Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two for One!

One book for Facetime and one for middle grade kids who say they don’t like to read.

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie
by Jon Stewart

Maybe the author, Jon Stewart, didn’t intend to write about bullies, but that’s how I read it. Dexter, the perfect name for someone being bullied, knocks himself out entertaining the Big blue Beastie. He has to, because the BBB is bored, and when he’s bored…he’s hungry! What I liked about this book was the fact the BBB has to look inside himself to find out what he really needs, which is, a friend.

Sea of Trolls
By Nancy Farmer

Shape-shifters, berserkers and trolls! A girl Viking fiercer than any warrior and a farm boy filled with magic he has yet to tame. They go on a quest to Jötunheimr , where they must battle monsters and the dark parts of their selves. (Hmm, I think I have a theme going with these books.)
I have now read every book by Nancy Farmer and am awed by the worlds she creates.
No surprise that she’s won…the National Book Award, been a Newbery Honor winner three times, and a Printz Honor winner.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I am thankful for good books!
Here is another...

Hippo! No, Rhino! 
Jeff Newman
An absent minded zookeeper posts the wrong sign outside Rhino’s cage. Poor Rhino suffers heroically as one visitor after another mistakes him for hippo. Finally, 
a wayward schoolboy sets things straight. There are few words here, but with engaging artwork like this, who needs them?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stick by Andy Pritchett.
I count 6 words. I see 27 pages, crayola colored and dotted with dialogue bubbles. I see a dog with a stick, a cow, a chicken, worm, pig, and guess what, another dog. I think you get the plot, don’t you? So will your child, even if he’s thousands of miles away. The artwork and simple story appeals even when it’s on a computer screen. Oh, and if you have a beginning reader, this is great pick. (Remember, I said there are only 6 words.)

A surprise for monster lovers!

I just read this in the Smitthsonian magazine. I thought,
"Perfect for my monster lovers!"

An artist’s rendition of Acrotholus audeti. Photo: Julius Csotonyi
What’s 90 pounds, six feet long and has an adorable little bone-cased bump for a head? No, not Cubone. It’s this newly discovered dinosaur, Acrotholus audeti, which was dug up recently in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Like the dinosaur havens of the mountainous west, from Montana and Idaho to Utah and Arizona, Alberta is practically stuffed with dinosaur fossils. But by digging around in the the Milk River Formation in southern Alberta—a region traditionally not known for loads of fossils—researchers found something new: the dome-headed skull of Acrotholus audeti. Dated to 85 million years ago, this is the oldest-known North American member (and maybe the oldest in the world) of the big family of bone-headed dinosaurs.

The little dinosaur was an herbivore and, other than the occasional headbutt, might have been pretty cool to hang around. But more than just being a neat little dinosaur, says Discover, the finding is a hint that little dinosaurs may have been way more common than we think.
Most dinosaur finds are of the bigger brethren: big bones are less likely to get picked over and crushed by scavengers or destroyed by time. But, with their big-boned heads strong enough to survive the trials of millions of years, dinosaurs like Acrotholus audeti are helping paleontologists flesh out the record of little dinosaurs. The new find, says the Canadian Press, “ touched off further investigation that suggested the world’s dinosaur population was more diverse than once believed.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

Visit to Gouge Primary in Bakersville, NC
Just paste this link to see the fabulous drawings and descriptive paragraphs

This is the drawing one of the students, Alexis, made of me. I am flattered!
Break rules when writing a book! Did I just say that? I did. R.A. Spratt shows how, and how to do it well. I’ve been told there are three types of books. Character-driven, plot-driven and dystopian. The Many Adventures of Nanny Piggins doesn’t fit any of them. One, Nanny Piggins’ character doesn’t change, not a little bit. Suspense doesn’t build, and each chapter is the same. (They are all hilariously funny.) Nanny’s brought into the Green Household as an emergency nanny. Unlike Mary Poppin’s whose heart swells with love for the children, Nanny’s heart swells at the sight of chocolate. Luckily, her chocolate appetite serves the children well and leads them from one crazy scheme to another.

PS Dan Santat’s artwork make me laugh out loud.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not Just a Witch by Eva Ibbotson

Daniel’s parents, brainy professors, don’t pay him any mind (except for the times when they check his mind to see if he’s smart enough? Is he the best in school?)
Daniel, unfortunately, is ordinary. Well, not completely. He takes up with a coven of witches, who also aren’t ordinary. They all mean well, but often get muddled.
Not Just a Witch is broad comedy. There’s a devilishly handsome villain who hoodwinks two of the lonely witches and uses their talents for terrible purposes.
The vocabulary can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Illustrations help the struggling reader keep going.
So, if you know anyone age 6 and up, who needs a charming “pick me up,” pick up Not Just a Witch.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

By Mary Sullivan

Sooner or later, my sense of humor is going to be outed. If Ball doesn’t do it, nothing will. You don’t have to be a mangy dog lover or have only a one word vocabulary to love this. You DO have to have a mind that loves to roam along with a dog whose entire purpose in life to play ”ball.” Ball: One day in the life of a dog. I can’t think of a better book to share with a beginning reader.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Page turner!

Strong Female character
Middle grade and up
By Matthew Kirby
I won’t tell you what happens. Hmmm, does its title Ice Fall gives a hint? Add a punch of power (the power from Nature and a band of Viking berserkers). A king leaves behind his family in a protected fjord while he fights a war. No one knows of their hiding place, they think. However, a traitor is in their midst. The number of characters in Icefall is small. But they tell a big story: treachery from the one you trusted most, the struggle from girlhood to adulthood, and the importance of choices. This book gave me the sense of what it must have been like to be Viking.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Not a lot happens in More Spaghetti, I Say. Sister ignores brother so she can eat spaghetti. She eats too much, and feels sick. Now, she wants to play. But now brother ignores sister. He wants to eat spaghetti! Rhyme, repetition, and simple plot…it’s the perfect book for a Skype read. You’ll have it memorized by the third reading. Plus, the illustrator has made brother and sister monkey expressive and appealing. Its rhythm and plot line reminded me of Dr. Seuss (which is a good thing!)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

                                       A penguin and a boy hugging. Who needs words?
Well, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, does benefit from a few. Without them, how would you know that a penguin shows up on a boy’s doorstep? That the boy himself has to take him back to the South Pole Or, that when the boy does return the penguin (by rowing across oceans), the penguin is still sad? Homesickness wasn’t the problem. It was loneliness. Jeffers writes with his tongue-in-cheek and gives the book a special flavor. Yummy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

            The Apprentices takes the world as we know it, but sprinkles fairy tale dust on it. Well, not fairy tale dust, but fantastical plant pastes, elixirs, and concoctions.
There’s more, but I won’t tell you because I want you to read this book.
             The Apprentices is the sequel to The Apothecary, which I also enjoyed. Once again, the heroes must stop the enemies from developing an unstoppable nuclear bomb. But there’s more to the book than this. I felt I learned something about myself as the characters changed and grew. Even though the events are supernatural, the story and the people felt real.
             I think you’ll have a hard time deciding which character is your favorite: there’s Janie and Ben, amazing wise teenagers, Jin Li, the psychically scarred brilliant Chinese scientist, Ben’s father, the original Apothecary, who has in his possession a book with amazing plant cures.

            At the end, you’ll wish Maile Melloy’s created world were true.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Read this and you'll know why Peter Sis is a treasure!

Dinosaur!   was a big hit in the bookstore (Anderson’s Bookshop)I worked at when it came out in 2000. So, I was happy to stumble across it in the library. It begins quietly. A little boy takes a bath with his plastic dinosaur. But, within a page, they’re joined by a Jurassic cast of pteranodon, iguanodon, stegosaurus and more. What I loved best was when the cartoon creatures morphed into the beautiful artwork Peter Sis is known for. All I can say is,what a way to take a bath!
Ages: 2 and up
Have I got a treat for you! 

You don’t even have to read to love this book. Just look at the pictures. (Which, may I remind you, most preschool kids do.) I got this from the Iowa City Public library.
 Ice by Arthur Geisert.
Honestly, I had no idea of where the story was going when I began. (I like to be surprised, don’t you?)
 I’ll get you started. On a teeny tiny dot of an island lives, you guessed it, a colony of pigs. There’s a ship, a few shelters, and a reservoir with a little water. The pigs are hot, and so bothered, that they launch their ship in search of…icebergs.

He’s written lots of others, so just walk to the “G” (for Geisert) section in picture books for more.

Recs for Anyone Who reads books to kids on Skype or Facetime

Have you ever read a book to a two-year old using Skype or Facetime? You’re sneaking peeks at the text, and at the same time, jiggling the pictures into focus. By the time you finish, you’re exhausted and your audience is long gone.
After many months of failure, I’ve finally found books that entertain for 32 pages!
The first book I’m recommending is an oldie-but-goodie. It’s The Story of Little Babaji,  by Helen Bannerman. The story is simple and the artwork rich and detailed. In short, Babaji outsmarts four ferocious tigers. The silly tigers chase each other round and round a tree until there’s nothing left but puddles of melted butter. Who comes along and collects it? Babji’s father, of course. In the end, everyone has a pile of Mamaji’s  pancakes, topped with tasty tiger butter.

I am a late comer to the fantasy fan club. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman captured me and now I look for fantasy in the library, bookstore, friend's houses, everywhere!

What do get you mix a fairy and a human? A "Peculiar." Bartholomew is one, and so is his little sister, Hettie. They live in the slums of a "Steampunk" city, just getting by. No one respects them, in fact, their mother tries to hide the fact they're  different. It's to no avail. When something supernatural starts killing "Peculiars, "  Bartholomew is marked for death.
The Peculiar by  Stefan Bachman will appeal to ANY kid, age 8 and up.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

This isn't as scary as it looks. Well, maybe the photo are a bit unnerving. But, it's a rousing fantasy/ghost/adventure. Upper elementary and Middle school are the appropriate ages.

The Ogre of Oglefort

 Eva Ibbotson’s books twist and tangle fairy tales. So, when I picked up The Ogle of Oglefort, I knew the Ogre wouldn’t be a flesh-eating villain. But, I didn’t expect him to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown! Happily, Ivo, the boy hero, is every bit as brave and resourceful as any orphan should be, and the other characters (a princess, hag, banshee, troll, and mad scientist) are zany and fun.

PS I’ll write about more of her books. She is one of my favorite writers.


                                                         Do you ever get cravings?

I do, for Jane Austen. I’d say it was a guilty pleasure, but it seems a lot of other readers love her, too. I listen to Nancy Pearl’s reviews on NPR and she recommended Keeping the Castle  (by Patricia Kindl) for Jane Austen fanatics. I read it in one night. Evil stepsisters, two handsome eligible men, a castle falling to ruin, and the need for a rich match to save the family’s crumbing castle. The heroine is a bit too full of herself to see clearly, like most Austen women. I got hooked when Althea’s mouth acts before her brain does. A pumpkin headed, yet very wealthy suitor murmurs, “You’re so beautiful,” and she answers, “And you’re so rich.” You won’t be able to resist this.
Ages: Girl romantics of any age

                                        Another great book from Ellen Potter

Sooner or later, you’re going to notice that I splurge when I read. When I like an author, I read all her books. I loved, as you know, the Knee Bone Boy, by Ellen Potter. For my next read, I picked The Humming Room because I was intrigued by its suggestion it was reminiscent of The Secret Garden. Brave words, I thought, to compare itself to my favorite childhood book.
Imagine living with a drug-dealing father in a trashy trailer. Picture yourself hiding when  men come to kill him and maybe, you, too. What do you do? Steal?  Lie? Hide when you have to? These are behaviors Roo must do to survive. So when you find yourself living with a distant uncle on a distant island, wouldn’t you keep on doing the same? Roo does. But, like all great books, there’s more mystery. Someone is held captive within the walls of the house, maybe someone who shouldn’t be freed. You’ll find yourself agreeing with the blurb when you finish the last page. It was another secret garden, one you never expected to find.

                                One of my FAVORITE Newbery Honor books

I imagined a twinkle in Grace Lin’s eye as she wrote Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. There’s a dragon afraid of monkeys. Oh, he can’t fly either, like a proper dragon should. No-don’t start thinking about the the Wizard of Oz.  No wizard sends Minli on a quest, it’s a goldfish. Now do you see why I was intrigued? Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the moon. Can he help her find happiness for her family?
The full-page artwork was beautiful and made it more kid-friendly, too. It also reminded me that I wasn’t in North Carolina anymore. (Oops, another Wizard of Oz allusion…but I think you’ll enjoy this book in the same way you did Oz.)

PS This was a Newbery Honor Book
PPS The companion novel Starry River of the Sky is out.
I'm bringing this blog up to date. Don't think I read all of these books in a week! This book gobbling has gone on for months.

Here we go!

New Recommendations in Books for Elementary Girls

Recently, I was asked for book recommendations for early and upper elementary girls. Here are some winners. Enjoy!

Early and Upper Grade Elementary:
Charlotte’s Web-EB White
Harriet the Spy-Fitzhugh
Sideway Stories from Wayside School-Sachar
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Series
Any book by Eva Ibbotsen
Ramona the Spy- Beverly Cleary
The Borrowers Series-Norton
Frindle-Alexander Clements
The Tale of Despaureaux- DiCamillo
BFG- Roald Dahl
A Little Princess- Burnett
Sideway Stories from Wayside School-Sachar

Upper Elementary:
Any of the books by Dianna Wynne Jones
Tamora Pierce Books
 When You Reach Me-Stead
The Invention of Hugo Cabret-Selznik
Holes -Louis Sachar
Walk Two Moons-Creech

Saturday, August 10, 2013

This world is so real, even though it's peopled with goblins, witches and people made of gears and wheels, you feel as if you are there! Oh, in this story, goblins are good guys!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Great book for Boys and Girls Age 8 and up


Sage Blackwood
As soon as I turned the last page of Jinx, I googled the author, Sage Blackwood, to find more of his books.
What makes this book so special is that the characters are both good and evil and evil and good. Just like real life. Here, though, the real world has man-eating trolls, devious witches and wizards. There's also a magic portal to another world.
Jinx, in Hansel and Gretel style, is taken out into the woods to be abandoned by his stepfather. It’s the stepfather, though, who disappears, not Jinx. Jinx is taken under the care of a wizard named Simon. Does Simon mean Jinx good or evil? You won’t know until the very end of the book.
 Oh, this is Blackwood’s first book, so I’ ll have to wait for his next one. I, for one, am hoping it will be soon.
Ages 8 and up
Good for both boys and girls

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

For years, I’ve recommended good reads for kids at schools, libraries,
and conferences.* Now I can do it here!
So every week or so, I’ll tell you about the last best book I’ve read. I’ll keep it short, so you’ll have more time to read my favorites.

Ta Daa! The first:

The Knee Bone Boy by Ellen Potter
Please don’t judge this book by its cover, unless you’re a fan of saucer eyed anime kids.

The Hardscrabble kids(mute Otto, “take-charge” Lucia and clever Max) would be right at home with the Pevensie kids from The The Chronicles of Narnia and the Drews from the Dark is Rising.The problems facing the Hardscrabble kids aren’t supernatural, but they are just as suspenseful. A missing mother, an absent Dad, and an adventure in a miniature castle with a dotty aunt…that’s exciting. Oh, who is the Kneebone Boy? I’m not telling.

Boys and Girls
Upper Elementary to Middle Grade

*Why listen to me? I have a Master’s in Reading, have been a children’s bookseller,
am a Writer’s Digest  judge, author (Monsters and Water Beasts, Henry Holt), and most important, a “Book Gobbler!”
By the way, no one pays me to review their book. So, I might not recommend a best seller. I just applaud good writing.