Friday, April 24, 2015

Texas Library Conference: Taking Texas By Storm

Texas Library Conference
Austin, Texas
April 14-17, 2015
That's Naomi Bates (on right) and me, Pamela Thompson (on left) right before we sit down to interview the keynote speaker,  New York Times best-selling author David Baldacci! What a thrill!

You can find David's books at any bookseller and almost always on the Top Ten list. David has recently entered the YA market with the release of his first YA title, The Finisher. I reviewed it last year and interviewed David with a group of librarians and book sellers.

Naomi filmed the interview at TLA and  that I'll post it  to the blog soon.

David Baldacci is a practiced speaker. In the keynote, he was entertaining and witty. A crowd of 4,700 librarians attended the conference this year and everyone enjoyed the keynote. He talked about writing and being a famous author and how it's not that different from anything else. He admits he often wrote his finest fiction when practicing law (big laughs from the audience). A case of mistaken identity where a woman mistook him for the other lawyer turned writer, John Grisham, also got big laughs. Baldacci spends his time writing and in charity work. His charity "Wish You Well" donates books to food banks. Baldacci says we all need food to eat in order to survive, but "we can do better." Books are food for the soul.

As for the rest of the conference, it was equally entertaining. Whether networking with other Texas librarians or chatting up the authors, the conference was a blast! I stopped by to see Nikki Loftin, (author of Wish Girl)  and congratulate her on a fantastic book. She was Texas sweet. She jumped up and hugged me and thanked me for my review. Wish Girl is the BEST middle grade book I've read in years and I told Nikki that I see many awards in her future. Nikki said that she was turning the guest bedroom in her house into the "Pamela Thompson suite" and invited me to stay with her any time I'm in Austin. How Texan is that?!

A road  trip to Austin would never be complete without bluebonnets. They were blooming everywhere! The hill country sure came out for me. Bluebonnets as far as the eye could see! Like Wish Girl, the bluebonnets are a love letter for Texas.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Graphic Pick: The Babysitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea

The Babysitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea
by Raina Telgemeier
based on the novel by Ann M. Martin
Graphix (Scholastic)
192 pages with full color illustrations
ISBN: 9780545813860

Available April 28, 2015

Fans of Sisters, Drama, and Smile will be delighted to read and enjoy Telgemeier's newest graphic novel although they may miss her quick wit and her storytelling. Retelling a story by Ann M. Martin as a graphic novel is a novel idea but it is apparent that the characters suffer.

Formed out of necessity and ingenuity, The Baby Sitter's Club keeps the girls busy and out of trouble. And it's not  a bad way to make extra spending money either.

Kristy's great idea is for the girls to start a babysitter's club. Friends Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne reach out to new girl Stacey. They figure four heads are better than one, and the girls will offer their babysitting skills, advertise to reach more parents and work together in manning the phones and taking the jobs.

The characters never fully develop as they can in prose. Readers may not even discern any differences in the girls and probably won't have a favorite character.

I miss Telgemeier's easy tales of growing up and fighting with her sister that we have come to expect. Her graphic art saves this book.

Recommended for fans of The Babysitters Club.

Grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive oneary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Truth Commission
by Susan Juby
Illustrated by Trevor Cooer
309 pages
ISBN: 9780451468772

Praise for
The Truth Commission

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With a deft hand and an open mind, Juby (the Alice trilogy) presents many layers of truth while evoking Normandy’s pain over being the subject of ridicule in her sister’s books. This is a sharp-edged portrait of a dysfunctional family with some thought-provoking ideas about what is real.”

Kirkus (starred review)
“Hilarious, deliciously provocative and slyly thought-provoking, Juby's welcome return is bound to ignite debate.”

Luann Toth, School Library Journal (starred review)
“The narrative/book is smart, darkly funny, sad, and heartening as Normandy learns some hard truths, how to stand up for herself, and how to take charge of her own destiny. While there is no reconciliation in sight, there’s no doubt that the truth has set her free. A surprising, witty, and compulsive read.”

Jaclyn Moriarty, author of “The Year of My Secret Assignments” and “A Corner of White”
“I absolutely loved The Truth Commission. Every page made me laugh aloud, while all the time the tears were creeping up on me. The characters were so real I wouldn’t be surprised if they knocked on my door right now. I hope they do; I want to spend more time with them.”
Susin Nielsen, author of “The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen” and “We Are All Made of Molecules”
“You know how we have terms like "Dickensian?" I vote that from here on in we should also have "Jubyesque," to describe something particularly funny, offbeat and original. The Truth Commission is Juby at her best - I wanted to be at that school with those unique, flawed and utterly believable kids. It is a fantastic and highly original novel. I heart Susan Juby.”

Kim Carter in VOYA
“Smart and witty, eclectic and engrossing, introspective and insightful, The Truth Commission is a creatively crafted treasure of a novel which will be deeply appreciated by readers who like their existentialism wrapped in practical reality.”

My Review:

Comic and irreverent, teen angst and teen art collide (I mean can you have one without the other?) in The Truth Commission. Younger sister Normandy Pale pales in comparison to her older, more talented, more artistic, and well known debut graphic novelist Keira. Teachers and students at Normanday's art school speak of Keira with hushed tones, reverence and awe in their voices. Keira sold her first graphic novel to a publishing house and made a fortune. When Keira comes home from her new school, Norm knows something is wrong, but is too afraid to ask. Their parents treat their oldest daughter as a reigning queen worshipping her every move and catering to  her every need.

Normandy is best friends with Dusk (whose real name is Dawn, but she prefers the darker version) and dapper dresser Neil. All three attend a prestigious and expensive school of arts  but Normandy is a scholarship student  since her older sister is  an art prodigy. The school probably is hoping the same holds true for Normandy. If you think high school is full of weird cliques, wait till you read about Green Pastures art school! There is a dragon (mean, pancho-wearing ostrich lover Mrs. Dekker in the front office, a kind counselor, and several strange artists (no surprise here) in residence.

The three kids decide that "the truth will set you free" and begin a campaign to have people tell their truths. It begins with Mrs. Dekker. Then the kids target a student that everyone has wondered about. He is a handsome loner whose movie star looks have everyone wondering whether he is gay or straight. The kids decide that they must find out or the sake of the truth.

Keira begins to spill the truth about what happened to her at school, but Normandy is afraid to hear the truth and she begins to investigate her sister on her own. Each student at school has a project to present at year's end and Normandy is presenting her work of creative non-fiction--which is what she is writing...and what readers are reading. I love the way the book works. Normandy slips in footnotes on nearly every page. I find that endearing and clever.

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Mature subject matter and some language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Friday, April 10, 2015

Picure Book Pick: Believe It or Not, My Brother Has a Monster!

Believe It or Not, My Brother Has a Monster!
by Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrations by David Slonim
Cartwheel Books (Scholastic)
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545650595

Available June 30, 2015

This fun and frolicking tale takes place last Halloween when a boy's older brother finds a monster in the park. All kinds of creepy characters join in the lively romp that takes place when the older brother takes the monster home and hides him in his bedroom. Funny rhymes are spot on and illustrated with fanciful  glee by illustrator David Slonim. Readers will sense the joy that both the writer and illustrator must have experienced while working on this lively picture book. Lizards, rats, bats, spiders, toads, ravens, slugs and cats  soon appear and wreak havoc on the bedroom.

There is so much to love about this children's book. First of all, it rhymes and the rhymes work. The storyline is great and captures Halloween, fright night, monstrous creatures and a younger brother's worship and adoration of his "cool" older sibling. As each creature is added, their count goes up, so this is a rhyming, counting book that is funny, silly, scary and is a Halloween read. That makes it a home run!

Highly, highly recommended. Believe It or Not, My Brother Has a Monster! will become every child's favorite book and fun bedtime read. Kids will be delighted when they realize what kind of monster the brother brought home. And fear not! They won't have nightmares about this monster.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Magical Pick: Wish Girl

Wish Girl
by Nikki Loftin
256 pages
ISBN: 9781595146861

Prose so poetic it's majestic and magical! Wish Girl is the most promising middle grades book of the year. This one is the real deal and it is the next childhood classic read. The Texas Hill Country sings off the pages. Nikki Loftin has written a love letter to the Texas countryside and all I have to say is: YES! Loftin makes me proud to say she's a Texas girl.

Peter Stone is a quiet boy who prefers his own company. Having relocated from San Antonio, Peter now lives in a two story farm house in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. The nearest neighbor is about a mile away but Peter doesn't care to play with any children. One day while out wandering neighboring fields, he nearly gets bit by a rattlesnake but doesn't bother to tell his parents. They would just yell at him. If he tried to explain, they wouldn't listen. They never do. Since his dad lost his job, his parents always fight. Peter feels alone and unloved.

Out in a meadow the next day, Peter meets a girl about his age. She says she's a wish girl and her name is Annie Blythe. She wants to be an artist. Peter has never met anyone like Annie. She's funny and fun but she does have a temper. Annie tells Peter that she thinks the valley is magic and he has to agree. It's almost as if the valley can hear them and does what they want.

Later, Peter finds out that Annie is sick; she's a wish girl because that's what she calls being selected by the "Make a Wish" program. Peter vows to himself that he will keep Annie safe and help her with her art. The kids spend the next week playing in the valley, hiking and making art projects using twigs, vines and even river mud. Through Annie's eyes, Peter sees the unspoiled beauty of nature around him. Only outside the valley can really bad things happen.

Powerfully evocative imagery and a  sweet, tender friendship make this book a classic. Like "Bridge to Terabithia" the boy and girl characters find friendship where they least expect it. By creating their own secret world, the pair discover themselves. Keep your box of tissues handy; this one is a tearjerker.

Highly, highly recommended grade 4-7. Anyone who enjoys a magical book will enjoy reading and rereading Wish Girl.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Island Tale: The Jumbies

The Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Young Readers
229 pages
ISBN: 9781616204143

Author Tracey Baptiste brings the boogie man to life in her debut middle grades  novel set in the Caribbean. Corrinne lives with her loving, attentive father  on the island at the edge of a forest. There are jumbies who live in the forest but dutiful children know not to venture into the trees after dark. Corrinne isn't afraid of the jumbies. She thinks it's just a story told to kids, just another silly fairy tale. When she has to enter  the forest to get back her prized possession, her dead mother's necklace, Corrinne doesn't realize a jumbie has followed her home.

The next day a strikingly beautiful stranger shows up at the market place, Severine comes from no where and everywhere. Soon, she's ensconced in Corrinne's home trying to weasel her way into the family. Corrinne visits the local witch for help. The witch refuses to help saying that the jumbies were on the island first. It's their home and she won't help the islanders fight them. She does tell Corrine to figure out what her own magic is and learn to use it. Corrinne is going to need all the help she can find if she plans on saving her home, banishing the evil jumbie back to the forest and breaking the curse that has captured her father in its claws. Corrinne is going to need a powerful magic...the kind of magic only her mother could have given her.

A helpful note in the back of the book defines various forms of jumbies for readers. In the Caribbean Jumbies are  sneaky tricksters who can take on the form of a beautiful woman or an animal.  They can trick you. Maybe even your neighbor or the barista at Starbucks is a jumbie. Jumbies will steal your home, your identity, your child and your life. Luckily, they can't stay in human form for extended periods. They have to return to the forest to stay strong. Jumbies can appear as babies (douens), La Diabless (beautiful women who have one regular foot and one cow's hoof) or Soucouyants (old women who fly around on fire and suck blood).

The Jumbies is a nice escape from the European fairy tales. Tracey Baptiste has added Caribbean flair to a category full of princesses, dragons and gnomes.

Beautiful cover art--spooky  yellow eyes staring out of the forest and a girl creeping through the trees holding her basket of oranges is sublime. The two boys who cause Corrinne to run into the forest are there, too, hiding behind a tree ready to pounce.

Highly recommended for readers who like a good fairy tale. This is a welcome departure from the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney.

Middle grades 4-7.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not received monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Poety Pick: Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems

Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems
by Nick Cannon
Poems by Nick Cannon
Illustrations by Nick Cannon et al
144 pages
ISBN: 9780545722810

Entertainer Nick Cannon perhaps best known for his gigs as host on "America's Got Talent" and as ex-husband to singer diva superstar Mariah Carey now has a new box to check off his resume: YA poet and author. Cannon celebrates rhyme and street art with 65 of his own poems He has contributed four illustrations and celebrates the art of six street artists who illustrate the other poems.

In "Graffiti Dreams" Cannon shows true appreciation for spray paint artists. He writes, "I spray my heart away/I breathe graffiti and dream of a new day." In a beautiful tribute to Shel Silverstein, Cannon writes, "If you want to meet him, just open a book/Turn on the light in the attic and take a look./ Where the sidewalk ends, you'll find a giving tree./ Thank you,  Shel, for all you've given me."
We can all relate to that. Shel Silverstein has inspired, influenced and entertained many decades of children and his poems  will continue to do so.

Cannon shows true talent for silliness, too. Funny poems "Halitosis" and "Brushing My Tiger's Teeth" show imagination and quirkiness. One of the oldest jokes in the world is the dog ate my homework, but Cannon claims "Neon Aliens Ate My Homework" and they show a true penchant for algebra worksheets. Who knew?

Highly, highly recommended for all poetry collections. We already know Cannon could rap, so of course he can rhyme. Every time, on a dime....

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rhyming Pick: Monkey and Duck Quack Up!

Monkey and Duck Quack Up!
by Jennifer Hamburg
Illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545645140

Monkey gets a great idea. He wants to enter a rhyme contest and he asks Duck to help him win. If they win, they go on a cruise. Monkey can't wait to board that ship. He tries everything to get Duck to rhyme. Monkey begins: "Beat! Sheet! Meet! Greet!/Eat some wheat,/Then wash your feet!/Have a seat!/Trick or treat!/Hear a finch go tweet, tweet" and Duck says "Quack." Monkey really wants to win, so he devises a brilliant plan. What do you think Monkey has planned?

Readers will be delighted with Monkey's cheerful friendship and Duck's lack of language or rhyming skills. Just when you think you know what the Duck will say, he astonishes! Fun and cute, Monkey and Duck Quack Up! is a great book for teaching beginners  rhyme. The surprise ending will have young readers squealing with delight.

This book is bound to bring a smile to every adult who reads it for a child.

Edwin Fotheringham captures each animal's expressions of surprise, elation, "aha" expression, and satisfied expression.

Highly recommended for young readers and beginning rhymers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Friday, March 27, 2015

YA Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek: The Keeper

Cover reveal just revealed March 27, 2015
The Keeper, book 2 in the Vega Jane series

Read an excerpt here

From the publisher:

About The Keeper:
Vega Jane was always told no one could leave the town of Wormwood. She was told there was nothing outside but the Quag, a wilderness filled with danger and death. And she believed it - until the night she stumbled across a secret that proved that everything she knew was a lie.
Now just one thing stands between Vega Jane and freedom - the Quag. In order to leave Wormwood and discover the truth about her world, Vega and her best friend Delph must find a way to make it across a terrifying land of bloodthirsty creatures and sinister magic. But the Quag is worse than Vega Jane's darkest imagining. It's a living, breathing prison designed to keep enemies out and the villagers of Wormwood in.
The Quag will throw everything at Vega Jane. It will try to break her. It will try to kill her. And survival might come at a price not even Vega Jane is willing to pay.
Master storyteller David Baldacci unleashes a hurricane of action and adrenaline that takes readers to the breaking point.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Early Peek: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press
640 pages
ISBN: 9780545448680

Available September 15, 2015

From the publisher:

"Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on an awe-inspiring voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories-one in words, the other in pictures-come together with spellbinding synergy! The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries. How the picture and word stories intersect will leave readers marveling over Selznick's storytelling prowess.Filled with mystery, vibrant characters, surprise twists, and heartrending beauty, and featuring Selznick's most arresting art to date, The Marvels is a moving tribute to the power of story. "

My Thoughts:

I got the first peek with a mailing of the "Sneak Peek" in March 2015. A smidgeon of the much larger tome arrived and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the illustrations! Just 18 pages of illustrations and I got the feel of the story. The publisher will send the ARCs out in May and I honestly can't wait until it arrives. It's pretty tricky to send a small taste of something so wonderful, so otherworldly, so broadly beautiful and so anticipated.

"Innovative storytelling" with first Selznick's fantastic art and then the prose story which seems at first not related to the first story. In 1766 a young boy is shipwrecked and later rescued. Billy ends up in London and grows up in a theatre. Many years later, another young outsider arrives at the theater and begins to discover its mysteries.

An animated book trailer is in the works and the publisher will feature a classroom guide and a special "World of Brian Selznick" area on its website.

This book is sure to cause a frenzy in the middle grades market and is likely to win even more fans for Selznick. If your readers loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret, they are bound to love The Marvels.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I did not receive monetary compensation for the review of this first peek.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

YA Pick: Mosquitoland

by David Arnold
342 pages
ISBN: 9780451470775


Kids' Indie Next List "Top Ten" Pick (Spring 2015)

ABA Indies Introduce Debut Authors and New Voices title

A Junior Library Guild selection

"In Mosquitoland, David Arnold has created one of the most unique narrative voices to show up in the world of young adult fiction. I don't remember life before Mim, and I don't want to. Mosquitoland is equal parts sharp, sad, and surreal.  This book is genius, war paint and all."

—John Corey Whaley, National Book Award Finalist and Printz-winning author of Where Things Come Back and Noggin

“David Arnold’s writing is both heartfelt and hilarious. You will fall in love with Mim, even as her grand journey will keep you guessing. Mosquitoland reminds us that sometimes imperfect is just perfect.”

—Ruta Sepetys, New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray

"Wholly enjoyable... There is no shortage of humor in Mim’s musings, interspersed with tender scenes and a few heart-pounding surprises. Mim’s triumphant evolution is well worth the journey. "
-- Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

"Arnold pens a stunning debut, showcasing a cast of dynamic characters... Mesmerizing." -- Kirkus, STARRED review

"Arnold boldly tackles mental illness and despair, and sexual assault and sexual identity, without ever once losing the bigheartedness of the story. . . In the words of one of Mim's Greyhound seatmates, Mosquitoland has pizzazz--lots and lots of it." -- Booklist, STARRED review

It's a breath of fresh air when a novel like David Arnold's Mosquitoland bucks the usual classifications and stands defiantly alone. . . like any odyssey worth embarking on, what the heroine—and the reader—finds along the way is far more interesting than we ever could have expected.” —Entertainment Weekly (full review)

“A YA road trip novel that takes you across the country, with a protagonist on her way to visit her hospitalized mother. And can we talk about that gorgeous cover for a second? My goodness. Get me a poster, right now.” —The Huffington Post

“A wacky road trip... [Mim's] voice is so singular and full of heart.” —The Horn Book

“This book makes me wish I were a school librarian, just so I could buy ten copies for my collection.” —Barnes & Noble Teen Blog

My Review:

Mosquitoland is that one road trip book that will change your thinking! Mim Malone is at a crossroads in every facet of her life. Uprooted from her mother, taken to live in rural Mississippi, aka, Mosquitoland, Mim hates living with her father and her newly acquired and newly pregnant step-mother. Something bad has happened to her mother in Ohio. The adults won't tell Mim what is going on, but Mim is going to find out. Having made the decision to split Mosquitoland, Mim "steals" money from her stepmother's hidden coffee can cache and buys a bus ticket.

Everything that can go wrong does. As the story unravels, so does Mim, literally. Fighting off mental illness is no joke, but Mim doesn't want to take any more drugs for her "condition." Her parents have tried to get her help in the past. She liked her first doctor but doesn't trust the next one. He just wants to medicate the problem, not cure it. The beauty of this story is in its telling. Mim is one unforgettable character; her voice is strong and true, albeit sometimes off kilter and sometimes wonderfully warped.

The passengers of the bus are laughable. Mim is at her poetic best when describing her traveling counterparts. Several near death experiences, rotten con men, a scary rapist, a maybe, someday hero, a special homeless kid with a knack for the Rubik's cube  and a meeting with her mother will cause Mim to come to terms with her own illness. Readers will root for Mim, a not-so-strong, not-so-brainiac, not-so-wonderful, not-so-normal Everygirl. Mim may not be the normal heroine, but she's got moxie and spunk! There should be more Mims in YA fiction. David Arnold, you are a character genius!

You will love this book for its every quirky turn.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Mature content, language, rape, but laughter, lots of laughter.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Picture Book Pick: Glamourpuss

by Sarah Weeks
illustrations by David Small
Scholastic Press
40 pages
ISBN: 9780545609548

This beautiful cover will glitter off of the shelf. Glamourpuss has arrived and in high fashion, too!

Glamourpuss is a spoiled, coddled cat who lives in the lap of luxury with her millionaire "parents" in a huge mansion. She has her own diva-licious room complete with canopy bed. She eats at the dinner table off of china and crystal. Glamourpuss is much too fabulous to chase mice and instead of saying "Meow" like every other run of the mill cat, she says "ME!" She hasn't a care in the world...that is, until her owner's sister comes to visit from Houston with her spoiled little Chihuahua.

Bluebelle has a wardrobe! Imagine! A dog with a wardrobe. Not only that, she does tricks which the humans applaud. While Bluebelle is getting all the human affection, Glamourpuss begins to sulk, to slink, to become depressed and even begins to doubt herself. A funny turn of events causes the cat and dog to become friends and Glamourpuss learns to adapt.

Vocabulary is introduced with humor. Young readers will learn new words: "precious, dislike, haughty, disdain, luxury, descended, reclined, and extended" among many others.  Glamourpuss is one over-the-top diva who is all about her exterior and may remind even young readers of recent media celebrities.

Highly, highly recommended. Glamourpuss is one character you simply cannot miss and you will never forget! Age 3-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poetry Pick: Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection

Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection
Poems by Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
40 pages
ISBN: 978149260168

Available April 1, 2015
(originally published in 1967)

Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection celebrates the changing of the seasons through the eyes of a child. A child experiences: wonder at the first snowflake, the silence of that first night snowfall, the cold, clean bite of the snow or the first crocus peeking out or picking violets or  a Japanese beetle up close and marveling at his rainbow of colors. A fly lands on the page of a book and instead of swatting it away, the reader watches as the fly stays on just one word.

Some of the poems are remarkably short in length but what they lack in length they make up in strength.  The poem "Crocus" is only three lines long yet contains a simile and personification in just ten words! The book begins with spring and closes with a poem reminiscing on a grandfather's love and the passage of time. The seasons cycle each year yet each year brings the same: the same warm summer breezes, the same wildflowers and birds, the sky brings the same stars, the moon still shines as brightly, and we--all of us--both children and adults remember the seasons and the passage of time.

Beautiful artwork by Tiphanie Beeke celebrate each poem and evoke strong memories of happiness, family and home. Even a child who has never experienced snow can experience the cold bite of it from the winter poems. A child who has never been to the beach can experience it from the beach-y illustrations.

Charlotte Zolotow's 100th birthday would have been in 2015, so it is profoundly fitting that her book of poetry for children will celebrate this important milestone. She influenced children's publishing as both a publisher and a writer.

Highly, highly recommended for young readers and poetry buffs. This book could easily be used to teach several elements of figurative language. Poetry need not be bombastic and grandiloquent. Sometimes less is more; in this case, much, much more. In this "simple" book of children's poetry, truth lives. This is a book I love!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reveal: Beware the Sheep

Beware the Sheep
by M. Lewis-Lerman


Enter the world of Eaux: it's a land of flying Arks and Jarred Flummox, of underground societies and evil underlings. Individuality wins over conformity here, originality over sameness. 

But when illness strikes and a maniacal underground ruler threatens to destroy all that is ‘different,’ 16 year old Livi Dixon must lead a group of unlikely allies -- not because of her bravery or abilities -- but out of necessity and fear. 

With the hope of a cure, Livi makes a reckless gamble that just may save her best friend's life -- but at what cost? 

With her new friends (a strange and sundry group of outsiders including a handsome escaped prisoner and a kind but secretive old man), Livi sets off on a race against time, looking deep within herself in order to defeat a faceless enemy and (just maybe) manage to save her best friend in the process. 

Livi's strength is tested, her character revealed, as an attempt to save one life turns into a quest to protect thousands. But is she enough to stop the shapeless evil sinking its teeth into the ones she loves? And in the end, will it even matter?
Guest post: For Young Adult Books-What We're Reading Now by M. Lewis Lerman
Why a female protagonist?
As a woman, writing from the female perspective comes very naturally for me.  While I’m intrigued by the prospect of taking on the male voice in future projects,
I used Livi Dixon and Beware the Sheep as a platform to highlight the many elements that make up strong girls and women. 
How did you come up with the idea of the world Livi lives in?
My ideas come from absolutely everywhere, but in world-building especially, it was critical to use the world around me for inspiration.  There are endless things that go into a culture – just look at our own.  And that’s exactly how I started:
Art, religion, education, government – how does it function here in America?  What is most important – what stands out?  When I was able to answer these and other questions about my own world, it became a lot easier to craft another world.
The best way for me to see how things in a story fit together is to draw it all out, like a web.  This is especially true during world-building.  As I built up Livi’s world, every time I added a new element I had to stop and think about how that fit into the world-at-large:
What is the culture like in Eaux like?  What about the politics?  What is the geography like in Eaux? And what natural resources are available? 
I have notebook after notebook filled with seemingly nonsensical doodles, arrows, and line drawings – all of which allowed me to take my smaller ideas about the way Livi’s world functioned, and map them out, creating something bigger.  Eventually, I was left with the world of Eaux, all mapped out and ready for my characters to inhabit and explore!
M. Lewis Lerman is the author of the new YA book “Beware the Sheep,” making its debut on March 11, 2015.




A farm girl born and raised, M. Lewis-Lerman loves books (the dusty ones), land (the wild kind), and anything on four legs.

Before she wrote, she read, learning on Dick and Jane, going over the Big Hill with Betsy and Tacy, and growing up alongside Scarlet O'hara & the March sisters.

M. Lewis-Lerman attended Fordham University where she studied psychology.  She lives in Upstate New York with her three dogs and her many teetering bookshelves.

Friday, February 20, 2015

LGBT Pick: This Book Is Gay

This Book Is Gay
by James Dawson
Sourcebooks Fire
272 pages
ISBN: 978149617822

Available June 2015

This Book Is Gay  is aimed at the YA audience and questioning teens but it should be required reading in high school--and not just in sex education classes. Dawson addresses the obvious: the definitions of gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, straight and asexual. Perhaps because he identifies as a gay man, he spends more of his time discussing the male homosexual and much less time on the female homosexual. He briefly mentions asexual persons.

Reading more like a memoir  or a personal diary, This Book Is Gay is an enjoyable read. Using actual quotes from people he  interviewed  helps the reader identify with these persons as having a story and being human--not just being identified solely  for their sexual orientation.

I am overjoyed Dawson addresses the fact that kids always say, "Oh, that's so gay!" meaning something derogatory. As an educator I've heard all kinds of labels used in a derogatory way and used to bully others. Kids are killing themselves because they are afraid to go to school. Kids are cutting themselves or hurting themselves in other ways. The homophobia has to stop. And adults who see it must step in and address it. Dawson offers a "QUIFF" system. When you hear homophobic language, think "QUIFF." These are the terms he uses:
Q-Question it. Ask, 'What do you mean by that?"
U-Understanding-Say, "Do you know what gay actually means?"
I-Institution-Say, "This school is a tolerant place; you can't say that"
F-Feel, State how it makes you feel. "I consider that offensive and homophobic"
F-Funny, make a funny comment.

and he cautions, do not to stand up to someone when it's obvious they are on a rampage. Keep your safety in mind first.

Lively, comic illustrations by Spike Gerrell  lighten the mood and text. Many of those people interviewed said they wished they had had a book like this one when they were in their tweens/ teens. Did you know 21% of people question their sexuality or gender between the ages of 6-10, and 57% do so ages 11-15?

The book also contains a chapter for parents of a teen who has come out and a list of helpful contact sites, URLs and phone numbers--not to mention a glossary of terms used in the text. One thing U.S. teens may embrace is the fact that so many British terms are used. Anglophiles will be pleased to learn some new terms to pepper their Twitter feeds with.

Highly Recommended for grade 9-up. Mature subject matter, facts about sex, gender issues, body image. Someone really needs to write a similar book for grades 6-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at