dinosaurs, been a white boy. Bravo to O'Connor for subverting the dominant paradigm. But, above all else, congratulations on writing a n entertaining and funny picture book about the ups and downs of having a pet!

The story begins visually a few pages before the words when a little girl comes across a box on the street labeled, "Free Raptors." Inside are very fluffy, cute and colorful creatures with big, pleading eyes. Our young narrator begins the story by telling us that…

Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle

While he definitely has a way with pirates, Jonny Duddle is such an amazing illustrator that I am always excited to see where he turns his focus when working on a new project (be sure to scroll to the bottom of the review to see Duddle's latest project - creating new 15th anniversary cover for UK editions of the Harry Potter books!) As his newest book Gigantosaurus proves, Jonny Duddle has a way with dinosaurs and the Cretaceous period as well!

Gigantosaurusis a re-imagining of Aesop's fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In this case, it's the baby ankylosaurus, Bonehead who cries gigantosaurus. Duddle uses the final pages of Gigantosaurusto identify the dinosaurs in the book and tell readers that his gigantosaurus is actually a "scary dinosaur made up for this book." He goes on to note that there was an actual dinosaur a lot like it, the "Giganotosaurus," which was bigger than the T-Rex.

Gigantosaurus begins with four little dinosaurs, Bonehead, Tiny, Fin and…