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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Advance Reader Copy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 62
1. Space Case - an audiobook review

Below is my review of the audiobook Space Case by Stuart Gibbs, read by Gibson Frazier, as it appeared in the December 2014, issue of School Library Journal.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

GIBBS, Stuart. Space Case. 6 CDs. 6:28 hrs. S. & S. Audio.
2014. $29.99. ISBN 9781442376397. digital download.

Gr 3–7— The year is 2040. Dash, his sister, and their scientist parents are inaugural inhabitants of Moon Base Alpha (MBA), Earth's extraterrestrial colony. Housing only a few dozen people and governed by a strict commander, MBA is not exactly a barrel of laughs for a 12-year-old boy. However, when one of MBA's scientists dies suspiciously and a supply ship brings new residents (including a girl his age), life in space becomes much more intriguing. Though the story has many humorous moments—especially involving the insufferable wealthy space tourists—it also has some plausible science. Each chapter is preceded by a reading from "The Official Residents' Guide to Moon Base Alpha," NASA's part propaganda/part instruction manual, containing such riveting topics as "Exercise" and "Food." Narrator Gibson Frazier keeps the story moving at a good pace, conveying suspense without melodrama. Rather than create pitched character voices, he relies on intonation to differentiate among the large cast. His own voice is deep and clear but boyish enough to suit Dash. The narration flows smoothly, broken only by the humorously intended commercial quality of the "Official Resident's Guide." Space Case should appeal to a broad range of listeners but especially space enthusiasts.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

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2. The Terrible Two - a review

Barnett, Mac and Jory John. 2014. The Terrible Two. New York: Amulet.



Miles is moving away from his beloved home at the beach to Yawnee Valley, where the slogan is "Come Look at our Cows."  Miles Murphy, the best-known prankster at his old school, will be attending the Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy,

     Miles awoke with a sense of dread.  He opened his eyes and stared at his blank ceiling.  Last night he'd dreamed it had all been a dream, and now he wished he were still dreaming.
     Miles shut his eyes tight.  He tried to fall back asleep, but downstairs he could hear his mother shuffling around the kitchen, preparing breakfast.  Breakfast smelled like eggs. And cows. Although that might have just been the cows.
     Miles ate his eggs.  They tasted like dread, although that might've just been the dread.

When he's paired up with the insufferable school helper, Niles Sparks, Miles thinks things can't get worse, but they do. Someone else in school is a prankster, and whoever it is, he's outpranking Miles.

What's the best part about pulling a great prank?  Getting away with it, or getting credit for it?  Miles is about to find out!

This illustrated novel is the first in a series that's sure to appeal to middle-grade jokers and pranksters.  The writing style is conversationally funny with great black-and-white illustrations that add to the humor, A goofy, cud-chewing cow with a bell stands in a pasture adorning half of page one, which reads,

Welcome to Yawnee Valley, an idyllic place with rolling green hills that slope down to creeks, and cows as far as the eye can see. There's one now.
The Terrible Two has more than just humor. There are some intricate pranks woven into the plot, and there are well-developed characters in Miles, Niles, and Principal Barkin - all of whom are sure to reappear in future installments. It's got more text and fewer illustrations, but this series should be popular with Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans.


Note:
I have to add that this book had the best Advance Reader Copy promotion ever!  I was totally pranked!  I received a large box in the mail marked "Perishable."  Inside was the big milk carton, and inside the milk carton was my copy of The Terrible Two, a coffee cup featuring cartoon images of the authors, and a signed certificate from The International Order of Disorder proclaiming the holder to be "a distinguished member of the International Order of Disorder."  I will raffle this off to the members of my book club.  Someone is going to be as happy as a cow in a cornfield!

Advance Reader Copy supplied (with coffee cup and milk carton) by the publisher.

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3. The Badger Knight - a review

Erskine, Kathryn. 2014. The Badger Knight. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)


After the great plague, Adrian's father is overly protective. Having lost his wife and daughter, he is determined to protect his12-year-old son, Adrian.  Small and weak, Adrian has what we now call asthma and albinism. In the rural England of the 1300s, however, his condition is more often considered an unlucky and unholy affliction - rendering him only slightly more popular than Thomas the leper. Though he is quick of mind, skillful with a bow, and able to scribe, he is nonetheless treated as useless and dim-witted.

When the Middle March is threatened by war with the Scots, Adrian sees a chance to prove his mettle,

"Soon I hear the blacksmith's voice in my head: Nock! Mark! Draw! Loose! I spread some dirt under my eyes to counteract the bright sun, close my left eye, ready  my bow, and take aim at a single leaf fifty feet away.  On my second shot I split the leaf in two.  As I practice more, I can hit a leaf on my first try, even when it sways in the breeze.  I lose all sense of time and feel like I'm in another world.
Until I hear someone approach through the woods, and I grab my arrows, stowing them quickly with my bow inside the tree trunk.  For years I haven't been discovered and I don't intend for anyone to find me out now.  When the time is right, I will shock them all.  So I stand and look up at the branches to divert attention away from the trunk and to show that I'm simply addlepated Adrian looking at birds."

The Badger Knight is a historical fiction adventure that touches upon many common themes (bullying, friendship, gender bias, coming of age, survival, the nature of good and evil) as Adrian goes off to war and becomes a man - not by might, but by right.

 "... I'm reminded of Nigel and his search for the truth.  I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how these "truths" aren't real at all.  They're things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like me are supposedly angels or, more often, devils.  I didn't believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.
     Now I see what he means."

The Knight Badger is rich in historical details - from the minor particulars of everyday life and the societal hierarchy of medieval England to the gruesome manner of medieval warfare. Erskine offers an unvarnished look into the lives of serfs, tradesmen, religious leaders, free lances, city street urchins, and robber barons. The author's thoughts on the nature of war are on display throughout, but readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and examine their own biases.

A solid adventure story that should appeal to boys and girls.  There is room for a sequel.

On shelves 8/26/14.   Target audience: ages 8-12, Gr 3-7
352 pages

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4. Colors of the Wind - a review


National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 - October 15. What a great time to celebrate the life and work of Mexican-American painter, George Mendoza.  

Powers, J.L. 2014. Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza. Cynthiana, KY: Purple House Press.

As a child, George Mendoza began seeing brilliantly-colored lights, shapes and squiggles, eventually losing most of his sight except his peripheral vision and the ever-present colors.  Unable to play basketball or other do other things he wanted, George took up running. He excelled in the sport and competed twice in the Olympics for the Disabled.  In the back of his mind, however, he'd kept a long-ago word advice from his youth.

One day, a flyer arrived in the mail,
advertising a contest for blind artists.
George remembered the priest, who told him,
"You should paint what you see."

George started to paint,
just like the priest told him to do.
And so began the painting career of George Mendoza.

The text appears in a plain, small font on white pages, accompanied by simple blank ink drawings, often highlighted with colors from Mendoza's paintings.  Each facing page contains a full-bleed image of one of Mendoza's paintings.

Biographical information, photos of Mr. Mendoza, and painting titles are included in the book's back matter.


The joyful, riotous colors of Mendoza's paintings will certainly appeal to children, as will his story of perseverance and purpose.  Enjoy!

You can see photos from Mendoza's "Colors of the Wind" exhibit at the Ellen Noel Art Museum here.  The exhibit is listed with the Smithsonian Affiliate Exhibition Exchange.


My copy of the book was provided by the author.

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5. Skink - No Surrender - a review

Hiaasen, Carl. 2014. Skink - No Surrender. New York: Knopf.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Skink - No Surrender is Carl Hiaasen's first foray into YALit, and he's making his entrance in a big way, employing Skink —the outrageous and outlandish character from his adult novels.

In keeping with his customary practice of setting books in Florida's great outdoors (Hoot, Flush, Scat, Chomp), Skink No Surrender begins on a Florida beach where Richard finds Skink buried in the sandon the hunt for turtle egg poachers. Though at first taken aback by the one-eyed, cammo-wearing giant of a man with buzzard beaks braided into his beard, Richard soon finds out that he is the ex -Florida governor and a force to be reckoned with - even if he is presumed to be dead.

     All kinds of wild rumors got started, and some of them turned out to be true.  According to one Wikipedia entry, the ex-governor became a wandering hermit of the wilderness, and over the years he'd been a prime suspect in several "acts of eco-terrorism."  Interestingly, he'd never been arrested or charged with any serious crimes, and it seemed to me that the targets of his anger were total scumbags, anyway.
     The web article included interviews with a few witnesses who'd supposedly encountered Clinton Tyree by chance.  They said he'd lost an eye, and was going by the name of "Skink."  They had differing opinions about whether or not he was nuts.  The most recent entry quoted the governor's closest friend, a retired highway patrol trooper named Jim Tile, who said:
     "Clint passed away last year int he Big Cypress Swamp after a coral snake bit him on the nose.  I dug the grave myself.  Now, please let him rest in peace."
     Except the man was still alive.
An unlikely pair, Skink and Richard team up to find Richard's cousin, Malley, who has run off with (or been kidnapped by) a young man she met online.

An intense hunt takes the two across the swamps in search of Malley and a dangerous impostor.  Suspenseful and very funny at the same time, Skink No Surrender presents a case for Internet safety, bird habitat conservation, and the value of family, but you'll be havimg so much fun that you won't even notice!

Getting my autographed copy of Skink
See the first 56 pages of Skink No Surrender here.

On sale and in libraries beginning September 23, 2014.

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6. Egg & Spoon - an audio book review

I can save you some time today. If you'd like the short review of Egg & Spoon, click here to read my review for AudioFile Magazine. However, if you want to hear more about this wonderful book, read on!

Maguire, Gregory. 2014. Egg & Spoon. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio.  Read by Michael Page.

Can what we want change who we are? 
Have patience and you will see.

Set in the tsarist Russia of the late 18th or early 19th century, Egg & Spoon is an enchanting mix of historical fiction and magical folklore, featuring switched and mistaken identities, adventurous quests, the witch Baba Yaga, and of course, an egg.

Narrator Michael Page is at his best as the self-proclaimed “unreliable scribe,” who tells the tale from his tower prison cell, claiming to have seen it all through his one blind eye. In a fashion similar to that of Scheherazade, spinning 1001 "Tales of the Arabian Nights," our narrator weaves fantastical stories together and wraps us in their spell.

Ekaterina and Elena are two young girls - one privileged, one peasant - yet so alike that their very lives can be exchanged. Page creates voices so similar that one can believe the subterfuge, yet the voices are also distinct - a necessity in a book written to respect the reader's (or listener's) ability to discern the flow of conversation without the constant insertion of "he said/she said."

One girl finds herself en route to see the tsar, a captive guest of  the haughty and imperious Aunt Sophia on a train to St. Petersburg.  The other finds herself a captive guest of the witch, Baba Yaga, and her curious home that walks on chicken legs. As Baba Yaga, Page is as wildly unpredictable as the witch herself, chortling, cackling, menacing, mothering.

Michael Page is wonderful.  He brings each of author Gregory Maguire's many characters to life with a distinct voice.  He never falls out of character, and his pacing is perfect - measured to keep the listener from being overwhelmed by the story's intricate plot.

Grand and magical, Egg & Spoon is a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.
Notes:
If you find the egg (or eggs) elusive, you will find the spoon even more so!
My copy of the book was supplied by the publisher. My copy of the audio book was supplied by AudioFile Magazine.  

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7. Captain Underpants- the Eleventh Epic Novel!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Captain Underpants fans can rejoice.  The "Eleventh Epic Novel" is coming this summer with everything kids expect - time travel, fiendish villains, a plot with more twists than a bag of pretzels, and of course - Flip-O-Rama, "the world-famous cheesy animation."

In Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000, readers will be brought up to speed on past adventures, as George and Harold re-live (and change) a previous adventure involving the Turbo Toilet 2000.  Super Diaper Baby will make a cameo appearance in a comic by George and Harold, and readers will be introduced to Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold.  There's even a 3-panel Flip-O-Rama.

It's ridiculous, preposterous, and downright silly - kids will love it.


 

On shelves August 26, 2014.

What's next? Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot.

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8. Above the Dreamless Dead - a review


Duffy, Chris, ed. 2014. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. New York: First Second.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Above the Dreamless Dead is an illustrated anthology of poetry by English soldier-poets, who served in WWI.  They are known collectively as the "Trench Poets."

Poems by famous writers such as Wilfred Owen and Rudyard Kipling are illustrated by equally talented comic artists, including Hannah Berry and George Pratt. The comic-style renderings (most spanning many pages), offer complementary interpretations of these century-old poems. The benefit of hindsight and perspective give the artists a broader angle in which to work.  The result is a very personal, haunting, and moving look at The Great War.

This is the "case" for Above the Dreamless Dead.
This, and many other interior photos at 00:01 First Second.

Look for Above the Dreamless Dead in September, 2014. Thanks to First Second, who provided this review copy at my request.

French soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division,
at Côte 304, (Hill 304), northwest of Verdun, 1916.
Public Domain image.
Note: Although this is not an anthology for children, it should be of interest to teens and teachers.  It could be particularly useful in meeting Common Core State Standards by combining art, poetry, history, and nonfiction.
Today is Nonfiction Monday.
See all of today's nonfiction posts at the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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9. Lowriders in Space - a review

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign points out many reasons why it's important to have diversity in books. One of the reasons is that people like/want/need to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. Another is that people like/want/need to see the world through the eyes of people other than themselves. Whatever your reason for seeking diversity in books, I hope you find it in Lowriders in Space.


Camper, Cathy. 2014. Lowriders in Space. New York: Chronicle.
Illustrated by Raul the Third.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Quirky and unique, Lowriders in Space is a graphic, sci-fi novel that extols the virtues of working hard, working together for a common goal, and striving for success despite the odds of achieving it. It's also funny and stylish, and peppered with Mexican-American slang as it shines a rare spotlight on "lowrider" culture.

The cast of characters includes an impala, an octopus, and a mosquito:


  • "Lupe Impala was the finest mechanic south of Vacaville.  She could rescue a dropped gasket, notch a belt, or electrocharge a sparkplug, swish a swashplate or wrangle a manifold with a twist of her wrench a flick of her wrist."
  • El Chavo "Flapjack Octopus wielded the wettest washcloth North of the Salton Sea. When he polished a car, he spun over the paint job like an eight-pointed ninja star flying through the night."
  • "Elirio was the best detail artist around. People were a little afraid of Elirio Malaria."

They're best friends. They work together. They can count on each other.  But can they build a lowrider to win the Universal Car Competition?  They can when they accidentally use rocket parts and get a truly cosmic makeover!

Besides its truly unique and fun characters, I like that Lowriders in Space features adults. The general rule is that books for kids will be about kids. That's fine as a general rule, but a quality children's book about adults is a breath of fresh air.  When I was a very young kid, my favorite things to read were Archie and Veronica comic books and Nancy Drew mysteries.  They had cars and boyfriends and nary a parent in sight (unless you count Nancy's father, who was more like an early version of an ATM than a parent).

Humor?  Lowriders has that, too. My favorite panels?

El Chavo (the octopus) sitting in his new bucket seat (a bucket!). "¡Que suave!"
Elario rescuing the group from a black hole with ... Wite Out!

What else do I like about Lowriders in Space?  The subtitle is "Book 1." I sure had fun reviewing this one. I look forward to seeing more of this unconventional trio.

Back matter includes a dictionary of the Mexican-American slang and scientific terms used throughout the book (it is a sci-fi novel, after all).

Note: 
My advance copy was in black and white, with only a small sampling in color. See full color pages on the book's FB page. [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Low-Riders-in-Space/487615068027769?sk=photos_stream] 

Though I'm a Jersey Girl now, I lived for many years in Southern California. If you've never been stopped at a red light next to one of these bouncing babies, you're really missing something!  Want to see some lowrider action?  Check out this YouTube video, "60 Seconds of Low Riders."

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10. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth - a review

Bruce Coville has done wonderful adaptations of several Shakespearean plays for a young audience, while staying faithful to the mood and dialogue wherever possible.  Now, however, there's a new, edgier, funny Shakespeare in town.  You may have seen many adaptations for the works of Shakespeare, but you've never seen them done like this. 

I present The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue. I was laughing out loud on the very first page!

Lendler, Ian. 2014. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth. New York: First Second.
(Advance Reader Copy)

A hilarious, graphic novel version of "Macbeth" as performed and attended by the denizens of The Stratford Zoo after the keeper has left for the evening. 

Join them in their seats (avoid the skunk!), grab a snack of rotting carrion from the vendors, and enjoy the play!  Panels featuring frequent audience commentary are done in darkened tones to denote the dim lighting of audience seating.  The play's action onstage is presented in bold color.

Intermission occurs when the zookeeper makes an unexpected late-night sweep of the zoo's grounds.

If you're a humor or comic book fan, Lendler and illustrator, Zack Giallongo, present this Shakespeare classic "as you like it" - brief, humorous, and to the point. Teachers and parents, this is a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for the young people in your life.  

(Alternatively, read it yourself and then head out to see some Shakespeare in the park this summer! I'll be seeing Shakespeare by the Sea.)

Due on shelves in September. This is the first in a series.  Look for "Romeo and Juliet" next.

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11. Sisters - a review

Telgemeier, Raina. 2014. Sisters. New York: Scholastic.

(Advance Reader Copy)

Sisters is the companion graphic novel to the award-winning Smile. In Sisters, Raina, her mother, younger sister Amara, and little brother Will are on a road trip to Colorado.  Past experiences and grievances, both large and small are unwelcome baggage on this family road trip. Raina and Amara feud for much of the trip, until one event brings the family together.

Prior events are relayed as flashbacks and appear on yellow-tinted pages.

I have sisters and I have daughters. I can attest to the fact that Raina Telgemeier tells it like it is. It's not the good times that make a family strong, but rather, how it deals with the bad times... and if everything turns out well, the bad times make the best stories.


Publishers Weekly has a 7-page preview of Sisters on their blog.



On a shelf near you, August 26, 2014.

I received my copy of Sisters at Book Expo America. Raina was kind enough to pose for a photo as she signed it. One lucky reader from my book club will be taking it home to preview on Wednesday!

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12. Hope for Winter - a review

First there was Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again (a companion book to the movie, Dolphin Talethat detailed the rescue and rehabilitation of the baby dolphin, Winter. Now there is Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship.


Yates, David, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff.
2014. Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Anyone who has seen the movie, Dolphin Tale, knows the story of Winter, the rescued dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail.  Now, in the book Hope for Winter (and in the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2 movie), people will learn of Hope, another bottlenose dolphin rescued in circumstances remarkably similar to those of Winter's, and destined to bring them together.

In simple language, this paperback picture book tells the story of Hope's rescue and new life at the aquarium,

     When the cast and crew finished filming Dolphin Tale, they threw a party at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They were happily celebrating, when they received an urgent call —a baby dolphin was on her way to the aquarium.  She was very sick and might not survive the trip.  A group of veterinarians, dolphin trainers, and volunteers left the party and started getting prepared.  When the baby dolphin arrived, it was clear that every minute counted.

Back matter includes several pages of information on Clearwater Marine Aquarium, two pages of "Amazing similarities between Winter and Hope," and "Dolphin Facts."

Fans of the original movie, animal enthusiasts, and teachers should love this one.

(Publication date: August 26, 2014)

 


Today is Nonfiction Monday.  See all of today's Nonfiction selections at the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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13. Storm - a review

Napoli, Donna Jo. 2014. Storm. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Stormtold in first person, present tense prose, presents the story of the biblical flood through the eyes of 16-year-old Sebah, an unlikely stowaway aboard Noah's massive ark.

The story unfolds in chapters that correspond with the biblical timeline - 40 days of rain, 150 days for the waters to recede, 10 months until the mountains become visible, 40 days until the release of a bird, etc.
(All can be found in the 7th and 8th chapters of Genesis.)

After chronicling Sebah's three week struggle to survive the deluge with her companion Aban, the chapter titled, "Day 22," ends,

It's another creature.  Like the first, but larger.  And obviously male.  He perches in a round hole high in the side of the ship.  There is a line of such holes.  And I passed another line below as I climbed.
A whole ship of these creatures.
I think of letting go, disappearing into the sea. I let loose one hand and look down. The sea is far below. I feel the energy seep from me. It would be so easy to just give up.
...
The creature behind me nudges my dangling hand.
I reach for the male's hand, and I am half pulled, half shoved up through the hole and into the ship.

Ms. Napoli clearly put an enormous amount of thought into the logistics of preparing for a massive exodus of animals with little or no possibility of resupply for more than a year. She details the grueling work of the voyage.  While Sebah struggles to remain hidden and survive in the enclosure of the bonobos, Noah and his family have a huge responsibility to the ark's inhabitants. The animals must be secure from each other, their enclosures must be cleaned, they must be fed, they must have fresh water. Their survival is imperative. The family collects rainwater, they dry and ration supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables for the ark's herbivores, they fish to obtain fresh food for the carnivores. The family's nerves grow frayed under the stress.  They begin to argue and turn against one another.  The hidden Sebah sees much,

"Respect!" Noah claps his hands above his head, and dust flies through the dim light.  "And haven't you learned arguing gets us nowhere?"  He takes his ax back from Ham. "The bottom deck stinks.  I have to breathe shallow to stand going down there.  Everyone has to help Japheth and me clean it out.  Today! Let our wives feed and water the animals of this deck and the top —while we shovel waste.  Noah goes up the ladder with Japheth at his heels.
How you will perceive this book will depend greatly upon how you perceive the biblical story of the great flood. Arguments could be made for classification as historical fiction, alternative history, survival fiction, dystopian fiction, or fantasy. However you choose to view the book, it cannot be denied that it is a thought-provoking look at the nature of humans and animals, of loss and love, of despair and hope.

An Author's Note, Timeline from Genesis Verses, and Bibliography are included.  Visit the author's website http://www.donnajonapoli.com/ya.html#STORM to read an excerpt.

(I'm not a Russell Crowe fan, but now I think that I might want to watch the movie, Noah, just to see another perspective.)

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher, and was an Advance Reader Copy)


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14. The Time of the Fireflies - a review

I was actually searching for a fantasy book, but stumbled upon a good old-fashioned ghost story instead.

Little, Kimberly Griffiths. 2014. The Time of the Fireflies.  New York: Scholastic.

Larissa Renaud doesn't live in a regular house. As she tells it,

"My parents moved us into the Bayou Bridge Antique Store—a fact I do not brag about. It's embarrassing to admit I share the same space as musty, mothball-smelly furniture, dusty books, and teacups that dead people once drank from."
Sometimes she wishes they had never come back here from Baton Rouge, but her family has a long history in the bayou town, much of it is tragic.

When Larissa receives  a mysterious call on a broken antique phone, she's got a real mystery on her hands.
"Trust the fireflies," 
the ghostly girl tells her, setting Larissa on  a strange and eerie path of discovery. Can Larissa right the wrongs of the past to save her family's future?

Though it highlights rural poverty, bullying, and new sibling issues, The Time of the Fireflies is at heart, a ghost story with a remarkably likable and resourceful protagonist.

To avoid giving away too much, I'll merely mention that readers may see some similarities to Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning, When You Reach Me. The spunky Larissa and author Kimberly Griffiths Little will draw you into the rich world of the Louisiana bayou until you too, are carried away by the fireflies.

A link to The Time of the Fireflies trailer is here.  I'm not posting the trailer here because, honestly, I think the book is better than its trailer.

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher as an Advance Reader Copy.)

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15. Hit By Pitch - a review

Many months ago, I requested a copy of Hit By Pitch from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.  I was thrilled that I was chosen to receive a copy, but it never showed up -- until last week, when I eagerly devoured it, and was not disappointed. This one's not for *kids, but certainly suitable for young adults.


Lawless, Molly. 2013. Hit By Pitch: Ray Chapman, Carl Mays and the Fatal Fastball. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.



If you've ever watched a player get beaned by a baseball, you've experienced the sickening feeling that occurs merely from watching.  In 1920, fifty years before the mandated use of batting helmets, Cleveland Indian shortstop, Ray "Chappie" Chapman, became the first and only major league baseball player to be killed by a pitched ball.  This is his story and the story of  pitcher, Carl Mays of the New York Yankees.

In some ways, it is easy to write about sports as the statisticians make the research simple  - dates, times, players, locations, runs, hits, balls, strikes, averages - it's all recorded history.  However, the single entry in the scorer's book for the game at the Polo Grounds between the Cleveland Indians the New York Yankees, "hit by pitch," cannot explain the tragic story of baseball's only fatal beaning on August 16, 1920.  Molly Lawless uses black and white drawings, period quotes, newspaper articles, and sportswriter commentaries to animate this story for a new generation.

A more perfect tragedy could not be conceived if it were a work of fiction - the odd, sullen and nearly friendless "villain," Carl Mays, versus the cheerful, handsome and beloved athlete, businessman, husband and friend, "Chappie." One will live and one will die.  Both stories end in tragedy.

Fascinating, well-researched, and told with a keen eye for the game and all its intricacies and idiosyncrasies. Ms. Lawless' respect for (and love of) baseball is apparent in every page. Her black and white illustrations evoke the time and spirit of the game in the "deadball era," and an American public, still processing the effects of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal and the relatively new phenomenon of Prohibition. Fans of baseball, graphic novels, history or tragedy will love this book.

*For younger readers interested in this topic, Dan Gutman's, Ray & Me (Harper Collins, 2009), tells the tragic story as part of his Baseball Card Adventures series, combining fact, fiction and a hint of fantasy as the young protagonist travels back in time to great moments in baseball history.


Today's Nonfiction Monday is hosted by author, Anastasia Suen, at her Booktalking blog.

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16. The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


Notes:

My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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17. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot - in color!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.

While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago!  Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.

All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015.  A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.

Read an excerpt and see the new illustrations on Scholastic's new Ricky Ricotta web page.

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 29, 2014.

BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)

The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children.  Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation.  Long live Dav Pilkey!






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18. Baseball Animals - a review


Whether or not you buy MLB's position that Opening Day is March 22, 2014 in Australia (Sorry Australia, baseball "down under" just doesn't feel right), baseball season, will soon be here. Opening Day for the US and Canada is March 31.

If you are a baseball fan, are raising a young baseball fan, or are trying to connect with a young baseball fan, here's the book for you - a marriage of baseball and animals!


Jordan, Christopher. 2014. Baseball Animals. Plattsburgh, NY: Fenn/Tundra.

Which MLB team shares its name with a songbird that loves acorns?
This blue, black and white bird is thought to be responsible for spreading the oak tree across North America.

If the beautiful photograph of my favorite bird on a stark white background doesn't give you the answer, just turn the page to reveal a full-page action shot of a Toronto Blue Jays batter. (Sorry that I don't know which one. Since they beat the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, I refuse to pay attention to the Blue Jays. We fans have long memories.)

Each baseball page features the team's logo, a full-page action photo taken at the ballpark, and some team uniform trivia.  Did you know that the Cardinals (often called the Redbirds) were not named for the beautiful bird, but rather for the color of their original uniforms? Their uniforms were cardinal red. So, presumably they are named after the traditional color of a Catholic cardinal's cassock.  Now that's a great baseball trivia question!

Fun and informative, this is a must-have for little baseball fans. I don't know why someone didn't think of it earlier!  An Appendix of MLB Teams and Logos rounds out the book - featuring all of the teams - even those sans animals on their logos.


Advance Reader Copy supplied by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.



In addition to being St. Patrick's Day, today is Nonfiction Monday.  Be sure to stop by the Nonfiction Monday blog for all of today's featured books.




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19. Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

I'm still working my way through all the books I picked up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  Lulu's Mysterious Mission is the third installment in this illustrated, chapter book series.  I don't know why I never got around to reading the first two, but I'm making it up with a booktalk and a book trailer.  Enjoy!

Viorst, Judith. 2014. Lulu's Mysterious Mission. New York: Atheneum.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher - artwork not final)



Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

Lulu's parents are going away on vacation, and they're doing the heretofore unthinkable, they're going without Lulu! When she meets her babysitter, the militant, Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, and eats her first bean-and-beet omelet (a "taste" of things to come), Lulu begins to hatch some desperate plans.

Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.
Sooner, not later,
Fast, not slow.
That babysitter's got to go.

Funny with frequent asides by the author, Lulu's Mysterious Mission will appeal to humor fans, ages 6-10. Oh, and, yes, there may be a mysterious mission.

On a bookshelf near you, beginning April, 2014.

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20. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain - a review

Angleberger, Tom. 2014. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain! New York: Abrams.

(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

A bi-racial, Jehovah's Witness girl; a poor boy from the trailer park; a nerdy Jewish boyall victims of school bullying.

Sounds like a perfect trio of protagonists for a serious book of realistic fiction, doesn't it? But it's notnot really. These are the founding members of Tom Angleberger's hilarious new creation, the QwikPick Adventure Society, which makes its debut in a new series, The QwikPick Papers.

So, what do this Jehovah's Witness, Jew, and very poor kid have in common? At first, only that each has nothing to do on Christmas Day.  Marilla and Dave don't celebrate Christmas and don't enjoy spending time at home.  Lyle's parents have to work at the QwikPick convenience store all day. But don't feel sorry for them.  It's the perfect day for a secret mission to visit the Poop Fountain, an antiquated aeration device at the town's waste water treatment plant.

Written as an illustrated "report" by the QwikPick Adventure Society, this novel of only 135 pages, Poop Fountain! is stomach-churning disgusting at times, and hilariously funny at others.  That's why kids will love it, but it's not why you should.

You should love it because Angleberger has proved again (as in the Origami Yoda series) that he can tackle sensitive subjects with charm and  a good deal of humor.

     Everybody else was talking about the Super Bowl coming up that weekend, but we all agreed that it was stupid and football was stupid and the Redskins' mascot was stupid.
     Unfortunately, Jeremy heard me saying something and hollered down the table, "Hey, if we wanted any of your crap, I'd beat it out of you."
     "Shove it, Jeremy," said Dave, which was the nicest thing anyone had ever said in my honor.
     When it was time to go, Marilla said, "Hey, if you want, I'll save this seat for you tomorrow."
     That was when, without them even knowing it, Marilla and Dave became my best friends.

Other reasons for you to love Poop Fountain!, "shout-outs" to
  • The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
  • Fred Astaire
  • The Princess Bride (the movie)
  • the BBC
Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014.  Can't wait 'til May?  It's on NetGalley now.

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21. The Giant - a review

Mary-Todd, Jonathan. 2014. The Giant. Minneapolis: Lerner.
(Advance Reader Copy)


The Giant is the latest in the Bareknuckle series featuring young  fighters in New York City, circa 1870.  Luc is the giant - a hulking, kind, illiterate young man who easily wins all of his bareknuckle fights.  The money he earns at the local fight club provides only shabby room and board with any small profit going to Mr. Chilton, the man who brought him from Canada to New York.  Life, however, is better than it was in Quebec; and Luc is not unhappy until a stranger with boxing kangaroos joins up with Mr. Chilton.  Thoughtful and kind, Luc is uncomfortable seeing the kangaroo, Genghis, forced to fight amidst the drunken crowds at the seedy Woodrat Club.

     One day in Quebec, when Luc was chopping wood, a few of the others dragged a man into camp.  The man had been hunting for furs when snow began to fall, covering some of the traps he'd set.  Soon the man stepped into one of them.  The older men brought him indoors before he could bleed out, but it took five of them together to pry the trap loose.
     Genghis's fight the night before worked like a trap on Luc.  Each thought of it was painful, but he could not shake the memory.  He had felt the drain throughout the morning, and he felt it in his room.
Unaccustomed to making decisions on his own, Luc's conscience finally compels him to act independently.

Bareknuckle is a "hi-lo" series, aimed at older, struggling or reluctant readers. There is an art to writing prose that appeals to young adults but needs only a minimal mastery of reading and vocabulary. Jonathan Mary-Todd capably handles the "hi-lo" genre.  Readers will be rewarded with a compelling story of self-determination and a taste of New York history.

For teachers:
  • Pages: 104
  • Reading Level: 4
  • Interest Level: 6-12
  • Ages: 11-18
  • ATOS Quiz #: 163032
  • ATOS AR Points: 2.00
  • ATOS: 4.90
  • Lexile Level: 760
On a related topic, check out this article, "Why Aren't Teens Reading Like They Used To?" 
Hi-lo books can be an option for the teen who doesn't read because he cannot read. As librarians and teachers, we should always have them on hand.

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22. The Streak - a review


Rosenstock, Barb. 2014. The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek. Ill. by Terry Widener
(Advance Reader Copy)

If you know only one baseball statistic, you likely know its one "unbreakable" record - Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.  According to the Author's Note, its probability for occurrence is once every 746 to 18,519 years.  It was the most talked about news story of 1941, even edging out  news of the war raging in Europe.

Oil-painted illustrations evoke the bygone era; references to new immigrants and mention of the war in Europe place the story in the context of history. However, The Streak is essentially a story of baseball, one man, and his favorite bat, Betsy Ann.

When DiMaggio was up, he strolled to home plate.  He didn't pull at his cap, scuff his feet, or make Betsy Ann dance behind his head.  He rubbed dirt on his hands, tapped the plate just once, and set his wide-legged stance.  For a minute, Joe stood perfectly still, then he and Betsy Ann went to work.
The book includes: Author's Note, Statistics, Source Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgments

Baseball, it's my favorite season of the year.  Enjoy The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero, and be sure to take in a baseball game this summer.  You may witness history in the making.  You never know.


Other reviews at

If you're looking for another great picture book about Joe DiMaggio, the 1941 baseball season, or "the streak," be sure to check out The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and the Record-Setting Summer of '41.

This YouTube link will let you see Joe DiMaggio's famous swing and hear Les Brown's popular song of the day, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Check it out.

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23. The Bambino and Me - an audiobook review

Hyman, Zachary. 2014. The Bambino and Me. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra.  Read by Jason Alexander.
(Advance Listener Copy)

Huge baseball fan, Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), reads this fictional memoir of 10-yr-old Yankee fan,George Henry Alexander, in The Bambino and Me. The story simply begs to be read by Jason Alexander who certainly needs no accent coaching to create this believable boy from the Bronx in the summer of 1927.

Babe Ruth has been sold to the Yankees and George is his biggest fan.  When he gets a ticket to a Yankees/Red Sox game for his birthday, he couldn't be more excited! But then comes the error - his Uncle Alvin has given him a Red Sox jersey to wear to the game! His mother insists that he wear it. Enemy colors! What could be worse?

The audio version is filled with the wonderful sounds of baseball and summer - jazz music, the chatter of kids on the street, the crack of a bat, the roar of a crowd. If this audio book were a baseball game, it would be a perfect one.

Recommended for ages 6-9, and unabashed lovers of America's Pastime.

This is "hands-down" the best audio book that I've listened to since Three Times Lucky.
"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."
From Field of Dreams, 1989. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based upon the book Shoeless Joe (1982) by W. P. Kinsella



Note:
 Although it looks wonderful, I can't offer comment on the printed version of The Bambino and Me. I picked up the CD at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, and asked if I could have the accompanying book. I was told that I could only have the CD, which I tossed in my bag where it sat unnoticed and unremembered until this week when I had a lull between audio book reviewing assignments. I'm so glad I remembered it!



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24. Loot: How to Steal a Fortune - a review


Watson, Jude. 2014. Loot: How to Steal a Fortune. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

After my book club meets tomorrow, my Loot will be long gone. Here's a quick preview before it's snatched up.

It begins with a foreboding prophecy regarding stolen semiprecious moonstones:

You will be caught tonight and made to pay.
Death by water, before the moon is set.
Before the passage of thirteen years, the two birthed together will die together.

Two of the prophecies have already come true. Two thieves are dead.

Now, 12-year-old March, son of a thief, must figure out the mystery with no other assets than a getaway bag, some cryptic clues, and remembered advice from his deceased father,

Never trust a guy who says, "Trust me."
Never give your real name to a cop.
Never let someone steal your getaway car.
If you think nothing can go wrong, you'd better think again.

March, his twin sister, and fellow foster home escapees, Izzy and Darius, will match wits with jewel thieves, fences, cops, and millionaires in a desperate search for answers and the mysterious moonstones. This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller with plenty of plot twists and intrigue—a globe-trotting trek with its roots in the underbelly of New York City.


Due on a shelf near you June 24, 2014.
For grades 3-7
272 pages

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25. What's New? The Zoo! - a review

Krull, Kathleen. 2014. What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos. New York: Scholastic.  Illustrated by Marcellus Hall.



What's New? The Zoo? is an illustrated overview of zoos that combines history with hard science and social science.  Kathleen Krull outlines the history of zoos, and offers insight into what compels us to keep animals, what we've learned from them, and what has changed in zoos since the founding of the first known zoo,

4,400 Years Ago, The Sumerian City of Ur, in Present-Day Iraq
The king of beasts lunges and roars.  The King of Ur roars right back, feeling like the ruler of all nature.  How delicious to wield his power over dangerous animals!  It's the world's first known zoo, and all we're sure about (from clay tablets in libraries) is that is has lions.
From this beginning, Krull highlights transitional moments in zoos throughout the ages and across the globe.  Just a few examples include:

  • Ancient Egypt and Rome where zoos were created to impress
  • Ancient China where the zoo was a contemplative and sacred place
  • Sweden where the science of zoology was established in 1735
  • The U.S. National Zoo where the concept of zoos protecting threatened species was introduced
  • South Africa's Kruger National Park where the protection of rhinos was so successful that rhinos were delivered to other zoos
  • Germany, 1907, where the "cageless zoo" concept is introduced
(Did you know that Aristotle wrote the first encyclopedia of animals?)

On most pages, humorous, watercolor illustrations nestle around paragraphs of simple font against white space.  Several pages, however (including one depiction of fifteen buffalo waiting for a train at Grand Central Station, 1907), are double-spreads with many amusing details.

The very talented Kathleen Krull never disappoints!  If you like your science accessible and entertaining, this is the book for you.

A SLJ interview with Kathleen Krull on the history of zoos.

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