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Showing posts from October, 2019

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton, illustrated by Felicita Sala, 48 pp, RL 4

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She Made a Monster:  How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton,  illustrated by Felicita Sala (Purchased with district funding for my school library)
When I was an impressionable college freshman, I saw the film Gothic, directed by Ken Russell and starring Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands and Natasha Richardson, playing the parts of Lord Byron (father of Ada Lovelace - inventor, with Charles Babbage, of a mechanical, general purpose computer and popular picture book biography subject these days), Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, soon to be Mary Shelley. The movie turns history into a horror movie, reimagining the opium-fueled events that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. As a young woman, I remember being surprised and delighted to learn that the neck-bolted creature wasn't just a horror-movie-monster creation, but a truly terrifying story written by a woman who held her own against some top male writers of her time. The following year, reading Frankenstein for …

Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor by Barbara Cantini, 48 pp, RL 3

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Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor  by Barbara Cantini Review Copy from Abrams Kids In this second book in what promises to be a trilogy - or more! - the creepily charming Ghoulia and the curious inhabitants of Crumbling Manor are back for more fantastically illustrated adventures and bonus content in the back matter.  At the start of Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor, it's been raining for days and Ghoulia is bored and a bit lonely. Her (new human) friends have not come to play, Tragedy, her dog, is out hunting frogs, and Auntie Departed is obsessed with the plants in her greenhouse, particularly the Chatterbox Ivy, a misunderstood plant that grows and thrives when spoken to. Happily, an unexpected visitor arrives! Cousin Dilbert has traveled from Fancy Manor, however, his manners are anything but fancy. He is rude and demanding and complains about everything. Fortunately, the doorbell "Aroos" and, one by one, Ghoulia's friends appear at the door, invitations in hand. …

Acorn: A New Series for Emerging Readers from Scholastic!

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Five years ago, inspired by Scholastic and their new Branches imprint of chapter books for emerging readers, I created a the label: Bridge Chapter Books, which I use to define a chapter book that is harder than Frog & Toad, but not as hard as The Magic Tree House. These titles fall (approximately) at an early to mid-second grade reading level and are highly illustrated. Now, I am thrilled to share another new imprint for even younger readers that does not fall far from the fantastic tree that grew it!
ACORN chapter books are for emerging readers at roughly a first to second grade reading level. They are highly, wonderfully illustrated chapter books, each book ending with a "How To" drawing lesson based on a character from the story make these creative standouts that are sure to engage new readers! Each book is approximately 50 pages long and, with a superb selection of authors and illustrators along with great design, they are worth every penny and sure to be read and rer…

Mister Shivers: Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories written by Max Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni, 56 pp, RL 2

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Mister Shivers: Beneath the Bed  and Other Scary Stories  written by Max Brallier illustrated by Letizia Rubegni Purchased from Barnes & Noble This book, the first in a series, hits all the right notes for me! Written by Max Brallier (see below for his other series), these stories are illustrated by Italian Letizia Rubegni with the exact right amount of old school grimness and are populated by diverse characters with appropriately popping-out-terrified eyes. I wish I could find more of Rubegni's illustrations to share with you here, but be sure to visit her Instagram feed to see more of her superb art. Having read copious amounts of kidlit, I truly believe that writing a good scary story, along with writing a good mystery, are among the most challenging genres to get right for young readers and Brallier gets it just right!

Mister Shivers: Beneath the Bedand Other Stories is a deliciously creepy collection of 5 stories that begins with a "Letter to the Reader" that details …

Hungry Jim by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

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Hungry Jim by Laurel Snyder,  illustrated by Chuck Groenink Review Copy from Chronicle Books I am jealous of readers who open the covers of Hungry Jim knowing nothing about this book. If you fall into that category and have the book nearby or plan to get your hands on it soon (which you should do immediately because it is a rare and superb picture book) stop reading my review now (but return to it after) and trust that your money will be or has been well spent. 
That said, I am also grateful for what I know about this book, and knew before I read it, specifically the dedication that reads:
Chuck and Laurel humbly dedicate this book to the memory of the unrivaled Maurice Sendak, who is alive inside all of us, and occasionally peeks out in a book like this one. 
We ate him up. We loved him so.
And they did. They ate him up and they spit him out in the form of a magnificent picture book that transported me, more than any book I have ever read since, back to the moment in time when, as a child, …

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, 336 pp, RL 4

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Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner Signed Copy Purchased at Barnes & Noble Dedicated to, "the shy kids and the slayers," Fake Blood is a sweet, strange, funny graphic novel about friendship, fitting in, fake blood and a real vampire. Sweet humor and genuine emotion and adolescent angst are perfectly expressed by Gardner's illustration style that (to steal an apt comparison made by another reviewer) is a Northwest mash-up of Raina Telgemeier and Noelle Stevenson.  Set in Portland, Oregon, AJ feels unremarkable after spending the summer before sixth grade reading in the library instead of doing adventurous, exciting things like his best friends, the ultra competitive Hunter and Ivy, who are always trying to one-up each other. AJ also happens to have a crush on fellow book lover, Nia, (it's so much fun to read the titles of the books Gardner invents for her to be reading as well as the made up characters and plots we get glimpses of) who also happens to fancy herself a vamp…

Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra

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Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Mirand Paul,  illustrated by John Parra Review Copy from Clarion Books (but I would have bought my own!)
*This story is especially personal for me.  Details at the end of the review. Paul begins her celebration of Todd Bol, who passed away in 2018, and the (non-profit) magic that he brought to the world with this universal truth: "For thousands of years, people have loved stories about heroes. Mythical heroes, historical heroes and even ordinary heroes." As she writes in her author's note, "When I'm working on a non-fiction story, I tend to find out more information than will ever fit into one picture book." With this in mind, she does a fine job in Little Libraries, Big Heroes focusing her story on aspects of the life of Bol, the power of books and the importance of Little Free Libraries for young readers, giving them information that will inspire them to learn more and, hopefully, become stewards of their own. Reading was difficult…