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Posts from June 2008

A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers: Gail Gauthier

Book: A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers
Author: Gail Gauthier
Illustrator: Joe Cepeda
Pages: 64
Age Range: 6-9

A Girl, A Boy and Three RobbersA Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers is the next in Gail Gauthier's Hannah and Brandon series, after A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat (reviewed here). Both books are aimed at early readers, with short chapters and occasional illustrations, written for about a second-grade level sensibility. In this installment, Brandon (the narrator) is still being forced to stay at Hannah's house three afternoons a week while his mother is at work. Every day, Hannah drags Brandon into imaginative games, while Brandon, with ever-decreasing conviction, claims to wish he could just watch television. However, the astute reader will notice that Brandon does occasionally make suggestions of his own about the games - he just has very clear preferences.

In A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers, Hannah and Brandon battle three pestilential younger neighborhood siblings who are determined to rob them of Hannah's cat, Buttercup. Even though Brandon considers Buttercup well able to take care of himself, Hannah, with classic flair, turns the whole thing into a series of adventures.

I love Brandon's voice. He is all boy, even when he's being besieged by Hannah and/or the neighbor children. He wants nothing to do with games about fairies, or tea parties, but he can be pulled in by vampires and evil wizards. He takes the circumstances of his time with Hannah in stride, with a wry, occasionally world-weary humor. Here is an example:

"You're not supposed to talk," she complained.
"Why not?"
"You're dead," Hannah explained.
"Darn it. How did that happen?"
"You were killed by a vampire."
"Okay!" (Chapter 1)

and later:

"She bent over and started searching for something on the floor. When she stood up, she had the bottle of garlic powder. She took the lid off. "We've got to be ready for anything."

Sure.  No matter what happens, a person can take care of it with garlic power." (Chapter 1)

I also quite like Hannah's mother, Mrs. D. She gives the kids a fair bit of space to play their games, but she's right there paying attention, and ready to step in whenever things get out of hand. She is understanding but strict. It's nice to see a parent in a children's book who actually, well, parents. Which is not to say that Hannah and Brandon aren't able to manipulate her on rare occasions. But she still makes them wear their boots when they go out to play in the rain.

There's a great bit when the neighbor children are actually invited over to the house, a consequence of Brandon and Hannah having left the yard to rescue the cat earlier.

"Mrs. D. leaned down between Hannah and me and whispered, "See? When you leave the yard, bad things happen."

She didn't have to convince me. I felt as if I was in one of those TV shows where bad guys suddenly show up at your front door and start pushing their way into your house. There's nothing you can do to keep them out. You're doomed." (Chapter 4)

One other thing I like about this book is the way that Hannah's games are inspired by books. She initiates an elaborate game based on Pinocchio, for example. And at one point, she suggests:

"We could go into a closet that has a fake door in the back. When we go through the fake door, we'll be in a magic kingdom." (Chapter 2)

Joe Cepeda's illustrations add texture to the story. My favorite is one of the three robber children cackling over Buttercup. The children are clearly trouble, but the reader may also notice that the use of perspective makes Buttercup actually bigger than the kids. It seems to me that this is symbolic of Buttercup's larger than life personality. There's another illustration that features both the mother of the robber children and Hannah's mother, and their disparate expressions speak volumes.

A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers is a great book for new readers. There is drama and adventure, set against a safe neighborhood environment. Brandon, the narrator, demonstrates a self-contained sort of humor, while Hannah is a shining example of an imaginative child inspired by books. This is a book that will make kids laugh, and will show them first-hand how much fun reading can be. I'm also happy to see this coming out as the second book in the series, because kids at this reading level often want to read the next installment. Kudos to Gail Gauthier and Putnam for giving it to them. I hope that there will be more books in the series.

Afterword: Stay tuned for more about this book - I will be participating in Gail's blog tour on July 2nd. You can see the full line-up here. It's going to be a very well-organized tour, talking about early readers from a variety of perspectives.

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: July 3, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the author.
See Also: My review of Happy Kid!, a title by Gail Gauthier for middle grade readers.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 17, 2008

Jpg_book009This evening I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms weekly email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's books and raising readers. There are currently more than 280 subscribers.

This week I have four reviews (two for elementary school kids, one for middle schoolers, and one for high school readers and above), a children's literacy and reading news round-up, a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the past week, and an edition of my reviews that made me want the book feature. I also have a post, in honor of Father's Day, about the best and worst fathers from my children's and young adult reading so far in 2008. And, as a special treat, I have a post with details about a giveaway by which I'm offering (with thanks to the publisher) five copies of The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Recent posts not included in the newsletter include:

I should have some other reviews and Kidlitosphere news coming up in the next couple of days. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 17

I'm a bit late with this week's children's literacy and reading news round-up, and Terry from the Reading Tub has scooped some of the articles that I was going to mention in her latest Reading Round-Up, so you should definitely head over and read that. But I still have some other news for you here, too:

  • Toasted Coconut Media sent me the link to TV segment about summer reading. They said: "Hot Tips from Cool Authors: How to Keep Kids Reading this Summer" — a WABC-TV segment that aired on Sunday morning. The short clip takes a small, medium, large approach— Jane O'Connor (Fancy Nancy) gives tips for the young readers, MAC (Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink) advises the 9-12 crowd, and Scott Westerfeld (Uglies) saves teens from summer boredom. Jane and Scott are of course NY Times Bestsellers; and MAC is an "up & comer" who recently sold out of her debut novel at its sneak preview during NY Comic Con." You can find the video here (and on the many other blogs that have already written about this). There's also a nice post with summer reading tips (in text format) at MAC's blog.
  • Lots of people (including Terry's post mentioned above) have reported on the recently released Scholastic study about children's reading habits. I first read about the study in this USA Today article by Greg Toppo. Greg said: "About one in four say they "have trouble finding books that I like," a breathtaking admission in the age of chain bookstores, librarians' blogs and blockbuster children's series such as Harry Potter." I was shocked by that statistic, too. But a cool thing is that there have been more than 50 comments to date on the article, which shows that a lot of people (outside of the sometimes self-referential children's book blogging community) are concerned about this topic. See also the Publisher's Weekly article by John A. Sellers about the report (which I found via Monica Edinger). There is good news in the report, including these conclusions highlighted by PW: "It (the study) also found that although children can readily envision a future in which reading and technology are increasingly intertwined, nearly two thirds prefer to read physical books, rather than on a computer screen or digital device. Additionally, a large majority of children recognize the importance of reading for their future goals, with 90% of respondents agreeing that they “need to be a strong reader to get into a good college.”"
  • At Public School Insights, Claus von Zastrow rounds up some new public education success stories posted at their site. I especially liked "Bending Bureaucracy to Kids' Needs in Great Neck."
  • The Independent shares recommendations from US educational psychologist Robert Slavin, who recently "arrived in the UK to head up the newly formed Institute for Effective Education at York University." "Success for All (Slavin's program) promotes early educational success for children, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, by concentrating on basic literacy... Success for All uses phonics, setting, regular assessment and paired learning to ensure that all children get a good start in school and no one is left behind".
  • The Boston Globe ran a feature by Dennis Fisher about a recent visit by Henry Winkler to a Boston-area bookstore. Here's the opener: "Henry Winkler is still the coolest guy in the room. But as he strides into Porter Square Books on a recent Sunday evening, that aura has nothing to do with his ability to start a jukebox with one well-placed whack and everything to do with his gift for making hundreds of anxious, self-conscious kids feel like they're the cool ones." Doesn't that make you want to read the rest? There is no doubt in my mind that Winkler really cares about helping kids with dyslexia.
  • The Washington Post reports, in an article by Michael Alison Chandler and Maria Glod, that more schools are trying out separation by gender in the classroom. "The approach is based on the much-debated yet increasingly popular notion that girls and boys are hard-wired to learn differently and that they will be more successful if classes are designed for their particular needs."
  • Speaking of girls and boys learning differently, Reading Rockets recently highlighted a 2004 article from their website by Jane McFann about boys and books. It's a very comprehensive article, and I recommend it for parents entering the summer reading season. See also the fabulous Reading Rockets 2008 Summer Reading list. The list is grouped by age range, and also includes an audio book section.
  • Via a Tucson Citizen article by Anne T. Denogean, "Tucsonan Martha Gilliland is on the verge of fulfilling a longtime dream. And while doing so, she's hoping to help others fulfill theirs. Gilliland, 63, will have arrived in Africa by the time this is published to climb the continent's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. She has turned her climb into a fundraising effort - "To Kilimanjaro for the Right to Read and for Democracy" - for Literacy Volunteers of Tucson." Story via the International Reading Association blog.
  • According to this article in Dispatch Online (South Africa) "about half of South Africa’s children – 53 percent – have never owned a book. In contrast, 57 percent of households own a TV." The gist of the article is that adult illiteracy levels in the country "would not be so high if a culture of reading had been instilled in young children – even in the poorest communities. Even if parents cannot afford to buy books and other reading material such as newspapers, an effective library system, which young children are encouraged to make use of, could help children read themselves into literacy and out of poverty." The article discusses planned initiatives to increase literacy in the country.

Hope you find some of these articles of interest. Happy reading!

Bella's Birthday Bash at Kepler's

I don't expect to be attending, but I heard about a planned book launch party for the fourth book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and wanted to share. (Thanks to Sharon Levin for the head's up). The event will be held at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, CA. From the Kepler's website:

Bella’s Birthday Bash
Breaking Dawn Midnight Release Party
Friday August 01, 2008 9:00p.m.


Starting Monday, June 9th, reserve your copy of BREAKING DAWN by securing your invitation to BELLA’S BIRTHDAY BASH hosted by Edward Cullen. (Invitations can be purchased at Kepler's.) At the stroke of midnight your invitation can instantly be exchanged for one copy of Breaking Dawn!

Not sure what gift to bring for Bella? In lieu of gifts, Edward requests donations be made to the Stanford Blood Center. Representatives of the organization will be on hand to accept your contribution.

There will be plenty of things to see and do including a trivia contest, prizes, food, and music. Keep checking our website for up-to-the-minute details about THE party of the summer!!

I know that this book doesn't really need more hype. But I love the bit about collecting blood donations at the book launch party. That is inspired!

Readergirlz: Live Chat with Laurie Halse Anderson

Newlogorg400This Thursday, June 19th, the fabulous 2008 ALAN award winner Laurie Halse Anderson will be chatting live with Readergirlz on MySpace. Readergirlz Diva Mitali Perkins said: "The chat will start at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST and last for about an hour. We're featuring her book PROM but the discussion goes in every direction." If you are a fan of Laurie's books, or a fan of Readergirlz, it's definitely worth checking out. (Though I will confess that I personally am not much of an online chat person - too many threads to follow - I can't keep up.)

Fathers from Children's and Young Adult Literature

For this month's Carnival of Children's Literature, host Susan Taylor Brown has asked for posts about fathers in children's literature. (Submissions are due by this coming Saturday). Because I have a short attention span, I decided to post about the five best and five worst fathers from children's and young adult literature that I've read about this year. Most links are to my reviews. Lists are in no particular order (though, if you've read the books, you'll probably see a clear winner for worst father from the list).

First Best Fathers from my 2008 Children's/YA Reading

  1. Kate's father Milligan from The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. He is strong and resourceful and works hard to protect the kids, without stifling them.
  2. Clementine's father from Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker. He is both supportive and fun. My favorite Dad moment is when he explains to Clementine that of course her Mom doesn't mind her buying him a present, or vice versa, because they love each other.
  3. The dad from The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. Although a bit absent-minded, he is there for his daughters when it counts. And in the scene where he takes Batty out on her own is priceless.
  4. Maggie's hippie dad from How NOT to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler. He comes across a bit clueless, but when Maggie needs his support with the principal, he displays hidden talents. And there's a scene involving juggling in a high school cafeteria that is worth the price of the book alone.
  5. Lily's dad from Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty. He has a particular mannerism that demonstrates his love for his daughter countless times a day.

Five Worst Fathers from my 2008 Children's/YA Reading

  1. Eli's crazy billionaire father from The Compound by S. A. Bodeen. You'll have to read the book to see why he makes the list.
  2. The untrustworthy father from The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. He schemes to abandon his children, and sells their house out from under them.
  3. Billie's taciturn father from Billie Standish was Here, by Nancy Crocker. We learn in the first chapter that he wanted a boy, and thus named his daughter William. (This book is wonderful, but I have not yet reviewed it).
  4. The absentee Casson father from Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay. He distances himself from the reality of his family, in exchange for an idealized, imaginary version.
  5. Jessie's father from Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. He loved his kids, but he allowed them to be put in danger, so that he could live a particular lifestyle. 

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Book Giveaway: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna FoxA few days ago I reviewed Mary E. Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I said:

"I was reading this book, and thinking to myself "how on earth was Mary Pearson able to come up with this book?" It is remarkable. It is not to be missed, by anyone from fans of speculative fiction to fans of novels in verse (though only a small part is in verse) to fans of adult "literary fiction"."

Does that make you want to read the book? Well, now is your chance. Publisher Henry Holt and Co. has generously offered me five copies of the book to give away to readers of this blog. All you have to do is comment on this post between now and next Tuesday, June 24th, at 9:00 am Pacific Time. Optionally (this won't change your chances of winning, but I'll appreciate it and I'll post the list of responses), use your comment to recommend another futuristic, speculative, science fiction or dystopian fiction title aimed at young adults. (And if you want to recommend a title and not be entered in the giveaway, just say so).

I'll randomly select five winners. If you are a winner, I will email you to ask for your mailing address, and then pass it along to Henry Holt. So, please make sure to include your email address when you comment (it will NOT be displayed) so that I know how to find you. You don't have to have a blog to participate.

You can also double your chances of winning by entering a similar giveaway at A Patchwork of Books. I'm going to check Amanda's list of winners, and strike them from mine before the drawing, so that no one ends up with two copies. Because this is a book that should be shared widely. I hope that no one minds that caveat. Good luck!

KidLit Blogger Events at ALA Anaheim

Are you a children's and/or young adult book blogger? Are you going to ALA this month? If so, here are two events that you might be interested in:

  • On Saturday afternoon, June 28th, at 4:30, Feiwel and Friends have offered to a host a KidLit blogger meet up at their suite at Disney's Grand Californian. Betsy from A Fuse #8 Production has the details. She needs to give an attendee list to Feiwel and Friends, however, so she asks that you email her today if you are planning to attend (you can find her email address through the above link).
  • Following the above event, Susan from Wizards Wireless is organizing an informal KidLit Blogger dinner at a local restaurant. Click here for details. She's looking for RSVPs also (though they don't have to be today), so that she knows what size reservation to make. Susan also added: "You don't technically have to be a kidlit blogger to come (I attended this get together last year and it inspired me to become a blogger). Basically, it's for anyone interested in children's literature."

I'll be attending both events, and will hope to see some of you there! Safe travels.

Just Grace: Charise Mericle Harper

Book: Just Grace
Author: Charise Mericle Harper
Pages: 144
Age Range: 7-10

Just GraceJust Grace by Charise Mericle Harper is an engaging book aimed at early elementary school readers. Nine-year-old Grace is in third grade. Because there are three other Graces in her class, and because of a misunderstanding with her teacher, Grace is called "Just Grace". She is not thrilled by this moniker, but she is stuck with it. Grace likes drawing comics in her spare time, and the book is sprinkled with her efforts (though these are nowhere near as extensive as the illustrations in Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School). There are also photos interspersed with the sketches. Grace has a particularly fun running comic strip feature called "Not So Super (but still good)", in which she depicts superheros with "teeny tiny superpowers".

Grace has a teeny tiny superpower of her own. She says:

"My superpower is that I can always tell when someone is unhappy, even if that person is pretending to be happy and is a really good actor.

The bad thing about my power is that I always try to do something to make the sad person feel better -- even if I should probably leave it alone and not do anything at all. Dad says that feeling people's sadness is called empathy and it's a superpower because of the "having to do something to make them feel better" part. (Page 14, paperback edition)

OK, so this is a teeny bit message-y. But Harper makes it work by maintaining a light touch. In this first book of the series, Grace attempts to use her superpower to help a neighbor who is having problems. Things don't turn out quite as she expects, and she finds herself in a bit of trouble, but she makes a couple of surprising new friends along the way.

Grace's voice feels like that of a third grader. Here are a couple of examples:

"Mom said she was sure it was an accident, but I just know that spitting is pretty much an on-purpose thing, and it is almost impossible to forgive someone for something on purpose even if it was almost three years ago, which is a very long time." (Page 2)

"Sometimes I look at him and I can't help it, but I feel like I hate him and feel a little bit sorry for him both at the same time. I don't like it when the inside parts of you don't match up with what the brain part of you thinks. If there were a medicine to make this go away I would take it, even if it was cherry flavor, which tastes terrible and is not my favorite." (Page 31)

I like Grace's tendency toward adding run-on clauses to the sentences, and especially the understatement of "and is not my favorite."

Most of the illustrations are hilarious, especially one of a squirrel with running shoes on, while others, like one of a friendship map, are surprisingly profound. The style of the illustrations is consistent throughout the book, and the sketches feel (in a good way) like a young girl could have drawn them. They also remind me of Harper's illustrations in When Randolph Turned Rotten, a highly entertaining picture book. Grace also does a clever bit where she photographs a cardboard cutout of a cat in various situations - I think that this will inspire kids to try similar creative projects.

Recommended for early elementary school girls, especially if they like to draw or take photos, like cats, or have a popular name shared with other kids in their class at school. And if you happen to know a new reader named Grace, well, this one is a no-brainer. There are currently two sequels: Still Just Grace and Just Grace Walks the Dog.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: March 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School: Ruth McNally Barshaw

Book: Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School
Author: Ruth McNally Barshaw (blog)
Pages: 192
Age Range: 8-12

Ellie McDoodleBackground: I haven't had a chance to read Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel (by Ruth McNally Barshaw), but I've heard great things. I first heard about this book from Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production, who called it "another example of the "illustrated novel" brought to brilliant, vibrant life." She recommended it highly, and I always kept it in mind. Then Bloomsbury was kind enough to send me an advance copy of the sequel, and I have just had a chance to read it. 

Review: Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. It's a bit difficult to categorize, a combination of sketchbook and middle grade novel. Ellie McDougal is about to start 6th grade when her family moves to a new town, two hours away, too far to stay in close contact with her old friends. Ellie shares her thoughts about the move and her adjustment to her new school in her notebook. An aspiring artist, Ellie sketches as much as she writes, and the result is a heavily illustrated novel in which the pictures are as important, if not more important, than the words.

Although primarily about Ellie's adjustment to her new school this book is also about Ellie's delightful family. Her older brother Josh plays practical jokes incessantly. Her older sister Risa is a bit self-involved, but offers support when needed. Her preschool brother Ben Ben provides comic relief, shown playing with his food and undertaking odd acrobatic moves (in a helmet), always sketched with affection. Ellie's father is a coach, and speaks primarily in sports metaphors, while her mother is firm when necessary, but will also participate in practical jokes. They all play word games together around the dinner table. It's nice to see a family that, despite teasing, appreciates each other and has fun together, too.

Some of the details of the book are a bit over-the-top - there's definitely a comic book aspect to the whole story, especially a major plotline involving activism - but Ellie herself feels as real as any eleven-year-old girl. There's a page where she makes a list (the book has lots of lists) of "What I Want From School". It includes things like "Fast, easy friendships" and "No embarrassing events". Reading it, I felt like I was channeling my own inner sixth grader. In another scene, she interacts with a new friend's brother who has Down's syndrome, and she's realistically awkward and unsure how to react (but of course rises to the occasion). I also loved (and could personally relate to) the fact that Ellie's first friend in her new neighborhood is the children's librarian. Ellie's fears and insecurities around the move itself, and her sadness at leaving the house she's grown up in, also ring true.

There's a pretty wide cast of characters in this book - various neighborhood kids, teachers, kids from school, and families of kids from school. I think that the pictures will help kids to keep them straight, though. And the pictures are delightful, with captions and callouts and thought bubbles to keep things intimately connected with the text. My favorite is a sketch of a wealthy girl's younger brother "Wellington" in a little suit with a bow tie.

It's a bit tricky even to suggest an age range for this book. Ellie is in sixth grade, but the illustrations should make the book accessible to younger kids, too. I think this would be a perfect read for reluctant readers in later elementary school. And I think it's an essential read for kids who enjoy drawing and comic strips. There's a wonderful, picture-studded interview with the author at the end of the book that includes practical advice for aspiring writers and artists, and even a little section on how to sketch. I would have ADORED this book as a fourth or fifth grader. I have no doubt whatsoever that it would have inspired me to start a sketch journal of my own.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If there are any elementary school librarians reading this, you simply must stock the Ellie McDoodle series. Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School is entertaining from beginning to end, with clever illustrations, and celebrating both warm family and friend relationships and individuality. Don't miss it!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Publication Date: June 24, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: The Reading Zone, Quill Inc., Shelf Elf, Fuse #8, Read, Read, Read
Author Interviews: Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Karen's News

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Saturday Afternoon Visits: Father's Day Edition

Happy Father's Day weekend to all of the dads out there, especially to my Dad and Mheir's Dad. Thanks for all that you do for your kids every day. And extra special, super-duper thanks to the dad who read to to their kids (mine did, and look at how I love books!). The kidlit blogs have been pretty quiet this weekend, hopefully because people are out spending time with family. But here is some news for those who are interested:

  • If you're in need of some reading that will make you appreciate what you have, check out Kelly's poem at Big A little a about the recent tragedies in Iowa. Beware, though, it's quite a tear-jerker. My heart goes out to the affected families.
  • I didn't win it, but Kim and Jason at Escape Adulthood gave away a very cool book-themed clock this week. Click through to see it. Also, to enter the contest, Jason asked visitors to comment on "When you were a kid, what was your favorite time of day, and why?". The result is a treasure trove of memories that I thought might be of interest to children's book authors.
  • Lectitans has a nice summer reading round-up here. She links to lots of great resources.
  • The debate over age-banding of children's books continues to rage. Tricia links to some new discussion on the matter at The Miss Rumphius Effect.
  • The recent flap over the new KidzBookBuzz blog tour site has prompted several bloggers to take a look at how and why they write reviews. Check out posts at Chasing Ray, The Miss Rumpius Effect, and Becky's Book Reviews, as well as a plethora of comments on these posts (especially on Tricia's post). I shared my opinons here. Gail Gauthier also offers an author's perspective on the idea of whirlwind, three-day blog tours at Original Content (and I shared some opinions there, too, now that I think about it).
  • Kris B. at Paradise Found linked to an interesting site this week: BookTour (unrelated to the blog tours discussed above). You can enter your zip code, and the site shows you all of the authors who have upcoming events in your area. You can filter the list for, say, authors who write for kids. If you sign up, you can get a weekly email listing book tours in your area. I'm going to give it a try.
  • Speaking of events, I'll be attending both the upcoming ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim and the BlogHer conference in San Francisco (the latter I'm currently planning to attend for Saturday only). This will be my first time attending ALA, and I'm looking forward to meeting up with some KidLit bloggers, meeting some authors, talking with some of the publishers' PR people, and attending some of the events (like the Newbery banquet and the Edwards lunch). And, of course, I'm looking forward to scooping up a few, or more than a few, ARCs. I attended the first BlogHer conference in San Jose two years ago, and will be interested to see how that has evolved as a conference. If any of you are attending either event, and would like to meet up, just let me know.
  • Congratulations to Laurie Halse Anderson for winning the 2008 ALAN Award (from the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents). I first read about it here, at the CMIS Evaluation Fiction Focus blog. The full announcement is here, and you can read Laurie's reaction here. Laurie rocks! She so deserves this award (and the dozens of congratulatory comments that she received are a strong indicator of this). She's also organized a Hot Summer Twisted/Speak Book Trailer contest, with details here. This contest would be a great addition to anyone's summer reading program for teens. 
  • And last, but definitely not least, don't miss Jules' post about early readers (and the other names that people use for this category of books) at 7-Imp. She's got tons of great recommendations for parents in this hard-to-define category. Jules is one of my few "go-to" reviewers for books in this age range, and I'm bookmarking this one for future reference.

And that's all for today. It's a hot day here (as it is many places), and Mheir and I are planning to make margaritas, and watch the Red Sox on TV.

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: Friday the 13th Edition

Welcome to the latest installment of my Review that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature. In a nod to Friday the 13th, I have quite a few spooky books on the list this week.

Children's and YA Titles

The Dream of the Stone

Court from Once Upon a Bookshelf intrigued me with the first sentence of her review of The Dream of the Stone by Christina Askounis, an older title, but one that I haven't seen before. Court said: "Let me start with saying that anyone who is a fan of Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet ought to read this book." She added, later in the review: "This was quite the engaging book. The characters were all fabulously developed, the plot was exciting, and it took me to places my imagination reveled in. I love good stories where the characters travel to new worlds, when the author can pull off creating a believable world that is so different than ours."

Gollywhopper GamesClearly I am drawn in by reviews that compare new titles to old favorites. So when Sherry started a review of The Gollywhopper Games at Semicolon with: "I thought while reading it that this book was reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl or last year’s Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart", she got my attention. She further revealed that author Jody Feldman was inspired to write the book by a 10-year-old boy's quest for something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And that was enough for me - I didn't even read the rest of the description in detail.

Double or DieI've enjoyed the audio editions of the first two of Charlie Higson's Young James Bond series (Silverfin and Blood Fever). Therefore, I was pleased to learn from Camille at BookMoot that the third book in the series, Double or Die, is now available. Here's what Camille says about the audio versions of the first two books: "I was thrilled and happy to discover that SilverFin and Blood Fever were compelling and "didn't want to stop" listens for me. Nathaniel Parker (clicked on his website and shouted, "Oh, him! Inspector Lynley!) is an outstanding voice actor who shades each character with a distinct tone and cadence." Like Camille, I liked the second book better than the first, which makes me hopeful for the third.

Sheila Ruth wrote a review at Wands and Worlds during the 48-Hour Book Challenge that hooked me from the first paragraph. She said: "The year is 2047, and Zeyya lives in a tiny, roach-infested apartment with her parents. It's a horrible way to live, and not as nice as their previous home, but it's safer: Quarantine hasn't hit this area yet. Throughout the Greater East Coast Metropolis, people are taken away by the police, leaving only yellow Quarantine tape to indicate that they ever existed. Zeyya has never known anyone to return from Quarantine." The book is In the Company of Whispers, by Sallie Lowenstein. Sheila knows my taste pretty well, and she thinks that I'll like it, which is good enough for me.It won't be out until September.

Araminta Spookie 1: My Haunted HouseI'm always on the lookout for engaging books for early readers. So this review of Araminta Spookie 1: My Haunted House at Krystel's Book Blog caught my eye. She said: "A fun fun fun start to the series! Araminta Spookie (isn't that a fantastic name?) lives in a haunted house, where she has a different bedroom for every day of the week, her uncle has a large tower to keep his many bats, and they both agree that their home is perfect." I'm also a fan of author Angie Sage's Magyk series, which made me even more likely to add this to my list.

Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know WhenCharlotte has started a new series at Charlotte's Library called Timeslip Tuesday. She explains: "A timeslip story is simply one in which characters pass from one time to another, either forward or backward, generally without a mechanical device such as a time machine." I do have a weakness for time travel books (although I tend to favor mechanical devices), so this is a feature I'll be sure to follow. Charlotte's first featured title is Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When, by Annette Laing. She says that it "throws three kids back in time from present day Snipesville, Georgia, into World War II England. Hannah, her brother Alex, and their friend Brandon are now war evacuees from London, struggling to figure out what is happening and why they have traveled through time. Then Brandon slips through time again to the England of World War I…and the mystery deepens."

TraitorThere's no review for this last one, but Doret, TheHappyNappyBookseller, commented on my recent review of Steel Trapp to recommend Andy McNab and Robert Rigby's Traitor and sequels. I've read and enjoyed a couple of McNab's adult titles, but hadn't realized that he wrote young adult spy thrillers, too. My knowledge of his adult titles, and Doret's recommendation, are good enough for me to want to check this one out.

Adult Titles

Storm FrontLeila wrote about the Harry Dresden books at Guys Lit Wire, starting with Storm Front: The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. "Harry Dresden has the voice of a hard-boiled detective AND he's a magic-user. His allies include Bob, a lecherous spirit housed in a human skull; Karrin Murphy, a super-tough homicide detective; Michael, a Knight of the Cross; a vampire named Thomas; and Ebenezar McCoy, a wizard who lives in Hogs Hollow, Missouri ... The books are smart, hilarious, action-packed and very hard to put down."