Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picture Book Extravaganza cont. Part 3

Continuing with the wonderful picture book reviews....these ones are titles I think are set to be big hits this season.

When this one showed up in my mailbox, I knew it was going to be a winner. Absolutely hilarious, totally giggle-worthy, and SO very real-to-life, Chicken Butt, written by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole, is a fantastic read aloud, set to be a huge hit at your library.

Perfect to be read aloud by two people, Chicken Butt is the story of a boy telling his dad the age-old joke of "Guess what? Chicken Butt." The boy tricks his dad into participating in the back-and-forth joke, leaving me in hysterics! When the boy's dad has had too much of the game, he tries to get out of it, but the boy just tricks him into continuing, in a very clever and child-relevant way.

The illustrations just add to the fun in this one! Comical and perfectly matched to the text, I can almost promise your story time kids will be laughing all the way through this adorable book, as will their parents! A definite must for all libraries, you can pair this one with Practical Joke week and have kids make up their own jokes. Pre-order this one!!!

Chicken Butt!
Erica S. Perl
32 pages
Picture book
Abrams Books for Young Readers
April 2009

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, from the ever wonderful, totally popular Mo Willems, is another wonderful book that is going to fly off shelves. First of all, who writes about naked mole rats, seriously? Well Mo Willems of course and quite successfully I must say!

All the mole rats are naked. All except for Wilbur. Wilbur is the naked mole rat that likes to get dressed every day, making him quite the outcast in his community. Every other mole rat makes fun of him, not understanding why Wilbur wants to be different than everyone else. They even bring the case of Wilbur to Grand-pah, the wisest of all the naked mole rats, convinced that Grand-pah will talk some sense into the clothes-wearing Wilbur.

When Grand-pah makes a proclamation about clothing...while wearing clothes himself, all the mole rats realize that it's not so bad to wear clothes after all. Being different isn't such a terrible thing!

Oh the sarcasm! Every book that this man writes is wonderful and this one is no exception. The writing, the illustrations, I love, love, loved it! Every library needs to have one of these on their shelves....more than one in fact!

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed
Mo Willems
40 pages
Picture book
Hyperion Books for Children
January 2009

Ocean Hide and Seek, written by Jennifer Evans Kramer and beautifully illustrated by Gary R. Phillips is not written by an author as famous as Mo Willems, but it's fantastic all the same and deserves great recognition. Published by one of my favorite companies, Sylvan Dell, this title, as well as their others, includes extra activities and facts in the back of the book in order to tie the story into real life. Love that!

In this story the readers gets to learn about some great ocean creatures that hide in plain site, including where schools of tang fish, tiny pipefish, and sea dragons. All of these animals (and lots more) are able to disguise themselves with their own bodies, keeping themselves safe from predators of the ocean.

Told in very calm, repeating lines, the reader this is a fantastic get-ready-for-sleep book. the illustrations are dark and soothing and combined with the text your little listener will soon be ready for bed! Let them do the activities included in the back of the book once they wake up in the morning!

Ocean Hide and Seek
Jennifer Evans Kramer
32 pages
Picture book
Sylvan Dell
February 2009

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Don't forget about my Picture Book Giveaway! Click here to enter.

Picture Book Extravaganza cont. Part 2

The Picture Book Extravaganza continues! I'll have six selections for you throughout the day today and two more tomorrow, that's ten total throughout the three days. Out of those ten, I certainly hope you all can find at least one that you and your family will love. Enjoy!

What a Good Big Brother, written by Diane Wright Landolf with paintings by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher is perfect for those kids with new siblings or who will be expecting a new sibling in the near future.

Cameron is a great big brother, always helping is mom and dad with his new baby sister, Sadie. Cameron watches as his mom and dad always fix Sadie's crying by changing her diaper, feeding her, or singing her bedtime songs, but one day, when Sadie just won't stop crying, Cameron steps in and fixes her himself, amazing his parents and showing just how much love he has for Sadie. Cameron doesn't mind when she cries, but he loves it when he can make her smile!

A very sweet, touching story about siblings, this one would be nice for one on one sharing with your child, especially if there is a new baby in the house or one will be coming along shortly.

What a Good Big Brother
Diane Wright Landolf
40 pages
Picture book
Random House
January 2009

Mommy, Where Are You?, written and illustrated by Leonid Gore is a very sweet look-and-find title, designed to be interactive as well as adorable!

Ozzy the little mouse wakes up one morning and can't find his Mommy. He looks all over for her, thinking he sees her everywhere, including behind a fence, up in a tree, and behind a rock, but each time it's not Mommy, but someone else (including one scary surprise!). After his searching, Ozzy is very scared and thinks he'll never find Mommy, which is....of course...right when she shows up!

Great for the toddler set, interaction is big in this cute little book. Kids can turn the specially designed pages and learn which creatures Ozzy thinks are his Mommy! The illustrations are nice and bold....I always like the bold colors.

Look-and-Find books, as well as pop-ups, and lift-the flaps don't often work great in a library setting, as pages get torn easily, but this is a great one for home!

Mommy, Where Are You?
Leonid Gore
32 pages
Picture book
March 2009

Bippity Bop Barbershop, written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis is a sweet story of a boy's first haircut, as well as that of a great father-son relationship.

Miles is out to get his first real haircut with his dad. Making a special day of it, the pair dress alike in blue jeans and gym shoes, head to the local bakery for goodies and then head on over to the barbershop. As the actual event gets closer, Miles starts to get a bit nervous about having someone cut his hair, especially because he just isn't sure what style would suit him.

After a bravery pep talk from his Daddy, Miles realizes he knows exactly what he wants. To look just like his dad!

A very nicely written story a boy and his father, Bippity Bop Barbershop really shows what a good relationship can be like. Combined with an additional topic, that of bravery, this would be a really nice selection for a one on one read aloud.

Bippity Bop Barbershop
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
32 pages
Picture book
Little Brown
January 2009

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Don't forget about my giveaway, going on now!!! Click here to enter.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Picture Book Giveaway, Extravaganza Part 1

To kick off my recently thought up Picture Book Extravaganza, I figured a giveaway was in order! One lucky winner will receive a copy of each of these books, to be reviewed in moments, just follow a few simple instructions.

Leave a comment on this post, telling me you want to enter, and you get one entry. Post about it on your blog and give me the link, you get another 5 entries, recommend to me one book you are looking forward to being published this year, get another 2 entries. That's a total of 8 entries you can get for this giveaway! You have until Monday night to enter (11:59pm Mountain time).

Now onto the lovely books!

Llama Llama Misses Mama, written and illustrated by the wonderful Anna Dewdney , is the latest installment in the widely popular Llama books. In this one, little Llama heads off for the first day of preschool! As the day goes on, filled with new and different experiences, Llama becomes more and more apprehensive until he just misses his mama too much and doesn't want to participate in any of the activities.

After a little cry and a pep talk from Teacher and friends, Llama learns that school can be fun, new friends are great, and Mama will always come back!

Always adorable and written in fun rhymes, Llama Llama Misses Mama is a fantastic read aloud and a great choice for kids getting ready to head off to school this fall.

Llama Llama Misses Mama
Anna Dewdney
40 pages
Picture Book
Viking Juvenile
March 2009

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, written and illustrated by David Soman and Jacky Davis is the companion to the New York Times Bestseller, Ladybug Girl. The adorable star of that book is back and she has a friend!

When Lulu, A.K.A. Ladybug Girl, heads out for an afternoon at her favorite playground (with Mom and trusty dog Bingo in tow), readers know they're in for an adventure. She meets a boy there and they instantly decide to be friends and play together. Unfortunately neither wants to play what the other wants to play and the end up in a big argument! When Lulu suggest playing "Ladybug Girl," her own version of "Superheroes" the boy turns into Bumblebee Boy and the pair have a great time, recruiting some additional friends along the way.

These Ladybug Girl books are cute, quirky, and filled with giggles. Teaching kids that using their imaginations is the best form of play is always a great topic for picture books and these are no exception. A must for all libraries, this one is a great read aloud. I really hope we'll be seeing more Ladybug Girl books in the future!

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy
David Soman & Jacky Davis
40 pages
Picture Book
March 2009

Well that's it folks, both are up for grabs! One winner will receive a copy of each book, courtesy of the lovely Jillian Laks over at Penguin. Thanks so much!

Good luck!

Perfect Chemistry review

I think Simone Elkeles has created a wonderful, modern tale of those ever-popular star-crossed lovers, in Perfect Chemistry. Though I must say....I'm not a fan of the cover at all. Not one single bit. Loved the story though, so it's all good.

Brittany Ellis is rich, popular, beautiful, and puts her mask of perfection on every day when she heads to school. Her home life, however, is not perfect at all, with parents that can't get along and a mentally disabled sister she lovingly takes care of. When she is set to be chem lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a guy from the South side of town, one who always has rumors of drug abuse, gang violence floating around about him, the pair instantly clash.

Alex has some issues in his life....his dad was murdered right in front of his eyes, he has a less-than-stellar mother, and is forced to belong to a gang to insure the safety of his younger brothers. After taking a bet, Alex attempts to get Brittany to fall for him, but ends up truly falling for her instead. The couple that instantly hated each other is now falling in love, breaking stereotypes and boundaries as they go.

I really enjoyed this contemporary Romeo and Juliet story. In today's society, the plot is really not that far-fetched and the characters incredibly realistic. Brittany is, at first, portrayed as a spoiled brat, though the reader soon finds out she is a wonderful, caring, lovable girl. Alex is deemed the tough guy, the drug dealer, the gang member, but we learn how small he feels in such a big world, how much he wants to keep his family safe, and his determination to find his father's killer.

Elkeles is obviously very talented, giving us a great story, a memorable cast of characters, and a message that will stay with the reader for a very long time.

Again, I do not think the cover does this book justice, it makes it appear a romancy drama, missing out on all the depth Brittany and Alex have. The passion the reader gets once the cover is opened definitely makes up for it though.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Perfect Chemistry
Simone Elkeles
432 pages
Young Adult
January 2009

How the day is going to play out (and a giveaway!!!)

I've been having a lot of my readers email/leave comments as to how much they enjoy my Picture Book Saturday reviews, which of course, I must say thank you for! So glad you enjoy them! I thought that this week, I would do a Picture Book Extravaganza and review more than just my typical three picture books, and throw a giveaway in there somewhere as well. YAY for free books!

So this is how the rest of the day is going... I'm going to post a review of a YA book here in just a bit, then tonight the extravaganza will begin, with two reviews. I will be giving away one of each of those books I review tonight, so look out for that, they're great ones! :)

I'll put the rules on the giveaway post this evening, but let me fill you in on them now. Leave a comment on the giveaway post, telling me you want to enter, and you get one entry. Post about it on your blog and give me the link, you get another 5 entries, recommend to me one book you are looking forward to being published this year, get another 2 entries. That's a total of 8 entries you can get for this giveaway....and trust'll want to enter!

Any questions, let me know!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes

Every once in awhile, I'll come across a really cute, wholesome book for middle graders, that I really want to share with my nieces (and of course, with you all) and I've found that description this month in The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kennedy. It's filled with love, compassion, favorite...dogs.

Charlotte Hayes is twelve years old and completely not a dog person. She isn't scared of them or anything, she just would rather avoid contact, if possible. Definitely less than thrilled when her dad brings home a giant Saint Bernard puppy named Killer, Charlotte ends up being the dog's primary character. Everyone else in her family seems to enjoy the idea of having a dog, but not caring how he gets fed and watered, whether he has to sleep out in the snow, or if he gets any attention at all, leaving that all up to Charlotte.

The wonderfully lovable Charlotte decides that the dog, who she has since renamed Beauregard, deserves a much better home than the one her family is providing for him. One with caring individuals that let the dog sleep inside on cold nights, always keep his food and water full, and pets him regularly. She sets out on a mission to find Beauregard the perfect home, still insisting over and over again, the she simply is not a dog person, though falling in love with the big teddy bear of a dog more and more every day.

Such a charming, charming story this one was. Perfect for the middle grade range, Charlotte is just one of those characters you can't help but love and giggle at, as she tries her hardest to get her dog a new home, without telling her family what she's doing. Adorable and sweet, The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes is, without a doubt, one I will be recommending. If you know a girl or a boy that needs a nice, wholesome story, this is a great choice.

The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes
Marlane Kennedy
233 pages
Middle Grade fiction
March 2009

The ABC's of Kissing Boys review

Parker loves and lives for soccer. She and her best friends have always played together, kicking butt on the field and off. When Parker gets word that she will be starting off her junior year of high school on the JV team, rather than being moved up to Varsity like anyone else, she's devastated and knows not only will her soccer dreams be crushed, but her social life as she knows it is over.

Determined to find a way onto the Varsity team, Parker concocts a plan to virtually trick her coach into letting her on the team...and all it will take is a cute college boy, a kissing booth, and lots of practice sessions with the boy next door.

Tina Ferraro has created a character and a novel that will definitely cater to those fans of the Clique series and the Gossip Girl thing, but I'm not quite sure it caters to me as the reader. Which is fine....a lot of teen girls will get a kick out of this story, the romancy, make-out filled pages, and the somewhat self-obsessed Parker. The story is cute, the neighbor boy is super-cute, and Parker is often cutesy (meaning a bit ditzy).

The ABC's of Kissing Boys was definitely not the best thing I've read, but it wasn't terrible. Again, great for fans of the Gossip Girl/Clique series.

The ABC's of Kissing Boys
Tina Ferraro
242 pages
Young Adult
Delacorte Press
January 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had review

I've been on a bit of a hiatus this past, as my best friend from the East coast was down here visiting, but I'm back now. My lovely computer has been posting for me this past week, but I haven't been posting comments or anything, expect to start hearing from me again! I did get a lot of reading done though, more than I expected to, and this review is from my favorite of the completed bunch.

Kristin Levine has created an incredibly memorable work in The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. Memorable plot, memorable characters, and SO touching throughout. This is the middle grade novel I am now recommending to everyone I see!

Harry "Dit" Sims is expecting to spendthe summer of 1917 as he usually does, hanging out with his best friend, fishing and doing typical boy things. Unfortunately, when he finds out that Chip is going to be gone for the summer, leaving Dit without a playmate, Dit is less than thrilled. He is even more disappointed when he finds out that the new postman, Mr. Walker, brought a 12 year old GIRL with him, rather than a 12 year old boy, as Dit had hoped, AND she's black.

Stuck playing with Emma Walker, a prissy city girl that loves books and hates getting dirty, Dit knows this will be the worst summer of his life. As the summer goes on, Dit and Emma teach each other a thing or two about being black and white, the good AND the bad. When the local barber, a black man, is put on trial for a horrendous crime, Dit and Emma work together to come up with a plan to save the barber, and do the town a justice.

This story is truly remarkable in it's theme of friendship without boundaries. It is inspired by the author's family history, a wonderful aspect to the overall story, though my favorite part was the simple, yet incredibly complex relationship between Dit and Emma. Destined to hate each other, they end up closer than most kids can ever get at that age and they do it in a manner that is filled with childhood innocence and the coming of age.

Levine did a magnificent job with this title and I will be recommending it to everyone. A must for library shelves and a great selection for middle grade book clubs.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
Kristin Levine
272 pages
Middle Grade fiction
January 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Organic Crafts

Over the past few years, I've developed a passion for saving our Earth and bringing only the most natural foods into our home, in an attempt to keep my family healthy as well. When I have children, they will be taught from a very young age, ways to save energy, help our earth, and stay healthy at the same time. Kimberly Monaghan has created a book that will encourage kids to make crafts that will use only materials that will not harm the earth in their production.

Organic Crafts: 75 Earth-Friendly Art Activities is filled with really cool projects that will suit a range of ages. Each activity is labeled with the appropriate ages, allowing you to chose one that all the children in your story time group can do, without difficulty.

Activities like "Hiking Heart" and "Pebble Pot" (and lots of others) encourage kids to get outside to collect their materials and crafts such as "Sunrise" and "Treasure Box" encourage recycling of old materials. Very cool!

Sections called "Nature Notes" and "Earth Action" are also included every few pages, giving more information on ways kids can get involved to help save the earth and info on some of the materials they're using. Great for teaching as well as having fun!

The only thing I didn't like, was in a couple of the activities the supply list called for a Styrofoam ball. Last time I checked, that was one material that should definitely NOT be used. The instructions do say that you can use a crumpled newspaper ball in place of the styrofoam, I just wish they had not even listed it to begin with.

Printed on 100% recycled paper, Organic Crafts is one of those books that could be beneficial to both home and school libraries, allowing you to not only get involved with your children and encourage them to use better materials for their craft projects, but also to use during story times. Pair this with a great picture book about saving the earth!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Organic Crafts: 75 Earth-Friendly Art Activities
Kimberly Monaghan
160 pages
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
Chicago Review Press
March 2007

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Yes, probably every single one of you has already read this wondrous novel by Kristin Cashore, and yes, it has been sitting on my bookshelves for quite some time now, just waiting to be picked up and that cover cracked. Unfortunately, sometimes, I know a book is going to be fantastic, so I'll wait and wait, making the book last a bit longer, for lack of a better way of stating my quirk. Basically I let them sit and collect dust until I just can't take it anymore. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that!

Anywho, Graceling was fanstastic, as you all told me through your blogs that it would be, and now I am one of the many, eagerly anticipating the sequel. Can't wait in fact!

Katsa, a beautiful young woman with one green eye and one blue, was born a Graceling, having been given a special ability that has made her into her Uncle's bounty hunter. Katsa was Graced with the ability to fight and kill, never wanting to use her talent for evil, however her Uncle is King and wants her to to his dirty work for him, sending her on killing missions to other kingdoms.

Filled with constant feelings of guilt for the wrong she has committed again and again, Katsa is overtaken with anger and hurt all of the time, not wanting to ever marry or have children, only wanting to continue her warrior life, if not for a better cause.

After meeting Po, a young man also Graced with an ability, Katsa begins to believe that she may not have to fight and kill for her Uncle, if she only would learn to stand up for herself. She forms a secret council, with the mindset that she will right the wrongs she has done in her past. She and Po leave her castle behind and set out on a treacherous journey, being forced to keep each other alive throughout their journey, and fall just a tad bit in love as well.

Part wonderful thriller, part romance, Graceling follows these original and thoroughly realistic characters on a path filled with danger and constant mystery. The fantasy portion comes through as reality, a rarity, and the amazing descriptions Cashore gives will draw the reader in with every page.

It is marketed to the 14 and up age range and I would definitely stick with that recommendation. Some strong sexual connotations are included, as is quite a bit of violence. Definitely a must for all libraries!

I read this for the 2009 YA Challenge.

To Learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Kristin Cashore
480 pages
Young Adult
October 2008

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Three great ones this week folks! Enjoy!

Birds is written by the amazing, fantastic, favorite-of-mine Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek. So wonderfully simple that even your littlest ones are going to really be able to pay attention.

A tribute to all things birdish, we learn that birds are everywhere and can be in anything. Allowing children to use their imaginations, Henkes places birds in the clouds and compares birds all flying out of a tree at once to a giant SURPRISE!!!! Kids will have fun seeing birds in all the places they expect and in some places they don't.

An excellent, excellent book for some simple one-on-one time or for a story time read aloud. Pair with a bird craft, have kids make their own interpretations of crazy birds or have them pretend to be birds and draw what they see from the sky.

Kevin Henkes
Picture Book
February 2009

Princess Baby, Night-Night, written by the always-popular Karen Katz is the second book featuring Princess Baby. In this one, Princess Baby thinks she is certainly old enough to make her own descions, including her own bedtime. When her parents want her to go to sleep, Princess Baby is not the least bit tired and instead of following her parent's bedtime requests herself, decides her royal subjects..ahem...her stuffed animals, should follow them instead.

Very cute, sticking with Katz's normal style. Little girls will cheer everywhere, especially for the gold sparkly cover.

Princess Baby, Night-Night
Karen Katz
Picture Book
Schwartz & Wade
January 2009

My final book this week isn't coming out until May, but I thought it might be nice for you to pre-order, as it's destined to be verrry popular with your toddler boys.

Machines Go to Work, written and illustrated by William Low, is all about things that go, go, go. cement mixers, helicopters, fire trucks, and tug boats all take their place in this charming little book, complete with plenty of big fold-out pages, making the machines much better to see! Your little boys will love learning more about their favorite machines (and I'm sure some little girls will too) and the concept is short and simple, keeping it a fun activity book, rather than a sit down and listen book.

I know lots of little boys that would love this title and I'm sure you do too. Don't forget, it doesn't come out until May, but follow my link to Amazon to pre-order it. Sometimes you just want to look at cool, big, machines and this is the perfect book for that!

Machines Go To Work
William Low
Picture Book
Henry Holt
May 2009

To learn more about any books in today's post, click on the book covers to link to Amazon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday: Diamond Willow

Now I don't know that this would completely count for a Poetry Friday entry, as it's not 100% poems, but close enough. The format of Helen Frost's book for middle graders is ingenious... and one that I have never seen in any piece of writing before. The story is incredibly touching and unique, allowing the reader to gain knowledge about a unique culture as well as a beautifully written, entertaining plot.

Each poetic piece in Diamond Willow is literally written in the shape of a diamond and tells the story of a 12 year old girl living in a small town in Alaska that has an incredible bond with her family's sled dogs. She longs to take the dogs on a short trip, alone, to her grandparents house, but her parents feel she is too young to make the journey with only herself and the dogs. After some convincing, they allow her to go, but the consequence of a simple mistake along the way are tragic.

Though my format tool doesn't want to let me put this in a diamond shape, I wanted to share my favorite poem in the book...

What I love about dogs: They don't talk behind your back. If they're mad at you, they bark a couple times and get it over with. It's true they slobber on you sometimes. (I'm glad people don't do that.) They jump out and scare you in the dark. (I know, I should say me, not "you"-some people aren't afraid of anything.) But dogs don't make fun of you. They don't hit you in the back of your neck with an ice-covered snowball, and if they did, and it made you cry, all their friends wouldn't stand there laughing at you. (Me.)

Little hidden messages are included in each diamond shaped poem, in bold lettering, lending even more to the story and the emotions of Willow. I was SO impressed with this short little book and can see why so many other bloggers are loving it. This would make a great selection for a kid that loves animals or just as a nice, entertaining read. Display it during poetry month, it's worth it!

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go

After hearing so much about this one, I definitely had to get my greedy book-loving hands on it, especially when I learned about it's dystopian theme!

Patrick Ness has created a strange world in The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking, Book 1. The main character, young Todd Hewitt, is the only boy left in a town full of men. Women disappeared a long time ago, after the noise germ infected the settlers. Everyone in town can hear each other's thoughts or "noise," making it incredibly difficult to keep secrets, as Todd quickly finds out.

With only a month left until his birthday, when he will legally become a man, Todd learns of a secret that forces him to flee his town and his family, with only his loyal dog at his side (whose thoughts can also be heard...very cool). He meets a girl in the woods, a species he previously believed was completely gone from the Earth, and together, they must not only stay alive, but warn other villages of the problems Todd's former town is out to create.

Filled with action, this title will definitely be pleasing to those loving dystopian novels or just looking for a good, if not a tad bit strange, adventure. Unfortunately, I didn't think it quite lived up to all the amazing buzz, but that could just be because I had set it at a level that is almost impossible to reach. I felt the story at times a bit confusing, but overall it was enjoyable and I'm looking forward to Book 2!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Return to Sender

Julia Alvarez, most well known for her novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, has just released her latest work, a middle grade novel entitled Return to Sender. The reader, thru the eyes of both farm boy Tyler and migrant child Mari, is able to look at the issue to illegal immigration from both sides, getting a very personal story from each perspective.

Tyler's father, a farmer his entire life, has recently been injured in a tractor accident and is in danger of losing the farm. He can't afford to hire a lot of help and is unable to continue doing the daily work he is used to, resulting in a decision to employ a migrant family, moving them into a trailer on the family property and putting them to work in the fields and the barn.

Tyler isn't quite sure what to make of these new people living and working on his family's farm. He has always been taught that those who enter the United States illegally are wrong and should be in trouble with the law, but now his family is housing these people and giving them work. Though he is conflicted as to whether or not to like these people and continue to protest them or to accept them as they are, Tyler ends up connecting with Mari and learning a lot about why her family has come to the United States and the troubles they are constantly facing.

Through Mari's letters to her mother, who attempted to return to Mexico when Mari's grandmother got sick, but never made it and is still missing, we get a unique glimpse into the lives of a family that came to this country illegally. She doesn't like the fact that she isn't an American like Tyler, that her Uncle has been placed in jail for coming here without papers, but Mari knows they had no choice. The family is simply desperate and the opportunity for that in Mexico is much slimmer than in America.

Through the friendship of two unlikely kids, the reader gets a chance to better understand the reasons so many people emigrate illegally to the United States and even gain some sort of compassion and peace with it. A constant fear, on both sides of the story, of the police finding them out and Tyler's dad getting in trouble and Mari's family being deported.

I was, I must admit, a tad bit bored with this book. I have a hard time seeing kids of the 9-12 age sticking with this, as there isn't much adventure or intrigue. A lot of explaining and describing without a whole lot of action. And that's ok, that's just the type of book it is, however I did find the word "boring" entering my mind several times as I was reading.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Return to Sender
Julia Alvarez
Middle grade fiction
January 2009

Abby is having a contest.....

...for an ARC of Elizabeth Scott's latest, Something Maybe. Go here to enter!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Eating bugs...eeeew!

I just recently found out about this series Bearport Publishing has out, called "Extreme Cuisine" and believe me, your kids, especially boys, are going to absolutely LOVE these books. And you, my friends, will be running to the bathroom wanting to throw up. Perfect!

The series has 6 titles total, but I've only had the...ahem...pleasure (?) of reading two. Shocking Seafood, written by Dinah Williams, is filled with wonderfully yucky dishes made all over the world, featuring some rather interesting seafood creatures. In Vietnam apparently, fish heads fill soup bowls and in Greenland rotten shark meat is served in a dish called "hakarl." Oh and my favorite? In South Korea diners enjoy a meal called "sannakji" which features baby octopus arms dipped in sesame oil. Why sesame oil you ask? So the little suckers on each arm don't get stuck in your throat. Oh goodness me.

Each delightful dish is filled with (?) colored photograph of the described meal, with facts about how it's prepared. Also included is a glossary and world map pointing out the countries spoken about.

Moving on to the next delectable book, Bug-a-licious, written by Meishe Goldish, features meals made of lovely bugs. Yum! We have wasp crackers, made with digger wasps in Japan, giant water bug snacks (salted or fried) in Thailand, or spreadable stink bugs in South Africa. Yep, you read that one right...STINK BUG PATE! The vomit reflex is definitely kicking in!

Another one filled with fabulous, detailed photographs, simple text for earlier readers, and a nice glossary and index.

Seriously, if these books are enough to make us librarians and parents gag, they are definitely kid pleasers. Other titles in the series include: Baby Bug Dishes, Mammal Menu (I'm kinda scared of that one), Slithery, Slimy, Scaly Treats, and Spider-tizers and Other Creepy Treats.

Oh and if you haven't read my many raves about Bearport Publishing books, just let me mention again that they really do produce wonderfully put together books. They hold up to little kid fingers very well, perfect for library shelves.

To learn more or to purchase, click on either book cover to link to Amazon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Necessary Heartbreak

I'm not reviewing a whole lot of adult books these days, but the ones I am tend to me in the Christian fiction genre. I have some mainstream adult fiction on my lists too, just haven't gotten to it quite yet!

Today I'm presenting a book that I'm not quite sure how I feel about. I finished it well over a month ago, but I've been letting it stew in my head for the last few weeks, trying to make a decisions. Do I like it or don't I? Did I think it was written the best way it possibly could be or don't I? I've come to some conclusions, but I'm still having a bit of a hard time, so bear with me!

Necessary Heartbreak: Book One of the When Time Forgets Trilogy is written by M.J. Sullivan and introduces us to a father/daughter team that have been given a difficult path in life. Michael Stewart is a single father and still isn't sure how he's getting through the days alone, raising his daughter Elizabeth. Time seems to be slipping by them at an alarming pace and all Michael wants to do is intervene and slow it down to something more easily handled. God, however, has other plans in mind.

When Michael and Elizabeth are in their church's old root cellar, they discover a door leading to what appears to be another world. In fact, by stepping through that door they've been transported back to Jerusalem, in the time of Jesus Christ. They become trapped, with soldiers wanting to inprison them at every turn, and only through the help of Leah are they able to make it through their first couple of nights in Jerusalem.

Michael is trapped in his past, not only literally, being in Jerusalem, but also in his mind, back when his wife were still alive. As God works in him and Leah helps him along, Michael begins to understand what really matters in life, and what he must to do go back to his world.

I absolutely loved the concept of this planned trilogy. Wanting to always learn more about Jesus myself, I found it fascinating to read a fictional interpretation of Jerusalem in His time and what lives the people that followed Him truly lived. Sullivan hit that part on the nose. My problems lie within the "selling" of the story. I didn't quite believe Michael's character. He just didn't seem totally real to me and I fought with him mentally throughout the story. Some of the things he said and did, seemed out of his supposed character, making it hard for me, as the reader, to want to know more about HIS story.

Instead, I found myself wanting more of Leah and more of the Roman soldiers. What was really in their minds? How did they percieve the Crucifixion? And of course, Christ. What was he thinking as he was being beaten down? I think I wanted Him more of a centralized point of this story, rather than figurative.

Overall, I really enjoyed Necessary Heartbreak and look forward to reading the sequel. Unfortunately I did have some issues with Michael and with the transitions from the root cellar to Jerusalem. I wasn't quite sold on them, but it's ok. That didn't ruin it for me over all, not by a long shot. A very difficult story to take on as an author!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Necessary Heartbreak: Book One
M.J. Sullivan
160 pages
Adult fiction
September 2008

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cybils Winners!!!

My husband, the ever-worsening dork that loves me SO much, played announcer for me with the Cybils Awards this morning. He knew I was excited so he pulled up the site and proceeded to introduce each award in a nice baritone announcer voice "The 2009 Cybil Award winner for.... IS...." Oh such fun, such fun!

I am incredibly happy with the outcome of the awards, those judges did a very nice job! And though I'm biased, I was thrilled with the outcome for the YA category, for which I was a panelist. The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks came out on top, as I felt was really deserved! I was also really happy with the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category, for The Hunger Games and The Graveyard Book won for their age groups, very deservingly. Oh and Mr. Mo Willems pulled out the win for Easy Reader, can't say I'm surprised about that!

Read about all winners here.

I can't wait until it's time to do it allllll over again. I had a lot of fun! Thanks judges!

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I made sure to post all my choices for "love" related books last Saturday, giving you time to find them if you were interested in them, so this week is more random choices from my TBR list.

Quiet in the Garden, written and illustrated by Aliki, is a sweet story about a the great adventures kids can have in their own yards. The child in the story notices birds and insects he had never seen before and feels peaceful looking at the flowers and plants, all while it's nice and quiet outside.

Ohhh Aliki, such a wonderful author you are. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a book written by her. This would be a great story for family sharing and activity time, as it includes instructions for making your own quiet garden. Get your kids involved in creating a quiet place in the backyard where they can explore their world!

Quiet in the Garden
Picture Book
February 2009

Nico & Lola is written by Meggan Hill, with photography by Susan M. Graunke. Based upon the theme of kindness, a boy and a dog explore each other, while the boy learns how to be kind.

Nico is super excited when his Aunt drops her cute dog, Lola, off for the weekend. His Aunt makes sure to ask if Nico would be "so kind" to take care of her little girl and though Nico thinks he can do it, he isn't quite sure what it means to be kind.

As he and Lola get to know each other, Lola teaches Nico different ways to be kind. She teaches him that being kind is smiling at a new person (or dog in this case). After running around the yard playing tag, Lola also teaches Nico that being kind includes showing concern for others, after Nico offered her a cold bowl of water.

The lessons go on and on in a simple manner, well integrated into the story. The photographs are not spectacular, but tell the story well enough, plus the dog and the boy are both pretty adorable. As kids and babies tend to enjoy looking at real photographs of other children, this would be a nice selection for home shelves, especially when trying to teach kindness.

Publishing date for Nico & Lola has been pushed back until June from it's original February publishing date, therefore I was not able to link to Amazon on this one. Go to for info.

Nico & Lola
Meggan Hill
Picture Book
Genuine Prints LLC
June 2009

Finally, a super giggle inducing choice for the week in Artichoke Boy, written and illustrated by Scott Mickelson. The eye-catching "artichoke green" color on the cover will certainly grab your attention and the obsession this boy and his family have with artichokes.

Told in humorous rhymes, we learn all about the boy that not only eats his artichokes, but wears them ALL over his body. In fact, a lot of this boy's body IS an artichoke, as is his bed, his toothbrush, and his fish!

Lots of laughs about a topic we don't typically see in children's books. I think this would be awesome for a story time read aloud. Pair it with a vegetable craft! Have your kids think of their favorite vegetable and using magazine cutouts or drawings, make themselves in that veggie.

Artichoke Boy
Scott Mickelson
Picture Book
Boyds Mills Press
February 2009

To learn more or to purchase, click on any of the book covers to link to Amazon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I can't wait for tomorrow....!

While I'm off enjoying a nice Valentine's Day lunch and shopping with my adorable husband tomorrow, the Cybils winners will be announced. It seems like a long time since nominations were opened, then I read made a pretty good attempt to read all of the books in my Young Adult category for which I was a panelist. The ladies and I had a lively discussion as to our favorite books, finally narrowing it down to seven and now it's been in the judges hands for the past month and a half.

The finalists in the Young Adult category are:

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
I Know It's Over by C.K. Kelly Martin
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Thaw by Monica Roe

You can find the rest of the finalists in the other categories here.

I know I have my own personal favorites, which do you think will win? Or which do you WANT to win?

Emmaline and the Bunny

Katherine Hannigan, of amazing Ida B. fame, has come out with another for the middle grade fiction set, one that is both sweet and charming, and even a bit silly at times.

Emmaline has been born and raised in the town of Neatasapin. As the name describes, everyone and everything in town must be incredibly clean, neat, and quiet, all of which Emmaline has trouble with. She doesn't understand what is so wrong about wanting to dig in the dirt or run around and shout if she so wishes. Emmaline has always wanted a bunny and finally dares to ask for one for her birthday, but of course, her parents explain that bunnies are not clean and neat, so a bunny she will not be given.

When Emmaline finds one place in town that allows digging, running, and even bunnies, she thinks she may have found a way to live like a real child, rather than one constantly being quiet and neat. She may even get a bunny too!

Emmaline is a sweet and charming character, one that your younger children will really enjoy, especially when she's hopping around, shouting out her fun, if rather odd statements (really, what does 'Hoopalala' mean?).

There are some adorable illustrations, also done by Hannigan, pleasing those that aren't quite ready for a total chapter book, still needing some pictures to hold their attention. This one would be great for those transitioning to reading chapter books or for a fabulous family read aloud.

Emmaline and the Bunny is a book that almost makes me want a bunny myself!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Emmaline and the Bunny
Katherine Hannigan
Middle Grade fiction
Greenwillow Books
February 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

North of Beautiful

This is it. This is the book that is now going to set the bar for all other YA books this year. I fell in love with this beautifully written, spectacular new novel by Justina Chen Headley and can only ask that you trust me (and all the other raving blog reviews) and pick this one up. You will NOT regret it.

Terra has an absolutely gorgeous body, one her boyfriend Erik certainly appreciates. Unfortunately, what most people care about when they see Terra is the large port-wine stain that covers one half of her face. Desperate to fit in, Terra painstakingly covers the stain with thick makeup, hoping it will make her appear to be a normal, beautiful teen girl, but inside she just feels lost.

What the artist in Terra really wants to do is escape her small town, get as far away from her ultra-controlling, verbally abusive father. She gets into the first college of her choice, but her father insists he won't pay for it, as it was not on "his" list of colleges she was allowed to attend. Devastated, Terra doesn't know what to do, she doesn't want to be her timid, covered-up self any longer, but can't see an escape in sight.

When she meets Jacob, a Chinese Goth guy, after literally running into him, she knows he is about the last person she would have become friends with. Fate begins to play with her feelings though and she soon learns that Jacob really sees her for who she is. He doesn't care about her stain or her father's controlling ways, he only cares about Terra and what Terra wants.

On a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China with her timid mother and Jacob and his mother, Terra really finds herself. She begins to see herself for who she is and the world for what it's not. Traveling is not quite as scary as she initially thought and watching her mom blossom under Jacob's mom's watch is amazing. When she returns home, she knows that nothing will ever be the same. Not for her. Not for her and Erik or her and Jacob. And not for her parents.

I became so engrossed in this novel, it took me almost three days to read. I had to read every word, every syllable. I had to really get into Terra's head to know how she felt...and I loved every single minute of it. She is an amazing character, one that doesn't come along very often. So real and true to life, not really a character at all. You'll cry for Terra's mom and cheer for Jacob as he brings Terra out of her shell.

This is a must have. For you, for the the library, for your friends, for your kids. Whether you read YA or not, read this. Again, North of Beautiful has set the bar for all YA books this year, I was truly impressed.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

North of Beautiful
Justina Chen Headley
Young Adult
Little, Brown
February 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Odd Egg

Emily Gravett is one of those authors that make librarians sigh. We lovvvve the books she writes (seriously, she's one of my favorites), but there are always parents that check out Wolves and come back with complaints about how "tragic" or "terrifying" the ending is. And I can tell that as brilliant as The Odd Egg is, it will be the same story.

That being said, I still think every single librarian and mom should own ALL of Ms. Gravett's books. They are funny, contemporary, utterly sarcastic at times, and just plain brilliant, not to mention THE KIDS LOVE THEM!! As long as the kids love them, that's what counts Just be aware that someone out there will deem you evil, because innocent animals are harmed within the pages of her stories. :)

Now, The Odd Egg, Gravett's latest, is about a poor duck that is without an egg. All of his friends have eggs: Flamingo, Parrot, Chicken...but no egg for Duck. He (yes "he", now you know why there isn't an egg) finds an egg and thinks all of his problems are just solved instantly! It's a big, beautiful, if not a tad bit odd egg, but what does a little oddness matter? Unfortunately, Duck's "friends" still judge him, picking on his choice of an egg, until slowly that egg cracks. Out pops a creature that fixes ALL of Duck's problems.

I really did love this one and it reaffirmed my faith in the ever-fabulous Gravett! It's creative, the half-page flaps are interactive for kids, and I think it would make a fabulous read aloud, bound to get all of your kids cracking up. Definitely a must for your library shelves (and home shelves too)!!

The Odd Egg
Emily Gravett
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
January 2009

Skeleton Creek

What an absolutely brilliant concept. Honestly, this is the most unique book I have come across in a long time and I am eagerly trying to get it into the hands of every kid I see, as well as several adults. In an internet age where kids are more into technology than holding a nice book in their hands, author Patrick Carman has reached out to those kids, producing an interactive book that combines both reading and that necessary technology, getting down to a teen's level and truly giving them what they want.

Skeleton Creek is told from best friend's Ryan and Sarah's perspectives, through Ryan's journal and Sarah's uploaded videos. Strange and scary things are happening in their town of Skeleton Creek and when the pair vow to get to the bottom of it, they won't even let a terrible accident or the fact that their parents have forbid them to communicate stop them. While Ryan lies in bed, recovering from a broken leg and tries to find out everything he can about the Skeleton Creek mystery from his dad, recording everything in his journal, Sarah takes her video camera everywhere and uploads the clips for Ryan to see, emailing him passwords to ensure he is the only one able to connect to the video.

Working together, though very much apart, Ryan and Sarah slowly begin to uncover some pretty creepy information and end up way more involved than either ever really plans. Their lives have been put into danger several times and they are learning that Ryan's dad may be in the midst of the sinister info they are collecting.

And let me tell you...the end leaves you with one heck of a cliffhanger. Darn you, Patrick Carman!

There were a few small flaws in the writing and the videos, mainly that the first couple of videos simply do not make Sarah a believable character (but she gets much, much better as the book goes on), and some of the things that Ryan writes come off as excessive explanations, definitely not a trait of most teen boys. I also felt this might be better marketed to young adults, rather than the 9-12 set, as the main characters are a bit older and several of the videos are quite scary. I made Aaron turn the lights on every time I had to watch one!

That being said, I still feel this book is absolutely brilliant (I just HAD to read it in one sitting, it is so suspenseful) and I am SO on the edge of my seat awaiting the sequel, set to be published this fall. A definite must for libraries!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. It's available today!

Skeleton Creek
Patrick Carman
Middle Grade Fiction
February 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Snoring Beauty

Snoring Beauty, written by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Howard Fine, is a lovely retelling of Sleeping Beauty, complete with a princess turned into a hot pink and purple dragon and a garlic smelling fairy sent to make sure the princess doesn't ever get her prince.

Beginning just as the traditional fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty does, Snoring Beauty features a royal family that has a baby and throws a party for blessing her. Instead of witch crashing the party h0wever, we find Beebo, the garlic smelling fairy, that proceeds to place a curse on the child. Wanting a good life for his baby girl, the King asks a good fairy to place a different type of curse on her, turning her into a sleeping, very loudly snoring, dragon on her sixteenth birthday.

She does indeed turn into a dragon on her birthday, a beautiful hot pink and purple dragon. Unfortunately, everyone in the town is forced to deal with her terrible snoring, resulting in the king making a proclamation to the town. The one man that can break the curse on his daughter and awaken her, will receive her hand in marriage.

And on and on the story goes. It's really a very cute retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and the illustrations are just fantastic. This would be a great home read aloud (a bit long for story times) and would be perfect for a unit on fairy tale retellings. Very cute overall!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Snoring Beauty
Bruce Hale
Picture Book
Harcourt Children's Books
May 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Three Cups of Tea

Penguin has put out a really nice Young Reader's edition of Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's bestseller, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time. The original book (which I read last year) has been adapted by Sarah Thomson with a foreword by one of my favorite women ever, Jane Goodall.

In a format fit for a 10 and up age group (or earlier if you have a great reader on your hands), Three Cups of Tea tells of Mortenson's failure to make it up K2 in 1993, which led to his desire to build schools for children in Pakistan. After a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, over 60 schools have been built, all across Pakistan and Afghanistan, enabling children and women to get the education they so deserve.

My only "complaint" about this Young Reader's Edition is that I feel a lot of Mortenson's background, will be boring to young readers, moments such as his marriage journey and the quick glossing over of other details that could have been more important to the story. I also thought more personal accounts of specific children Mortenson met and dealt with might have made this a bit more appealing to the younger age group, but overall I can see a lot of kids picking this up and enjoying the learning process of what it took one man to get over 60 schools built.

Information on the popular "Pennies for Peace" project in which schools or individuals collect pennies which are in turn donated to help create eductional programs for children in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan (, as well as an interview with Mortenson's twelve-year-old daughter Amira, a time-line, and glossary are also included.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Three Cups of Tea, Young Readers Edition
Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
January 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pretty Like Us

Peachtree Publishing really puts out some quality books. I've seen YA, Middle grade, Picture books, and Non-fiction from them and I don't think I've disliked a single one. Carol Lynch Williams latest title is certainly no exception, it's written beautifully and with pure, childlike innocence.

Beauty McElwrath has never been the most popular girl in her class. To be honest, she's been picked on forever and definitely feels she doesn't live up to the gigantic name her mother graced her with. At the start of 6th grade, she really wants things to be different, to make friends, but as soon as she sees her teacher is also her mother's boyfriend, she's pretty sure it's going to be another bad year.

When a new girl comes to school, a girl that is very much different from her classmates, living with Progeria, an age-progression disease, Beauty finally finds a way to fit in. She spreads gossip about the new girl, quickly catapulting her to the top of everyone's radar, but not in the way that Beauty wants. She doesn't like being the mean girl and actually likes Alane, wanting to be her friend.

When Beauty finally gives in to her true self, befriending the incredibly positive-minded and likable Alane, she finds a best friend. Unfortunately, that new best friend has life-shortening disease, which opens up a whole new thought process for the wonderfully contemplative Beauty.

The innocence truly stands out in Pretty Like Us. Beauty is written as perfectly, as if she were a real child, only wanting to have friends and doing just about anything to get them. And Alane is the girl that we all wanted to be when we were growing up. She may not have looks on her side, but she has an incredibly positive attitude and a wonderful life-outlook. If only all 6th graders could be like Alane.

If you know a middle grade girl that reads (or even if she doesn't like to read), buy her this book. Two of my nieces will be getting's got a great message and an entertaining plot. Loved it!

I read this one for the TBR Challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Pretty Like Us
Carol Lynch Williams
Middle grade fiction
October 2008

Picture Book Saturday: Valentine's Day Books

Valentine's Day is next Saturday, but I thought it might be more helpful to give you my picture book picks for V-Day this week, just in case you want to look for them this upcoming week. Enjoy!

Lovey and Dovey is written by husband and wife team, Elle van Lieshout and Erik van Os and illustrated by Mies van Hout. And is SO cute. Now some of the more "picky" or "conservative" folks out there may say this story advocates stealing, but really, it's just about loving each other.

Lovey and Dovey are a husband and wife that were placed into a small, bleak dungeon when they were caught stealing a pair of socks. Completely in love with each other, the pair does everything they can to make each other happy, including making their new "home" sweet and cozy. Dovey shimmies between the window bars and paints a beautiful mural of sun and sea, placing it over their window so they have a beautiful view
The pair begin to love their dungeon so much, as it's now filled with their love for each other, that when they're released, neither are quite sure what to do. They miss their cozy little cell! Finally they have another brilliant steal another pair of socks! :)

In my opinion, an adorable read aloud...

Lovey and Dovey
Elle van Lieshout & Erik Van Os
Picture Book
January 2009

Love, Splat is written and illustrated by the amazing Rob Scotton. His first Splat book, Splat the Cat, was a rousing success, combining adorable (and beautiful) illustrations and a cute story about a worrisome cat named Splat. This second book is just as cute and adorable, but this time adds a little bit of luv in the mix!

Now that Splat has gotten to love his new school, it's almost Valentine's Day and he is anxiously waiting for the right moment to tell Kitten, the most popular cat in school, how much he likes her. He spends lots of time making a beautiful valentine for her, but all she seems to want to do is pick on him. When another cat makes a move on Kitten first, Splat is sure he's lost the love of his short life...but sometimes girl cats are sneakier than they seem.

Rob Scotton is incredibly talented when it comes to illustrations and his stories are super cute. This would make a great Valentine's read aloud. You can pair it with a Valentine making craft.

Love, Splat
Rob Scotton
Picture Book
November 2008

My Penguin Osbert in Love, written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and illustrated by H.B. "Buck" Lewis, is another "second" book, as was Splat.

This time around, Joe's penguin Osbert (who is now living in the zoo), shows up on the boy's doorstep looking for help getting to the South Pole. Though Joe has another obligation, he agrees to help out the penguins and finds out that there is something much more beautiful at the South Pole than just the amazing "Southern Lights." Osbert has fallen in love!

A sweet story, if not a bit long. I would recommend this one more for home reading than a read aloud at story time. Also includes recipes for Southern Extravaganza Punch and Black and White Penguin Cookies. Yum!

My Penguin Osbert in Love
Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Picture Book
Candlewick Press

February 2009

Enjoy your Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poetry Friday: The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Ok, ok, so I'll admit it. I'm not a huge poetry fan. Well...I'm not even a big poetry fan, let alone huge. Even if I wouldn't necessarily chose to read a book of poetry for fun, I still loooovve books with great poems, and what better poet to write a poem-based picture book than Langston Hughes? Now, Hughes didn't tecnically produce this wonderful book, as he passed away over 40 years ago, but his poem is the center of the entire story, so I'll give him some credit too. :)

The Negro Speaks of Rivers is based on the poem of the same name, written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by the amazing E.B. Lewis. The poem speaks of the importance of water in this man's life, from time in the Euphrates in Africa, to the Mississippi River Abe Lincoln traveled down on his quest for ending slavery.

E.B. Lewis writes in an illustrator's note, the following:
"Water has played a powerful role in the lives of black people. It has been the boon and bane of our existence. We have been born out of water; baptized by water, carried by and even killed by water."
I thought that was a wonderful explanation of the connection he felt to Hughes' poem and why he felt compelled to pair it with his gorgeous illustrations.

The poem is beautiful and the illustrations are just amazing, following the path of the water that played such a huge part in the lives of the ancesters of both the author and illustrator. I was touched by this book, and have since read it over and over again, lingering on each page to see all the illustrations have to offer.

A wonderful selection for all libraries, as well as the Black History Month displays that I'm sure are popping up all over your own libraries. I truly loved this wonderful book.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
Langston Hughes and E.B. Lewis
Picture Book/Poetry
Hyperion Books for Children
January 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Fair Godmother

Phew. My Fair Godmother, written by Janette Rallison, has a TON going on. Fairy godmothers, lepruchans, two sisters fighting over a boy, one being sent back in time to become two different fairy tale princesses, another boy coming into the's a lot to handle, but a lot of fun at the same time.

Chrysanthemum Everstar is Savannah Delano's fairy godmother. Or shall we call her the fair godmother? She isn't very good at her job.... after Savannah's boyfriend is stolen by her older sister Jane, right before the prom, all she wants is to have that prince waiting for her at the ball like in the fairy tale. Her fair godmother makes good on that wish, literally, and sends Savannah back in time to the middle ages, turning her into Cinderella. Once Savannah finally works her way out of that bind, she changes her wish just a tad, but ends up back in time again, this time as Snow White.

As Savannah and her classmate (and new love interest...?) Tristan, fight to make their way back to their future, all while staying alive in a world filled with people wanting to harm them, they learn more about fairy tales than they ever wanted to know, proving to themselves that wishing for fairy tale endings is not always a good idea.

I had a couple of "issues" of this book, though I did have a lot of fun reading it. First, the cover features Chrissy, the "fair" Godmother, and she has a few pages devoted to her in the very beginning of the book, but she is a very, very minor character. I felt Chrissy deserved a lot more page time, as she was hilarious when she did make an appearance. I do understand she is only meant to be the cause of the anguish for Savannah, but both the cover and the beginning of the story are teasers to having more of Chrissy's silliness than we have.

The transitioning was a bit strange at times too, going from Chrissy not being able to decide whether Savannah or Jane were her true subjects to it being obvious that it was meant to be Savannah, to Jane taking her sister's boyfriend, to Savannah becoming Cinderella. If those transitions were slowed down a bit and maybe some excess dialogue/descriptions in the end part of the book were cut down, I would have been a bit more pleased.

My final issue is with the ARC listing this as middle grade fiction, but the main characters are sixteen and seventeen, planning for the prom. I would classify it as young adult, rather than middle grade.

Overall, even with the few flaws that I found, My Fair Godmother was good fun and I think will have popularity among teen girls. The cover is definitely cute and attention grabbing and the concept of a modern day teenage girl getting sent back to the middle ages, turned into both Cinderella and then Snow White is different and enjoyable. I think libraries would find this a popular choice amongst their teens.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

My Fair Godmother
Janette Rallison
Young Adult
Walker Books for Young Readers
January 2009