Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Early Reader Pick: 8: An Animal Alphabet

8: An Animal Alphabet
by Elisa Cooper
Illustrations by he author
Orchard Books (Scholastic)
2015
40 pages
ISBN: 9780545470834


8: An Animal Alphabet is sure to delight eager young readers and learners. They will be so busy finding the hidden animals, they may forget to count to eight. The delight in this book is in all the not-so-well known animals included by author/illustrator Elisha Cooper. Some not so cute and not so cuddly animals who make an appearance are: the albatross (the last time I saw a mention of him was in the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"), the boar, the cockroach, the cicada, the earthworm, the dung beetle, the flying squirrel, the gerbil, the hedgehog, the ibex, the ibis and the impala to name a few. There is a helpful "Did You Know" section in the back that lists little known facts about each animal. I wish there was a bit more detail and that the type on these pages were a little larger to make it easier to read and understand.


Each page has 8 of one type of featured animal for that letter of the alphabet; the letter "A" for example, has 8 ants and other animals that begin with "A" featured. The child must count the 8 ants and then figure out which animal goes to each animal name (and point to the picture of that animal). Get ready for countless hours of fun. And get ready to read this one over and over and over and did I say over again? Young readers may never tire of this beauty!

8:An Animal Book is sure to become a childhood favorite. If you have children or grandchildren, this book is for them!

Mother's Day, Father's Day and Grandparent's Day is just around the corner. If you know anyone who has this wonderful job, be sure and give them this book as a gift.

Highly, highly recommended for every child, parent, grandparent and book lover.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

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)
2015
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Truth Commission
by Susan Juby
Illustrated by Trevor Cooer
Viking
2015
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Picture 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)
2015
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Magical Pick: Wish Girl

Wish Girl
by Nikki Loftin
Razorbill
2015
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)
 











Thursday, April 2, 2015

Island Tale: The Jumbies

The Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Young Readers
2015
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




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
Scholastic
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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)