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There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight is author Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight is based on the children’s song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Penny’s tale follows a dragon who knows nothing of moderation or patience. However, thanks to the handiwork of Penny and illustrator Ben Mantle, the old dragon seems to know comedic timing. He swallows a noble night, a steed who runs at too fast a speed, and many other objects in the land — living or not. Something tells us this dragon is going to learn a lesson, today.
We all know that there was an old lady who swallowed lots of things. Now meet the old dragon who swallows pretty much an entire kingdom Will he ever learn a little moderation? This rollicking rhyme is full to bursting with sight gags, silly characters, and plenty of burps Parents and kids alike will delight in Ben Mantle’s precisely funny illustrations and in Penny Parker Klostermann’s wacky rhymes.
Click here to download the There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight activity guide from Random House.
Click here to download additional activities from Penny Parker Klostermann’s site!
It’s cold. In some places, it’s freezing. OF COURSE WE NEED TO READ RIGHT NOW! Bundle ourselves up in fleece and wool and whatever else will do it, and sit for hours totally immersed in story.
Speaking of bundles … do I have a treat for you!
My novel BOOK OF EARTH is currently part of a terrific WOMEN IN FANTASY story bundle, along with nine other books, all guaranteed to transport you away from the cold and wind and snow to places and times … where there might also be cold and wind and snow, but at least there’s also magic and mysticism and other delights that make losing ourselves in fantasy so much fun.
The whole bundle is available for a $15 minimum (although you’re free to pay more, and might want to, since a portion of the proceeds go to The Pearl Foundation, a charity created by singer Janis Ian to promote education by providing scholarships to returning students who have been away from school for a while — a worthy cause!).
But here’s the catch: this bundle will only be available for a limited time. You’ll never find all these wonderful novels grouped together like this for such a low price anywhere else. So the time is now! Winter isn’t just coming, it’s here! Let’s go read our way through it!
All Izzy wants is for something interesting to happen in her sleepy little town. But her wish becomes all too real when an enchanting song floats through the woods and lures her little sister Hen into the forest…where she vanishes.
A frantic search leads to a strange hole in the ground that Izzy enters. But on the other side she discovers that the hole was not a hole, this place is not Earth, and Hen is not lost. She’s been stolen away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to bring her home. But inside Faerie, trouble is brewing-and Izzy is in way over her head. A ragtag group of outlaw Changelings offers to help, and she must decide whether a boulder that comes to life, a girl that’s not quite solid, and a boy who is also a stag can help her save Hen before it’s too late.
Tell us more about your cover. How did it feel to see it for the first time?
It was a total thrill! When I opened the box of galleys that my publisher sent me, it seemed like the books were absolutely glowing. The cover art makes me want to dive in and see what is behind that door. I hope kids will feel the same way.
The girl on the cover is the main character, Izzy, who journeys into Faerie to find her little sister and bring her home. The three animals are the Changeling children who help her.
The Changelings are shape shifters who can make themselves look like almost anything for a short while. But they can only truly “Change” into a handful of forms – like the stoat, butterfly, and badger on the cover.
The little flying fairies are Pollenings. They play a very tiny, but important, part in the story. (And they make honey that goes great with pancakes!)
What was it like to see your characters depicted on the cover?
I actually didn’t think the cover would feature the characters at all, so it was such a wonderful surprise to see them in the first draft! When I got my first look at Izzy, I thought the artist captured her perfectly. She looks curious and thoughtful, and is having a very human reaction to all the magic around her – a mix of awe and nervousness! I’m sure most of us would feel the same way if we stumbled into Faerie.
I think it was a very wise decision on Sourcebooks’ part to have Izzy be the only human face we see on the cover. The artist could have drawn all the Changelings in their child forms, but I think that would have taken some of the fun away from readers being able to imagine them for themselves.
Tell us more about the cover design process. Where you involved?
The artwork and design were done completely without me – thank goodness! But my editor and art director did ask me for input on the characters, and we went back and forth several times to make sure the details were right and the cover was being true to them.
I am really lucky to have been involved as much as I was. I know that’s not always the case for authors!
I learned so much about covers during this process and the heavy lifting they have to do. The cover has to draw a reader in, give them a feeling for the writing and the story, but without giving too much away. Everything, from the font to the color palette, to the way the art wraps around to the back, contributes to that sense of wonder you want readers to have – before they even start reading.
The cover for The Changelings doesn’t depict an exact scene in the book, but I think it does everything you want a cover to do!
Oh, and there is a secret hidden in the cover as well. But you will have to read the book to figure it out!
Christina Soontornvat spent her childhood in small Texas towns, eagerly waiting for the fairies to come and kidnap her. They never came, but she still believes magic things can happen to ordinary people. When not writing, Christina hangs out in science museums and takes care of her own little goblins-ahem- children. She lives in Austin, Texas. The Changelings is her first novel.
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REVENGE AND THE WILD
By Michelle Modesto
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (February 2, 2016)
Age Range: 14 up
Grade Level: 9 up
Goodreads | Amazon
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter
winter, my favorite season. meet Eyra...."silence of the snowdrops".
this is my most favorite painting i have ever done. i am a winter lover through and through and nothing will ever change that. snow, icicles, cold air, snowdrops....i love all of it. tried a softer color palette for this piece to (hopefully) convey that frosty feel that winter brings and i also tried a bit of a new technique (which i am currently obsessing over)...
MULTIPLE coats of gesso on an already pre-primed canvas. i. am. smitten. i wanted something smoother, something that didn't *eat* the paint like the very lightly pre-primed canvas did. i tossed around painting on wood but then didn't want to have to go down the road of heavy shipping rates being that the wood is considerably heavier than canvas. plus, i love canvas....painted on it since i was a little girl when i got my hands on my first paintbrush so i kind of have a sentimental attachment to it (big surprise, what am i NOT sentimentally attached to?!). anyhoo...i have found that 6 coats (yes, 6) got me the texture (or lack of) that i was seeking. applied in alternate directions (one app-vertical, next app-horizontal...and so forth) with LIGHT sanding in between...paint applied like a dream. time to start buying gesso in buckets...:)
beautiful little Eyra is for sale as a PRINT here with other novelties featuring this lovely here.
see, winter can be beautiful...:)
*ORIGNAL PAINTING IS FOR SALE. EMAIL ME HERE IF INTERESTED.
I’ve had students ask me, “How do I write this without freaking out the white folks?” And yet authors hold back at the peril of young readers. Those who share our perspectives go invalidated, and those who don’t are never exposed and enlightened.
I also noticed a Freudian slip in my comments, and I'm inclined to leave it be. I refer to some allied librarians, insistent on telling (rather than sharing) stories of Native people as stock characters uniformly suffering from alcoholism on reservation. But telling is what I really did mean. There aren't Native children's-YA writers crafting fiction along those lines.
Yet I'm told, time and again, that this stereotype is the single story that resonates. It's come up to stand alongside the "romantic, New-Age-y" stereotype and "historical savage" stereotype. Together and separately, these persistent tropes negate respect, nuance, complexity, humanity, and back to the focus of article, the potential for Native-inclusive children's-YA fantasy done right.
It's disheartening to refute, coming from allies. So, if you count yourself among them, please know that you are appreciated. But also be careful of assumptions, however benevolently intended.
I had never heard of the British author and poet A. F. Harrold before I encountered The Imaginary at a bookstore just before Christmas but I was definitely familiar with illustrator Emily Gravett, a longtime favorite of mine (read my reviews of her picture books here.) Gravett's playful, detailed style is perfectly paired with Harrold's engrossing, creative, slightly creepy story of a girl, her imaginary friend and the fiend who is trying to eat him, making The Imaginary a truly stand out book.
Amanda Primrose Shuffleup has an incredible imagination. And, when she opens up her wardrobe door one rainy evening to hang up her wet coat and finds a boy named Rudger, her imaginary world gets even bigger. From landing a spaceship of alien planets (the thorn bushes in the backyard) to a hot air balloon that lands them in the "sticky, steamy South American jungle" to a "complex of caves, deep and dark, that stretched out for unknown miles underneath the stairs," Amanda and Rudger go everywhere and do everything together. And Amanda's mother, while she can't see Rudger, is perfectly accommodating, serving him bowls of cereal and making room for him in the backseat of the car. And, while Amanda can be careless with Rudger's feelings from time to time and very self-absorbed, Rudger wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Rudger - and Amanda's - worlds are turned upside down when Mr. Bunting arrives at the front door, claiming to be conducting a survey about, "Britain today. And children." His strange behavior is disconcerting enough, but what's more disturbing is the fact that he has a miserable looking girl with him who can see Rudger. Mr. Bunting and his gloomy imaginary friend are after something, and they seem to turn up everywhere Amanda and Rudger go until their relentless pursuit puts Amanda in the hospital and Rudger Fading from existence and in a strange kind of imaginary friend limbo.
This limbo, which the imaginaries call the Agency, is housed in a library - the one place with enough imaginings housed inside of it to keep the imaginaries alive until they can find a new human. Rudger makes a few missteps before he figures out how to get to Amanda and save her and himself, but not before a very harrowing, sinister battle in Amanda's hospital room. It turns out that Mr. Bunting can only be fed by the, "slick, slippery slither of fresh imaginary." For Mr. Bunting, just as "imaginaries needed t be believed in to go on, so he needed to eat that belief to keep himself going." Not since I read Neil Gaiman's Coraline and the Other Mother, have I been so creeped out by a character in a book.
The Imaginary is an absolutely fantastic, unforgettable book. Harrold's writing is superb and the rules by which the imaginary friends exist and cease to exist make sense. He creates a world immediately and efficiently - there is no part of The Imaginary that I felt could have been edited down, which is not the case with most books I read. Harrold is also gifted at capturing the way children think and talk. There is an especially fascinating and funny turn in the book where Rudger, in his efforts to get to Amanda, takes on the job of being the imaginary friend to her classmate, Julia Radiche. However, since Julia is doing the imagining, Rudger is now Veronica, who needs to get used to wearing a dress and having long hair. Emily Gravett's illustrations, which are black and white, mostly, with perfect pops of color here and there, bring to life Harrold's writing in a way that makes this book all the more memorable.
And did I mention what a beautiful book The Imaginary is? From the slightly smaller trim size to the fantastic endpapers to the thick pages, this book calls out to be picked up and enjoyed!
Originally published in the UK in 2014, The Imaginary is newly out in paperback there with this intriguing new cover!
Well, this is frustrating. There are times when you read a book and you feel like it’s not the book, it’s you. This is one of those times. There is so much contained in this story that I should love. We have time travel, pirates, romance (well, ha, we’ll get to that shortly), and diversity! But The Girl from Everywhere was a book I struggled to connect with from the beginning, and unfortunately, failed to connect with overall. The premise is very interesting. We have a girl born in Hawaii in 1868, but who has grown up on a tall ship literally throughout time and place on this Earth. Her father is from modern NYC, so Nix is equally at home on her smartphone in 2016 as she is traversing to 19th century India. Nix finds herself on this ship thanks to her father, the captain. Her mother having died... Read more »
I wanted to read Dreaming Death because it sounded different. I was in a bit of a rut last year, sticking with the tried and true and reading a lot of series romance. I decided that for this year, I would switch it up, and read a mix of genres. I am loving the urban fantasy titles I’ve picked up, and was hoping for the same success with this fantasy. While parts of it were fascinating, I had a huge problem with one of the characters, and it marred my enjoyment of the book.
This is an interesting premise. Unfortunately, I found Mikael to be a spineless wimp, at least until he met Shironne, and Kai was a sullen turd. I shudder at the thought of grudge-holding Kai being the next king. He is the favorite of the king to take control of the throne, and all I could think was, “That’s the best candidate you have?” Ugh! I didn’t buy the reasons for his behavior, and just thought he was being immature and petty. I hated this guy, and it was a struggle to get through scenes he was part of.
This is a fantasy with mystery elements. Mikael keeps dreaming of other people’s deaths, and because he broadcasts his thoughts so loudly, all of the sensitives in town share his dreams. Shironne is a touch sensitive; she is able to read the thoughts and feelings of others with a touch. She can even read the thoughts of dead people, so she’s been helping the army solve murder cases. When a string of blood sacrifices leave a steadily growing number of corpses around the city, Shironne and Mikael are desperate to locate the killers. Mikael dreams of the deaths, and Shironne gathers clues from the bodies as they hunt the criminals before they kill again.
The magic system was interesting, but the world building was confusing. I still don’t really understand the difference between the Houses and the Families, but maybe that will be made more clear in the next book? Mikael can project his dreams, and unfortunately, he dreams about people being murdered. His disturbing, emotional visions are broadcast to the sensitives in town, leaving them frightened and unsettled. They hate him for it, so he goes to a local tavern whenever he feels a dream coming on, and drinks himself senseless in an effort to dampen the intensity of his dreams. That doesn’t really work, and because the dreams leave him injured and shaken, he’s not in the best shape to be alone, but he refuses to seek help, afraid he’ll be kicked out of the House he’s currently part of.
For me, Shironne was the saving grace. She’s incredibly powerful, but she is mindful not to use her abilities recklessly. She understands the importance of keeping the secrets and privacy of people around her. Her powers have rendered her blind, but don’t think for an instant that she’s helpless or weak, because she’s not. Shironne is the strongest character in the book, and it wasn’t all because of her abilities. She is level-headed, intelligent, and able to think her way out of dangerous situations. She deals with the grisly corpses with courage and determination, realizing that if she can’t unmask the identity of the murderer, more people will die painfully, and she’ll have to watch through Mikael’s dreams.
My opinion of Mikael improved immensely once he and Shironne meet. Until then, I had a hard time liking him. He seemed to be enjoying his pity party a little too much. I never changed my opinion of Kai. He remained obnoxious and immature to the very end of the book. Unfortunately, he took away some of my enjoyment for the story.
Review copy provided by publisher
ABOUT DREAMING DEATH
Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best as she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.
A member of the Royal Family’s Guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.
Then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…
DREAMING DEATH: A Palace of Dreams Novel
J. Kathleen Cheney
Roc Trade Paperback
$16.00 | 432 pages
February 2, 2016
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF J. KATHLEEN CHENEY
“[A] masterpiece of historical fantasy.”
“Intriguing and fun, the mystery unfolds like a socially conscious tour through a cabinet of curiosities.”
“Pulls readers in right off the bat.”
—RT Book Reviews
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
J. Kathleen Cheney is the author of the Novels of the Golden City, including The Shores of Spain, The Seat of Magic, and The Golden City. Her short fiction has been published in such venues as Fantasy Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a Nebula Finalist in 2010. She lives in Oklahoma, and you can visit her online at www.jkathleencheney.com.
Are you ready for your first look at one of this year’s most-anticipated books? Jay Kristoff is a longtime friend and favorite of the blog, and he’s launching a new series in August 2016 that should definitely be on your radar. Nevernight is a fantasy set on a planet in which it’s almost always daytime, and our heroine is hell-bent on seeking revenge for her shattered family. This author specializes in positively epic world-building and characterization, so I’m super excited to see this new world he’s created. Today we’re pleased to give you a peek at the new book! Here’s the official cover reveal, along with a synopsis and some words from Jay on a few things you should know about Nevernight. Drum roll, please… Just look at that beauty! Such a badass cover, and one that offers the promise of so many awesome things. I’m curious about Mia’s mask... Read more »
Review by Elisa
THE GOLDEN YARN
By Cornelia Funke
Series: MirrorWorld #3
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Breathing Books (December 1, 2015)
Goodreads | Amazon
Jacob Reckless continues to travel the portal in his father's abandoned study. His name has continued to be famous on the other side of the mirror, as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. His family and
REIGN OF SHADOWS
by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 9, 2016)
Ages: 13 and Up
Goodreads | Amazon
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has
Truthwitch is my first book by Susan Dennard and it won’t be my last. I didn’t get a copy at BEA this year – I think it’s fair to say that it was one of *the* books to get? – and I was bummed that my flight got in too late to even make grabbing Truthwitch a possibility. But lo and behold, Susan Dennard was at NCTE in November and so not only did I get a copy of Truthwitch buuuuut Susan Dennard also signed it! So things worked out for me in the end, and splendidly, because I loved Truthwitch and you should 100% read it. Even if you do not enjoy fantasy novels? You should read it. Because it is pretty great, and I loved it. Here is the number one reason why: there is an epic female friendship at the center of the series and that is basically everything I... Read more »
Hey ladies and gents! Today, I have something very special in store for you! (Trust me, you want it!)
The other day, I won a bound manuscript of Stars Above (OMG AND I'M ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT!), but the even more exciting news is that I also got the opportunity to share the giveaway love and give all of our US Readers a chance to win a hardcover copy of STARS ABOVE by Marissa
Below is my review of the audio book version of Dead Boy by Lauren Gale and read by Robbie Daymond. Great plot with some unexpected turns.
GALE, Laurel. Dead Boy. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $35. ISBN 9781101916827. digital download.
Gr 5-7–Crow was once a regular boy who played baseball and had friends and loving parents. But now, he’s dead. At first, being dead wasn’t so bad, but then his rotting flesh began attracting maggots. He couldn’t eat or sleep. His parents divorced. His mother will tell him only that his parents “wished him back to life,” but what kind of life? He’s trapped in a house kept purposefully cold to slow the putrefaction of his flesh. When Melody and her father move in next door, she and Crow become secret friends against the wishes of their parents. Together, they begin to unravel the terrible secret of his parents’ wish. Their forbidden friendship will be tested as they face a series of deadly challenges in their quest for the truth. Though the book’s description promises humor, narrator Robbie Daymond’s presentation of Crow is morose and forlorn. His cheerful portrayal of Melody offers the only break from the macabre atmosphere. VERDICT - Not for the squeamish, this one will be best for middle school fans of ghoulish favorites like The Night Gardener (Abrams, 2014) or The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (S. & S., 2012). [“A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor”: SLJ 7/15 review of the Crown book.]
Happy New Year to all those of you who have supported me in so many different ways throughout the year. 2016 should be a new beginning for me with my new publisher Crimson Cloak Publishing, and I’m hoping for a happy and successful relationship with them! Several books to be released this year, new as well as re-releases. Exciting times.
Our 4th and 5th grade Mock Newbery Book Club meets on Thursday for final discussions & voting. This week, I'll share my students' thoughts on each nominated titles (see this post for our full list). Special thanks goes to Armin Arethna, our fantastic Berkeley Public Library colleague who is a vital part of our book club--what a terrific school-public library collaboration and friendship!
As we discuss books, we start out by sharing what we like about them. We only have two or three copies of each title, so kids are reading different books all the time. We have lunch together and share about what we've been reading. If someone raves about a book, their friends start clamoring to check it out next. This "book buzz" is the best thing ever!
Students talk about these different aspects of a book in their classes, so they are able to apply them here when we start comparing books. Just like with the right committee, they end up with a few favorites and then have a terrible time deciding on which one to vote for!
My students *loved* this novel: a realistic friendship story touched with just a bit of magic. Ava is a worrier; whether it's homework or a test or her family, she gets anxious. Math tests are the worst. One day when Ava finds a pencil at the back of her junk drawer, she starts doing her math homework just like normal--but it turns into anything but normal when the pencil starts talking to her, telling the answers to any question she writes down.
This book spread through our 4th and 5th graders, getting passed from one friend to the next. Our two copies were checked out over 30 times in just 3 months! In the poster below, you can see how many kids wanted to share their thoughts. Right away students talked about how much they would like a pencil that told them the answers to test questions. But soon, they started reflecting on the characters, plot and themes.
As Kalia wrote, "The characters were really good." Josselin added right away how she enjoyed the characters (the Pencil and Ava). As we started talking more, students noticed how much Ava changed during the course of the novel, growing stronger and more self-assured. They realized how much they related to Ava, her worries and her dilemmas.
"I admired how Ava only used the pencil for good, not evil." -- Amelie "I felt sad when she was sad, and I felt happy when she was happy." -- Gwen
Talking about these books, digging into them together really deepens all of our appreciation for the author's craft. Just look at what Norah wrote on our poster -- and remember that this is after she's been talking about it with her friends and classmates for two months.
"I also really liked how the author created Ava. Ava worried a bit about everything. So when you first think about her, you think oh Ava is not that strong. She's just a scaredy-cat that needs all the answers. But when you think about her more deeply, you realize, wow, Ava was very strong. Like if you had a pencil with all the answers, would you be able to get rid of it? Would you be able to realize sometimes it is better not knowing?" -- Norah
In contrast, while students reported liking Appleblossom the Possom, it wasn't a book that kids shared much about. Two students liked it enough to nominate it, but it never created that "book buzz".
Like for all young possums, there comes a day when Appleblossom has to venture out on her own and find her way in the world. In many ways, exploring the world is exciting for a curious youngster--but it quickly turned frightening for Appleblossom when she fell down a chimney and was trapped inside a human family's house.
Holly Goldberg Sloan creates an immediacy in the nighttime setting as seen from a possum's perspective, and she adds a humorous element by emphasizing the dramatic tendencies of possums as they learn how to "play dead". The story is full of adventure as Appleblossom's brothers work to rescue their sister.
I'm not quite sure why students didn't talk about this as much. Perhaps they found the dramatic asides to be overbearing, or perhaps Appleblossom didn't change enough to be satisfying for them. But it could also be that kids who like animal fantasies didn't come to our book club because they didn't find other animal fantasies to read. I was fascinated by the contrast between this book and Holly Goldberg Sloan's previous novel, Counting by 7s, which my students really responded to and nominated for our 2014 Mock Newbery.
Review copies were sent by the publishers, Bloomsbury and Penguin, and copies were also purchased for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Review by Krista
by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #3
Publisher: Scholastic Press (December 29, 2015)
Goodreads | Amazon
The remarkable third novel in Sara B. Larson's bestselling Defy series!At last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the
Kids who are excited by a book love telling their friends about it. And the honest truth is that they listen to their friends much more than they listen to adults. But often kids start rambling too much as they summarize the story.
This summer is Maddy's turn to visit her grandmother; each summer, Grandmére sends for one of her grandchildren, asking that they spend the summer with her in the Louisiana bayou. Maddy's older sisters warn her that Grandmére is strange, a witch, and very strict, but Maddy develops a special relationship with her and realizes that she feels at home in the bayou. In fact, Maddy senses that she has a special power to feel things, to hear things like her grandmother does.
student responses (click to enlarge)
Students loved the way Jewell Parker Rhodes describes the setting--it brought them right into feeling like they were in the bayou. But I think it's more than that; Rhodes helps them see the bayou through Maddy's eyes. She's a newcomer, but one with an innate sense of the magic in the bayou. Several commented about how many sensory details they noticed in the book. You knew how Grandmére smelled, how the hot air felt on your skin, how the light sparkled through the trees.
"I love this book so much because it feels like I'm in the book." -- Meleia
Maddy becomes good friends with Bear, a young boy who lives near her grandmother. Rhodes skillfully develops the plot, as Bear helps Maddy search for the elusive mermaid she is sure she's seen, sticking by her when all logic would say she's imagining it. And this friendship helps her believe in herself and trust her intuition, her sense of family magic as an environmental disaster is about to strike.
Choldenko weaves a plot with plenty of action and suspense, full of historical details but never weighed down with too many details. San Francisco in 1900 was a growing city full of wealth from railroads and the Gold Rush, but it was also a city marred by discrimination against the Chinese American community. In the midst of this, the city leaders try to cover up an outbreak of the plague, and then try to show they are handling it by quarantining Chinatown.
student responses (click to enlarge)
Lizzie can't stand all the expectations for her to act like a lady, prim and proper, when she really wants to become a doctor just like her father. Right away readers get a sense of just how different medical care was at the turn of the 20th century when Lizzie accompanies her father on a house call.
"I really admired how Lizzie wanted to be a doctor and how being a doctor was more of a man's job. She spent all of her free time reading about diseases and sicknesses, and cures. Eventurally, the plague comes and she uses everything she knows to help her family." -- Amelie
The plot is full of twists and turns, as Lizzie overhears her uncle's newspapermen colleagues talking about the plague. When Jing, the cook for Lizzie's family, fails to return home, she sets out to help him. Choldenko's steady pacing kept students interested in the mystery, as the story built to an exciting climax.
"I loved how the plot was very sophisticated, but in a way where there are a lot of little parts to find out what the end would be. In lots of other books, you can figure out the end." -- Talia
Both of these books create a specific setting and characters, so students could create a movie in their mind and imagine being right there alongside the main character. It's interesting that both of these stories are told from the first person perspective, and this helps many young readers step into the shoes of the main character. It will be interesting to see what kids think about the secondary characters in these stories, whether they feel fully developed as individual, distinct people.
The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown and Random House, but we have also purchased additional copies for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Woot, woot! Today is a great day, because I FINALLY get to spread all my Passenger love around! Thanks Hannah for organizing this amazing blog tour, and Disney-Hyperion! I'm so excited to be apart of it, and share ALL THE FEELS with our readers today with my review, a giveaway of Passenger, AND a super special (cough painted by me cough cough) giveaway, exclusively for
Kids ask for funny books all the time, but the Newbery Committee does not often honor books that kids find as truly funny. I try to honor that in the books we consider for our Mock Newbery discussions. Many have speculated that this is because humor is so subjective, but I would argue that it is more because kids value humor so much more than adults. Many kids would prefer book with lots of humor and perhaps less weighty themes.
A tiny magical creature known as a brownie, Angus Cairns is bound by a family curse to serve the youngest female in the McGonagall line. As the story opens, he must travel from Scotland to America to find Alex Carhart, the great-great-great-niece of his recent mistress. Brownies excel at putting things in order, and this could be a huge help to young Alex--except that she and Angus both have feisty tempers that often get in their way.
My students loved the humor in this story. They talked about the magical creatures with delight, saying they were well developed and came alive.
"It was so so funny." -- Kimani "Super funny!!" -- Cavaeyah
I had so much fun listening to the audiobook for this story. Euon Morton especially brought Angus to life, with his terrific Scots accent. I would argue that Coville's use of language is outstanding, especially creating Angus' voice. Just look at how Angus describes Alex: She's a "disorderly, messy, negligent, slapdash, untidy, unfastidious, unsanitary creator of disorder," (as quoted in the PW Review).
Magical animals also infuse Pip Bartlett's world, and she relishes her special ability to talk with them. She can't wait to spend the summer with her aunt, who's a vet for magical animals. But disaster seems to strike around every corner for Pip, whether it's the unicorns stampeding at a school fair, or Fuzzles catching fire as they hide in people's underwear drawers.
"I like this book because I really like the magical creatures and I want a unicorn now." -- Josselin
Students definitely liked this for the magical creatures, but they also recommended it to friends who like funny books. Pearce and Stiefvater create many laughs from both the situations Pip finds herself in, and from the outlandish behavior of some of the animals. As students talked about the story, they started to notice the growth in Pip's character.
"Pip really learns how to connect to the magical animals, and not just talk to them." -- McKenna
Both of these books are the beginnings of new series for established authors. My students are definitely looking forward to the next installments, both scheduled to be published in October.
The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Random House and Scholastic, but we have also purchased additional copies for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.