Thursday, October 3, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: The Dark Lord Clementine

The Dark Lord Clementine
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Algonquin Young Readers
329 pages
ISBN: 9781616208943

Middle grade readers: get ready to be delighted, enthralled and enrapt in the immersive world of master storyteller Sarah Jean Horwitz!

Clementine Morcerous is the only child and sole heir to Castle Brack. When her father falls ill to a cunning spell cast by the Whittle Witch (the Witch of the Wood), it's up to Clementine to figure out how to help him and keep their castle and lands running. Father's magic is running out, the scarecrows aren't working in the land, the castle witch runs away with their grocery money, and everything is turning topsy turvy. Things are getting worse on an hourly basis, and unless Clementine moves fast, they could lose everything.

Clementine must find the Whittle Witch and figure out how to undo her magic, fix her father, get the magic back into the castle on pretend to be just as dark and menacing as the Dark Lord himself without ever letting any of the town's people know the Dark Lord is ailing. Everyone knows what happens if the Dark Lord appears weak: the people will wreak havoc and take over the castle. Clementine can't let that happen.

She turns to a magical book: the Witchionary! which has "...cataloged and chronicled" details of the Dark Lord's most dreaded enemies: witches. With her sidekicks a talking sheep, a young boy from town and help from a stranger, Clementine searches to find her place in the world and answers to her father's predicament.

Captivating and mesmerizing, full of wit and snark, and whimsical beings including witches who are indentured servants and a satyr who trades goods for spells, the Lady of the Lake (from Arthurian legend) who is indeed beautiful. But as beautiful as she is, she is an equally horrible singer with a bad memory, and worse yet she keeps mixing her metaphors which is laugh out loud funny.  She's so ditsy,  she'll throw swords at anyone who passes her whether it be a knight or not (hence the swords all over the book cover).

The Dark Lord Clementine will be up for Book of the Year and awarded many state awards.  You heard it here first! It is a rare middle grade find and a soaring triumph that kids will be delighted to read. Clementine is one tough female with equal parts intelligence, humor, and bravery. No matter how dire her predicament, she summons the strength to move forward and do what is right.

Highly, highly recommended as a MUST READ. If you have middle grade kids or know some, buy this book now! A must for all middle grade collections.

Grade 4 and up.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dystopian Pick: Day Zero

Day Zero
(Book 1 of 2 in duology)
by Kelly Devos
Inkyard Press
432 pages
ISBN: 9781335008480

Available November 12, 2019 

Strap on your seat belts and get ready for the thrill ride of the fall...

Jinx Marshall isn't sure what to expect when her mother marries her stepfather and inherits a ready made family: stepbrother Toby and obnoxious, political minded know-it-all stepsister McKenna, but she's ready for nearly anything. Well, any kind of emergency or chaos, that is. Jinx has been raised in the desert by her Doomsday prepper father for anything apocalyptic.

On a routine trip to the store for snacks, an explosion at the bank next door traps them in harm's way. Jinx finds herself in charge of saving her younger brother Charles and mouthy stepsister, McKenna. Dr. Doomsday's (her dad's) book comes in handy because Jinx knows exactly what to do.

When the kids discover that the entire country is crumbling from within, and the government blames her father, Jinx must save her siblings and prove her father's innocence. Oh, and save what's left of America! It's gonna take her background in coding, friends in the Dark Web and a background in Krav Maga, to escape. Picking up Toby at college, the kids plan to run for the Mexican border.

Her father's teachings have always taught "Trust No One," but Jinx can't do this alone. She'll have to depend on someone and work with McKenna instead of against her. If the family can't get along, they may all die together. Lucky for them, her father planned for this...

Set in the distant future, Day Zero paints a picture for our turbulent times. Explosive and exciting, readers will beg for Book Two! If you loved Yancy's The 5th Wave, get ready for Day Zero!

Recommended YA grades 8 and up. Violence, political turmoil, finance, economics, mature readers.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hey, Y'all, I Moved Across the Country! Sorry for Fewer Reviews Recently ;)

Hi, Y'all,

I've made a huge life move! Our home sold in ONE hour and was not even on the market. We had only three weeks to find a short-term rental in Florida that was pet friendly and furnished. I rented it ONLINE and took a chance that it would be okay.

We gave away, threw away and left behind most of our stuff and put the rest on a moving truck to Florida and to storage. I drove nearly 1500 miles to the east coast of Florida where we are staying in Jacksonville. Immediately, we searched for a home to buy in Daytona Beach or Port Orange. We found our home in two weeks and were under contract immediately.

Currently, we are waiting for Hurricane Dorian to leave us alone, so we can live our Florida dream, lol! At least I came to Florida just in time for the first hurricane of the season, right?

So, cross country move, 1500 miles, sold a house, bought a house, got rid of belongings and lightened our load and mood. Changed my latitude to change my attitude!

This is why there are so few postings on the blog for July and August. But now, if Dorian is kind, I can get back to what I love: the WORLD OF FICTION!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: Naked Mole Rate Saves the World

Naked Mole Rat Saves the Day
by Karen Rivers
Algonquin Books for Young Readers
304 pages
ISBN: 9781616207243

Available: October 15, 2019

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World is just what readers expect of a Karen Rivers' book: quirky, funny,  and heartbreaking. kit (spelled with a lower case "k" because she's so small) is dealing with more than just "normal" middle school problems. Her mother struggles with mental illness issues. Her mom used to be a famous singer, but now she's so anxious, she can't leave the house. In fact, she's  so anxious that kit is named after her mom's tattoo: k.i.t. which means "keep it together," and kit turns to this phrase throughout the book.

kit's best friend Clem was injured after a fall during the show "The Most Talented Family in America," and now she's shut herself off from kit and their friendship. While Clem deals with depression, kit tries to navigate alone.

Young readers will empathize with the friendship between Clem and kit and the loss kit feels as she wanders. Rivers' characters are believable and lovable. kit will remain with readers long after they close the book.

This is one read with tons of heart and will likely lead to spirited discussions in middle grade book clubs about anxiety, depression, friendship, mental illness in families and how to seek help. I received the ARC of this book which did not contain phone numbers for depression or mental health helplines. The finished book is likely to include toll-free numbers and how to seek help. It would be a plus to include questions for book clubs as well.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy great characters and value friendship and compassion. Recommended for any middle grade book club and whole class reads. Grade 5 and up.

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Middle Grade Non-Fiction Pick: Fearless Felines...

Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats
by Kimberlie Hamilton
Illustrated by Allie Runniyan, et al
160 pages
ISBN: 9781338355833

Available November 5, 2019

Thirty true stories of fearless and daring felines who saved their owners, fought in wars, and patrolled buildings make this middle grade book a treasure trove of fun facts about brave cats. Any young cat lover will revel in the clever antics of each character--and what characters they are!

Cats may not have their place in history books, but author Kimberlie Hamilton insures that young readers will know about them. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats and believed them to be gods. Cats came to Britain around 55BC when the Romans invaded. From that moment on, cats became important in castles, breweries and businesses to chase and kill vermin. By 1995, cats begant to outnumber dogs as America's favorite pet.

Kid readers will love impressive cats like Pyro who flew missions with his pilot owner in WWII and was considered a good luck charm among all the flyers. A cat aptly named Bomber could tell the difference between Royal Air Force planes (British) and enemy (German) planes during the war. When he alerted his family, they ran for the bomb shelter. A stray cat named Hammer appeared at Army headquarters in Iraq. Not only did he keep them mice-free, he was a therapy cat for wounded soldiers, and he came to the United States when the troops came home.

There are stories of other cats saving their family from fires and attacks from other animals. Some cats have even detected cancer in their owners! So, if your cat is behaving badly: pawing at you, bothering you, creating a ruckus, there's probably a good reason he is trying to tell you something very important. Cat behavior is fascinating to watch and to read about. This little collection is full of TALES about TAILS!

Recommended for non-fiction projects and for cat lovers everywhere. Grade 4 and up. With index, glossary, quiz with answers, further reading and recommended websites.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Dinosaur Pick: Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!
by Mike Lowry
Illustrations by the author
Orchard Books
128 pages
ISBN: 9781338359725

Available October 15, 2019

New York Times bestselling illustrator Mike Lowery tackles the most entertaining non-fiction topic and most popular subject for elementary to middle school non-fiction fans: dinosaurs!

Easy and fun to read, this book is accessible and hilarious and fans of Dav Pilkey will cheer! Dinosaurs come to life in funny comic fashion. True to the cover factoid, "a gazillion true facts!" this beauty delivers hours of entertainment. A section on how to draw dinosaurs offers would be artists and cartoonists a how-to guide.

Give this to any dinosaur fan and expect them to do a happy dance! This may be the most checked-out book at elementary libraries. For those librarians who purchase this one, you should invest in more than one copy as I see this being checked out again and again.

A MUST READ! Highly, highly recommended for every dinosaur fan and every library grade 1-high school. Even teen readers will find this an appealing read. Reluctant readers will be enthralled.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Non-Fiction Pick: The Brain Is Kind of a Big Deal

The Brain Is Kind of a Big Deal
by Nick Seluk
Illustrated by the author
Orchard Books
40 pages
ISBN: 9781338167009

Available October 1, 2019

Written and illustrated by New York Times bestselling creator of Heart and Brain, this book is a must have for all learners and those young readers interested in science and biology.

Told through a series of jokes and smart comic bubbles, kids have an accessible story about the most important part of the body. They learn that their brain takes care of all the things their bodies do: including those things they don't have the THINK about like breathing, their hearts beating, and their blood pumping. Seluk sets the heartbeat of learning with smart cover design and back cover which features a poster of the brain's band.

A helpful glossary is included for understanding new vocabulary words. Although targeted for grades 1-3, this picture book is easily adapted into all levels of science and biology classes.

Highly, highly recommended for learning about the brain in an entertaining and fun way! A must-have!

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fantasy Pick: The Oddmire: Changeling (Book One)

The Oddmire: Changeling
by William Ritter
264 pages
ISBN: 9781616208394

Expert storytelling by New York Times bestselling author of the Jackaby series, Changeling is book one in a new series and it's a hit!

Cole and Tinn are brothers; twins, really. But they're not. One is a changeling left by a goblin who was supposed to spirit away the other boy. Kull was interrupted and the baby goblin changed. Now the boys look like exact twins, and Kull slips away into the night without his prize.

Although Annie knows she gave birth to one son, she raises both boys as twins. She is aware of of the town folk who whisper that she's raising a goblin, but they're her boys and her sons. She loves both of them. Kull keeps a close eye on the boys for years, and now that they're thirteen, he plants a note for them to find. It's a tough job for a goblin to learn human language. Tougher still to learn to write human language, but he does.

The boys find a note that tells them to come to the Wild Wood or all the goblin world will die including the changeling. Both boys are curious and agree to go together since they're brothers. Neither wants to be a goblin, but they don't want their twin to be a goblin either. Their adventure begins on a journey to find their truth.

The antagonists they meet along the way are fantastic creatures and great characters. Ritter writes a solid middle grade fantasy tale that readers will love. Changeling is magical fun!

Highly recommended for all middle grade readers. A MUST READ for fantasy fans.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Picture Book Pick: Don't Call Me Bear!

Don't Call Me Bear!
by Aaron Blabey
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338360028

Warren, the Koala, wants readers to know that koalas are NOT BEARS! He is a marsupial. Those darned tourists get it wrong all the time! Australia doesn't have bears he says, and you should know about its marsupials like kangaroos.

Blabey doesn't disappoint with another cute character (like Pig the Pug) and effective art. Warren is a lovable, angry bear (don't tell him!) Back cover art is genius. A cute way to introduce Australian animals and marsupials.

Back cover in which Warren is NOT having fun! Surrounded by Koala "Bears," he's still telling readers Koalas are NOT BEARS!

Recommended early readers and kids who love animals!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Picture Book Pick: The Squirrels Who Squabbled

The Squirrels Who Squabbled
by Rachel Bright
Illustrations by Jim Field
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338538038

Spontaneous Cyril is a fun loving squirrel who lives in the moment, throws caution to the wind, parties like it's 1999, and does nothing to plan for winter. When he realizes he'll go hungry, he chases down the last pinecone he can find. Too bad Plan-Ahead Bruce has his eyes on that same lone pinecone.

It'a a all out race and pinecone war to grab the last one! As they race to beat each other, they struggle in the water and go over a ledge. The art follows them as readers will tilt the book sideways to read on. On the next page four panels of art tell the story of the hard fought race. The book is interactive for the young readers when they have to turn the book and view the art from different angles, and that's why this story is more fun!

When the squirrels break out in giggles, they realize they are having a great time and could be friends, and readers will learn, "The best thing to share is a laugh with your friend."

This playful story comes to life with prose by BRIGHT Rachel Bright and hilarious art by Jim Field. I love the nod to strange character names kids may not have heard before: Cyril and Bruce. Kids will learn at least two new vocabulary words: squabbled and spontaneous which show that young learners can understand and use multi-syllable words in speech.

A true keeper of a story! This is a must-have for every young reader's collection.

Highly recommended early readers pre-K and up.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Creepy Pick: Creep

by Eireann Corrigan
Scholastic Press
304 pages
ISBN: 9781338095081

Available October 1, 2019

Haunting and eerie, an abandoned mansion holds secrets and terror. The last family (the Donahues) who lived there moved away in the middle of the night and no one knows why. When Olivia takes an interest in her new neighbors and becomes friends with Janie, the new girl who lives in the spooky house, a mysterious letter soon appears.

The letter is threatening, and the writer claims to be the sentry of the house, and states no one can live there. If they do, "the ceilings will bleed and the windows will shatter..." Janie and Olivia soon join forces with  Janie's troubled and brooding brother. The three kids set out to solve the mystery: why did the family before them move away, and who is the Sentry and what does he, or it, want?

As the kids navigate interviewing neighbors, they learn the Donahues received menacing letters from the Sentry as well. Could this be the reason they moved? Why does the Sentry want this house?

Creepy enough to interest middle grade and middle school readers. Tame reading for YA fans of horror. Reluctant readers will find this an enjoyable book. This is a Scholastic Book, so you will likely find it on fall's Scholastic Book Fairs.

Recommended grade 5 and up. Scholastic says ages 12 and up, but Creep is tame enough for younger fans.

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

YA Pick: This Might Hurt a Bit

This Might Hurt a Bit
by Doogie honer
Simon Pulse
328 pages
ISBN: 9781534427174

Kirby Burns is dealing with life, sort of. Since his sister's death a year ago, his family has moved to Upper Shuckburgh, a town so small, there's more cows than people. Kids who live on the rural route ride the bus to school, as Kirby does. Neighbors are distant, but the nearest neighbor owns three "horse dogs" which terrorize Kirby as he waits for the bus each morning.

Lucky for Kirby, two nearby boys become his friends. The three friends get into mischief and teen vandalism. One night when they are attempting to paint a farmer's cows, they almost get caught. They get away, but someone recognized Kirby.

That minor event sparks revenge and wrath unleashed on Kirby and his friends. He's so busy running from bullies, he doesn't deal with his grief. His parents give him an ultimatum: let read them read his notebook or he can read it to them. He has a deadline to decide.

When Kirby finally breaks, his grief spills out and the family begins to heal.

This Might Hurt a Bit begins as a cheerful romp of teen shenanigans and slides into bullying, fighting and assault. Finally, Kirby faces his sister's death, and the subject of grief which is beautifully handled by the author.

Kirby's friends PJ (the stealthy ninja with a mad backpack full of tricks, a la "The Goonies" and Jake, the dark goth loner kid, are memorable characters readers are unlikely to forget.

Highly recommended grade 9 and up. Profanity, teen behavior, vandalism, underage drinking, bullying, violence, death.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Picture Book Pick: STEM: Tangled

by Anne Miranda
Illustrations by Eric Comstock
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
40 pages
ISBN: 978481497213

Available June 25, 2019

Clever, fun illustrations teach pre-school readers about shapes and geometry. In this  "tangled" tale, the shapes get stuck in a jungle gym until a smart line figures out how to free his friends.

Endpapers contain all the shapes and their names. The youngest of learners will know all their shapes by first grade!

Rhyming fun by Anne Miranda will keep the pages turning and the readers giggling.

A MUST buy for all parents of pre-school age readers. Picture books are one of the best tools for teaching concepts in middle school and high school! Tangled would be a great addition to every math teacher's book shelf and is a must for geometry classes.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Summer Camp Pick: Camp Shady Crook

Camp Shady Crook
by Lee Gjerstsen Malone
276 pages
ISBN: 9781534422261

Archie Drake has the perfect scam at summer camp: pretend to somehow be related to THE Archie Drake, a famous billionaire. All the campers whisper and think he is the son or grandson of the guy
anyway, so why not just play along? Rich kids will give him money, candy, clothes and luggage if they think he's rich, too. The truth is: Archie is there on scholarship, but he's not fessing up to that.

When smart aleck girl Vivian shows up and threatens to ruin his scam, Archie cuts her in for a piece of the action. Secret partner Oliver doesn't want a girl to be part of their team, but Archie convinces him it's better to keep her close where they can watch her.

Camp Shady Brook is the worst summer camp on the east coast, maybe even in the entire nation. Ms. Hess runs it like an evil prison matron. The owners haven't spent a dime in upkeep on the camp and it shows. Screen doors hang loose on cabins, the lake is polluted, decks are full of splinters and shaky, the food is worse than slop, and the kids have nothing to do. Archie and Vivian make it their business to find out where all the tuition money goes, and they suspect Miss Hess of stealing it.

Camp Shady Crook is a delightful middle grade romp perfect for readers who love summer camps and cons. Even reluctant readers will find the short chapters an inviting and entertaining read.

Brilliant cover art and art continues on spine to make this book attractive in a book case or on a shelf in the library or retail book store.

Here is the spine art

Recommended grade 5 and up.

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

Camp Shady Brook

anyway, so why not just play along.

Archi Malone has the perfect


Saturday, June 8, 2019

YA Pick: The Voice in My Head

The Voice in My Head
by Dana L. Davis
Ink Yard Press
308 pages with Questions for Discussion
ISBN: 9871335998497

The Voice in My Head is a WINNER!

Twins Violet and Indigo have always been close, but since Violet's diagnosis, Indigo feels pushed away. Her pretty, popular, perfect twin is dying. There is no cure, and worse, Violet has decided to die on her own terms: with dignity. Choosing assisted suicide and her death date puts her twin Indigo into a panic. How can Violet  think about leaving her? And why would she choose death? How will she (Indigo)  navigate without her sister? Feeling lost, Indigo climbs a building, considering suicide herself. Before she lets go, she hears a voice in her head. She realizes she doesn't want to die after all. Choosing life, Indigo tries to save herself but falls.

Waking up in the hospital, Indigo tries to make her family see it was an accident. As the voice in her head keeps her company, Indigo decides to take Violet to The Wave, a remote rock in Arizona where the voice tells her Violet will make the trip and live. Violet has her own rules. The entire family packs up with the help of a preacher and the church bus and travels to the desert. The family each reads Violet a letter, and little brother Alfred asks Violet (when she dies) to promise to be his best ghost IRL (Alfred talks in text lingo!)

The voice in Indigo's head is comic, irreverent and sounds just like Dave Chapelle. The voice tells Indigo that God is omnipotent and can do what she wants. She can make a bet if she wants because she's God. At one point, God responds, "duh." Indigo tells the voice there's no way God would say Duh, but the voice retorts that it invented language and it can say whatever it wants.

Alfred, Indigo, Violet and God (Dave Chapelle) are characters that will stay with readers long after
closing the pages. The bond between sisters and the entire familial vibe is so perfect that Davis better be looking to bring this story to screen, and no one is better at it than her! (Dana L. Davis is an actress and Hollywood insider).

The Voice in My Head is on its way to award season! I predict several state awards including Texas Lone Star list (grades 6-8) and/or Texas Tayshas list (grade 9-12). I predict The Voice in My Head will be on @Cybils Fiction shortlist and top 10 Teen Fiction (and I'm never wrong)!

Highly, highly recommended grade 7 and up. Suicide, assisted suicide, and death. Discussion questions are included as are resources for suicide prevention. The family is religious and God plays an important part in this book. The Voice in My Head is perfect for private and parochial schools and church reading groups. No profanity, violence or sex.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Club Pick: Lie To Me

Lie To Me
by J.T. Ellison
original copyright 2017
Paperback available September 2019
407 pages
ISBN: 0980778330950

A twisty, dangerous psychological thriller is just right for a summer beach read.

"Moves at a blazing-fast pace and smoothly negotiates more twists and turns than the backroads of Tennessee. It will keep you guessing every step of the way to the surprise ending." --Lisa Scottoline, NY Times bestselling author of One Perfect Life 

Dark psychological marriage noir, Lie To Me will leave readers breathless and exhausted. Once a reader begins this book, it's impossible to stop reading. Page-turning action and twists within twists within an enigma are fast paced and tragic.

Married literary giants Sutton and Ethan Montclair's life is idyllic--from the outside. They are each accomplished writers earning big paychecks and hordes of fans. When Ethan has trouble writing, and Sutton wants out of a publishing deal, their finances take a downturn. They welcome a new baby boy that Sutton never wanted. Ethan tricked her into having the baby, and she still blames him. When their baby dies, their entire world unravels as they blame one another and lie about everything.

When Sutton suddenly disappears, friends and family whisper that Ethan must have something to do with it. He swears he knows nothing about his wife's disappearance and turns to the bottle for solace. Suddenly, Ethan has found his muse and begins writing the best prose of his entire career. The police build a case against him, and an unknown narrator drops in here and there to warn the reader that someone is pulling the strings. Just when it looks like Sutton may have been found or Sutton is to blame, other strings are pulled.

This is one wild ride and a great book for adult book clubs who will be talking about it long after they've read it. Pick this one up today for your beach vacation or your home staycation. Good luck figuring out who's to blame!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I did not receive monetary compensation for my review of this book.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Interviewed by Romance Writer Mary Ann Marlowe, Author of Dating by the Book

I was interviewed by Mary Ann Marlowe, author of Dating by the Book. She had questions about bloggers and reviewers and how we affect books and the publishing market.

Her interview is located here 

I loved her book and you will too! If you love Indie bookshops, quaint towns, book clubs, close friends, drinking tea and/or wine, handsome love interests, fun dialog, and some unexpected twists and turns along the way, pick up Dating by the Books. My review is here 

From Mary Ann's blog: 

Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life . . .

There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.
Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect . . .

Pre-order now!

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Google Play | BAM!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

YA Pick: In the Neighborhood of True

In the Neighborhood of True
by Susan Kaplan Carlton
320 pages
ISBN: 9781616208608

Don't be fooled by the pretty pink cover and precious corsage; this pink book is one of the most important books of the year. Set in 1958, the message is timely today: love your neighbors. Don't judge people by the color of their skin, their religion, their family lineage, their financial status or their outward appearance. Judge them by the quality of their character. Sound familiar?

When her father dies suddenly, Ruth's family is forced to leave their urban lives in Manhattan and move to her grandparent's estate in Atlanta. The year is 1958 and race relations are at a boiling point in the South. Ruth is enrolled in an exclusive private school where girls of her privilege are given a genteel education.

Debutante season looms, and fish-out-of-water Ruth finds herself in lessons to learn how to be a Southern lady. No one has asked if Ruth is Jewish, and she never mentions it. Her mother is mortified and accuses Ruth of "passing" as a white deb, not a Jewish girl. Ruth wants to fit in and not cause trouble. Ruth joins the "pastel posse" of debs and hopes to be crowned Magnolia Queen like her mother and grandmother before her.

Ruth meets handsome golden boy Davis Jefferson and accepts an invitation to a dance. Soon she's dating him and falling in love. Everything is wonderful, and Ruth loves her new life.

In the "separate but equal" Jim Crow South, Ruth learns that Negros have to sit in the balcony at the movies and drink from different water fountains. She grew up in Manhattan and has never seen this before although she has to admit in her old neighborhood, she has rarely seen a person of color. The rabbi at her temple wants his congregation to support equality for all people, but  talk of politics and racial tension frighten Ruth.

When her temple is bombed, Ruth discovers Davis was there that night. He swears he had nothing to do with it, but Ruth suspects he's telling, "in the neighborhood of true," a lie. Ruth has a decision to make: embrace her religion and family or deny her background to live a lie. If she doesn't speak up, what kind of person is she?

Readers will love "vintage" details that bring the era to life, and cheer for Ruth as she navigates society and religion. Algonquin has another book winner! In the Neighborhood of True is sure to be on the top of every award list this year! The author does a brilliant job of creating unforgettable characters whose everyday decisions are complex and often unexpected.

Kudos to Susan Kaplan Carlton for bringing history to life and telling a story based on the real life bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) in Atlanta in 1958. Five suspects were arrested; one went on trial twice, yet all charges were later dropped.

Highly, highly recommended! You MUST read this book. It is amazing. In the Neighborhood of True would be a great whole class read and YA Teen Book Club read.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nobody Hugs a Cactus
by Carter Goodrich
Illustrated by the author
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
48 pages
ISBN: 9781534400900

Hank the cactus lives alone, and that's all right by him. He doesn't need anyone. Once in awhile, someone will mosey by: Rosie the Tumbleweed, a cowboy, a lizard, an owl, but no one wants to give a cactus a hug.

Hank grumbles at all the visitors and is happy when they leave him alone. Hank is quirky, mean-spirited and rude to everyone.  For a long while, no one comes by. Hank wonders where everyone has gone. A paper cup blows onto Hank, and he can't get it off. Lucky for him, Rosie comes by and helps him.

Hank grows a beautiful flower to give to Rosie the next time she comes by. When he presents his very own flower, Rosie hugs him, and tumbleweed and cactus get stuck in a hug! My favorite line of the book is, "After all, it's better to be stuck in a hug than stuck all alone."

Cover art depicts a scowling Hank all alone in a window. By the last page, Hank and Rosie are hugging and all smiles.

Recommended age 2 and up. This fun read will introduce young readers to the desert and its creatures, and the lesson about friendship and family is a bonus!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: Caterpillar Summer

Caterpillar Summer
by Gillian McDunn
304 pages
ISBN: 9781681197432

Available: April 2, 2019

Caterpillar Summer captures a poignant and honest portrayal of a sibling relationship in which the older sibling must take on the parent role. Cat has never had time to be a kid. She's always taken care of special needs Chicken and talked him out of his "meltdowns." In fact, Cat is the only one who can control him. Chicken needs constant supervision as he is prone to wander off and get lost.

When the siblings have to spend three weeks with their grandparents for the first time in EVER, Cat finally has a summer where she can explore on her own. As she discovers more about the rift between her mother and her grandparents, Cat wonders why the adults can't just fix their differences. She may have to become the CATalyst to heal her own family.

A treasure for middle grade readers who love a story of family ties and sweet sibling relationships. This book is suitable for all school, One School, One Book reads and classroom reads. It would be a great choice for a summer reading book as well.

Recommended grade 4 (good readers), grade 5 and up.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Non-Fiction PIck: Even More Lesser Spotted Animals

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals: More Brilliant Beasts You Never Knew You Needed To Know About
by Martin Brown
David Fickling Books
56 pages
ISBN: 9781338349610

Available: July 30, 2019

Make room for unique and beautiful animals! Martin Brown has done it again! He's knocked it over the fence and out of the park with a brilliant cast of animal characters who will fascinate, educate and enamor children.

From rodents like the giant kangaroo rat to large mammals like the Syrian brown bear (who does not come from Syria at all,) kids will learn about each animal's ecosystem, status of the species (endangered, for example), diet and fun facts. Each animal comes to life in colorful illustrations by Brown. He captures each species' personality in facial expression and body movement or posture.

A title page in the front of the book directs readers to their favorite animals and the helpful glossary teaches new vocabulary terms for budding zoologists and animal fans.

Fans of animals and non-fiction readers will love this book. This book is a great pick for reluctant readers who are sure to find interesting facts and build reading skills. A MUST HAVE for all animal collections.

July is a long time to wait for this book to hit the shelves. Make sure this one goes on your to-order list.

HIghly, highly recommended grade 3 and up and all animal lovers.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Picture Book Pick: Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas

Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas
by Aaron Blabey
Illustrations by the author
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9781338297133

From the author illustrator who charmed kids with Pig the Pug books, a new star is born!

Brian is a piranha with an unusual appetite for fruit. Other piranhas laugh at his odd diet and declare that piranhas don't eat fruit. He loves peas, silverbeets, bananas, but doesn't offer them any meat. They tell him they'd rather eat feet or bum!

Children will laugh out loud at clever illustrations and cute, quirky prose. Sure to be a childhood favorite read and will appeal to kids who love odd creatures and sea creatures. Brian is one cool piranha!

Highly, highly recommended for all early readers. Quite the fun read!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Picture Book Pick: All Your Need Is Love (Beatles' song)

All You Need is Love
by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Illustrations by Marc Rosenthal
Little Simon
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534429819

Beatles iconic tune "All You Need Is Love" finds a new, much (MUCH) younger audience with early readers in this adorable picture book illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.

A bear emerges from hibernation to hear a bird singing "All You Need Is Love." Enchanted by the bird's song, he follows the little blue bird. As they travel into the city, other animals follow the bird and soon a parade of animals and a boy follow the bird sharing their message with those they meet. An explosion of color and art on the final pages make a city park come to life with love and humanity.

Masterfully realized on the page, the bear will be a children's favorite.

Simply beautiful! Buy this for all the kids you love! Grandparents (Beatles' fans) will have to have this book to share their youth with their grandchildren.

Highly recommended for early readers and their parents and grandparents.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Picture Book Pick: Not Your Nest!

Not Your Nest!
by Gideon Sterer
Illustrations by Andrea Tsurumi
Dial Books for Young Readers
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534429819

An industrious yellow bird builds a lovely nest for herself and is proud of her accomplishments. When she's finally ready to rest and enjoy her hard work, she finds other animals are just as pleased with her beautiful nest.

She is surprised when a  zebra (on the cover), a larger bird, a brush hog, a giraffe, a gorilla, a crocodile and other animals loungevin her nest. She moves on--building nest after nest until the tree breaks and the animals have to find another place to rest.

They are happy to share their nest with the sweet bird who took them in.

Young readers will laugh out loud at the animals' pushiness to "share" the bird's nest. Illustrations by Tsurumi are hysterical and capture each animal's personality and emotions.

Likely to become a bedtime favorite, kids will love to name all the animals they encounter. This is a must have for any young reader. Cutest book of the year!

Highly recommended for all preschool readers and animal lovers.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Club Pick: Dating By the Book

Dating By the Book
by Mary Ann Marlowe
Kensington Books
336 pages with Book Club Discussion Questions
ISBN: 9781496718211

Available June 2019

Maddie Hanson is nursing a broken heart since being left at the altar by Peter, her almost husband. Pouring her heart, money and time into acquaint indie bookstore, The Mossy Stone, Maddie struggles to keep the business afloat.

When old friend Max stops by every day, almost all day, offering to help and a partnership, Maddie is fierce to keep her store her own. Daily visitor Charlie is a local English professor, but not really love interest material. Enter old flame Dylan, the one who got away and left town to seek fame and fortune in the music industry. Dylan exudes hotness and all the ladies notice.

Maddie has no shortage of bachelors to choose from, but her writing keeps her busy. Her first book is due out soon, and when a reviewer slams it on a blog, Maddie is stunned. The writer, known as Silver Fox, claims the romance in her novel feels stilted and fell flat for him. At first Maddie is mad and sad, then she responds to the reviewer against her friend Layla's advice to ignore the guy.

Friday nights are book club night at the shop where Maddie and MEN read Pride and Prejudice, Gone With the Wind and Jane Eyre. As Maddie continues to respond to Silver Fox online under her pen name Claire, she thinks about meeting him.

Ex-Peter is warning Maddie that he wants to sell the shop, her shop! Maddie had better figure out her tangled finances and her equally tangled online "love life."

Clever cover design screams at romance readers to buy this book. This cover is my favorite of the year so far. Marlowe continues to offer readers spunky heroines, small town "feels," quirky love interests, and fun plots. You'll want to move to Orion after meeting this cast of characters.

Recommended for adult book clubs and all romance readers.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#AMM Connect: MG Contemporary: FAKING IT

I have entered #AMMConnect. 

Hi, I'm (Pamela) Thompson McLeod. I write #MG contemporary. Kyle is an eleven-year old who enters a recipe contest winning a coveted spot on a junior chef show. Just one problem: Kyle can't cook! It's a recipe for disaster unless BFF science nerd Addie and YouTube videos can teach him.

I write to tell stories about characters I've met in life. Kyle and Addie remind me of so many middle school kids I've known in the library!

I'd love to be a great mentee and learn more about writing and story pacing. I consider all feedback and stand up for my story when I feel it needs to stay the same. I'd love to work with my mentor and become writing pals going forward. So much writing is quiet, introverted time that writers need a circle of like friends. I know FAKING IT resonates with  beta readers and CPs I've been lucky enough to find and feel very close to finding an agent. FAKING IT is a Readers' Favourite in the Write Mentor Children's Writing Awards 2019. With a mentor's help and guidance, this story will be the best it can be! #ownvoices for weight issues; #STEM for cooking and molecular gastronomy.

Three of Kyle's recipes are included in the last pages of the book. In fact, Kyle's entry for Grown Up Grilled Cheese is a recipe I created and entered in an online contest. Like Kyle, I NEVER cooked my recipe and yet it won! I've become addicted to entering contests with recipes I create on paper but never cook; I've placed in three contests using my strange method, lol. I share Kyle's addiction for cooking shows and molecular gastronomy.

There is a page of YouTube Molecular Gastronomy channels approved by Addie and Kyle as well.

As a career librarian, I see precocious, genius kids like Kyle and Addie in their natural habitat on a daily basis.

Once again, here's Kyle's and my recipe

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Picture Book PIck: Dragon Night

Dragon Night
by J.R. Krause
G.P. Putnam's Sons
32 pages
ISBN: 978525514244

"Cozy. Well-crafted bedtime reading." --Kirkus Reviews

Young Georgie is afraid of the night. The dragon is afraid of the knight. When the dragon steps from the pages of Georgie's favorite book, they form a friendship that is sweet and mutually beneficial. Together they travel through the night until the dragon teaches Georgie that the night is beautiful and full of stars. It's quiet and tranquil and Georgie falls asleep by his dragon.

Next day, Dragon worries because he's afraid to get back in the book. Georgie saves the day and makes the dragon a new story book where the knight is kind.

Quiet, beautiful illustrations in soothing tones are perfect for a bedtime read. A quaint way to teach children and speakers new to English about homophones. Who can resist a book in which a character steps out of a book? Magical!

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Interview with Author Greg Howard, author of The Whispers

The Whispers is my pick for best Middle Grade Book of 2019!
I'm never wrong. See my five star Review Here. As a reviewer for both School Library Journal and
VOYA and a Cybils fiction judge, I have an uncanny record for
picking the winners. My interview with Author Greg Howard follows:

Interview Questions for Greg Howard

Some questions are about your book, middle grade books, writing and life.  
Readers, parents, bloggers and librarians will want to know about you, the author.

What is the MOST important lesson you learned from an elder
(grandparent, parent or other)?
There is a scene in The Whispers where Riley’s parents have him and his brother
decorate two empty laundry detergent bottles up as people, writing the name
Can’t on one and If on the other. Then their father digs two small graves in the
backyard where they have a funeral and bury can’t and if. This came directly
from my childhood. My father directed my brother and I to do exactly
the same thing and after we buried those words in the backyard,
we weren’t allowed to use them anymore. It was a powerful lesson that might
have slipped by me as nothing more than a game or a fun exercise at
the time, but that lesson stuck with me for a lifetime. I don’t say I can’t do
something, or I could if this or that. No excuses - just do it, whatever it might be.

In the author note, you write about losing your mother at a young
age and how grief manifested itself to keep you safe. Besides
the alternate story, did you have any other coping mechanisms?
Television was definitely one of my main coping mechanisms and a great escape
from reality. I would get lost in all those stories for hours and I felt like the
characters were part of my life, like my friends. I particularly remember
being obsessed with Samantha Stephens. Yes, that Samantha
Stephens—the good witch married to the mortal and whose mother appeared
out of thin air at the most inconvenient times wearing fabulous flowing lingerie.
Bewitched was one of my favorite TV shows because it opened up a world
in which anything was possible with the crinkle-twitch of your mouth,
snapping your fingers or flailing your hands in the air.

When you were writing this book, did you have any idea how
impactful it would be on young readers’ lives? (dealing with grief,
coming out, knowing their true gender?)
Honestly as I was writing the book, I wasn’t really thinking about that. I simply
had a very personal story that I had to tell. But when the first draft was done,
going through the editing process, I started to feel the weight of that possible
impact. But if I can reach just one queer kid living out in the country
somewhere who feels alone and isolated and show them that
they’re not alone and that they matter, I will feel like I did my job.

Middle grade books are beginning to address topics that were
usually only tackled in YA. Besides being queer (and I hope
I’m using the right word here. If I’m wrong, please correct me.
What other term or terms, can be used?), what topics would
YOU like to see in middle grade books?
It is absolutely fine to use the word queer as it’s a very inclusive word.
I love that we are seeing more difficult topics tackled in middle grade
because kids that age are dealing with these issues every day. I would
love to see more middle grade books tackle the problem of racism
and xenophobia. Kids are taught this thinking from a very young age,
so it’s never too early in childhood development to address, in my

Writers go through many stages: drafting, editing, rewrites,
more editing. How long from start to finish book, did it take for
The Whispers? How many edits did you do as a writer?
It took me about five months to write the first draft of The Whispers.
The book had not been sold yet, so I went through it a couple of times
before I sent it to my agent who always has wonderful editorial
insights. I believe we went through two more rounds of developmental
edits before she sent it out on submission. So that’s four rounds of
edits right there. Then when the book sold to Putnam/Penguin
I went through another round of developmental edits with my editor,
and then four rounds of line edits. And yes, each time, you have to
start from the beginning and go through the entire manuscript. And then
when I knew it was my very last chance to catch anything, I went through
it one more time before turning in the final draft. That’s ten times
through the manuscript after the first draft was complete. And yes,
we still missed a couple of things, but I’m not about to spill the
beans. We will correct those on the first reprint.

What was your favorite book as a young child? As a teenager?
My favorite books as child were those in the Encyclopedia Brown
series. My favorite book as a teenager was The Shining. Go figure.

What is the best book (any genre) you’ve read in the last year
and why?
I recently read Beloved by Toni Morrison for the first time.
The language is so beautiful and effortless even though the story
is completely raw and devastating.

What living celebrity, sports figure, actor or person do you
admire most?
Barack Obama—to me he is the embodiment of grace, wisdom,
and perseverance.

If you had millions of dollars, what charity would you help?
If you had millions of hours, what charity would you volunteer
your time for?
I would gladly give a million dollars to the ASPCA to help protect
animals against abuse and cruelty. And if I had millions of hours
to donate, I would spend it in animal shelters.

What would you tell 8-year-old Greg if you could?
You are not alone. And you matter.

Complete the following statements: (you can be funny or serious):

I’m happiest when: my dogs look at me.

My current state of mind is: Contentment

My favorite saying, proverb, quote or wisdom is:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget
what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

The funniest thing about growing up in the South:
The road signs.

Thank you to Greg Howard. It’s a pleasure to see
The Whispers doing so well and kids embracing Riley’s story.