Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cybils Nominations Open Tomorrow!

Nominations for the 2008 Cybils open up tomorrow. Please check out Jen Robinson's post for tons of information because there's no way I say it better than her.

I will completely rip off her call to action though. Jen says:

"We think that the Cybils nominations will be of interest to parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and teens. If you have a blog or an email list or belong to a newsgroup that serves one of these populations, and you feel that your readers would be interested, please consider distributing this announcement (you are welcome to copy it). The Cybils team would very much appreciate your help in spreading the word. And if you, or the children that you know, have any titles to suggest, we would love to see your nominations at the Cybils blog, starting on Wednesday. "

Oh, and while I'm ripping off bloggers, I'm stealing Charlotte's idea and telling you which books I'm thinking of nominating. I clearly have no shame.

Fantasy and Science Fiction:
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (my review)
Fiction Picture Book:

I'm torn between:
  • The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer (ill. Nicoletta Ceccoli) (my review)
  • In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck (ill. Tricia Tusa) (my review) (this is also Charlotte's choice)
  • Splat the Cat (my review)
  • Wave (my review)
  • The Sea Serpent and Me (my review)
  • The Scrambled States of America Talent Show (my review)
Can we really only nominate just one? Waaaaaaaah!

Nonfiction Picture Books:

I'm also torn between:
  • Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (my review)
  • As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson (ill. Raul Colon) (my review)
  • Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne (ill. Eric Puybaret) (my review)
Graphic Novels: I haven't read any I would nominate

Middle grade fiction:
  • A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (my review)
Nonfiction Middle Grade/Young Adult:
  • I'm not nominating anything in this category because I'm on the round 1 panel! Woot Woot! I can't wait to take a look at all of the fabulous books you're going to nominate in this category.
Easy Readers:
  • I haven't read any 2008 published easy readers, so no nominations from me. I seriously need to start reading and reviewing those though.


Young Adult Fiction:

Once again I'm torn. Here are my top choices:

  • Madapple by Christina Meldrum (my review)
  • Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (my review)
  • Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (my review)
  • The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante (my review)

Alright...so I've got serious thinking to do for some categories. I'm looking forward to seeing your nominations!

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

As soon as I read Jen Robinson's review of Cecilia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies, I knew I had to read it. I requested it from my library, picked it up on Saturday, and read it in one day. It was that good.

The book is told in alternating chapters by 14-year-old best friends Agnes and Honey who have spent their entire lives in Mount Blessing, a religious commune in Connecticut. Separated from the outside world, the girls have lived under the stringent rules of Emmanuel, the commune's abusive leader, who professes to be a healer and likens himself to Jesus.

Agnes is a "true believer" and aspires to be a saint. She believes every word Emmanuel tells her, frequently fasts, and even tightly ties a rope around her waist to remind her of her sinful ways. Honey, on the other hand, is a skeptic. Her mother left Honey behind at the commune when she was just an infant, and she's always felt like an outsider. She's also seen a bit of the outside world through a forbidden TV and secret visits to a neighboring farm.

When Agnes' grandmother Nana Pete comes for a surprise visit, she discovers the two girls have recently been beaten in the commune's secret "Regulation Room," and decides that she must take the girls and Agnes' younger brother Benny away at once. Well, imagine taking a true believer out of the only world she has ever known. There's bound to be a bit of conflict and self-discovery, and in the end, Agnes must be braver than she's ever been to do what she believes is right.

Even though I predicted the "surprise revelation" at the end of book early on, I thoroughly enjoyed The Patron Saint of Butterflies and think it would be a thought-provoking read for teenage girls who are at that age struggling with self-identify, friendships, and more. It's very difficult to pull of multiple narrators in a book, but Cecilia Galante brilliantly executed it. There was never a question as to who was speaking as each girl had a distinct voice. The characters were also well developed and very believable.

Their reactions to situations in the book are fitting for their age, and I especially thought that Galante did an exceptional job at capturing Agnes' emotions as she struggles with the fact that maybe Emmanuel is not the perfect god-like human she previously thought him to be. Take this passage when Nana Pete escapes with the children and takes young Benny to the hospital after he severs his fingers in a door and Emmanuel claims to have healed him:

"'I'm going to have to undo everything that Emmanuel guy did,' he [the ER doctor] says, talking directly to Nana Pete. 'And then I will try to salvage what is left and reattach those fingers the right way.' He grimaces. 'It's going to be a complicated surgery...'


'Wait!' I plead, rushing out into the hall.


'Emmanuel didn't heal him? There was no miracle?'

Dr. Panetta gazes curiously at me for a long moment. His eyes are gray with little specks of blue in them. 'No,' he says gently. 'There was no miracle.'

And then he is gone. The two words reverberate through my head.

No miracle. No miracle. No miracle.

Behind me, Honey's hand descends lightly on my shoulder. It feels like a thousand pounds.

'Don't touch me,' I say, shrugging her off. 'I mean it. Don't touch me.' " (pages 125-126)

I was equally impressed that despite some intense, emotional, and dark moments, the book doesn't come across as preachy. I don't think it's a book that seeks to tell you about the "unknown horrors" of religious communes even given the fact that Galante lived in one until she was fifteen. Instead, it's about the test of friendship, the journey of self-discovery, and the personal quest to discover what "good" is.

A book that is sure to spark discussion, I highly recommend it and look forward to reading more of Galante's work.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Jen Robinson's Book Page: "The genius of this book is Galante's telling of the story from both Agnes and Honey's perspectives. Each girl's personality comes through clearly, and together they give the reader a full perspective on life in this repressive religious commune." (read more...)

A big thanks to Jen for the links to other reviews:

Feminist Review: "The Patron Saint of Butterflies is a heartfelt story of self-discovery. It showcases strong female characters who represent the power and importance of independent thinking." (read more...)

Miss Erin: "Completely fantastic. It's really dark in spots, but beautiful, like a butterfly. How in the world did the author pull this book off?" (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews: "The book is intense and powerful and well written." (read more...)

Pixie Stix Kids Pix: "There were a couple of harrowing moments in the reading where I was so emotionally invested that I had a hard time remembering that I was not actually in the book." (read more...)

The Reading Zone: "I loved this book and recommend it for anyone interested in faith, religions, growing up, and the current events taking place with the polygamists in Texas. A great book for book clubs! I can also see this being used in the classroom because it would spark some great discussions!" (read more...)

In the Pages: " Great novel - deals heavily with the power of friendship, faith, and the true meaning of love for each other." (read more...)

Abby the Librarian: "Besides the intriguing characters, the writing made me feel like I was there. When Honey was working in the butterfly garden at the commune, I could feel the sun on my face and smell the fresh earth all around me." (read more...)

Sarah Miller: "This may be a book with something to say something about religion, but Cecilia Galante is smart enough not to turn her story into a pulpit. The plot is quick and intense, and the writing vivid enough that after Honey tasted her fist Big Mac, I just had to do the same." (read more...)

Reader Rabbit: "When reading the Patron Saint of Butterflies, I was entranced and devoured the book all in one go. The plot was hard-hitting and truthful and the author’s voice never turned "preachy." (read more...)

More info:
  • Reading Level: Young adult
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599902494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599902494
  • Source: Library

Monday, September 29, 2008

Let's Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking

Today for Nonfiction Monday, I'm happy to present the first review from our newest contributor, Mary Rowe, "The Library Queen."

Let's Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking is probably the most readable book on the subject I have seen. There are ten chapters. Each chapter is devoted to one reason not to start smoking. Within each chapter, the reader is introduced to pre-teens and teens who think no one should start to smoke. After the introduction. the reader is allowed to peek into the mind of person by reading his/her original essay dealing with the topic of smoking

The ten reasons given for not smoking are the ones you would expect: cancer, other health issues, relationships, addiction, performance, appearance, the entertainment trap, false advertising, and money.

What you might not expect is the honesty of these young people as they tell how family members suffered because someone in the family smoked. They tell of the pain they felt when their parent or grandparent died from cancer. They tell of cousins addicted to cigarettes who have told them NEVER to start smoking because they themselves can't quit. In the chapter about how tobacco affects athletic performance oral cancer and smokeless tobacco were also addressed.

Included in each chapter are interesting facts which highlight the dangers of tobacco in brief sentences inside gray boxes. Lighter gray boxes have the student essays. This layout helps the reader to focus on specific aspects that interest them. Other features that will keep students reading are black and white pencil drawings. For students who want to take action facts relating to how they can become active in spreading the message about the dangers of tobacco are included.

I believe this book would be a wonderful addition to a school or public library. Students will not feel someone is preaching to them as they read this book. The teens included in the book speak with words that are convincing and not overly edited to sound less than authentic.

Adrienne Joy Lowry was seven when her dad died of cancer. The book includes Adrienne's story in her own words.

"My dad died on November 2, 2002. I wrote this in my journal on the day that he died.

'Today my daddy died. It was really sad. I will miss him. He took his last breath and poof he was gone. His spirit went to heaven. He is special.' "

She concludes her essay with this statement of firm resolve:

"I will never smoke because I don't want my kids someday to have to go through what I went through" (p 15).

Another essay I liked was by Brenna on page 107. She writes,

"If you think you want to start smoking, you should think again! Because if you like the way you look now, that can all change when you start smoking. When you smoke the tar in the cigarettes will stain your teeth and fingers yellow. Smokers also have really bad breath!"

How much more honest can you get?

This book was published in Canada and includes photos of Canadian cigarette package warnings. It is interesting to note that these warnings include photos of the disease along with the warning. I think it would be much harder to pick up a pack of cigarettes that had a photo of diseased lung or a clogged heart valve along with the words "smoking causes lung cancer or doubles your risk of stroke."

What Other Bloggers are Saying:

A Patchwork of Books: "The parts that will really hit home to kids are the personal accounts written by real kids for the teens and older children reading the book. Those written accounts are what make the book go by so quickly and actually make it an enjoyable read." (read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Lobster Press (October 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897073666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897073667
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meet Mary

Please join me in welcoming Mary, the newest contributor at The Well-Read Child.

The students at my school know that I am the Queen of the Library but here you can call me Mary. I am a school librarian/reading teacher three days a week and a babysitting Nana the other two days. I am also a lover of the written word. I am so privileged to share my love of books with students of all ages. There is nothing more delightful than putting that just right book into the hands of a skeptical student who then comes back wanting MORE!

My grandchildren have been immersed in literature from birth. I enjoy reading aloud to them from children's picture books and chapter books, having them stop me to ask about words they don't understand, and hearing them beg for the next chapter before they go play.

I have been inspired by reading this blog to start my own blog. I wanted a place to share some of the books in our library that are looking for a reader!

In my spare time I enjoy scrapbooking and photography. I have groups I am active in for each of these hobbies. I don't know why it took me so long to look for book blogs, but I am glad I discovered them!

Welcome Mary! I'm happy to have you here!

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Terrifying. Devastating. Tragic.

Those are the three words that come to mind when I think of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl. After finishing it in one sitting late last night, I'm still trying to catch my breath and desperately trying to get rid of the weight that seems to have settled on my chest. But I think it will be a long time before this happens because what has happened to "Alice" in the book can happen to a child in real life...probably has happened.

The book is told from the point of view of "Alice" a fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped on an elementary school field trip when she was 10. Her captor, Ray, has sexually and physically abused her every day since he kidnapped her. He starves her because he doesn't want her to physically mature, he terrorizes her and tells her that he'll kill her parents and burn their house down if she tries to escape. I'm putting "Alice" in parentheses because that is not her real name. It's the name Ray gave her, the same name he gave the girl he kidnapped and killed before he kidnapped the second Alice.

Alice calls herself a "living dead girl." She's numb inside, she's hungry, she's been tortured so much that she wishes for death. She's waiting for it, hoping for it, expecting it any day; but Ray has something different in mind that is even more terrifying to the reader, and he needs Alice's help.

I've always heard stories about people getting kidnapped and having many opportunities to escape, but they don't. This is Alice's case. There are multiple opportunities for her to tell someone, to run away, to ask for help, but Ray has instilled so much fear in her that she doesn't even think about it anymore.

She truly believes that he will kill her parents, and at one point she says, "I could run, but he would find me. He would take me back to 623 Daisy Lane and make everyone who lives there pay. He would make everyone there pay even if he didn't find me. I belong to him. I'm his little girl. All I have to do is be good" (p. 34).

What is most profound is that Ray has brainwashed her to the point of her believing that she's bad, she's selfish, and that it's all her fault. On the day of the kidnapping, she wouldn't share her lip gloss with her friends. They walked away from her, leaving her alone and exposed to a monster, but she blames herself, thinks if she wouldn't have been so selfish, her life would be different. It's truly heartbreaking.

But the worst part is that people look the other way. They know something's not right, but don't step in.

Scott's writing is gripping, captivating, and horrifying. She draws you in from the very beginning, and Alice immediately becomes real, someone you ache for, someone who you want to make it, someone you want to pluck out of this nightmare of a life. If you're wondering about the language and descriptions in the book, it is evident that Ray is sexually abusing Alice. It's evident that sexual acts are being performed, but the language itself is not graphic.

When discussing why she wrote Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott says, " I wrote Living Dead Girl because it demanded to be told, and I hope it speaks to you as strongly as it did to me." (read more at Simon & Schuster's website).

Did I like the story? Honestly, no. I don't like stories about children being sexually abused. Was it well-written? Absolutely. Should every parent read it? Absolutely. Should teens read it? I want to say yes. I want to say that it could potentially save lives, but it's scary. All I want to do is scoop my daughter up and never let her go.

What Other Bloggers are Saying:

(There are book reviews all over the blogosphere. Here are some of the most recent.)

Bookshelves of Doom: "I'd maybe recommend it to older teens who aren't prone to nightmares. Because this book is way more scary than any horror novel I've ever read." (read more...)

Book Envy: "This is a powerful, horrifying, extremely well written book. It is not for the faint of heart." (read more...)

Presenting Lenore: "This is a heavy, heartbreaking novel, but one that reinforces my belief that the human spirit finds ways to triumph even in the face of great evil. Short and spare, yet powerful and moving, Alice’s story lingers long after the last page is turned." (read more...)

Jenn's Bookshelf: "It has been quite some time since a book has impacted me so powerfully." (read more...) Jenn is also giving away an ARC of the novel if you leave a comment by 10/4.

The Book Muncher: "While it’s not right to like a story such as this, I think Living Dead Girl should be read by everyone, if not for enjoyment then to inform readers. It is a short but fast read, beautifully written and impossible to ever forget." (read more...)

Teen Book Review: "It’s thought provoking, and, well, as I said before, disturbing. Elizabeth Scott is an amazing writer, and she makes this story into exactly what it is supposed to be." (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews: "Scott's writing is incredible. If I were in charge of handing out awards, one would be heading her way. " (read more...)

If I missed you, leave your link in the comments, and I'll post it.

More info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416960597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416960591
  • Source: Library

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coming Soon: Tons of Reviews!

Earlier this month, I put out a call for guest reviewers to help me with my ever-growing stack of books, particularly YA. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from 17 people who were more than willing to help out. Can you believe it?!!!

I've assembled a superstar team of teachers, parents, children's librarians, authors, bloggers, and children's book lovers who are dedicated to bringing you great book recommendations that will help you develop readers.

In the coming weeks, I plan on introducing you to these reviewers and start editing and posting reviews as they trickle in.

I'm so very very very excited!

Interested in reviewing? Email me at thewellreadchild AT gmail DOT com for more information.

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte

For today's Poetry Friday selection, I'm reviewing Ann Clare LeZotte's debut novel, T4. Written in free verse, T4 tells the story of Paula Becker, a thirteen year old German girl who is deaf and a target of the Nazis who were ordered to kill disabled people under Action T4. With the assistance of the family's priest, Father Josef, young Paula goes into hiding until she can safely return to her family.

This is a fast-paced and touching read that brings attention to a story that many may not have heard much about. But what makes this book special is LeZotte's sparse free verse that not only tells Paula's story but also effectively conveys the voice and fears of a thirteen-year-old girl. The beginning of the book focuses on Paula's childhood before Action T4 and both her and her family's struggle to cope with her disability.

This passage was especially expressive:

"What I Saw
My visual
Was so

A breeze
The leaves
A tree

Ran fast
Past me
It looked
A tidal

The motion
A hand
Me. " (pp. 8-9)

Here's part of her description of Poor Kurt, a kind man she meets in the shelter where she's hiding:

"Poor Kurt
Wrapped his dreams
Around him
Like a patchwork quilt.

He slept
Almost every night
At the shelter.
He slept all day too.

His bushy beard
Appeared to be gray,
But he never washed,
So I couldn't tell...." (p. 52)

LeZotte makes the story and characters come alive in a book that literally took me 20 minutes to read. Through Paula, she is able to tell the horrific story of Action T4 and the Holocaust without going into graphic details. Because the book is short and written in free verse, there are not many details, so be prepared to answer many questions after children finish reading the book.

Not only will this make a great addition to a home or school library, but it would also make a great supplementary resource in history and language arts classes.

Read an interview with the author at Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature.

What Other Bloggers are Saying:
Flamingnet Young Adult Book Review: "This book is really rich in detail and is a great story. I would say that anybody who is in to learning about WWII should read this book." (Read more...)

More info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (September 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547046847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547046846
  • Source of book: Review copy from publisher

The Poetry Friday roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News and Such

I'm a little behind with reviews this week but wanted to share some interesting links I've found.

First off, teachers and homeschooling parents, be sure to check out Open Wide, Look Inside. This week, there are reviews of tons of books you can use for Earth Science lessons. Each review comes with curriculum connections and supporting resources. Great stuff!

Here's another great resource: Over at I.N.K, Interesting Nonfiction for Kids, in a post titled "Learning Sideways," author Gretchen Woelfle shares some great nonfiction books that, according to Gretchen, "slide..learning in sideways so that kids hardly know what hit them."

While we're talking about Nonfiction, I'm so happy and excited to be part of the round 1 Nonfiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Panel for this year's Cybils Awards! I'm looking forward to participating this year with a fabulous group of bloggers. Nominations open on October 1st for nine different categories, so get your list together now! Don't worry though...I'll remind you again next week!

On the topic of books I want to read, Jen Robinson has convinced me to add yet another book to my never ending pile of books. Her review on Cecilia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies made me request this from my library today. The quote from the book Jen included in her review was amazing, and I can't wait to read it.

And finally, Shana Berg, author of A Thousand Never Evers, shares the heartwarming and inspirational story of Basarat Kazim, a woman who has worked for years to bring books and literacy to Pakastani children. Her newest project, Scheherezade’s Treasure Trove, involves creating 48 libraries in school cupboards because there is no room for libraries in these schools. She plans on placing 1,001 books and a Scheherezade puppet theatre in the cupboards of each school and decorating the cupboards with images from The Thousand and One Nights. Visit Shana's blog to learn more and see how you can donate books to the project.

Monday, September 22, 2008

September Carnival of Children's Literature

Check out Jenny's Wonderland of Books for this month's Carnival of Children's Literature. There you'll find links to reviews of books both old and new and more great children's literature goodness.

I'll be your host next month...FUN!

Animals at the Edge: Saving the World's Rarest Creatures by Jonathan and Marilyn Baillie

Animals at the EDGE: Saving the World's Rarest Creatures by Jonathan and Marilyn Baillie

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Be sure to visit Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day for lots of nonfiction choices.

This week, I'm serving up a brand new book that introduces children to 11 of the world's rarest and endangered creatures and the scientists that study them. The featured animals in the book are all part of the Zoological Society of London's EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) project.

The book is organized into spreads that provide interesting facts about an endangered animal, a narrative from the scientist who studies it, and a notebook with the scientist's field notes.

Image courtesy Maple Tree Press

In the featured spread above, the endangered animal is the long-eared Jerboa, a mouse-sized animal that lives in the desert of China and Mongolia. Little is known about this mysterious animal, including reasons why it's disappearing. That's what scientists like Uuganbadrakh Oyunkhishig, the scientist in this particular spread, are trying to find out so they can save it from extinction.

The content in the book is written in digestible chunks in "kid-friendly," "you-centered" language. The scientists write their narratives in first person as if they are talking to the reader, and the inclusion of the field notes section adds a nice touch.

The end of the book contains a colorful map of Earth showing where all of the featured animals can be found, a glossary, and more information about the EDGE project.

Not only do children learn interesting information about some of Earth's endangered animals, but they get a glimpse into what it's like to be a scientist, a more "unconventional" career that may interest them. Unlike other books that "preach" about conservation, this book shows kids WHY it's important to take care of the Earth.

Learning Opportunities:
  • Use as a supplemental resource in science and social studies classrooms in units on species, conservation, geography, and endangered species
  • Visit the EDGE project's website to view more rare and endangered animals. For a project idea, kids can research and develop their own presentation about one of the animals found on the site.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Maple Tree Press (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897349335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897349335
  • Source of book: Review copy from publisher

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank You Amy!

Jennifer from The Literate Housewife Review has organized a "blogwide" thank you to Amy from My Friend Amy for organizing Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

Amy has done an absolutely amazing job of pulling together the huge community of book bloggers to participate in interviews, contests, give-aways, awards. I personally have found tons of new blogs and have been touched and amazed by everyone's support of The Well-Read Child by both nominating and selecting it as one of The Best KidLit Blogs.

I'm so happy to have found this wonderful community and want to thank you, Amy, for a wonderful week!

Crocs! by David T. Greenberg , illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

For today's Poetry Friday selection, I'm offering up Crocs!, a rhyming picture book by "the emerging poet of gross," David T. Greenberg. Told in second person, which is unique in itself, a boy leaves the city for what promises to be a quiet vacation away from "Roaches in your omelets/ pigeons dropping bomblets/ wild poodles stalking you in gangs." At first he's having a nice time relaxing, but is soon surrounded by tons of crocodiles intent on disturbing his peaceful vacation. They soon invade his life, and the boy soon starts getting the urge to act like a crocodile. The surprise ending is cute and satisfying even though it is a bit cheesy.

So, you know, it's very difficult to tell a story in rhyme. Children's book authors often try it and often fail because it's hard to make the rhymes work. While Crocs! is not a failure, there are moments when the rhymes really work like in the beginning of the book, "Isn't it a pity/ That you had to leave the city/ Because of the all the horrifying critters/ Giant tabby cats/ And defiant scabby rats/ Large enough to swallow baby-sitters."

And then there are times when the rhythm is off a bit: "Crocodiles growling/ Crocodiles Howling/ At the very tops of their lungs/ Crocodiles thrashing/ Wildly smashing/ Crocs with studs in their tongues."

However, Lynn Munsinger's illustrations are very funny and had me laughing out loud in places. Goofy-looking crocodiles are in all types of funny situations. You see a long-lashed crocodile putting on lipstick, another painting her nails bright pink, a couple of crocodiles unsuccessfully trying to floss their teeth, a crocodile chef with a wok, noodles in its mouth and all over the place, and many many more. Because of this, I can forgive some of the weak poetry in the book even though I really do wish it was just a tad bit better.

I think many kids will enjoy the absurdity of the situations depicted in the book and will reach for it again and again.

Visit the Poetry Friday roundup at author amok.

What Other Bloggers are Saying:

Charlotte's Library:
"...this book is fun to read aloud, and fun to look at, and kind of strange. Definitely one for the child who appreciates more than a bit of surreality with their playful, rollicking verse." (read more...)

A Patchwork of Books: "The illustrations are a perfect match to the story and your little ones will be giggling at the silliness of the crocs and the great faces on the boy." (read more...)

More info:
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316073067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316073066
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Library Loot

My little one has been sick all week. Today, she's feeling better and, according to the doctor, no longer contagious. We were both a little stir crazy, so we went to the library. This time, I let her choose some of her own books just to see what caught her eye.

Here's what she chose:

The Cats ABC book was a given, since she LOVES cats. The others were kind of random, but interesting choices. Once she realized how fun it was to pull books off the shelf and put them in the bag, she went a little crazy, so I had to put a lot of books back.

Here are my children's literature choices:

I cleaned the library out of Melanie Watt's books because I haven't read any of her books, and I chose the Raucous Royals because it just looked fun.

Finally, here were my adult book picks.

White Tiger and A Fraction of the Whole are shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. I'm a bit of a "Book Awards Groupie" because I often get overwhelmed with making book choices. I figure that if they're nominated for an award, SOMEBODY liked them. I chose Netherland because I've read lots of reviews and wanted to see what all of the hype was about. Finally, I chose The Handmaid's Tale because my friend Cindy told me I should read it, especially given the fact that I haven't read any Atwood books.

I also saw that next weekend my library is having a used book sale. $5 for a bag of books. I'm so there.

Yay books!

Tied with Jen Robinson for Best Kidlit Blog

Oh my goodness! I am so happy, excited, honored, and elated to have tied with Jen Robinson's Book Page for the honor of Best KidLit Blog for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by My Friend Amy.

First off, thanks to everyone who both nominated and voted for The Well-Read Child. When I started this blog in November last year, I had no idea that I would become part of a wonderful blogging community full of people who were just as passionate about children's books and literacy as me. I had no idea that I would be up until 3 in the morning writing about books and loving it.

And to be sharing this honor with Jen Robinson is unbelievable. She is a rock star in my eyes, and her dedication to children's literature and growing readers is evident. She provides very detailed and thorough reviews and combs the internet for tons of news, resources, and information. Seriously, if you haven't seen her blog yet or signed up for her weekly newsletter, I don't know what you're waiting for. Congrats Jen!

Congrats to all of the nominees, also! There are so many other fantastic kidlit blogs that weren't nominated, so I encourage you to check out some of my favorite that are listed on the right-hand side of my blog.

Finally, many thanks to Amy for organizing this event! It's been wonderful.

The Faerie's Gift by Tanya Robyn Batt; illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli

The Faerie's Gift by Tanya Robyn Batt, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

On a seemingly ordinary day, a poor woodcutter rescues a faerie from a preying hawk. In return for saving his life, the faerie gives the woodcutter a gift of one wish. As the woodcutter dreams of things he's always desired, he remembers his family back at home and decides that they must all decide on what the wish will be. The woodcutter is more confused than ever when his wife wants him to wish for the child they've never been able to have, his blind mother wants him to wish for her to regain her eyesight, and his father wants him to wish for gold. How can he make his entire family happy with just one wish?

This is the type of enchanting story that many children will love. They will especially enjoy hearing the story read aloud to them. But what steals the show in this book are Nicoletta Ceccoli's breathtaking illustrations. I became a fan of Ceccoli when I saw her magical work with The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer, a book which I think is the most beautifully illustrated book EVER.

Image courtesy Random House Children's Books

In The Faerie's Gift, Ceccoli's illustrations are three dimensional, and in many cases, the reader is looking at the pictures in the book from a bird's eye view. Combine this with a soft palette, and you're instantly taken into another time, a magical dream world where faeries exist and have the ability to grant wishes to good people. Highly recommended.

Image courtesy Barefoot Books

And if you're as entranced with Ceccoli as I am, check out the artwork she shared with Jules and Eisha featured at at Seven Imp back in April. I just want to decorate my entire house with her artwork.

More information:
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Barefoot Books (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841489980
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841489988
  • Source of book: Review copy from publisher

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

In what seems like my never-ending quest to read some children's books that I've always wanted to read, I checked out the first three books in Lemony Snicket's (Daniel Handler) A Series of Unfortunate Events series.

In the first book,
The Bad Beginning , Snicket lets us know from the very beginning that this not a book with a happy ending and that truly unfortunate things happen to the Baudelaire siblings: Violet, Klaus, and Baby Sunny. And indeed he keeps his promise when the siblings are orphaned early on in the book. The banker, Mr. Poe takes is the executioner of the Baudelaire estate and is in charge of placing the orphans with a family member. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of family members, and the orphans are placed with the murderous Count Olaf who is intent on receiving the Baudelaire fortune. It's up to the orphans to stop him, but as you can imagine, just when things are looking good for the children, they're hit with yet another misfortune.

In the second book,
The Reptile Room, the children are placed with the very kind and very generous Uncle Monty who has a very impressive collection of reptiles. Things are going very well, for the children who believe their luck is improving until Count Olaf makes an appearance and commits a terrible crime. The children are once again left without a guardian at the book's end, and things look bleaker than ever.

In the third book, The Wide Window, the children are sent to live with a distant cousin whom they call, Aunt Josephine. She lives in a rickety house that is precariously dangling over a lake filled with killer leeches. Aunt Josephine is terrified of everything, from telephones to stoves, but she does love grammar. The children are forced to eat horrendously cold meals and their grammar is constantly corrected, even poor Sunny, who is just a baby. At least they all agree that it's better than living with Count Olaf. But lo and behold, Count Olaf finds them, and due to more unfortunate events, the children are left homeless and without a guardian.

Alright...so my apologies in advance to all of you Lemony Snicket fans. It's not that I DIDN'T like the books, but seriously, can't you give the poor kids a break? I don't even want to read the rest of the books because I'm not sure I can handle all of the misfortune. I know, I know...the kids are SUPPOSED to suffer misfortune. Snicket told me this in the beginning and continued to tell me throughout the book, but I didn't listen to his advice and kept reading even when he told me I shouldn't if I wanted things to turn out well.

That aside, as a cynic, I did enjoy the humor in the book. I love Snicket's tounge-in-cheek style and tidbits of advice, like this one from Book 3: "If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats."

I also love the way he defines vocabulary words that may be a little difficult for readers. Take this instance from Book 1:

"But one type of book that practically no one likes to read is a book about the law. Books about the law are notorious for being very long, very dull, and very difficult to read. This is one reason many lawyers make heaps of money. The money is an incentive - the word 'incentive' here means 'an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don't want to do - to read long, dull, and difficult books.'"

The books themselves are repetitive, and the characters are flat and predictable, but I know that many kids and parents enjoy them. The three I did read were short and fast-paced, but I don't know if I'd read them to very young children. If I couldn't handle the sadness, I'm not sure young children would be able to. But I never said I was brave...

Other books in the series:

Book 4: The Miserable Mill

Book 5: The Austere Academy

Book 6: The Ersatz Elevator

Book 7: The Vile Village

Book 8: The Hostile Hospital

Book 9: The Carnivorous Carnival

Book 10: The Slippery Slope

Book 11: The Grim Grotto

Book 12: The Penultimate Peril

Book 13: The End

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

The day is almost over here, and I'm late announcing the kickoff of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) at My Friend Amy. Every day there will be raffles, tons of great prizes, interviews, and more. In addition, on Wednesday and Thursday this week, Amy has asked other bloggers to announce the winners of the BBAW awards throughout the day. Do check out the festivities!

Make Your List and Check it Twice...The Cybils are Coming

It's that time of year for the Cybils book awards. For those of you new to The Cybils, it's the Children's & Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Anyone aged 13 and up can nominate their favorite books of 2008 (published between Jan 1 and Oct 15) in nine different categories.

Nominations open up on October 1st, so check out the Cybils website, and start making your lists!

Busy Pandas by John Schindel and Lisa and Mike Husar

Busy Pandas by John Schindel, photography by Lisa and Mike Husar

For today's Nonfiction Monday selection, I'm bringing you a book for the smallest nonfiction lovers in your family.

Back in March, I reviewed four board books in Tricycle Press's Busy Book Series. They continue to be a favorite in our house, especially Busy Kitties. Well, Tricycle Press kindly sent the latest book in the series, Busy Pandas. After a recent trip to the National Zoo where my daughter saw the pandas and received her very own tiny stuffed panda, she has been entranced by this book.

Following the same format as the other books in the series, each page in the book features a full-color photographs of pandas demonstrating the action word on the page that will help your child build vocabulary. Both baby and adult pandas are in the book doing many things young children will be familiar with. For example, we see a "panda eating," a stalk of bamboo another "panda hiding" behind bamboo, a big "panda sliding" in the snow on its back, and tiny baby "panda napping" with its mother.

The sturdy board book with thick pages makes it an ideal choice for not-so-gentle toddlers. I highly recommend this book and the others in the series. Not only do they teach fun action words, but the beautiful photographs will keep even the smallest of kids engaged.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Baby-Preschool
  • Board book: 19 pages
  • Publisher: Tricycle Press; Brdbk edition (October 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582462593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582462592

Other books in the series include:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Well-Read Child is on Facebook

I've been a little obsessed with Facebook for quite a while, and only today I learned about the blog network feature. If any of you "Facebookers" would like to join The Well-Read Child blog network, click the widget in the right-hand column of the blog.

Very cool.

Katie Loves the Kittens, written and illustrated by John Himmelman

Katie Loves the Kittens written and illustrated by John Himmelman

Katie is a clumsy floppy-eared dog whose owner Sara Ann has just brought home three kittens. According to the book it was, "the most exciting day in Katie's whole life." She's so happy that she can't help but howling, "AROOOOOOOOO!" As you may imagine, it frightens the kittens, and Sara Ann scolds her. Katie is determined to control her excitement around the kittens, but every time she gets close to them, another "AROOOOOOOOOO!" comes out. Can Katie control herself enough to enjoy the kittens and to please Sara Ann? Maybe....

This book is sooooo sweet, satisfying, and funny. The simple, yet engaging storyline is perfect for beginning readers and kids with short attention spans. Himmelman's illustrations are very amusing. Katie's "AROOOOOOOOO's" send kittens scurrying up lampshades and windows; her pathetic facial expressions when Sara Ann scolds her are adorable; and her futile attempts at self control are hilarious.

This is one of those books that I think both boys and girls will love, especially those who love cats and dogs. It would make an excellent read aloud for the entire family.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Fuse #8: " Maybe it’s the three-year-old in me, but there is nothing finer in this world that watching characters explode off a page over, under, around, and through. Tumbling, tossing, flying, it’s all wonderful. " (read more...)

4IQREAD: "This is a very simple sweet picture book with charming illustrations that capture nicely Katie’s eagerness to make friends with the kittens and highlight her engaging expressions and movements." (read more...)

We Love Children's Books: "I don't laugh out loud at many books but I did with this one! The words and pictures work together perfectly, telling a fine story with on the mark canine and feline behavior." (read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080508682X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805086829
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Children's Book Reviews in the New York Times

There are a lot of great children's book reviews in the New York Times this weekend.

  • James McMullan reviews Doreen Rappaport's Lady Liberty and Laura Vila's Building Manhatten in "New York Stories"
  • Austin Grossman reviews Cory Doctorow's Little Brother in "Nerd Activists"
  • Simon Rodberg reviews Claire A. Nivola's Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, and Jeanette Winter's Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story From Africa in "She Speaks for the Trees"
  • Finally, in "Bookshelf," Julie Just reviews a variety of children's books

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Search of Guest Reviewers

My ultimate vision for The Well-Read Child is to offer a wide variety of book recommendations from an equally wide variety of readers and reviewers. I'm also admittedly a bit overwhelmed with books begging to be read and talked about. While I'm confessing here, I will also say that most of the neglected books are Young Adult. I like YA, but right now my preference lies with books for younger children, mainly because I read a lot of them with my young daughter. I also always have a stack of adult books waiting for me on my nightstand, so YA tends to get left behind.

I'm looking for readers who'd like to receive some Young Adult books and review them here.

Email me at thewellreadchild AT gmail DOT com, and I'll send you a list of available books along with some reviewing guidelines and more information.

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

8th Annual National Book Festival

Allegra P. wrote me on behalf of the Library of Congress to tell me about the 8th annual National Book Festival that will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 27th.I really hope to make it. I live nearby, and there are tons of great events for the entire family.

Here's what Allegra had to say:

It’s a great opportunity to meet in-person and interact with some of the nation’s best-selling authors, illustrators and poets, both at the event and online. This year, the festival is providing several online resources that are great for educational purposes!

This free event, featuring over 70 award-winning authors, attracts over 100,000 thousands of book lovers of all ages to the National Mall in Washington, DC to celebrate the joys of reading and lifelong literacy.

Sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, this year the Festival will take place rain or shine Saturday, September 27th 2008 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on The National Mall (Between 3rd and 7thstreets) in Washington, DC. Additional details on the festival are housed here: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest.

Authors, illustrators and poets will interact with festival-goers at seven themed pavilions such as the Children pavilion. The Children’s pavilion will feature several participating authors, including Doreen Corin & Besty Lewin, who will sign books and give readings from their works.

In addition to the DC festivities, the Library is offering a variety of ways for people around the country to participate in the event online:

  • The National Book Festival Young Readers’ Online Toolkit, features information about National Book Festival authors who write for children and teens, podcasts of their readings, teaching tools and activities for kids. This resource shows educators, parents and children how they can host their own book festival.
  • Online chats hosted by washingtonpost.com featuring a select group of Festival authors. These live text-based discussions will take place throughout September leading up to the Festival at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/liveonline/index.html, where participants can submit questions and comments any time before or during the live chat.
  • Podcasts, also available on iTunes, featuring interviews with some of the award-winning authors participating in the 2008 National Book Festival.

For additional details about participating authors, illustrators and poets please visit, www.loc.gov/bookfest.

View the full press release: http://www.prweb.com/releases/Library-of-Congress/Bookfest-Podcasts/prweb1207224.htm

Monday, September 8, 2008

Invaluable Resource for Teachers and Homeschooling Parents

I've been meaning to post about this for a couple of weeks, but time has slipped away from me. Anyhow, please check out the blog, Open Wide, Look Inside.

This is Tricia Stohr-Hunt's (The Miss Rumphius Effect) blog that features a wealth of resources that primarily include recommendations for children's books that can be used across math, science, and social studies curricula.

Starting at the end of August and running into mid-November, Tricia's preservice teachers are posting tons of book reviews (more than 100!) and teaching recommendations teachers can use for science and social studies classrooms.

Great stuff!

Children's Literature and Muffin Tins?

Do you want a fun way to get kids involved with books? Then check this out!

Via Amy at Let's Explore, I learned about "Muffin Tin Mondays," at Sycamore Stirrings. Basically, Katy challenges readers each week to make a lunch in a muffin tin based on a theme. This week's theme was children's literature. Read more about Muffin Tin Monday here.

First check out the adorable and creative lunch muffin tin lunch Amy made for her daughters based on Pinkalicious by Victoria & Elizabeth Kann. Then head on over to Sycamore Stirrings for more fun muffin tins based on lots of great children's books, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, Bananas in Pyjamas, and many many more.

By the way, if you're a parent or teacher of young children and are looking for ways to be creative and crafty with your child, do subscribe to Let's Explore. Amy offers tons of wonderful activities for parents and young children.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton

Splat the Cat written and illustrated by Rob Scotton (HarperCollins, 2008)

Bueller? Bueller? If you're a parent or guardian of a school-aged child, chances are that you've already experienced the day (or days) when your child just does not want to go to school. Maybe he's sick; maybe she's scared; or maybe he just wants a day off.

In Splat the Cat's case, he's afraid of his first day of school, and he tries every excuse to get out of it, but his mother is persistent. He must go to school. Splat reluctantly goes, but decides to take his mouse friend Seymour along in his lunch box. At school, Splat's teacher, Mrs. Wimpydimple talks about all of the AMAZING things cats can do, and he is very surprised to hear that cats chase mice. As you can only expect in these sorts of situations, Seymour escapes from the lunch box, and a chase pursues. Luckily, Mrs. Wimpydimple intervenes, and Splat realizes that school may not be so bad after all.

This is the type of book that can help ease a child's fear of school through a very funny story with equally funny illustrations. I can't find information about what medium Scotton used to create the illustrations, but to me, they look digitally rendered. Splat is a big fuzzball, and his facial expressions are hilarious. The illustrations are also richly detailed, and I keep finding new things each time I read the book. For example, when his mom combs Splat's hair, Seymour is holding a comb, peeking out from behind a jar of "Fur Gloop." On another page, you can see Splat's bookshelf with a picture of his dad and books that include such titles as, "I Love Fish." It's a book that I think both parents and children will enjoy reading over and over again.

Check out the author's site to see more of his work, including a cute Splat the Cat trailer, resources, and more.

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060831545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060831547
  • Source: Bought at local bookstore

What Other Bloggers are Saying:

Renee's Reading Corner: "...a wonderful, funny tale and the illustrations are vibrant and colorful." (read more...)

Reader Views: “Splat the Cat” was an entertaining book with a fun storyline for preschoolers. The names in the book, like Splat the Cat and Mrs. Wimpydimple, made my children laugh out loud. The book is filled with wonderfully detailed illustrations that I enjoyed as much as my children. " (read more...) Note: I especially enjoyed the commentary the reviewer's children had on the book. Totally cute.

Books for Kids Blog: "Rob Scotton's edgy illustrations of Splat the quirky cat are a real hoot, and his positive message about surviving the first day of school should help ease that first-day anxiety." (read more...)

Miss Deb's Youth Fiction: "Splat has a soft, gently disheveled look, making him the perfect cat for this book. " (read more...)

Cheryl Rainfield: "...a throughly enjoyable and satisfying read, one that brings good feeling. It lets kids know that being scared is okay, that things can work out, that being different is okay, and that we can all behave differently than how we’re expected to–for the better." (read more...)

Young Readers: "This one is fun. Pure and simple. It's fun. It covers a wide range of emotions. And it's one that parents, children, and teachers can all relate to in one way or another." (read more...)

Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central: " For a book with humorous appeal that will have young readers returning again and again, check this one out! " (read more...)

The Reading Tub: "This is one of those rare first-day-of-school books that has year-round value. Yes, it is a great book to have for those first-day-of-school jitters for preschool and Kindergarten. First graders who read it for themselves will also find the story helpful." (read more...)