Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Moonbeam Children's Book Awards

A big thanks to Cynthia Pon, Director of Children's Books at The Global Fund for Children for letting me know about the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards awarded by Independent Publisher.

138 awards were handed out in more than 30 categories, and the book Cynthia Pon co-authored, Children of the U.S.A. , won a gold award in the Multicultural Nonfiction category. (my review) Congratulations!

About the awards:
"Many of these books are by little-known authors, illustrators and publishers from around the world, and we're proud to bring them to the attention of the children's book audience. Creating books that inspire our children to read, to learn, and to dream is an extremely important task, and these awards were conceived to reward those efforts."

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Savvy by Ingrid Law

When I saw Eva's review of this book at Eva's Book Addiction, I was intrigued by the story and immediately visited my library's website to see if it was available. I was thrilled to see an audio book version available and listened to it during my commute to and from work last week.

Missippi (Mibs) Beaumont is getting ready to turn 13. In her family, it is a very special birthday, the birthday where family members get their "savvy," a very special and secret magical know-how. For example, Mibs' brother Fish can create storms, powerful hurricanes even; her oldest brother Rocket can create electricity; and her deceased grandmother could catch radio waves out of the air and put songs and news stories in jars to be heard over and over again (unless you took the lid completely off.)

Right before her birthday, Mibs' Poppa gets into a horrible car accident, leaving the family separated. On her birthday, Mibs is convinced that her savvy is the ability to wake people up, so she's determined to get to the hospital in Salina to wake up Poppa. She hides on a bible salesman's pink bus and is joined by two of her brothers and Bobby and Will Jr., the preacher's kids. When the bus heads away from Salina instead of towards it, they go on quite an adventure where Mibs not only discovers her true savvy but also discovers that people are not quite how they often appear to be on the outside.

This is a fantastic book about friendship, family, and growing up mixed in with a little magic and adventure. I liked Mibs from the very beginning and think that young tween girls will definitely identify with her. Even though she has a special magical power, she is down to earth and real. The fresh concept, fast pace, and plot twists will keep readers engaged throughout the book, and it makes a perfect read aloud. This was just the type of "feel-good book" I was looking for after a rather stressful month and after reading some more intense, dark novels.

Highly recommended.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:
Eva's Book Addiction: "This is an all-around satisfying book that kept me intrigued all the way to the end. " (read more...)

Library Queen's Weblog: "Mibs and her family and friends are believable, full of life, and interesting. I thought I would do a quick read to see who might like the book and found that I can excitedly recommend it to." (read more...)

Little Willow:
"It's almost as if the kids from the Maggie Valley books by Kerry Madden (Gentle's Holler, etc) were given the powers of the X-Men." (read more...)

Everead: "The pacing in the book was great -- by 3/4 of the way through you're just dying to know how it all works out. Recommended wholeheartedly." (read more...)

Kinnelon Library Teen Blog: "Following Mibs and her gang on this journey is one of the better reading experiences I've had in a long time. I can't imagine that there's a middle school girl around who wouldn't get a kick out of this story on so many levels." (read more...)

Abby (the) Librarian: "Savvy is poetic. It's full of fun words, real words, that are used in unique ways. It also feels like a tall tale, which I love. Rich descriptions and multi-dimensional characters make this a novel not soon forgotten." (read more...)

Yat-Yee Chong:
"If this way of writing is Ingrid Law’s savvy, then I hope she stays with it. Because with it, she conveys warmth and generosity, and creates a story that is grounded in the things that matter: love, faith, and hope." (read more...)

Cool Kids Read: "I liked the originality of this book. It was an enjoyable read and the story pulled me in and carried me right along." (read more...)

Studentofsagas Weblog: "I think any teen can identify with the idea of being a bit different and standing out, and the process of coming to terms with it. " (read more...)

Random Wonder: "Savvy is an excellent tale with special recommendations for girls in the 10 - 13 age bracket, readers who enjoy magical tales, or those interested in coming-of-age tales." (read more...)

Goddess of YA Literature: "This was a sheer joy to read, a perfect book for someone feeling a tad sick and needing, like Poppa, some healing." (read more...)

Sarah Miller: "As for the plot, in retrospect it should feel far-fetched; instead it comes off as charming and fanciful. Nevertheless, the story itself didn't leave me smitten the way so many other readers are." (read more...)

Literate Lives: "Ingrid Law allows the reader to see the world of growing up through both sides' eyes, and develops the characters so well that the reader forgets that we are dealing with the fantasy world." (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews: "Savvy is another book that had me at hello." (read more...)

More info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dial
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803733062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803733060
  • Source: Audio book from library

Author's blog: Straight from the Jar

Also visit the Official Savvy Website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Study Guide for The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary

Yesterday, I reviewed The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming. (see review here).

Today, Colleen Carroll, author of the How Artists See and How Artists See, Jr. series, sent me the link to the Random House study guide she wrote for the book. This 6-page guide includes a lot of great activities and discussion questions.

Thanks, Colleen, for the link! Colleen is also going to be reviewing books at The Well-Read Child from time to time, and I'm very excited to have her as part of the team!

Poison Ink by Christopher Golden

Poison Ink by Christopher Golden
Review by Shelly Burns (Write for a Reader)

High School is a difficult time for many teens - peer pressure, fitting in, friends, first loves, and all that goes with being a teenager. For the girls in Poison Ink, it’s all of that…the whole high school experience. What do you do when you just don’t fit in? Sammi, T.Q., Caryn, Letty, and Katsuko knew all too well. When you are the loner, you hang with the other loners. None of these girls fit in with any of the other groups at Covington High, so they fit in with each other. They want a symbol of their bond, their friendship; what’s better than a tattoo? That’s exactly what they set out to do one night. They won’t get just any tattoo; they want one that will symbolize their friendship. They decide to go to an out of the way shop - one that won’t ask for parental permission for underage girls who want tattoos. All of the girls except for one, Sammi, go through with the tattoo. What would her parents say? The girls are furious, but before the night’s over, Sammi decides that she will return the next day, by herself to get the tattoo. Does she get it, or is it just airbrushed to appease the other girls?

Now she’s an outcast again, and her best friends turn into strangers. They are doing things they never would have done before: smoking, skipping school, fighting, taunting. During one of their brawls, Sammi tries to get in the middle and break it up only to have them turn and attack her. What does she spy on her friend’s back during the fight? The original tattoo has taken on a new form; it’s grown tendrils and it’s going over the girl’s body. What did the tattoo artist do to her friends and how can she stop it? Will Sammi be able to get her friends back?

My Review
Christopher Golden tells a great story. From the first page to the last, I was hooked! I loved Golden’s characters. The girls were so realistic, the storyline intriguing. You are drawn into the story from the prologue. Funny thing is I figured that the prologue would be an insight into the beginning of the story, but it’s actually taken from the end.

Golden paints such a vivid picture with his words:
“Pieces of her are broken. Every bump or crack in the road jostles her, shooting needles of pain into her skull and back and searing her side where some of her ribs have given away. She breathes through her teeth, and her pain turns into a strange whistling.

A paramedic floats into view above her. With a warm damp cloth, he wipes some of the blood from her face. Twenty-something, skin like mahogany wood, a ridiculously good-looking guy. She feels almost embarrassed to have him looking at her bloody, swollen face.

‘You’re going to be just fine, honey,’ he says.” (taken from the Prologue)

You feel bad for Sammi. She did what any high school girl would do when they know they are out defying their parents. She thought twice about her decision and it cost her the friends she loved.

“The rest of the day Sammi walked the halls of Covington High in a constant state of humiliation…Every glance or whisper troubled her. No matter how she told herself they weren’t talking about her, that a lot of people hadn’t even noticed the way her friends had abandoned her …still she felt exposed.” (p. 89)

When Sammi tries to fix things and the others realize what they had become and how they had acted, you almost feel sorry for them.

“Sammi’s heart broke for her, the horror of it coming to her all at once. What must it have been like to be a passenger in her own body, able to see out through her own eyes, aware of the things that her puppeteer had done to her body?” (p. 252)

Sammi is written as such a strong character, but there are times when I wished she would just “get over herself!” She is smart though. She figures things out and does her best to try to fix what she had a part in creating. She wanted the tattoo and pushed for them all to get them, but not so it would break up their friendship.

I just loved how real the story was. I could see a group of high school girls doing the things these girls do: plotting about getting tattoos behind their parents’ backs, fighting in school, etc. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this book for younger than high school students because of some of the actions that the girls take: drug use and foul language, for example. I think that high school students and young adults will enjoy this book. It was an easy and enjoyable read.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Guys Lit Wire (reviewed by Book Chic): "I was seriously on the edge of my seat during the entire second half and couldn't stop reading until I got to the end. " (read more...)

Little Willow: "Poison Ink is one of my favorite books of 2008. I put this book into the hands of teens and adults alike. I feel as though I am introducing a new generation to Golden's works, and that feels great." (read more...)

Mrs. Magoo Reads: "Although there were a few brief disturbing parts (if you get queasy easily you'll probably just want to skip over a few paragraphs), I fully enjoyed the novel, and I really do hope it's made into a movie!"(read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734837
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Here is the first of many reviews of Cybils nominees in the Nonfiction Middle Grade/Young Adult category.

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

Full of photos, clippings, letters, political cartoons, and more, this book offers a comprehensive look at the lives of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln in an impressive and thoroughly researched scrapbook-style format.

It tells the story of both Abraham and Mary's very different upbringings, their courtship and marriage, Abraham's ascent into politics and his presidency, and much much more. Along the way, Candace Fleming presents many interesting and captivating stories about the Lincolns including Mary's spending habits, Lincoln's love interests before he met Mary, and the tragic deaths of three of their children.

What's most impressive is that the writing is not dry. I found myself wanting to read more and enjoyed the fact that the information was presented in chunks and not long, boring, chapters. While some readers may initially be put off by the book's size, they can control how much they want to read, whether it be just browsing or reading the book from cover to cover.

While the reading level is for a young audience, it would definitely make a great choice for older history buffs, especially Civil War enthusiasts. I also think it would make an excellent addition to a social studies classroom.

Fleming has given us a book that puts a human touch to the lives of the legendary couple in an approachable, entertaining manner.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375836187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375836183
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Visit Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday selections!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Carnival of Children's Literature: Snuggle Up With a Children's Book

Welcome to the October Carnival of Children's Literature!

Autumn's cool crisp air, beautiful falling leaves, and scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, and other hearty spices wafting through the air make it my favorite season. This is also my favorite time to snuggle up with a book and read as much as I can. So, grab a cup of hot apple cider, a warm blanket, and join me in a look at some great snuggle-worthy children's literature from around the blogosphere.

Picture Books

Eva presents a review of The Runaway Dolls by Ann M. Martin at Eva's Book Addiction.

At Kid Lit Kit Anastasia Suen presents Nonfiction Monday: Vote!, reviews of two picture books about voting and accompanying activities.

Fiona Veitch Smith reviews What’s Christmas? by Alexa Tewkesbury.

Becky reviews Welcome Winter! posted at Young Readers.

Karen reviews Time for Bed at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

At Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books, Heather J. presents Mom & Son Book Club #5 where she discusses three picture books with her son.

PaperTigers presents Books at Bedtime: Fiesta Femenina.

Anastasia reviews Teeth at Picture Book of the Day.

At Quiverfull Family, Jennifer Bogart reviews The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica by Debbie Glade.

At Kiddos and Books, Nadine reviews Mary O'Neill's Hailstones and Halibut Bones.

Cloudscome presents a review of Cleo's Alphabet Book at a wrung sponge.

At Anastasia Suen's Book of the Week, Anastasia presents her book, Red Light, Green Light along with ideas for activities.

At Wizards Wireless, Susan presents Mo Willems' upcoming books as well as a list of all of his published books.

Shelly reviews Very Hairy Bear at Write for a Reader.

At Rebecca Reads, Rebecca reviews Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle.

Books for Middle-Graders

At Children's Books: What, When & How to Read Them, Tanya presents My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath.

Carrie reviews The Mysterious Benedict Society at Books and Movies.

unfinishedperson presents Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes posted at Just A (Reading) Fool.

At The Scratching Log, Ratha's Courage author Clare Bell gives insight into how she developed the idea for a Ratha short story.

Never that Easy reviews two middle grade books in "Books I've read (today) and now you must too."

Becky presents The Penderwicks On Gardam Street posted at Becky's Book Reviews.

Steven reviews Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard posted at Book Dads: Fathers That Read!.

Yat-Yee Chong reviews Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys.

Sarah presents Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom posted at The Reading Zone.

At Read, Read, Read, Megan reviews Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanii.

Young Adult Books

At Guys Lit Wire, in a post entitled Fall into Mystery, Sarah (aquafortis) reviews two mystery books, Alan Gratz's Something Wicked and Norah McClintock's Dooley Takes the Fall.

Jen Robinson reviews Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup posted at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Author Interviews

At Maw Books Blog, Natasha interviews Shannon Hale, Newbery Medal Author.

Barbara Bietz interviews Alexis O'Neill at Jewish Books for Children with Author Barbara Bietz.


At Jenny's Wonderland of Books, Jenny shares a story about finding a dinosaur book her brother treasured during his childhood. She also talks about more dinosaur books and how the passion for dinosaurs has been passed down through her family.

Gregory K. talks about a flashback of the children's literature variety he had at GottaBook.

At Charlotte's Library, Charlotte shares the list of the nominees in the Cybils Science Fiction/Fantasy category. In the coming months, panelists will include links to their reviews on this page.

Author and illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba shares a coloring page of a reading witch on her blog.

At Chicken Spaghetti Susan talks about "bookspotting" she conducted with a 4th grade class. These kids were reading some great books!

Terry presents Reading Habits: The School Library at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub.

At, hall monitor shares a story of a Mom who won't return a 'Bunny Suicide' book to school.

At Bees Knees Reads, Kim interviews a military mom inspired by Love, Lizzie (Letters to a Military Mom) by Lisa Tucker McElroy.

Sheila presents New York City Discovery: Bryant Park Reading Room posted at Family Travel Guide.

At Kids Love Learning, Amy gives us tips on how to create a "Book Addict".

Thanks everyone for your wonderful posts!

Next month's carnival will be hosted by Karen at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poetry Friday: Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti

As Halloween approaches, I cannot help but think of Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market, a poem I studied first in high school and then more in-depth in college. This is the story of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who:

"MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck'd cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries; -"

One day Laura yields to the temptation and consumes the fruit and almost dies as a result before her sister heroically saves her in a most bizarre way.

With themes of temptation, redemption, the fallen woman, sexuality, and more, it was captivating enough to get me interested in poetry as a high school student. And creepy enough for my teenage angst to keep me reading it over and over again.

If you haven't read the very long poem, you can find it here. Or listen to a fairly creepy audio recording here.

Kelly is hosting Poetry Friday at Big A little a.

Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands #1) by Meg Burden

I'm pleased to present Jena Lohrbach's first book review at The Well-Read Child. Check out more of Jena's reviews at Muse Book Reviews.

Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands #1) by Meg Burden

Ellin Fisher is a Master Healer’s daughter, and she has never doubted that she, too, will become a Healer. One night, she finds herself in a room with the sick Northlander king. Without her father for guidance and knowing that she’s breaking Northlander laws, Ellin tries to heal him anyway. For her efforts, she gains the gratitude of the princes and is welcomed as their guest while their father recovers completely under her father’s skilled care. The king, however, is none too pleased that his health has been returned to him by Southling healers, and sentences them to imprisonment. And that’s just the beginning of Ellin’s story.

Meg Burden spins a compelling tale, much in the vein of Cynthia Voigt’s YA fantasy novels, though not quite as polished in the final results. Prejudice, the main theme, is tightly woven into every page, which adults might find tiresome but which probably wouldn’t have bothered me a bit when I was eleven. My one complaint is that Burden felt the need to put a romantic spin on one of the many relationships Ellin has in the book; that kiss scene detracted from the story more than anything else in the book.

If you know a tween girl who likes fantasy, this would be a logical choice for her. Plus, it’s the first in a series, so she’ll have more Tales of the Borderlands books to look forward to.

More Info:
  • Age range: 9-12
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Brown Barn Books (October 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976812681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976812685

Meet Jena Lohrbach

Help me welcome Jena Lohrbach, a new contributor to The Well-Read Child. You can find Jena blogging at Muse Book Reviews.

Jena Lohrbach is a freelance editor, and has been a publishing marketing & production assistant, English teacher (grades 12, 10, 8 and college freshman-level composition), and substitute high school librarian. In her spare time, she reads books and blogs and tries to keep her reviews succinct, because she only reads the short blog reviews. She and her husband reside in British Columbia.

Welcome Jena!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Twelve Terrible Things by Marty Kelley

I'm happy to present to you Shelly Burns' first review at The Well-Read Child! Enjoy!

Twelve Terrible Things by Marty Kelley is a picture book told and illustrated from a child’s perspective.

It opens with a letter:

I’m warning you. If you turn the page, you are going to see some terrible things.
Some really terrible things. This book is full of them. Didn’t you read the title?

Just about everything in this book is terrible. You’re probably going to turn the page, anyway, aren’t you?

Go ahead.


Of course, you are going to turn the page; who wouldn’t with an intro like that?

There is not a story line to this book. Each page is an illustration of what is happening, from the child’s perspective, and then a little blurb about the event. The events are numbered 1-12, hence the title, Twelve Terrible Things. #1 shows ice cream that has fallen off of the cone with the word, “Oooopsie!” on the page. It continues like that through the 12th thing. At the end, though, a good thing happens.

I think that this book would be appropriate for Pre-K – 2nd grade students. It lends itself to a lot of discussion, based on the illustrations themselves. Children deal with what they think are terrible things every day, and this book touches on some of them. Children will be able to relate to many of the events in this book and maybe even come up with some more of their own. I could see teachers using this as a kick-off for students to create their own terrible thing books either individually or as a class. Some kids may not think these are terrible things, so it opens up another discussion about point of view.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to parents and teachers based on all the discussion that you can have around the illustrations.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Kiss the Book:
"It makes a great tool for a teacher or parent to talk to kids about why some of these things are scary and diffuse some of the tension – others are just funny and sometimes none of us can escape those situations. A great piece of humor!" (read more...)

Markam Public Library:
" In-your-face graphic paintings paired with droll text will have readers chuckling and sympathizing. " (read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Tricycle Press (October 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582462291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582462295
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Be sure to check out Shelly's blog, Write for a Reader.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Meet Shelly Burns!

I'm happy to introduce Shelly Burns as a new contributor at The Well-Read Child! You can find Shelly blogging at Write for a Reader.

My name is Shelly Burns and I am a teacher; what I have wanted to be since I was 5. Not only am I a teacher, but a daughter, sister, wife, step-mother, grandmother, mind-molder, reader, book-lover, and so much more.

I have taught 2nd, kindergarten, and 3rd grade. My current role is Title I Reading, where I get to work with 2nd-5th grade at-risk students. I am also the Lead Mentor on my campus which means I get to help new teachers in our building. I love my job! I do have my Masters in Educational Leadership, but so far am still in a teaching role. Although, being an AP or Principal is teaching, just in a different way.

My husband and I live in Conroe, TX on 9 acres. We raise Paint Horses, of which we have 7. We also have 2 dogs. I have 2 step-daughters that are grown and married, each with children. From them, we have 4 beautiful grandchildren, three girls and a boy.

I absolutely love to read! My mom read to me from an early age, and I have been reading since I was 4. My favorite book of all time is Charlotte’s Web; I wore the cover off of it when I was in elementary school. I love that my job is to help children read better and to love to read. I spend a lot of time online and in the library looking for and reviewing books to use with my students, for the teachers, and for me personally.

Welcome Shelly!

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

I'm happy to present to you Lisa Stanger's first review at The Well-Read Child!

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

Timou and Neill are very different. He is the illegitimate son of a King who lives in the palace; she is the daughter of a mage and lives in an isolated village. They need to join together to recover the "heart of the city" and fight against an evil power who has a hold on both of them. The stories of these two characters intertwine throughout, as we follow Timou on her quest to reach the city in order to assist Neill, or “The Bastard” as the book calls him, in finding his missing father and sibling. A quest, a challenges, a battle and then a resolution. This book is on familiar territory as far as fantasy goes but the writing is fresh and detailed. Timou is on a quest to find her parents, but her success is not a straight forward one. Characters in this book are often ambiguously good or evil and their alliances do change throughout.

Neumeier confidently creates a fantasy world in this, her first novel. At first the adjective rich writing seemed a little like a thesaurus but after 10 pages I really valued the way she had used language to assist the reader to envisage her fantastical settings.

“The sun, rising behind her, turned all the forest to fire and gold: autumn had caught up to the forest, but not winter. The snow stopped where the trees began. All their leaves were gold and flame-orange, and some had fallen, so that the forest was roofed and floored with gold and fire”
(p. 279).

She is careful to explain plot points that may confuse readers, but does this in such a way that is isn’t a clumsy or obvious. A few times I felt like major revelations or events were rushed which I felt reduced overall satisfaction of the reader but the final dénouement ties things up and would explain things to a reader who missed important points. There is one exception to this rule: the heart of the city. Even after I had finished this book, I was still sketchy on the concept that underpins the entire story. I spent a lot of time trying to understand exactly what it was and never really did.

“Through the rain, through the storm, rode the dark Hunter on his white mare: lightning scattered from the mare’s hooves and tangled in its wild mane; it tossed its head and settled back on its haunches, sliding down the wind to the road. Thunder rolled behind it, crashing as its hooves struck the ground, and the mare flung back its head, eyes crazed,, muscles bunching to spring forward" (p. 55).

Dynamic characters (especially the Hunter), a gripping story, convincing world creation and descriptive writing help make this book a competent fantasy worth reading. I particularly think girls would appreciate the female protagonist, lack of brutal battle scenes and intellectual slant of the quest. It is written for teens but there is nothing (apart from the nickname of the King's son) that would preclude it from older elementary school children.

More info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375847049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375847042

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cycler by Laura McLaughlin

A big thanks to Laura Koenig for writing this review!

Cycler by Laura McLaughlin

Identity, romance, controlling parents - these are tough issues for any teenager to deal with. Turns out they all get a whole lot tougher when your body can't decide whether you're a boy or a girl. Four days a month, Jill McTeague turns into Jack McTeague - and neither one of them is very happy about it. Science can't explain what is happening to Jill, and no one is quite sure what to do about her condition. So instead of subjecting her to a barrage of tests and baffled scientists, Jill's mother hides Jack away and explains Jill's regular absences with a lie about the need for a periodic blood transfusion. Using self-hypnosis and the constantly-repeated phrase "I am all girl," Jill is able to erase her memories of "Jacktime," although he sometimes communicates with her by writing notes - usually requesting porn or his preferred peanut butter.

Jill's mother has a need to be in constant control, and her father has removed himself from their lives almost completely. It is difficult to know which parent's reaction to Jill's condition is more harmful. While her Mom does everything she can to help Jill deal with her transformation, her treatment of Jack is terrifying cold. As the book goes on, it becomes clear that she does not see Jack as her son, and that she is absolutely willing to abuse Jack in order to keep Jill's life in order. While the father clearly cares about both Jack and Jill, he has no idea how to deal with the situation and turns all control over to his wife.

Since the changes began when Jill was in middle school, her mantra of "I am all girl" has spread into all parts of her life. Jill stops playing sports, loses touch with her dad, and tries to erase anything that she identifies with boys from her life, totally paranoid that anything about her might be perceived as masculine. This insecurity is especially interesting when the boy Jill has been crushing on - and who has been showing signs of interest - reveals that he's bisexual. Combined with Jack's lust for Jill's best friend Ramie, /Cycler/ delivers a completely original love triangle. Or is it a square?

Lauren McLaughlin's plotting is so completely new, which makes up for a few of the novel's shortcomings. Ramie and Jill speak in their own personal slang, with the words "deeply" and "mal" used constantly in their dialogue, which is distracting and does not ring true. And the pacing sometimes feels rushed, although I think this is because most of the novel is told from Jill's point of view, and Jill has a very limited capacity for self-reflection. Jack does not block out Jill's experiences from his memory, and that is part of what makes him a much more compelling character. Jill is so terrified of associating herself with Jack that she will not reflect on any part of her life. Like her mother, she makes constant plans to control Jill's (and Jack's) life. And like her mother's plans, they often come with unintended consequences.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Em's Bookshelf:
"I think that the concept of this book was so far in left field that I just couldn't get into it.... If you're intrigued by crazy plot lines (Scott Westerfeld did give this book a good blurb), then this might be a book for you." (read more...)

YPulse: "Cycler is an excellent book for all ages, genders and any combination thereof. It is equal parts sci-fi, teen drama and love story. The only complaint I have is that McLaughlin gives too much page time to Jill, when Jack is just as interesting a character." (read more...)

Bookshipper: "...beyond the great storyline is also one of depth, compassion and acceptance." (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews: "This is a novel that is meant to explore gender, sexual orientation, sexuality, etc. And while I can respect that, I'm not sure it was able to execute it well. The writing had some awkward moments." (read more...)

Y.A. New York: "Weirdly, Jack is the much more interesting character. Much, much more interesting. And more fun. And maybe cooler. But the story itself is also way cool, and really well told, and generally brilliant." (read more...)

Boing Boing: (reviewed by Cory Doctorow): "...this is a book that the kids in your life really need to read, a gender-bending piece of speculative fiction aimed at young people that manages to say novel, useful, and challenging things about gender and sexuality without ever descending into squicky fluid-exchange or soapy romance." (read more...)

Reading is My Superpower: "Cycler does a fine job exploring gender, but I wish the book had gone a little deeper into the emotional side of things." (read more...)

I Like Books: "In the end, the book provides a welcome examination of gender, sexuality, and the harm that comes from trying to fit people into boxes." (read more...)

Author Interview:

More Info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375851917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375851919
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meet Lisa Stanger!

I'm excited to introduce you to Lisa Stanger, one of the new contributors at The Well-Read Child!

Lisa Stanger is a children's librarian for Christchurch City Libraries in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has been a librarian in an unpaid capacity (while attending primary school) since 1988 and in a paid capacity (at Christchurch City Libraries) since 1997. Her interests include skepticism, computers, and decluttering. Her favorite authors for children are Dr. Seuss, Shaun Tan, Lemony Snicket and Mo Willems. She contributes to the Christchurch City Libraries Blog and Podcast.

Welcome Lisa!

Nonfiction Monday: New Books About Abraham Lincoln

With Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday coming up in February, there is certainly no shortage of books being published about the president. Here are two picture books that have recently been released that would make great classroom resources.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (September 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805082646
ISBN-13: 978-0805082647

First up is Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier. This picture begins in 1865 at Lincoln's reception for his second inauguration. He's anxiously awaiting the arrival of his friend, Frederick Douglass. The story then goes into both Douglass's and Lincoln's past, showing the parallels between the two, their political relationship, and a brief history of the onset of the Civil War. It ends as Lincoln finally finds Douglass at the reception and they have a brief conversation about the nation's future.

The story is hopeful and inspirational and provides just enough information to keep kids engaged, but the AMAZING illustrations are what make this book stand out. Bryan Collier uses cut-paper collages to illustrate the story. In one section of the story, a younger Lincoln is traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, a trip that according to the book, "opened his eyes to the world around him." We see a young, beardless Lincoln gripping a picket fence, and faces of enslaved African Americans are superimposed in the trees. In another section, a four-page fold out shows an intense Civil War battle in action.

Abraham Lincoln Comes Home written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (August 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805075291
ISBN-13: 978-0805075298

Another new book also published by Henry Holt tells a different story about Lincoln, the story of his final train ride home to Springfield, Illinois after his assassination. In the story, Luke, a young boy, and his father are riding in a carriage in the very early morning to watch the train that is carrying Lincoln's body pass by. As Luke and his father reach their destination and join up with all of the other mourners, Luke observes the train as it approaches and passes by along with the emotional reaction to the president's death. At the end of the book is a brief afterward that describes Lincoln's assassination and his train ride home. There's also a page full of "Interesting Facts About the Lincoln Funeral Train."

While this book tells the story of a fictional person, the event it describes really happened. Lincoln was a well-loved president by many many people, and the book simply sets out to show this from a young boy's point of view. It doesn't try to sway your opinion about Lincoln or delve into politics. The gouache watercolor illustrations are rendered in deep, golden tones that not only depict the prairie but give the book a somber, "old-timey" feel.

I like the fact that both books have a narrow and specific focus instead of the typical fact-filled and boring biographies kids are used to seeing. Both books are thought-provoking and contain information that will spark discussion.

Head on over to Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday selections!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Books About Biting?

Parents and teachers, I'm reaching out to you to ask if you have any book suggestions that tell toddlers not to bite. Yes, my little one is a biter. We've had a few incidents in daycare, and her teacher is trying to really pay attention and help address it there. However, because she doesn't exhibit the behavior at home, I don't know how to help her correct it besides showing her a book that talks about NOT biting.

Any suggestions?

Reminder: Carnival of Children's Literature

The October Carnival of Children's Literature will be held here next Sunday. If you have a favorite children's literature related post from the past month, please submit it at this site by this Friday, midnight EST.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Likely Story by David Van Etten

I'm happy to present Amber Felix's first review at The Well-Read Child.
You can find Amber blogging regularly at A Fetal Attraction.

Likely Story by David Van Etten (who is actually comprised of three authors: Chris Van Etten, David Ozanich, and David Leviathan)

Daughter of a reigning soap opera queen, Mallory is tired of her mother's drama and contrived catch phrases stolen from the set of her soap opera "Good as Gold". After a particularly disastrous conversation with her mother, Mallory takes to her blog to gripe about how unreal daytime television is, claiming she could write a better soap easily.

Although Mallory wrote that blog out of anger, her mother's agent finds the entry and calls to tell her he'd like to see the script if she had it. Lying through her teeth, Mallory says she's got it all written up and will send it out per his request. The instant she gets off the phone, she frantically sets to writing a synopsis (or "bible" in her words) of her vision of what a soap opera should be. A realistic one that teens can relate to, all the while picturing her best friend Amelia in the title role, despite the fact that she has no real-life acting experience. !

The book takes us through what happens when a script is greenlit, from casting to set designing, all from the viewpoint of a teenager with her own soap opera story unfolding in her real life- from dealing with her less-than-affectionate mother to struggling with dating a boy who is already taken; the storyline and character beg to be believed, but fail.

While it was a catchy book and mildly entertaining, the characters and events make it easy to believe that this book is fiction. A pretty quick read with a lot of "Does he like me? Do I like him?" internal questions asked, you try to feel a little bit of emotion for Mallory and her mother, instead you find yourself indifferent, perhaps even disliking the characters at some points.

Likely Story could be a fun read for a young adult, there are little to no sexual situations, the dialogue is easy to follow and the story has a twist at the very last page, all the better to get you to read the next in the series!

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:
Mrs. Magoo Reads: "Most girls will probably find it a quick but enjoyable read. It's also really cool that three authors- all male- were able to create the character of Mallory, as well as a novel that has one collective writing style." (read more...)

Flamingnet Young Adult Book Blog: " was all a little less stimulating than expected. Likely Story was obviously in the genre of teenage but compared to other books, I believe there is a lot better out there." (read more...)

Wordcandy Bookshelf: "Likely Story is witty, clever, and stylish, with a lot of delicious soap opera in-jokes...Unfortunately, much like the soap operas it parodies, Likely Story is also totally unsatisfying." (read more...)

The Book Muncher: "Likely Story is not a particularly exciting novel all the time, but it was an enjoyable read. Readers looking for a milder version of the A-List will enjoy this novel too. " (read more...)

The Book Reader: "Likely Story was a really original book. The plot moved a little too slowly for me though. The characters weren't all that likable either." (read more...)

Bookshipper: "What I really enjoyed about this book is that the lead character Mallory could have been written as a vain, stuck up teenager - but rather the authors decided to make her the exact opposite of her shallow, rude tv-star mother. The interaction between mother and daughter is sometimes painful to read, but you get the distinct impression that both are putting up a front for the benefit of the other." (read more...)

More Info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037584676X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375846762
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Meet Amber Felix

Meet Amber Felix, a new contributor at The Well-Read Child!

Felix is a newlywed with a passion for reading. Although she has no children of her own at the moment (she's working on that, though!), her previous years working as a nanny and baby-sitter has given her the drive to show children how great reading can be. Recently a new aunt, Amber spends a lot of time with her nieces and nephews, always trying to instill the love of reading by gifting them with books whenever she can. Currently a bookkeeper in Los Angeles, Amber has started writing part time with the hopes of being able to tell her own story one day.

You can find her stories and struggles online at A Fetal Attraction.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf

Today, I'm presenting Tanya's first book review at The Well-Read Child. Be sure to check out all of Tanya's other book reviews at her blog, Children's Books: What, When & How to Read Them.

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf is a new series by the very talented duo of author Paul Stewart and illustrator Chris Riddell. This is the team who brought us the Far-Flung Adventures for third grade level readers and the Edge Chronicles for fifth grade reading level and up.

The Barnaby Grimes series falls nicely between these two. Written at a fourth grade reading level, this series is set in turn of the century London and is full of curiosities, like high stacking, tick-tock lads and cordials as well as host of British names that trip over the tongue, Cadwallader and Jolyon, to name a few.

While the Edge Chronicles and the Far-Flung Adventures take place in wonderfully described, detail-laden imaginary worlds that are populated by fictional creatures and odd human beings, Barnaby Grimes' story takes place in a real city, albeit one that is equally laden with details and creatures, all of which, except for one or two, are factually based.

At its heart, this book is a mystery and a thriller, and it has a fair amount of blood and violence befitting its subject and time - werewolves and the Industrial Revolution, or thereabouts. Stewart takes as much care describing the the poorer and the poorest neighborhoods in London and their inhabitants as he does the werewolves and their rampages through the city. His eye for minutiae that made his imaginary worlds so totally livable in the Edge and Far-Flung series is used here to draw you into the grimy, smelly streets of the Wasp's Nest and the East Bank along with Barnaby, who, as a tick-tock lad, delivers messages all over the city.

While high stacking one evening, high stacking being the habit of climbing onto the top of a building in order to jump from roof to roof, clinging to chimney stacks as you go, Barnaby is attacked by a great grey wolf. Despite a horrible burn on his shoulder from a hot chimney pot, he manages to evade the wolf and send him crashing through a skylight and into a vat of glue, boiling away in a glue factory below. From that night on, he winds his way through a series of clients, clues and curative cordials that lead him to discover the genesis of the night wolf, the real purpose of Dr. Cadwallader's Cordial and the source of the luxurious Westphalian fur that is being used to trim the collars and cuffs of the fashionable swells and fine ladies of London.

I am a huge fan of the works of Stewart and Riddell, as well as a lover of all things British, so this book was a genuine treat for me. While I am not such a huge a fan of creatures like werewolves and the havoc they wreak, there was so much else going on in the story, from the descriptions of the characters Barnaby encounters to the gritty details of life for the lower classes, that I was entertained and riveted from the start. While this strikes me as mostly a book for boys, I think it will have cross over appeal, as do the other series by Stewart and Riddell.

Other Recommendations:
Older readers who enjoyed this should not miss the Edge Chronicles, and younger readers, especially those with an interest in crazy inventions, should definitely check out the the Far-Flung Adventures. Reviews of the trilogy and individual books can be read here.

If your daughter likes this book, I strongly recommend the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer, the first of which is The Case of the Missing Marquess. Springer imagines that Sherlock Holmes' mother has a daughter, Enola, very late in life. Because of the eccentricities of her mother, which really turn out out be proto-feminist ideas about independence for women, Enola does not know her brother, but knows of him. When her mother disappears on Enola's fourteenth birthday, she sets out to follow the cryptic clues left behind and ends up on the trail of a missing Viscount as well. Springer evokes the period beautifully and creates a timid but sympathetic character in Enola, who evolves nicely over the course of the book, which ends with her setting up her own investigative agency, posing as the secretary but doing all the work on her own. There are currently four books in this series, the fifth due out in 2009.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Teens Read Too:
"The story combines mystery, history, horror, action-adventure, and the paranormal into a perfectly scary story for tweens. The black and white drawings add a chilling effect to the story. The characters are brilliantly drawn and the villain is perfectly evil." (read more...)

Books & Other Thoughts: "The illustrations were a wonderful accompaniment to the text, making the book appear extremely spookier than it actually is (and thus, one hopes, encouraging many devotees of "horror" fiction like the Goosebumps series to branch out and take a chance on something new)." (read more...)

Saundra Mitchell: "Stewart and Riddell have brilliantly captured the breathless excitement of pulp novels and penny dreadfuls." (read more...)

Interview with Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell: Yatterings

More Information:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385751257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385751254
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Meet Tanya

Please welcome Tanya to the team of reviewers at The Well-Read Child!

Sharing my love of children's literature and inspiring others to read is my passion. I have been a children's bookseller for more than thirteen years now and I adore my job. I especially enjoy talking with kids about books and reading for story times at the bookstore. I also get to read out loud at home, although not as much as I should. I've been married for 17 years and have a 15 year old daughter who is a voracious reader, an 11 year old son who breaks my heart on a daily basis with his singular love of non-fiction - I can't even bribe him to read a novel, and a four year old who has not made his literary preferences clear yet.

Because I just don't get to talk about books enough at my job and at home, I started a blog,, so I could continue the conversation and have found a really great community in cyberspace! I want to help parents, especially those with advanced readers, find the best books for their kids. With this in mind, I review books that I think are outstanding in their field and maybe not always on the shelves of the bookstore or the library.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hell Week and Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

I'm excited to be presenting Laura Koenig's first review at The Well-Read Child!

Hell Week (Maggie Quinn: Girl vs Evil) and Highway to Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs Evil) by Rosemary Clement-Moore

A few short months ago, in Prom Dates from Hell , Maggie Quinn defeated the seriously evil demon that was trying to take over her senior prom. Now Maggie's back in Hell Week, and she can't even crack the staff of the Bedivere College newspaper. What gives? But Maggie's luck suddenly changes when she goes undercover as a pledge to Sigma Alpha Xi, the campus' most popular - and most secretive - sorority. Her Phantom Pledge articles are a hit, and that's not the only place where Maggie's life has taken a turn for the lucky. It's not long before Maggie starts to question whether there's something supernaturally lucky about the Sigma Alpha Xis - even beyond their abnormally perfect hair.

In Highway to Hell, which will be released in March 2009, Maggie and Lisa take off on a totally demon-free road trip. They're going to spend Spring Break on the beach at Cabo San Lucas - ironically, of course. But thanks to a middle of the night encounter with a dead cow in the middle of a deserted Texas highway, the girls are stuck in a tiny town with some very unusual characters. (Luckily, one of those characters is a devastatingly gorgeous real-live cowboy.) Things quickly take a totally unsurprising turn for the supernatural, and once again Maggie is hot on the trail of some unusual demonic activity. After making inquiries at the only bar in town about what animal could have gruesomely killed the cow that totaled their jeep, Maggie and Lisa are becoming more and more sure that the mythical chupacabra is very real - and very nasty.

The second and third books in the "Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil" series stay true to the super-sarcastic, laugh-out-loud funny voice of Prom Dates from Hell. But now Maggie's well past her early skepticism. She's accepted that there are demons hanging out in her neighborhood, and that as the local psychic investigative journalist with a spellcasting best friend and a love interest who studies supernatural mythology, she's the one who's going to have to deal with all the evil beasties that pop up in her area. And as Maggie acknowledges her psychic powers and begins to learn how to use them, they no longer feel like a tacked-on plot point - they're an integral part of both books.

These books start to dig further into the how and why of the demons and magic that are popping up around Maggie Quinn, and the mix of folklore, religion, and superstition are a strength of Clement-Moore's. Maggie's boyfriend brings the theoretical knowledge, and her sorcerer friend Lisa brings the practical application. It's Maggie who pulls it all together, using both her natural curiosity and her psychic Spidey-sense. Highway to Hell brings some traditional brujas into the picture, as well as the intriguing addition of a priest-in-training to their crew of demon-battlers. The young priest is a great foil for Lisa the sometimes-evil sorceror, and he also has his run-ins with Maggie, whose relationship with religion is pretty well summed up in Hell Week:

"Facing Evil with a capital E makes a convincing argument that somewhere, in some shape or form, there was Good with a capital G, too, and I wanted no mistake about which side I was on.

I'm not saying team Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is the only team in the G league, but it's what I defaulted to when I needed to get my spiritual ducks in a row. Even so, I'm not exactly what you would call a reverent traditionalist.

'Okay, God.' I stared up at the dark ceiling. 'Maybe you could throw me a bone here. I'm going in circles and could really use a signpost.' I paused, trying to sound at least a little supplicant. 'So. . . anytime you're ready, that would be great.'"
-Hell Week, page 166

The question of where God falls in all this mix of magic and mayhem is a welcome addition to the world of the books, and I hope that the priest character will be back in future Maggie Quinn adventures.

With their fast-paced action, sharp tongues, and quick wit, Maggie and her friends are a great match for any teenage Buffy fans in your life. They potentially have some appeal to readers of the Twilight books - but you might want to make it clear that if Maggie Quinn runs into a vampire in her biology class, that vampire's going to have a stake through his heart sooner than he can say "I'm madly in love with you!" The teen-friendly covers make these books a pretty easy sell, but it's the bitingly funny characters and their smart take on some implausible situations that will keep readers coming back. As Maggie puts it, "'Yes, we're in over our heads... Maybe there's someone in the world who actually understands how all this works, who's fully equipped with the armor of righteousness and the flamethrower or smiting or whatever else is in the arsenal of Team Good. But unless they're hiding behind a mesquite tree somewhere, me, my freaky brain, my sorcerous friend, and my paladin boyfriend are all that stands between Hell and Texas'" (Highway to Hell , page 293).

What Other Bloggers Are Saying About Hell Week:

Abby (the) Librarian: "Written with a great sarcastic humor, the book had me laughing out loud. Throw in a smidgen of romance, a dash of mystery, and a sprinkling of interesting secondary characters and you've got yourself a great book." (read more...)

Kiss the Book: " Maggie is a whip-sharp protagonist with intelligence and the friends she needs to back her up. I was enchanted." (read more...)

Amberkatze's Book Blog: "...all in all, great story, good plot and I still love Maggie." (read more...)

Simply Books:
"Maggie is a great character: she's funny and serious at the same time and her commentary on sororities and fraternities is very satirical. I liked reading a book about a quirky heroine who fights evil in her spare time." (read more...)

Read a Great Teen Book!:
"It was a fun, light read, fairly well-written, and exactly what my poor, over-taxed brain needed." (read more...)

More Info:

Prom Dates from Hell
  • Reading Level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734134

Hell Week
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038573414X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734141
Highway to Hell
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734639