Monday, October 1, 2012

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Uma has a brand-new pair of very nice red shoes and a very big question: what is infinity? She knows that it's big, but how big is it? It makes her feel small to even think about it. Her friend calls it a number that keeps growing forever. Another friend says that the infinity symbol is like an eight that never ends. Different people tell her different things, but nothing helps her to feel like she understands infinity... and no one is noticing her new shoes. This is turning into a very confusing day!

This picture book so smartly captures that moment when a child first starts thinking about a big question. When did I first learn about infinity? I know that I can't remember. There was the common retort of "blah blah blah times infinity" followed by "blah blah blah times infinity plus one," which someone always points out is the same as infinity. That's still pretty mind-bending: how can infinity and infinity + one be the same thing?! Uma's quest for truth and the answers that she gets from the people around her all ring pretty true, and nestled underneath this mathematic exploration is the warm relationship between a girl and her grandmother. A quick search of my library catalog shows a definite lack of books that deal with the concept of infinity, so any book on the topic would be a welcome addition. This book, though, with its truly accessible story and lovely and unusual illustrations can easily stand on its own merits; even without a collection development need, this is a book that children's libraries should be looking at.

Check out Kate Hosford's website.  Also check out Gabi Swiatkowska's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Carolrhoda Books/Lerner.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Big Bouffant by Kate Hosford
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
The Cat in Numberland by I. Ekeland
Summertime Waltz by Nina Payne

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dinosaurs in Space by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Everyone thinks that dinosaurs became extinct...but they didn't. When the Big Bang happened, they just went into space and became dinosaurs in space! Some landed on Planet Lettuce, while others landed on Planet Meatball. While in outer space they have to deal with scary aliens and dangerous black holes, but if anyone's up for the challenge, it would be dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs and space: a perfect combination. They're both things that interest many kids, so putting them together in a book that's aimed at supporting young readers makes so much sense. The stories have really positive messages (don't judge things before you try them, accept people's differences and find your similarities, look before you leap) that adults (and probably some kids) will easily recognize, but they don't come across as too preachy. The darkness of space provides a great backdrop for the colourful dinosaurs, and the mixture of text in speech balloons and text boxes will encourage readers to play with words and explore where words are on the page. This book has "high interest" written all over it; libraries should definitely consider it for their graphic novels/early reader collections.

Check out the Tumblr of Pranas T. Naujokaitis.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Balloon Toons/Blue Apple Books.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Hiccup! by Mike Herrod
Dinosaurs?! by Lila Prap
Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit by Elise Gravel
Prickles vs. the Dust Bunny by Daniel Cleary

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hiccup! by Mike Herrod

Jamie is already nervous for the big school play, but when he gets the hiccups, it's so much worse! The last time he had the hiccups it lasted all day. This could ruin the play! Can Jamie and his friend Jenna find a way to stop the hiccups before it's too late?

There's something naturally funny about hiccups. They're involuntary, make a funny sound, and usually aren't serious enough to cause a lot of physical pain. It's not a surprise when Jamie starts suffering from hiccups; the cover of the book makes it very clear that that's going to happen, so you can anticipate the big moment. Going from person to person collecting ridiculous suggestions for getting rid of the hiccups provides a lot of humour, including physical humour. As a Balloon Toons title, the story is told in a graphic novel format. The number of panels on each page varies, which keeps the appearance of the story interesting and unpredictable. The pages are colourfully vibrant and the text (shown in speech balloons) is easily readable. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Balloon Toons series of books, and with great titles like this I can't wait to see more.

Check out Mike Herrod's website for more of his work.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Balloon Toons/Blue Apple Books.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
I Can't Stop Hiccuping! by Lauren Child
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit by Elise Gravel
Prickles vs. the Dust Bunny by Daniel Cleary
Doggie Dreams by Mike Herrod

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Big Girl Panties by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Valeria Petrone

This little girl is so excited - she's ready for big girl panties! Not diapers, but actual underwear. Fun underwear, stripped or dotted underwear, underwear for every day of the week. Animals don't wear panties, babies don't wear panties, only big girls like moms and sisters and aunties wear panties!

Underwear is often played for laughs in children's books, so it's great to see a book where underwear is shown as a triumphant achievement. This is a fun book; the big, bright illustrations and sense of humour can easily appeal to children. It's a great book to read with kids who have just moved out of diapers (or who need a bit of encouragement). A great book for libraries, public or at home, as well as a gift for young kids.

Check out Fran Manushkin's website and Valeria Petrone's website. 

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bear in Underwear by Todd H. Doodler
Potty by Leslie Patricelli
Dinosaur Vs. The Potty by Bob Shea

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Coming back to her hometown of Winston hasn't been the happy homecoming that Clare had hoped it would be. Her father has moved on with a new life, her mother and her grandmother barely talk, and her old best friend Rachel seems to have changed in different ways. The town is also gripped by the threat of a serial killer: two years ago a boy was killed, one year ago a girl disappeared. The anniversary of that date is coming up, and no one knows what might happen. Clare also has a secret gift - the ability to touch a piece of clothing and relive the memories and experiences of the wearer. A torn and bloodied jacket has recently come into her possession...could it be a clue to solving the mystery?

I quite enjoyed this story. There was a wonderful old-school Lois Duncan vibe to it while being thoroughly modern at the same time. Clare is a likeable heroine who deals with things both down to earth (trying to get her mom and grandmother into the same room) and otherworldly (figuring out how to deal with her psychic gift). She does some questionable things (particularly when she's around the missing girl's old boyfriend, a suspect in her disappearance) and rarely thinks of her own safety, but in a way that makes sense for a teenager who is slowly becoming overwhelmed by her circumstances. I could see this book being an excellent pilot for a series and it would have fit in perfectly among the psychic/special talent crime solvers who had TV shows not that long ago. A solid pick for mystery fans who like a bit of the supernatural (but not vampires or werewolves).

Check out Sophie Littlefield's website

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
A Bad Day for Mercy by Sophie Littlefield
Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule by Kashmira Sheth illustrated by Carl Pearce

Ishan wants a dog. He really, really wants a dog. But his mom has a rule: no dogs allowed. So Ishan comes up with a plan. If he's very, very helpful around the house, maybe his mom will see that he's responsible enough for a dog! But whatever he does, nothing seems to go exactly the way he planned. Will his mom ever see how much he wants a dog?

This story is sure to resonate with kids who really, really want something that their parents won't let them get (like a dog). A lot of kids want dogs. I never really wanted a dog (and the only pets I ever had growing up were pets), so I didn't relate personally to that, but I can still identify with wanting something really badly and being told no. Anyway - all that aside, I think that young readers will find lots to like in this book. Ishan is a sympathetic character; he doesn't invite trouble, it just sort of finds him. The action in this story (dealing with a sibling and your parents, neighbourhood bullies, inadvertently creating disasters, the unfairness of being young) is relatable across cultures. Don't be surprised if we see more stories about Ishan and his family in the future.

Check out Kashmira Sheth's website as well as Carl Pearce's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Albert Whitman & Co.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Ten Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin
Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
I Don't Want a Posh Dog by Emily Dodd
The Boxcar Children Beginnings by Patricia McLaughlan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler illustrated by Barry Gott

On any given Sunday you can find two Dino-teams fighting for football glory out on the grid-iron. But in the Mega-Bowl, it's down to two teams: The Redscales vs. the Greenblade Snackers. As the fans cheer from the packed stands, the Redscales get out to an early lead, but the game is far from over. Who will be the winners at the end of the day?

I knew vaguely about the Dino-sports series but hadn't read any until I started Dino-Football. I can see how the concept can easily sustain a series. The rhyming text keeps the story moving, and the illustrations are incredibly detailed (for one example of this, check out the spread that has the list of players' names). The pictures play with size and perspective and really dominate the story. I'm not really in the book's dino-loving, sports-enthusiast preschooler demographic, so about 3/4 of the way through the book even though I was enjoying it I was also ready for it to be ending. I think that those in the aforementioned demographic, though, will happily follow the action from end zone to end zone. There's lots of action, the dinosaurs have lots of expression, and the energy pops off the page. For the Dino-Sports series, it's the book equivalent of a touchdown.

Check out Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott's websites.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Lerner.

Find it at Amazon. 

Read it with:
Dino-Soccer by Lisa Wheeler
Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler
Dino-Hockey by Lisa Wheeler
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bedtime for Boo by Mickie Matheis illustrated by Bonnie Leick

Boo is so excited for his first night of haunting. He's the littlest ghost in his ghost family, and he's looking forward to all the spooky swirling, whistling, and flying like all the big ghosts do. When his mom tells him that it's time for bed, Boo isn't tired! His mom suggests that he listens to all the sounds in the house to help him get to sleep. Will listening to all the rattling and whooshing help Boo drift off to dreamland?

When I think of ghosts, I don't tend to think of them crawling into bed! But as the cover promises, that's just what happens in this spooky bedtime story. The story is more comforting, though, than truly scary; Boo the ghost takes comfort in the noises that are familiar to him (and, in a neat twist, are also the noises that could keep an anxious child up at night). The bedtime routine is one that could work on human kids as well as ghost kids. I enjoyed the spooky-sweet mix of Bonnie Leick's illustrations, and I might be imagining things but I thought I saw a shout-out to Madeline in the book's first few pages of text. This could easily become a Halloween favourite, yet I can also see it being a popular bedtime book for ghost-loving kids all year long.

Learn more about illustrator Bonnie Leick at her website.

I received an advance review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Golden Books (Random House).

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Kai-lan Loves YeYe by Mickie Matheis
Wolf Camp by Katie McKy
Blossom and Boo Stay Up Late by Dawn Apperley

Monday, August 27, 2012

Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Unexpected Twist by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Christina Flores is going to be an Olympic gymnastics champion someday. That's her goal and that's her mom's goal; every day each work toward it in their own ways. Christina practices her routines while her Mom watches them and points out areas that Christina should work on. There's a big competition coming up, and it could be one to put Christina and the other Texas Twisters on the radar for the next Olympic Team. Christina starts working extra hard...and ignores the pain that she feels in her foot. At this crucial point in her career, is her body going to let her down? And is she going to let down her mother?

I was anticipating the 'Do I want to stay in gymnastics?' plot in Jessie's book, but it also gets visited from a slightly different angle in Unexpected Twist. Since the first book in the series, Christina's been shown to be a little tightly wound - focused on gymnastics but almost to the exclusion of everything else. She, like Noelle, feels the pressure of a family who has committed themselves to her gymnastics, although where for Noelle's family it's more the sacrifice of money, for Christina's mom it's the sacrifice of a life outside of her daughter.  Even through to the book's resolution I was never quite sure why her mom has built her life this way: is she living through her daughter? Did she have a lack of support growing up? Is she doing it to fill in all the lonely space in her life due to her absent husband? But I guess it's not really a book about Christina's mom - it's a book about Christina and what happens to her when she starts to question how clear her vision of being an Olympic champion is. The book explores the area between how one person sees something and how different it is from how someone else sees the same thing; Christina and her mom have a big fight on Christmas because her mom thinks she's ungrateful while Christina just wants to show her frustration. She learns about controlling the things that are within her control and dealing with the things she can't. Christina hasn't always been sympathetic when seen through the eyes of the other gymnasts, so this glimpse into her life really rounds out the series. This is the fourth of four scheduled books, but there are some story strands started her that could easily carry the series through more books in the future.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts:Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Sethie (her preferred abbreviation for Sarah Beth) has everything under control. She knows exactly what she needs to do to keep her grades up. She knows exactly what she needs to do to get into a good school. She knows exactly what she needs to do to be with the boy she likes. She also knows exactly what she needs to do to keep her weight going in the right direction: down. But despite all of her efforts, is Sethie close to losing it all?

The book begins with a letter from the author that details why she wrote this book. She talks about her own body issues and how they have shaped her life. The book is at times to hard to read because it goes into some very dark places; Sethie spends a lot of time in darkness. I was glad that the book was written in third person; this put a bit of space between me and Sethie's mind but not enough to distance me from the story. I particularly liked the parts of this book that explored Sethie's relationships with the people around her: her mom, her friends, her boyfriend. How does her illness shape how she sees people? Are her interpretations of situations reliable? If they were describing the same situation, what would they say about it? As Alyssa B. Sheinmel notes in her introduction, there is no shortage of books that look at teen girls struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and body image, but for those who are looking for an issue-based novel The Stone Girl paints a dark and complex portrait of a girl who is struggling to keep everything together.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Clean by Amy Lynn Reed
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non-Post: Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm taking a day off from book sharing today to celebrate my birthday, but I will be back soon with lots of great books new and old.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where's Ellie? by Salina Yoon

You wouldn't think that it would be hard to find a hiding elephant, but Ellie is really good at hiding! Is she behind a houseplant? Or behind some flowers? She could be anywhere! Where is she hiding now? Flip the pages and find out!

The illustrations in this board book are big and brightly colourful. Kids have the chance to 'discover' what's hiding behind different plants and trees. As in any 'where is blank?' book, the story builds to a triumphant conclusion; its staying power comes from whether or not kids will want to flip it over and start again, and for this title I think they will (at least for a few times). This would be a solid addition to any library's board book collection.

Check out Salina Yoon's website.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Random House for Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Where's Eddie? by Daniel Nunn
Humpty Dumpty by Salina Yoon
Find My Feet! by Salina Yoon
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty by Carolyn J. Brown

Eudora Alice Welty was born in a small Southern town in 1909. After spending time at school, as a photographer, and exploring other paths, she started gaining recognition for her writing and later became a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. In many ways, she lived a daring life - a life that spanned most of a century. Learn more about this woman, her life, and her writing in this new biography published by the University Press of Mississippi.

For many years I have been meaning to explore the works of Eudora Welty. I don't think that I've actually read any of her writing, although I do have a photograph of her library hanging in my living room. When I saw this new biography, I jumped at the chance to read it. It's concise and direct and informative; it provides not only a great introduction to the life of Welty but also the world in which she lived. There are lots of photographs to illustrate her family, her homes, and her work, and in particular her work as a photographer. I did briefly pause to think of who this book would appeal to; it's positioned as a biography for young adults, but how many young adults have read Eudora Welty? Is she on school reading lists? Is there a demand for a book like this? But then I decided that there is always a demand for well-written and well-researched biographies of accomplished women. It might take some handselling from librarians and booksellers to help people to be aware of this book, but it would be well worth including this in a non-fiction collection to have on hand for the right reader.

Check out Carolyn J. Brown's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of University Press of Mississippi.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef
The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty: A Biography by Suzanne Marrs

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Deep-Sea Duel by John Sazaklis and Art Baltazar

The Aquafamily is ready for an awesome under-sea family reunion - but the evil Ocean Master is determined to spoil the day. It's up to Aqualad and the Superpets to save everyone. It's going to be tough, but if they work together they just might be able to stop Ocean Master in his tracks.

Young fans of superheroes have a fun book to explore in Deep-Sea Duel. I don't know very much about Aquaman or the Aquafamily, but you don't need to have a lot of background knowledge to enjoy this book. Characters are explained at the beginning and end (names as well as where they fit into the Superhero/Superpet world). Illustrations are integrated well with the text, and the amount of white-space around the large words make this a solid choice for independent readers. I can see this being a hit with both young readers who like action and young readers who like animals; if you know a reader who likes both things, try to get this book into their hands.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
The Cat Crime Club by Steve Korte
Midway Monkey Madness by Sarah Hines Stephens
The Fantastic Flexy Frog by Michael Dahl
The Fastest Pet on Earth by J.E. Bright

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Reaching High by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Jessie can stay calm when it comes to performing routines in the Texas Twisters gym, but she's nervous about starting high school. It hasn't been long since she started taking gymnastic lessons again after spending some time dealing with an eating disorder. Her other friends from the team aren't in high school yet, so Jessie is nervous that she's going to be all alone. After a few tense run-ins with one particularly mean girl, Jessie decides to befriend her by agreeing to be part of the cheerleading team. Her coach and friends don't think this is a good idea, but Jessie doesn't understand why they aren't being more supportive. She just wants to have a life of her own - is that such a bad thing?

(Spoilers below!)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, the third in the four-book "Go-for-Gold Gymnasts" series. I was expecting there to be a book where one of the gymnasts questioned her commitment to being an Elite-level gymnast, and after Jessie was revealed to have an eating disorder in the first book, it made sense that as she re-evaluated her life she would also re-evaluate how she felt about being a competitive gymnast. The surprise part came from the ending, where she decided to re-commit herself to gymnastics; that wasn't what I was expecting but, in the course of the story, it was a plot point that felt earned. Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson are able to craft a story that pulls back the curtain on gymnastics and shows how hard and lonely it can be while still illustrating why someone would be willing - would want - to be a part of it. Jessie makes decisions that make me want to sit her down and have a good talk with her, but she shows that even when she is making bad choices she has a good heart and a good head. I'm really looking forward to spending some time with Christina, the one remaining narrator, in the fourth book of the series.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts:Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Incredible Rockhead: Rock Paper Scissorlegz by Scott Nickel and C.S. Jennings

Chip Stone was having an ordinary day until a strange nurse injects him with a secret substance. Whenever he's in danger, his head turns into a giant rock. Before long he's warding off dangerous enemies like Dozer and Papercut and trying to figure out how to take down the evil General. It's a good thing that he has friends like his sidekick-slash-best friend Spencer along for backup!

This The Incredible Rockhead: Rock, Paper, Scissorlegz collection brings together four previously released Incredible Rockhead books into one massive mega-volume. I like the idea of having it as a collection, though, because it keeps the story flowing so that someone can sit down and read the whole adventure from beginning to end (I am an impatient reader, and I suspect that some young kids are, too), and at around 130-ish pages, the collected story isn't that long. I also liked the comic-book touches of advertisements for various products interspersed within the action. The art is colourful, the story is action-based, and the writing is funny. If you've ever dreamed of what Rock, Paper, Scissors would be like in a real-life supervillian-fuled version, this is definitely the book for you.

Find it at IndieBound.

I received a copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Read it with:
Teen Boat by Dave Roman and John Green
Zinc Alloy by Donald Lemke and Douglas Holgate
The Incredible Rockhead by Scott Nickel

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scott Pilgrilm Volume 1: Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim's life is pretty uncomplicated. At 23 he lives in a tiny apartment with his gay roommate Wallace, he plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb, and he's dating a high school student (which sounds like it could be complicated, but since they've barely ever even hugged, it's a pretty laid-back relationship). Then he starts dreaming of a strange girl with roller-blades and awesome hair. Who is she? How did she end up in his head? When the girl - Ramona Flowers - materializes in his real life, he has to make sure he's not dreaming... then he has to find a way to make her want to spend time with her. He keeps hearing something about her evil exes, but that's can't be too bad, right? Right?

This is the first time that I've written about a book for a second time, but I think that a full-colour edition with extra behind-the-scenes content warrants talking about this book again. I originally picked up the Scott Pilgrim series because of the then-upcoming movie with Michael Cera; I've since seen the movie, so it's almost like I can never un-see it through that lens. But this re-read let me focus on the details: the way that the backgrounds really looked like Toronto areas, the casual awesomeness of Kim Pine, the easy blend of real life and video game fantasy. If you've never read the series, now is the time to pick it up and check it out in full-colour glory, and if you have read the series I guarantee you haven't seen it like this before.

Check out Scott Pilgrim online and Bryan Lee O'Malley's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Oni Press.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Kendall knows exactly what to expect in her small-town life. She's grown up with the same people, done the same things, and thought the same thoughts. She dreams of a life beyond Cryer's Cross - a life where she can study dance and never have to hear about potato farming again. Then Cryer's Cross is rocked by the mysterious disappearance of a young girl..and just when things are settling back into a routine, someone close to Kendall disappears as well. Everyone fears the worst, and Kendall struggles to find the strength to keep on living. One of her distractions comes from the new guy in town, Jacian,  a moody loner who gets under Kendall's skin. As she struggles to understand the mystery of long-buried secrets, Kendall herself might just be in danger.

Cryer's Cross mixes real-life things like college applications, relationships, and obsessive-compulsive disorder with an eerie, other-worldly twist. Kendall's life is made up of routines; some routines are put on her by nature, like the potato harvest each fall, while other routines are ones caused by her OCD that she must do to keep dangerous thoughts away. I can't comment on how accurately McMann portrays a character with OCD, but she did do a great job of creating a character who slips in and out of rationality. She is deliberate in her actions and precise in her words; she won't even call her best friend Nico her boyfriend because she can't promise the future commitment that that implies. As she spends time with Jacian, though, she starts opening up more of herself. The two are attracted to each other (I don't think that that needs a spoiler alert - almost any time that a guy and a girl clash so hard in the first part of a novel will have them attracted to each other before very long) but it's complicated - both Kendall and Jacian have their own issues that they need to work through. This book is for people who like the creepy, ghosty kind of supernatural more than the action-packed vampire or zombie supernatural; it would be a good read-alike for someone who likes the supernatural mysteries of Lois Duncan or Mary Downing Hahn.

Check out Lisa McMann's website.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey and Giselle Potter

Ruby's life isn't exactly normal. Her mother is a tiara designer and her father spends all his time trimming topiary. She just wants to fit in...and she also wants a dog. But while on vacation (in Norway, of all places), something else finds Ruby: a glacier named Cecil. A pet glacier is the last thing that Ruby wants, but maybe it's just what Ruby needs.

I loved the gentle absurdity of a pet glacier; that's what originally drew me to this title. I also liked the cover's visual of Ruby with her three identical dolls (the Three Jennifers).  The book is extremely visually interesting (I'm just smitten with Giselle Potter's style), but it also has a great story with neat turns of phrase. It's an unusual spin on the 'child wants a pet' story, which is always a favourite for young kids, but even at its most absurd there is a firm layer of heart underneath. Definitely look to add this one to a library's picture book collection.

Check out Matthea Harvey's website and Giselle Potter's website.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Ice by Arthur Geisert
Not Like I'm Jealous or Anything edited by Marissa Walsh
The Year I Didn't Go to School by Giselle Potter
The Boy Who Loved Water by Roni Schotter

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daisy's Perfect Word by Sandra V. Feder illustrated by Susan Mitchell

Daisy loves words. She loves the way they sound and the way that her mouth moves as she says them. She loves saying them and reading them and hearing them. Daisy likes other things, too, like her friends, her family, and her teacher, Miss Goldner. Miss Goldner has just announced that she is getting married and moving away. Daisy is happy for her (engaged is a wonderful-sounding word) but also sad that she won't be able to see Miss Goldner around school anymore. Daisy knows what the perfect present for her teacher would be: the perfect word. Now all she has to do is find it!

Talking about words is almost like a sneaky way of talking about reading where you're not necessarily talking about reading at all; even kids who aren't strong readers can have favourite words, and talking about words and playing with words is a great way to make literacy fun. There was a nice building of suspense as Daisy was trying to find the perfect word for her teacher. What would it be? How could any word be perfect? Daisy is a great character; she loves words and thinks about them a lot, but she's also does regular kid stuff like eating chocolate treats and getting excited over a sleepover. I think Daisy's love of books, reading, and words will resonate with kids who also love books and reading, and they will be rewarded with rich words and clever passages. (I particularly liked the description of Daisy's neighbour Samantha as a girl who liked the words 'stop' and 'mine.') A quick look at Sandra V. Feder's website confirms that more Daisy books are on the way; look for the next one in Spring 2013.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Fancy Nancy: Splendid Speller by Jane O'Connor
13 Words by Lemony Snicket
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Kylie Jean, Spelling Queen by Marci Peschke

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toppling by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Rhian Nest James

John loves dominoes. He can spend hours lining them up, making a pattern, and then sending them toppling. It's so satisfying when everything goes exactly the way that it's supposed to. Sometimes John's best friend Dom sets up the dominoes with him; John really likes spending time with Dom and they get along really well. Then Dom gets sick and stop coming to school. What can John do to help make things feel right again?

Like many kids, I suspect, I'm not entirely sure how to actually play dominoes, but I've definitely spent some time setting them up and knocking them over. I know that there must be books out there that explore what it means when your friend gets sick, but I think that well-crafted books for this young elementary school audience will always be welcome. John's world doesn't exactly fall apart, but it shifts and slips; he still goes to school, he still eats dinner with his family, he still hangs around with friends, but it's not the same because his best friend isn't there. The book also touches on how helpless people feel when something like another person's health is out of their hands; it also brings in the different ways that people react to serious news. The verse-novel style blends well with the illustrations, giving readers a glimpse both into and at John's world.

Check out Sally Murphy's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
Jessi's Wish by Ann M. Martin
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Are You Sleeping, Little One? by Hans-Christian Schmidt and Cynthia Vance

Animals all over the world need to go sleep. Dogs, caterpillars, kangaroos - all of these little ones go to sleep with their parent watching over them carefully. As you read about these animals, it's the perfect opportunity to curl up as your own little one lays down his head and nods off to dreamland.

Animals are a popular choice for children's books; baby animals can be so cute. (I particularly liked the sloths). Each animal gets a page, and each page has two lines. The lines don't always have an exact rhyme, but there is a soft rhythm that can help to lull children to sleep. There's no shortage of bedtime books out there, but given that bedtime happens every day (and maybe even multiple times a day, if you include nap times), it's a market that can hold a lot of bedtime books. If you're looking for gentle, animal-based bedtime story, this could definitely be the book for you.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Abbeville Press.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Sleep on it! by Kevin Kelly
It's Time to Sleep, My Love by Eric Metaxes
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
Good Night, Sleep Tight by Emma Quay

Monday, August 13, 2012

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

The last thing that Rachel thought she would find in the sanctuary of her synagogue was the Rabbi having sex. But there he was, up on the bima, having sex...and with a woman who is not his wife. The foundation of Rachel's world starts to crack. Her parents are fighting more than ever. Her grandmother isn't always lucid (and doesn't always know who Rachel is). And now the Rabbi, the man who she respected and who guided her spiritual life, has been revealed to be a terrible sinner. How can she face him? How can she continue to listen to him talk about God and religion and faith? How can anything in her life be the same?

This was a new spin on the betrayal aspect for me; I don't think I've seen a storyline where a girl loses faith in her Rabbi and then acts out in frustration and anger. The cover, while attention-grabbing, doesn't quite match the book; I find it to hint at darker content (I'm not sure why...the model's eyes, perhaps?) than Intentions actually has. Rachel as a character is grown up in many ways and so young in others. Many of her ideas about sex and relationships are naive but she's also recognizing very adult desires in herself. Characters like that are intriguing to me because there's so much potential; they can go in almost any direction because their whole worlds are shifting. There are a lot of interesting ideas mixed in with the storyline: the intention behind your actions, putting good out into the world, fixing a broken world, taking responsibility for your actions, trusting people who have wronged you, and what it means to be a good person. I was a big fan of Deborah Heiligman's Charles and Emma and I really enjoyed reading a novel from her (and I hope there will be more - of both her fiction and non-fiction).

See more at Deborah Heiligman's website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett

Scarlett Dedd is dead. All her life she's had to deal with cracks and puns about her last name; being pale and thin didn't help, either. But now she really is dead due to a tragic mushroom mix-up. There are some cool things about being dead, but mostly she misses her friends, who are still very much alive. Scarlett gets a great idea: she can use her new invisibility and other supernatural gifts to cause some...accidents around her friends. At first her friends were intrigued by the idea of being haunted, but now they're starting to get scared. Will Scarlett go through with her plan?

Poor Scarlett. Her life didn't sound like much fun while she was alive (bratty brother, self-absorbed parents, second-hand clothes, self-involved friends), and then in death she still barely seems to catch a break. I did wonder why she would go to so much trouble to kill her friends, because, well...they didn't seem like good friends in the first place. Aside from Psycho, her not-really-boyfriend-even-though-they-had-mutual-crushes, no one seemed that affected by her death. But somehow Scarlett's internal logical made it make sense. Talking about the story is just one element of the book. It's format makes for quite a reading experience. It's not really a graphic novel; there's too many pages of prose for it to be considered that. But the book does have lots of illustrations and at times even the placement of the text becomes part of the art. I think the ideal reader for this would be someone who reads both graphic novels and 'word' novels; they might have an easier time getting into the flow. But don't let that scare you off from picking it up or suggesting it to readers who like funny supernatural stories (especially because there's not a lot of violence, not really, considering that it involves dead people and attempted murder). While the story wraps up nicely, there are also enough threads left that could be spun into more stories. I wouldn't be surprised if Scarlett makes another ghostly appearance someday!

Check out Cathy Brett's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Ember Fury by Cathy Brett

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late by Laura Barcella

There are some days where it seems like the end of the world could happen at any time. Global warming, terrorism, zombies: the end is least in the movies. Films, books, plays, and art show some of the ways that people have expressed their views on the end of the world. In The End, 50 different visions of the apocalypse are explored in detail, examining how the world ends (and how likely it is to happen in real life).

There was something oddly reassuring about reading this book. Almost every scenario, whether it included viruses or zombies or the flooding of the entire earth, was said to be extremely unlikely to happen in real life - or, if it did, to have very different results than are shown in pop culture. I knew that I was going to like this book when one of the first things Laura Barcella talked about was the scarcity of women in strong, leading roles during "the end." Why is the apocalypse such a male-dominated event? Where are women while the world is ending? I also love serious explorations of popular culture; while this book maintains a light, often humorous tone, it does believe that there is something to be gained from examining how authors, directors, and artists have positioned the end of the world. Like many of Zest Books' other titles, this just screams "high interest" and is worth considering for inclusion in a library's non-fiction collection.

Check out Laura Barcella's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Zest books.

Find it at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's website.

Read it with:
The Stand by Stephen King
How to Fight, Lie, and Cry Your Way to Popularity (And a Prom Date) by Nikki Roddy
Reel Culture by Mimi O'Connor
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Noelle Onesti is incredible on the balance beam. She has the opportunity to be one of the best Junior Elite gymnasts in the country. She's already qualified for the national championships, but it's going to cost a lot of money for her to make the trip from Texas to Philadelphia. Money is something her family doesn't have a lot of, and Noelle is worried that her gymnastics expenses are already putting a strain on her family. She doesn't want to disappoint her coaches or her parents, but she can't face the truth, either. Will she ever get her chance to show the country what she can do?

By this point in the series it's pretty clear that each of the girls in the Texas Twisters has their own issues/storylines: Britt is the new girl who struggles to fit in, Jessie is dealing with an eating disorder and taking a look at her commitment to gymnastics, Christina has an over-involved mom who's likely trying to live through her daughter. Noelle has buckets of talent, a competitive drive, attention to detail...and a sensitive nature that means she worries about everything. She worries about her parents' business, she worries about the financial toll of gymnastics, she worries about the way her older brother is acting out (and in turn worrying her parents, giving Noelle one more thing to worry about). The best part about this book is that it flushes out the personalities of all of the girls on the squad; we're no longer seeing them through Britt's eyes (and get to see Britt through someone else's eyes). This four-book series is just what to give young readers who have been entranced by Gabby Douglas and the other gymnasts at the London Olympic Games. It doesn't gloss over the hardships that the gymnasts face but still packs in a lot of drama, action, and heart.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Reaching High by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Grunt and the Grouch: Big Splash! by Tracey Corderoy

 The Grunt and the Grouch are roommates and best friends. They both love all kinds of gross stuff, which makes sense, because they're trolls. In Big Splash! they have three adventures. In one, they decide to get some exercise by going to the local pool. In another, they babysit a couple of wild little trolls. And in the last one, they go camping...but not in the way they thought they would. With short chapters, large print, and lots of illustrations, this is a trollrific series aimed at young readers.

The cover of the book cautions "This book contains slime, snot, mud, and other trollrific treats." Readers would be wise to heed this caution, because it's a great indicator of who this book is for. If the idea of snot, slime, and more turns your stomach, you're not the intended audience. If, on the other hand, it only makes you want to read the book more, you're in for a treat. This book (and, I imagine, the rest of The Grunt and the Grouch books) practically screams "great for reluctant readers." If you know a newly independent reader who is frequently complaining about the lack of gross stuff in their books, keep this title in mind.

See more about Tracey Corderoy at her website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Shrek! by William Steig
The Grunt and the Grouch by Tracey Corderoy
The Grunt and the Grouch: Beastly Fangs! by Tracey Corderoy
Treasure in the Graveyard by Roberto Pavanello

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where's Eddie? by Daniel Nunn and Steve Walker

Eddie loves playing hide and seek. Of course, he's an elephant, so that makes it difficult for him to hide anywhere. That's okay, though, because he loves playing anyway! He's ready to hide - are you ready to find him? Count to ten, get set, go!

There's something really great about elephants in children's books. I think it might have to do with size; in real life they're so big but in picture books they the proportions can be so varied. Sometimes they can expand right off the page; sometimes they will be tiny. In Where's Eddie? in particular, there's the very funny concept of an elephant playing Hide and Seek. The elephant is drawn in a cartoony way while the background is a true-to-life photograph.  Of course he has a hard time hiding, or rather, "hiding," but all the better for the young children reading this book. Because he's so easily findable kids can use their words to describe where he is. There are lots of hide and seek puzzle books out there; this isn't one of those books. This is a board book that will encourage children to develop and build their vocabularies while inspiring them to start their own game of Hide and Seek.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Near or Far: Where's Eddie? by Daniel Nunn
What's Up, Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi
Where's the Kitten? by Cheryl Christian
Elefante by Vanita Oelschlager

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Life is changing for Georges (that's pronounced George, with a silent s). He and his parents have just moved into a new apartment in Brooklyn. It's not far away from their old place, but just far enough so that things seem strange. Speaking of strange, not long after he moves in he sees a poster for a super secret spy club. Not sure what to expect, he goes and meets Safer, a homeschooled boy who lives in his building. As their friendship grows, Georges is forced to learn the difference between what's real and what's not and that the truth sometimes has many different shades.

You need to read this book. The writing in this book is beautiful, period, full stop. The characters, the pacing and plotting, the storyline - just outstanding. The book reached me emotionally but not manipulatively and not in a fake way; every reaction that I had to it was one that the book earned. I don't want to say too much about it, because I'm afraid that if I do I might spoil something by accident. I was a big fan of When You Reach Me and am so thrilled to be able to share this book with friends in the same way I shared When You Reach Me.

Check out Rebecca Stead's website.

 I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House/Wendy Lamb books.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Watch the Olympics by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

In one sense, it's easy to figure out how to watch the Olympics: find a TV station that has the broadcast rights or stream it online, and you're watching the Olympics. But what exactly are you watching? How does one score points in a judo match? What's the difference between kayaking, canoeing, and rowing? What are the events that make up the decathlon? What about the heptathlon? What makes the modern pentathlon so modern? And what exactly is a repechage? With chapters for each of the sports (as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, medal ceremonies, past Olympic games, and discontinued Olympic sports), How to Watch the Olympics aims to be your go-to reference book during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

As a big fan of the Olympics, the cover of this book caught my eye as I was browsing in an airport bookstore. I initially hoped that it would be a critical socio-political at the games (with possible topics including American broadcasting strategy, the amount of money spent on the games, gender equality and inequality). Instead, though, it was a history-slash-introduction of the games and the sports on display, something I was also interested in checking out. As a young girl I latched onto a copy of one of David Wallechinsky's Complete Book of the Olympics and read it over and over until the pages started falling out. That was almost twenty years ago, though, and  as I often feel with reference books, I wondered about its use in a world where so much information is available online; as I sat on my couch with my iPhone and this book, how many times would I reach for each one? I didn't keep track, but there have been times where I was reaching for the book (particularly during the cycling events). While I do think that this book would only be enhanced in some kind of ebook form that would allow links to video footage, maps, and more photographs, it can easily stand without these things (and, in fact, has to - it's very clear that this is an "unofficial" Olympic book and as such does not have any pictures of the Olympic rings, flames, or mascots). The intended audience is the average Olympic watcher - someone who might know something about a few of the sports but has little knowledge of others. It strikes a tone somewhere between chatty and instructional (and uses a lot of British expressions along the way). It could be read through from beginning to end, but also works if you want to pick it up and dip into sections as needed. I'd really love to see a companion version for the Winter Olympics as well as updated versions for future Games.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
The Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 Edition by David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky
The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt
Gold by Chris Cleave
Inside the Olympics by Nick Hunter

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dirty Bertie: Fangs! by David Roberts written by Alan MacDonald

Bertie dives headfirst into life...and gets a little dirt on himself in the process. He doesn't intend to get in trouble, but trouble always seems to find him. Join Bertie in three new stories as he attempts to reveal that the custodian at his school is a vampire, discovers what it's like to be an in-demand model, and tries to avoid getting a terrible new haircut.

Each of the three stories are divided into short chapters. The print is large and the pictures will help young readers keep the story in their heads as they read. There are lots of things that will appeal to young readers: an energetic male character, a little big of gross-out stuff (but nothing that's too gross), and high-action situations that spiral out of control but (spoiler alert?) always seem to come out okay. There are a few things that seem to mark it as an import from the UK, but nothing that would get in the way of a North American reader from identifying with Bertie or the book. This is a book series to consider for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Check out David Roberts's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Dirty Bertie: Germs! by David Roberts and Alan MacDonald
The Grunt and the Grouch: Big Splash! by Tracey Corderoy
Treasure in the Graveyard by Roberto Pavanello

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Mount Rushmore Face that Couldn't See by Steve Brezenoff

Cat and her friends Egg, Gum, and Sam are on a field trip to see Mount Rushmore. It was a long, hot trip to get there, but once they see the presidential faces carved into the side of the mountain, it makes the journey all worthwhile. But then things start going wrong. Their tour guide is tied up - literally tied up - in his cabin, people start shouting about a ghost, and spooky stuff starts happening at night. Cat might only be in the sixth grade, but it's up to her to solve this mystery...before things get even worse!

This book, part of the Field Trip Mysteries series, combines a gentle mystery with lots of facts about Mount Rushmore. When I first saw a thumbnail of the cover, there was something about the girl's clothing (her longer skirt and hairstyle) as well as the lack of cars, buildings, or anything around that made me think that this book took place in a long ago time. It doesn't, though; it's firmly set in the modern day. The book includes a bit of very balanced information about why there might be controversy over Mount Rushmore; all of the information is at a very appropriate age level for the target audience. Cat and her friends are intrepid sleuths in the way that fictional children sometimes are (see everyone from Encyclopedia Brown to Theodore Boone to the Babysitters Club) and they don't really do anything that's too outlandish. Some parts of the mystery reminded me of elements of Murder, She Wrote episodes, but being the major MSW fan that I am, I mean that in the best way possible. A solid pick for school classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries to consider for their collections.

See more information about Steve Brezenoff at his website

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
The Ghost Who Haunted the Capitol by Steve Brezenoff
The Crook Who Crossed the Golden Gate Bridge by Steve Brezenoff
On the Bus, On the Case by Steve Brezenoff

Friday, August 3, 2012

Treasure in the Graveyard by Roberto Pavanello illustrated by Blasco Pisapia

Echo, a mystery-writing bat, likes living in a cemetery because of all of the peace and quiet. Then one night he hears something suspicious... and before he knows it he's flying for his life! That's how he meets his three best friends: Becca, Michael, and Tyler. These three siblings each have special talents and abilities that will help Echo figure out what is going on in the cemetery...and how to stop whoever is behind it.

A graveyard is a great setting for a story. It has a certain creepiness while still being a believable place for kids to be able to visit. The chapters are a good length - not too long so as to scare readers off, but not too short that getting through the chapters isn't an accomplishment. The full-colour illustrations, many of them full-pages, also provide the book with a cartoon-like energy. This looks like it will be a good series for young readers who like mysteries in the Scooby Doo vein; look for these meddling kids to thwart one mystery after another (with the help of their new bat friend).

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

See more of Roberto Pavanello's work at his (Italian) website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Katie Woo Rules the School by Fran Manushkin
Fangs! by Alan MacDonald
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Midnight Witches by Robert Pavanello

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

There are many things today that women and girls take for granted: wearing pants, speaking in public, going to school, keeping their own last name when they get married. One of the biggest rights, though, has been the right to vote in elections. In the 1800s and early 1900s, women were viewed as belonging to their fathers or husbands; they were expected to dedicate their lives to their families. Many women, though, wanted more. They believed that they best way to achieve this was to push for social change - increased rights for women and ultimately the right to vote. These women included Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, and many others. In Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, this history is presented so that the boys and girls of today can learn about the barriers that the women of the past overcame.

When I was younger I had very little exposure to books about women's history or feminist figures, so I'm always happy to see books about suffrage and women's rights aimed at a young age group. This book weaves together a narrative about the troubles and setbacks that these women faced and the accomplishments that they achieved alongside biographical sketches of the prominent figures and activities related to the text for kids to do on their own. The book illustrates how intertwined many different issues were and are; it's nearly impossible to discuss the rights of women without looking at American history in general but also the temperance movement, slavery, the Civil War, and religion. It's packed with information but also lots of great images and first-person accounts.   It was neat to discover the ties that things like The Wizard of Oz or "Mary Had a Little Lamb" had to the suffrage movement. The activities spread out throughout the book provide an interactive approach to understanding the life and times of the women depicted. It's hard to know how popular or practical these activities will be - some involve a stove or oven while others require a lot of materials that one might not have just laying around the house - but with the range of activities presented (twenty-one in total) there will likely be something that catches a reader's eye. I can also see teachers being interested in this for use in the classroom. It's a great title to have on the shelf for a school, classroom, or public library.

Check out Kerrie Logan Hollihan's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Chicago Review Press.

Find it at Indiebound.

Read it with:
Elizabeth I: The People's Queen by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Wheels of Change by Sue Macy
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Suffragist! by Fiona Macdonald

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Katie Woo Rules the School by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Katie Woo Rules the School combines four Katie Woo stories into one stylish package. In Katie and the Class Pet, Katie gets the thrill of taking care of the class guinea pig...and the scare of figuring out what to do once she loses him! No More Teasing has Katie trying to figure out how to deal with an annoying classmate, while The Big Lie shows Katie struggling to do what's right when it's not what she wants to do. In The Star of the Show, Katie deals with not getting the part in the school play that she wanted while still being supportive of her friend. No matter what's going on, Katie knows how important it is to be herself!

This was my first time reading a Katie Woo book, and I quite enjoyed it. Both she and the books have a Ramona Quimby vibe to them; Katie isn't perfect but she tries to do what's right, and the books look at tough issues (and real issues that kids face) without losing heart and warmth. The illustrations are gentle and colourful and it's great to see classes with children from so many different backgrounds. This looks like a great series for young readers and if, like me, you're new to the series, this collection of stories is a great way to get yourself introduced to Katie Woo's world.

Check out Fran Manushkin's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Kids.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Katie Woo and Friends by Fran Manushkin
Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at last!) by Barbara Park
Katie Woo: A Happy Day by Fran Manushkin
Kylie Jean, Blueberry Queen by Marci Peschke

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Go-For-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Britt loves gymnastics. She's already at the Junior Elite level, and her family has just moved to Houston and she has the chance to train at a big gym with a professional coach. She's nervous about training at a new place where she doesn't know anyone, and when the other girls are less than welcoming, she starts worrying about how she's going to fit in. It's going to take more than an amazing beam routine in order for Britt to feel like she's part of a winning team!

(Some very mild spoilers below)

I found this series after I re-read Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy. I was really excited by it; I can remember when Dominique Moceanu was part of the Magnificent 7 team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. While I'm no expert on elementary school-geared sports series, I can definitely see this appealing to young girls. Britt is a likeable character. She's young but not childish; her perspective is limited because her life experience is limited. She has to deal with things like problems with her parents and trying to make friends with people who are jealous of her. It does feel a bit cliched to have a story about gymnasts that includes a storyline about a girl with an eating disorder, but it did take an interesting turn (Britt does the right thing and people lash out at her). You don't need to have extensive gymnastics knowledge in order to read the book. There were a few terms that were lost on me, but there is a glossary at the back of the book to fill in some blanks. It looks like the other books in the series will have different points of view, with each girl taking a turn. If the Olympics gets you interested in American gymnastics, consider picking up this series.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-For-Gold Gymnasts: Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Monday, July 30, 2012

Baxter the Tweeting Dog by Doreen Marts

Baxter is a very friendly dog who lives in the town of Wackaloon. He spends lots of time on Twoofer - it's a secret communication technology that only dogs know about. When his friend Lucy is missing, he's really worried about her. At first Baxter isn't sure what to do, but then he remembers about Twoofer! Before long dogs from all over town are looking for Lucy and sending updates on where she's been seen. Will Baxter be able to find her?

Books about technology - particularly books for kids - can be kind of hit or miss. It's tough to aim it for the right audience while still accurately using the technology; including technology also runs the risk of giving the book a short shelf life and making it seem dated in the near future. In this case, I don't think that the audience (young readers who are either reading on their own or about to start reading on their own) necessarily needs to have used Twitter in order to get the jokes. The "Twoofs" are really just a way to get Baxter running all over town. Animal lovers (and dog lovers in particular) will find lots of cute, cuddly canines in these pages (many of them looked like they'd stepped out of a TV cartoon about tech-savy dogs in a city). I also liked the endpapers of the book, featuring the different dogs along with their Twoofer handles. Will this be a book that stands the test of time? I can't say, but it definitely is a book that taps into the moment.

Check out Doreen Marts' website.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit by Elise Gravel
Prickles vs. the Dust Bunny by Daniel Cleary
Doggie Dreams by Mike Herrod
It's a Book by Lane Smith

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF by April Winchell

Like most things I find on the Internet, I have no idea how I first found Regretsy. It was probably written up somewhere - a blog? Entertainment Weekly? - and I hopped over to check it out. I know that I was already familiar with Etsy and this new blog provided a window into the sort of thing that I had never seen. Photographs with random nudity, jewelry in the shape of penises and vaginas, things that say they're steampunk but they are so not steampunk... it seemed like there was no end to these incredible listings. Regretsy is also available in book form; classic items are accompanied by commentary by April Winchell.

I knew that I would love this book, but I was surprised by how much I loved it. It's more than just a collection of Regretsy's greatest hits and new entries. Each chapter has an essay that explores different aspects of the Etsy/Regretsy world. What kind of statements are vagina necklaces really making? How do you foster creativity? Does everything deserve an audience? At the end of the book there are listings of the sellers featured in the book, the bios of the sellers, and even a space for the sellers to comment on Regretsy, their inclusion, and criticism in general. These inclusions took the book from an extension of the website (which would have been enough to be a solid book) to something that explores art, commerce, creativity, and criticism, all through the lens of 21st century society. I highly recommend checking this book out.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Cake Wrecks by Jen Yates
Read My Lips by Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick
That is Priceless by Steve Yelcher
Passive Aggressive Notes by Kerry Miller

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems

Elephant and Piggie are best friends. Piggie can't wait to show Gerald her new trumpet! But when she starts playing, Gerald is speechless... and not in a good way. What is he going to say to her?

There are some very strong Elephant and Piggie books, and there are some that don't resonate with me as much. Listen to My Trumpet falls satisfyingly in the middle. I really like the books that explore the deep friendship between Piggie and Gerald. They don't always agree on things and sometimes they face difficult choices, but they care about each other and want to be good friends to each other. In this book, Gerald faces a tough decision: does he tell Piggie the truth and risk hurting her feelings, or does he lie to her and tell her how good she is? It might be a concept to explore with kids but in this book it comes across in a straightforward way. Elephant and Piggie fans have another book to enjoy and parents and caregivers looking for books about friendship and honesty have another book to explore.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems
Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

Friday, July 27, 2012

Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy

Heidi Ferguson was America's rising gymnast star...until anorexia sidelined her career and left many wondering if she'd ever compete again. Recovery was difficult but Heidi is finally back competing, and she's stronger than ever. She's America's best hope at an Olympic medal in gymnastics and a star at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. She knows what it will take to win and is ready to go for the gold, but injuries, pressure, and biased judges threaten to get in the way. Heidi is going to give it her all, but will it be enough?

A lot of my childhood books were random ones that, if I had to guess, were picked up from yard sales, book sales, etc, at least before I started defining my own reading preferences. This was a book that I know I had (and still have), but I didn't own or read the rest of The Gymnasts series (with the bizarre exception of Tumbling Ghosts - again, it had to have been a yard sale pick). I loved Go for the Gold as a girl an even had many of the most dramatic lines memorized (I can't tell you which ones, it would give away the plot). It has stood up surprisingly well. It's set during the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, and even though that's now 20 years ago, not much stands out too much as being dated. Yes, technology has changed, but that's about it. There are things in there that make sense for a reader today: the realities of anorexia in sports like gymnastics, parental pressure, being friendly with competitors while still trying to beat them, carrying the weight of a nation's hopes, dealing with paparazzi and journalists and agents. Set before the Magnificent 7-era of the 1996 Olympics, it makes sense that an American winning the All-Around Gold in 1992 would have been a big deal. Heidi is a likeable character: a determined athlete struggling to balance the expectations and fears of her parents, coach, and friends with her own expectations and fears. This book is long out of print, but if you can find it (maybe at a yardsale? or in a library or a used book store) it would be a great read during the 2012 Olympics.

(Also, is it just me, or does the cover picture look a little bit like teenage Robin on How I Met Your Mother?)

Check out more information on Elizabeth Levy at her website.

Find out more information at Amazon.

Read it with:
The Gymnasts: The Beginners by Elizabeth Levy
Gold Medal Dreams: Chance of a Lifetime by Melissa Lowell
Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu
Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You My Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi

Stories about animal babies and parents make for great books for children. In Are You My Baby?, big photographs of animals are paired with pages to flip and repeating questions to ask. This is the first time I think I've come across adult animals asking little ones if they are their babies; usually, it seems like the little baby animal is the one searching for a parent. There's something slightly unsettling about this approach, as if the parent doesn't know who their child is. I think, though, that you could avoid this by looking at it in a more playful way - like the parent is playing a trick on the baby animal by pretending to be confused. I think ultimately, however, this is an adult over-thinking it and that children will just respond to the animals. The flap element didn't work particularly well in the ebook format that I was reading; there was a pause and reveal but it didn't have the same punch when I clicked a button verses actually uncovering a flap. (Maybe if it was on a touch tablet and the page turned with touching it would seem better). I know, though, that it would be a lot of fun in the print version. Definitely check out this book for a fun animal-based story with lots of animal sounds, common words, and photographs of loving scenes of animal parents and children.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Cradle Me! by Debby Slier
Hip, Hop by Catherine Hnatov
What's Up, Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi
Who Lives Here? by Kathleen Rizzi
My Face Book by Star Bright Books

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean

Genes. DNA. Heredity. These are all things that people hear about, but how many of us really understand them? How do genes work, and what's their relationship to DNA? How was everything discovered, and who was it discovered by? Names like Mendel and Darwin, Watson and Crick are familiar, but who were the other people who played a role in the discovery of DNA? How did genes play a role in creating a brilliantly flexible violinist and a bronze-hued president? From the first tentative steps toward exploring the human body to the mapping of the human genome, The Violinist's Thumb takes you on an incredible journey of scientific discovery.

I was so excited to read this book. I had intended to read Sam Kean's first book, The Disappearing Spoon, but I still haven't picked it up. I wanted to read this one before anything else got in the way. I really liked the way the book was written. It's not always an easy read, but it's an enjoyable read. Some of the science can be quite dense, but I think that's to be expected. I wouldn't say that after reading this book I have a complete understanding of genes and DNA; saying that would be a disservice to the scientists who spend their entire careers learning about genes. I do, though, have a big more of an understanding about the questions that surround this branch of science. My favourite chapter was the one that discussed the impulse to retroactively diagnose famous people like John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Charles Darwin with diseases and genetic disorders; of course, having said that that one was my favourite, I have to now think about what that means about me and my enjoyment of a celebrity-obsessed culture. If you're looking for a satisfying non-fiction read that will provide you with both information and a dry, sometimes pun-based sense of humour, definitely check out this book.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.

Check out Sam Kean's website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox