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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

YA Paranormal Pick: Powerless

(The Hero Agenda, book 1)
by Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs
304 pages
ISBN: 9781492616573
Available June 2, 2015

Edge of the seat thrilling, full of plot twists, conspiracy theories, good guys who are bad and bad guys who might turn out to be good, a tough as nails in-your-face-fierce, fearless and fantastic female protagonist, a darkly brooding male love interest, a tech nerd ex-boyfriend with an addiction to chocolate milk,  high stakes, live or die situations, a race against time, a few bombshells, and one MAJOR bombshell, what more could any reader want?

Powerless is that rare YA novel that stretches the boundaries of where YA fiction ends and comic book adventure begins. Reading like a Marvel comic book, Powerless has a fabulous femme fatale who is no shrinking violet. Move over Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen. Kenna Swift is the next supergirl! Hollywood get ready to take notes; everyone will be looking for this movie next.

Kenna Swift is the daughter of two elite scientists working for the League's Elite Super Hero Lab. Kenna's father died when she was four. She remembers it...her dad obliterated by a  ball of flame thrown by a villain. Now her mother--THE world's top scientist, has developed the answer for fighting these baddies. Her heroes all have special powers, everyone except Kenna, that is. But Kenna is smart, not powerless. She has a brain and the ability to catch these super-villains off their game. She can still best them.

When Kenna happens upon a break-in at her mother's lab, she's toast ( pun intended). Nitro throws a ball of fire at her, and if not for Draven (another villain), Kenna would be dead. Draven grabs her, throwing her to the ground and taking the fire for her, saving her life. The criminals make a break for it, leaving Kenna wondering why a villain would want to save her.

Kenna has a few secrets of her own; it appears her mother does, too. Just what is Dr. Swift hiding about the League? Kenna decides to get answers for herself. Using her mother's security badge and her mad skills of outsmarting security cameras and guards, Kenna sneaks back  into the lab. She's searching for a secret underground level that only exists in some conspiracy theorists' minds. What she finds jolts her into reality. Everything Kenna believed about heroes and villains is changed. Now that she has the terrifying truth, what can she do to change the world? She's going to need a lot of help, and she's going to have to make alliances with enemies in order to stay alive.

Thrilling and chilling, Powerless is everything an action/adventure/thriller/mystery should be. The team of writers Childs and Deebs is a real dream team. The plot is a bit Maximum Ride, a bit Alex Rider, a bit James Bond, a bit "Conspiracy Theory" and all exhilarating excitement. The ending leaves an exciting segue for the next book in the installment. The problem with any trilogy or series is the waiting period for the next  book to be published. I can hardly wait.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. A pretty gross torture scene, some pretty good hero vs. villain fights.

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 17, 2015

The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black Suit
by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
272 pages
ISBN: 9781442459502

Poignant and heartbreaking yet warm and hopeful, The Boy in the Black Suit is a story of one boy's struggle to understand the meaning of life and let go the grief of his beloved  mother's untimely death. Seventeen year old Matthew (Matt) Miller just wants life to be normal again and have people treat him like everything is normal. After his mother's funeral, the kids at school ignore him, their eyes downcast when he walks by, or worse, they whisper about him. He knows he makes them uncomfortable, but he just wants someone to say "hello." Trying to keep busy and act normal, Matt decides to get a job after school.

While filling out an application at the local fast food chicken shack, Cluck Bucket, Matt runs into Mr. Ray, the local mortician. Mr. Ray offers Matt a job in the funeral home. He promises Matt won't have to touch dead people. Mostly Matt will set up chairs and flowers, clean up, and generally help out. The pay is good, so Matt takes the job. Matt's best friend Chris comes around and they have a few words about Matt's mom, clearing the air and taking away the awkward silence. Chris tells Matt he saw his father outside the local bar getting really wasted with neighborhood no-goodnik and drunkard Robbie Ray.

Matt's worst suspicions come true. His father has hit the bottle after over 20 years sober. Instead of reaching out  for his son or even trying to strengthen the family bond, his weak father continues to fuel his grief with alcohol.  One night, Matt's father is hit by a car and has to spend time in the hospital and in the rehabilitation hospital. Trying to keep it normal, Matt keeps going to school and helping at the parlor. One day, Matt sees a funeral speech given by a young girl. In her speech to her grandma, Love is brave and strong. Matt is moved by the beauty of it and by the girl's conviction. He wants to know what she knows; he wants to be as strong as she is. So he stays after the funeral, hoping to meet the girl--he's seen her before, running the counter at Cluck Bucket.

When Matt meets Love, all is right with the world. First love (pun, intended)  is always special and it's no different for Matt. He's smitten instantly and walks on air. He even appreciates Chris's good natured ribbing about his "girlfriend." Love introduces Matt to a world he's never even thought about, a world that he's happy to be a part of again.

Author Jason Reynolds gets it right. This feels like a book about a teen growing up in the streets of New York. The dialog is true and spot on. Matt's relationships with Love and Chris and with elders Mr. Ray, the Candy Man and his father also ring true.

Highly, highly recommended for grade 7-up. Some mature content: alcoholism, death, murder, violence, drug use by minor characters. Some mild profanity.

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Giveaway and Q & A with Jon and Pamela Voelkel

I have one copy of each book in The Jaguar Stones series up for grabs! For your chance to win: post a comment to the blog. Please include first name, city, state and comments. Deadline for posts is February 23 at noon MST. The winner will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. The winner will be contacted on Feb. 23 shortly after 12:00 noon MST. Please check your email at that time. The winner has 25 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting!

About The Jaguar Stones, Book Four: The Lost City
Ages 10 and up
The epic conclusion to the exciting Jaguar Stones series and a rip-roaring adventure into the heart of America!

With his parents in jail and the Maya Death Lords in possession of all five Jaguar Stones, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is pretty sure that he'll never get to leave the


But the Lords of Death have a problem--a new king calling himself Great Sun claims to have the Jaguar Stones, too. And they want Max to prove the guy's a fraud. Or else.

Now, Max, and Lola, the mysterious girl who befriends him, are off on another wild adventure that will take them from Central America to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to the lost city at the heart of America's past.

But one thing Max should have learned after all of this dealings with the Death Lords -- they never keep their promises.
Praise for the book:

"Suspense and intrigue, human sacrifice, smuggling, and secret doors and escape routes through pyramids ensure that the novel, the first in a projected trilogy, is likely to win legions of fans."School Library Journal, starred review of The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middle World


"This fast-paced action-adventure novel surpasses its prequel, and is filled with Mayan folklore and entertaining humor that will keep teen readers highly entertained. The End of the World Club is an easily recommended novel to pique the interests of adolescent readers in history and mythology."—The ALAN Review review of The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Book Club
 Authors' Interview: Pamela T. asks Jon and Pamela V. interview questions:

 PT:  You both have lived, worked and traveled to many places. What is the scariest thing that you have experienced and where did it occur?

Jon's scariest moment was either getting lost in a pitch black labyrinth under a Maya pyramid at Yaxchilan in Guatemala, or being in the top carriage of a ferris wheel in Colombia when it started to fall apart; Pamela's was either opening a hotel room door to be confronted by a wall of flames, or being interviewed by Al Roker on the Today show.



PT:  Where is the ONE place you still would like to visit and why?


Pamela would choose the ancient Maya site of Copan in Honduras, to see the famous ceremonial stairway.


Jon would choose King Pakal's tomb deep in the Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque, Mexico. We've been to Palenque many times, but the tomb is permanently closed to visitors.



PT:  After the Jaguar Stones, what is your next book or books?

We'd love to tell you about it because we're really excited, but we don't want to jinx it by talking about it!



PT:  What books are your favorites from childhood? From your teens?


Pamela's are A Little Princess, the Ballet Shoes books, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Owl Service, Wuthering Heights and (a bit nerdy for a teenager she admits) Ulysses by James Joyce.


Jon's favourites were Where The Wild Things Are, the Narnia books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.



PT:  If you could meet and have coffee or dinner with any other writer who would it be and why?


Pamela: "I had the huge honor of meeting Judy Blume once and I was so starstruck, I couldn't say one word to her. So I think I'd give up on civilized conversation and choose Frances Hodgson Burnett, just so I could tie her up and force her to add a handwritten paragraph to my copy of A Little Princess, saying that Captain Crewe did in fact come home safely a few weeks later."


Jon: "I can imagine the scene exactly. I would have dinner in a seafront restaurant in old Cartagena with my hero, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'd like to know what was real and what was imaginary in A Thousand Years Of Solitude. Like him, I grew up in Colombia. It's such a mysterious, magical place that I suspect a lot of the so-called magic realism is actually based on day to day life."



PT:  What is THE best thing about writing for middle grades?

Neither of us can imagine writing for a different age group. Middle grade readers are an author's dream. They're young enough to suspend disbelief and come with you on fantastical adventures; but they're old enough to follow relatively complex plots.



PT: You've met thousands of readers in person and on your website; what are some lessons you've learned from young people?

First of all, it has to be said that our Jaguar Stones readers are AMAZING! They write to us all the time with questions and plot ideas and artwork. Sometimes they send us their own manuscripts. One thirteen-year-old girl we met on a school visit has already written three full length novels. So I think it's important never to talk down to kids - writing is equal parts frustrating and exhilarating at any age. We learned early on never to try and fudge the details. Middle schoolers spot every mistake, every inaccuracy, every implausible plot point and it spoils the whole book for them. If it's not authentic, they won't buy into it. We're very aware that our readers have a lot of competing demands on their time. It's our job to keep them riveted from the moment they pick up our book. If we lose their attention, that's our fault not theirs. When we're plotting out chapters, we like to imagine kids wearing headlamps to read under the covers after lights out because they just HAVE to know what happens next.



PT:  How did advertising prepare you for your writing career?

Advertising is all about focusing on the consumer. And writing for middle grades is all about focusing on your readers, keeping them always in your head while you're working, thinking about the words they use, imagining their reactions. From Pamela's point of view, as a former copywriter and creative director, writing ads taught her about meeting deadlines, writing to length, ruthless self-editing, and taking feedback. Jon was the Planning Director in the agency, so he's a whizz at marketing strategies. These days, of course, he's illustrating and his mixed media techniques owe a lot to design tips and skills he picked up in the agency. A common saying in advertising is "Give me the freedom of a tight brief," meaning that the more tightly defined your objective, the more creative you can be in meeting it. An open brief might sound more fun but it's actually because your brain has nothing to grab hold of. In the same way, writing fantasy books within a framework of historical fact, in our case Maya archaeology, sparks off so many "What if..." ideas for plots and characters.




PT:  If you could have any other job besides writing and advertising, what would it be and why?

Pamela: Writing is my dream job, I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. When I'm writing, I watch the action in my mind and try to describe what I see. It's like being a film director in my own head. So I'd like to try being an actual film director.

Jon: Lead guitarist in a rock n roll band. (Which was my actual job for two heady years.)



PT:  What lessons did your parents teach you that you have instilled in your own children?

Pamela: We had no books in our house - so I've made sure that my own children have grown up surrounded by them!

Jon: My parents taught me all the important things like the joy of reading, the value of education, a love of travel, the best recipe for ebelskivers (my mom's family is Danish) - all of which I intend to pass on.
About J&P Voelkel
Jon Voelkel grew up in Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia, all the while dreaming of a boring life in suburbia. Eventually, having survived monkey stew, an attack by giant rats, and a plane crash in the jungle, he rolled up his hammock and decamped to Europe. Meanwhile, growing up in a sedate seaside town in northern England, Pamela Craik Voelkel was dreaming of travel and adventure. The pair met in London, where they both worked in advertising. They went on to help found an award-winning agency, for which Jon was named one of the fifty most creative minds in Britain by the Financial Times. The authors' first book in the Jaguar Stones series, Middleworld, was an Al Roker Book Club pick. The Voelkels now live in Vermont with their three children. You can visit them online at

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fairy Tale Pick: Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School)

(Fairy Tale Reform School)
by Jen Calonita
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
244 pages
ISBN: 9781492601562

Snarky and fun, Flunked is a real page turner. This book may be my new favorite in the fairy tale remix/retelling trend.

Gilly isn't really a bad person; she steals to help feed her family. They used to do okay when Gilly's dad made his living designing shoes. He came up with the design for the original glass slipper, but since Ella became queen, she has her own cobblers make the shoes. Gilly's family lives in a seedy side of town in an old boot (The Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe). When Gilly steals a beautiful hair clip from an unsuspecting young princess, the police come to take her away to Fairy Tale Reform School.

Gilly finds that Fairy Tale Reform School isn't all that bad; in fact, she may even stick around for awhile. Where else can a girl ride on a flying pegasus or be taught history by The Big Bad Wolf? Only in Enchantasia at the Fairy Tale Reform School. Where else can a girl meet  fairies, trolls, goblins, mermaids, witches, and princesses? Only at the Fairy Tale Reform School.

The question is: who wants the royals dead? And who is sabotaging the school? And who are Gilly's friends and who are her enemies?

One plucky, perky, snarky girl with mad attitude takes on any and every spell they throw at her. Readers will like the retelling and mash-up.

Highly recommended grade 6-up. Avid middle grade readers will also be entertained, No adult d

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

Non-Fiction Pick: Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes

Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes
by Amber L. Keyser
Twenty-First Century Books
64 pages
ISBN: 9781467726405

A pair of size 13 red and white basketball shoes, graham crackers and applesauce. The sneakers sold at auction for $104,765--they had been worn by Michael Jordan in the 1997 NBA Finals, signed by him and given to the guy who brought Jordan some applesauce;  Who knew a humble shoe could be worth so much?

Sneakers have been around for over 100 years but gained in popularity due to exposure on television, in movies and magazines and on the sports courts. Young Hollywood stars like James Dean gave sneakers a real edge. Sneaker companies recruited sports stars to wear their brands. The battle for athletes became so heated, sneaker companies began hiding huge envelopes of cash in Olympic village bathrooms for the 1964 games. Cloak and dagger tactics were used due to the rule that athletes cannot endorse a product nor accept money from sponsors.

Sneakers' popularity soared (yes, pun intended) to new heights with their launch of the Air Jordan line. In one year, NIKE made over $130 million for the shoes alone. Around the same time, rap music began making a statement to youth across America. Many rappers were wearing high end sneakers and fans were copying their style.

The youth of the nation is credited to success of sneaker companies and the shoes' popularity.

Recommended grade 6-up and anyone interested in sports and/or shoe design.

FTC Required Discalimer: 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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thriller Pick: The Dogs

The Dogs
by Allan Stratton
Sourcebooks Fire
240 pages
ISBN: 9781492609384

Available September 1, 2015

When Cameron and his mother move to Wolf Hollow and take up residence in a dilapidated farmhouse, Cam is angry. Move, again? Every time Cameron gets comfortable, his mom is on the run again. She sees shadows everywhere and worries that her ex-husband and Cameron's father will find them. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and trying to stay two steps ahead of her volatile ex. She uses  prepaid phones and  takes odd jobs--sometimes getting paid in cash to hide from Cameron's father.

There's something strange about this old farmhouse far in the countryside. Cameron sees a ghostly vision the first night. A little boy wearing a coonskin cap stands by the barn. Soon Cameron learns  about the man who once owned the place. Gossips say his own dogs attacked and killed him. The old man who owns the place now including the property next door is clearly hiding something. What happened to the family that once lived in this house? Cameron soon discovers its his job to find out. With a little help from the other side, Cameron searches for clues.

Time does not necessarily heal all wounds. Sometimes time just buries the past--with a thin sheet of lost memories. What happens when some of the past is brought to the surface? What new wounds are opened?

Cameron's mother thinks he spiraling into madness, and even makes an appointment for him to see a doctor. The drugs he takes makes it harder for him to dream, but his visions still haunt him. If Cameron can't talk to a ghost how is it possible that he knows where the bodies are buried?

The Dogs is a mystery and a suspenseful  thriller. Although considered a YA novel, it will have crossover appeal to adults as well. Anyone who loves a mystery with a bit of ghost story thrown in will enjoy this spirited (yes, pun intended) read.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. Child abuse, murder, divorce, rumors of extramarital affairs.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Early Reader Pick: Jampires

text and illustrations by Sarah McIntyre and David O'Commell
David Fickling Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545816632

Available June 30, 2015

Sly and funny rhyming text  with brilliantly colorful illustrations will captivate readers.

Sam discovers his jelly filled doughnut is mysteriously dry. Where did all his jam go? There must be a jam robber! He sets a trap with his dry doughnut and an overturned laundry basket and catches two young "jampires." They love jam! They apologize to Sam, but they tell him that they are far from home. He offers to go to their home with them. Sam and his cat Archie grab the jampires' hands and they fly off through the sky to a land far away where they are greeted with sweets and confections galore. The jampires' mothers are so happy to have their kids back, they reward Sam with jam filled doughnuts on a daily basis, delivered straight to his home.

The magic land of the jampires is reminiscent of Charlie and Chocolate Factory and Willa Wonka's fantastical sweet creations. There are "...doughnuts that looked plump as cushions to Sam" and "...castles of sponge cake with gingerbread towers..."

Simply charming, Jampires will have young readers craving more....jam, that is!

Highly, highly recommended for young readers. Parents will love the tale of the magical land of jam.

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Slam Dunk: The Crossover

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
237 pages
ISBN: 9780544107717

Praise for The Crossover

Soaring, swift, and strong, The Crossover, a novel told in verse, will appeal to vast majority of readers. Not just a sports book, the novel tells the story of a close-knit family including Mom, the assistant principal and Dad, an ex-basketball prodigy whose career is cut short due to an injury. Twins Josh and Jordan Bell are both basketball stars on their middle school team. The boys are as close as brothers can get and their relationship is even stronger due to the good natured competitive games they play with each other.

Josh Bell, aka Filthy McNasty, loves his dreadlocks. They give him power and he even calls them his "wings." In "Ode to My Hair," Josh says, "If my hair were a tree/I'd climb it./ I'd kneel down beneath/and enshrine it./I'd treat it like gold/then mine it..." Later, after losing a bet to Jordan, he is forced to part with his beloved locks.

The poetry is both tough and punchy yet sometimes sweet and subtle. When a new girl turns Jordan's head in the cafeteria, Josh says, "JB's eyes are ocean wide, his mouth swimming on the floor..." Jordan's concern ends up being well deserved. The brothers disagree when Josh gets jealous but like brothers, it's over before either of them can let it fester.

Change is inevitable. Growing up is tough even in a loving family. The brothers will need each other more than ever to face the future.

The Crossover just won the Newbery Medal, but that's not why I'm recommending this book. I received this book some time ago but discovered it again when trimming down my "To Read" pile. I picked it up and read the book jacket. Once I read the first few pages, I was in love. From this ex-high school English teacher and poetry lover to you, READ this book and share it with READERS. It is a book that calls for reading aloud. Students and kids will love to HEAR this book. Give them that gift.

This would make a fantastic gift for anyone who loves sports and/or basketball. Fans of hip-hop and rap will appreciate the beats. Poetry lovers will also be huge fans. Reluctant readers will devour this in one sitting and will likely want to read it again.

Highly, highly recommended. A MUST HAVE. All grades.

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