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1. The last word goes to Mo and Dale of Tupelo Landing

I can't let the year end without a shout out to Sheila Turnage's Mo and Dale.  Her latest Mo and Dale Mystery is The Odds of Getting Even (Penguin, 2015).  The Mo and Dale Mystery series is my favorite middle grade series. Each new book is as good as the last.  Each is filled with insightful humor, Southern-style hospitality, and all the eccentricities of small town living. The characters in Sheila Turnage's fictional town of Tupelo Landing, NC, will leave you begging for another chance to visit.

In The Odds of Getting Even, Mo and Dale, a.k.a. The Desperado Detectives, have another case on their hands.  Dale's no-good dad is on the lam and the whole town is on edge.

As usual, the café run by Mo and her "family of choice," the Colonel and Miss Lana, takes current events in stride,

I turned back to the Azalea Women. "Welcome and thank you in advance for your generous tips."  Generous tips equals a flat-out lie, but like Miss Lana says, you don't stop pitching just because nobody's swinging.  I draped a paper napkin over my arm. "Today, our Get Out of Jail Free Delight feature Free-Range Eggs, Potatoes at Large, and Bacon a la Parole.  We also got the Colonel's famous Tofu Incognito--a vegan delight featuring tofu scrambled up to look like somebody else.  A Special runs six dollars and includes a basket of All Rise Biscuits.  May I take your order?"

"Get Out of Jail and coffee," they chorused.  "How's Dale holding up?"

Once again, Sheila Turnage has written a book that deals with a serious topic (a father who is frequently on the wrong side of the law) in a humorous way. As narrator, Mo LoBeau offers up witty, often hilarious dialogue and commentary. There is much homespun wisdom in the the little town of Tupelo Landing.  Here are just a few examples from The Odds of Getting Even:

Mo (on the perceived indignity of wearing hand-me-down clothes):
"Dale's a musician.  He enjoys vintage outfits," ... "Besides, Miss Lana says most everything in life worth having is handed down."

Dale (voicing his opinion to a news reporter):
Your articles make it seem that way.  But a lot of people thinking flat don't change round.
Mo (her take on beauty):
Attila's face would be pretty if she didn't live behind it.
Dale (on "getting even"):
The only even you ever get is inside yourself--when you don't need to get even anymore.


If you haven't read them yet, don't miss the first two Mo and Dale Mystery novels.

Book 1

Three Times Lucky - a link to my review of the audiobook read by Michal Friedman
[http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2013/08/three-times-lucky-audiobook-review.html]

Book 2
The Ghost of Tupelo Landing - a link to my review for AudioFile Magazine
[http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/88494/]


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2. Top 5

Creative Commons 5 Search
Well it's that time of year.  Looking back and looking forward.  Combing through my goodreads to look at what I read but didn't have time to blog.  Looking at other people's blogs to see what they have been loving in 2015.

What follows are my top 5 titles.  These are not *the* top five, simply five favorites of mine.

I'd love to hear about your favorites of 2015 as well, so please feel free to use the comments to let folks know what your top 5 titles are!!




First off, we have The Water and The Wild, by K.E. Ormsbee.  This book showed up in the mail for me one day, and boy I sure am glad it did.  There hasn't been loads of buzz around it, but THERE SHOULD BE!  As I've said before this is a charming story filled with magic and friendship and it's right up my alley!  If you don't want to take my word for it, check out Nafiza's review over at The Book Wars!






Next up is A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano.  This book is a slow burn for me.  Of course, I was immediately drawn to the cover, but the story of Pram is a curious one, and she has taken up residence is a corner of my mind.  Perfectly creepy, this one dips its' toes into the truly frightening but has hope woven through all the text. This one gets some love over at Good Books & Good Wine as well!






On to Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Here's where I kick myself for not blogging this one.  These are my favorite sisters in children's books.  They've even beaten out those Penderwick girls.  I am thinking this summer I may get my hands on the audio books for all 3 titles in the series and share them with my daughters. I feel like they beg to be enjoyed aloud.  Filled with humor, heart and family this was a super satisfying conclusion to the series.





Oh, The Truth About Twinkie Pie, I love you so.  Kat Yeh has written a story about family secrets, family history that is filled with charm and heart.  I love discovering stories that examine class differences, and Yeh does so with aplomb and manages to avoid falling into the didactic.  Every tween I've handed this to has come back raving about it.  Check out this review in the emissourian!






And rounding it out is My Diary from the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson.  This one is all about the world and the journey.  I just loved Gracie's family. The fact that they are slightly broken but hopeful in different ways created a kind of magic for me.  I loved imagining the USA as a place filled with dragons and overgrown cityscapes.  It really made me sit up and notice.






What are YOUR top 5 titles of 2015?

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3. My favorite books of 2015

It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many!  But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family.  As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).

So, for now, the best that I can do is this:

In middle grade fiction, I loved Echo: A Novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Here's a link to my review: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/02/echo-novel-review.html  




In picture books, If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson is simply perfect. My review is here: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/03/picture-book-roundup-new-or-coming-soon.html



I listened to lots of great audiobooks, but I think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was tops. I reviewed it for AudioFile Magazine.  Here's the link: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101740/  (Diary of a Mad Brownie is a very close second!)



For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst (for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book for little ones dealing with loss.


In adult books, it was Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellIt's no surprise.  I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.

Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing.  Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine.  I'm comfortable there.  You can see my virtual library of over 1600  searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing.

I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.

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4. #798 – If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree by Eric Gibbons and 30 Art Teachers

If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree An Illustrated Introduction to Art History for Children by Art Teachers Written by Eric Gibbons Illustrated by 30 Art Teachers Firehouse Publications     9/09/2014 978-1-940290-33-1 100 pages   Ages  7+ “This book was conceived of, written by, illustrated by, and created by 30 art teachers from all over the …

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5. #797 – A Very Merry, Mixed-Up Christmas by Chrysa Smith & Pat Achilles

A Very, Merry, Mixed-Up Christmas Series: The Adventure of the Poodle Posse, #5 Written by Chrysa Smith Illustrated by Pat Achilles The Well Bred Book     9/01/2015 978-0-692-48293-3 44 pages     Ages 7—9 “In a Very Merry, Mixed-Up Christmas, you’ll experience the excitement that the holidays hold, the angst that Santa feels when Elfluenza …

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6. The World’s BEST Hug

Dear Readers, I was going to present this to you on Christmas day, but today, both reviews I tried to write did not have everything in to me. It is too late to start again. Yes, I should have checked before I started, but being they are Christmas books, I . . . never still …

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7. #796 – The Night before Christmas: A Brick Story by Clement C. Moore & Amanda Brack

. The Night Before Christmas: A Brick Story Written by Clement C. Moore Illustrated by Amanda Brack Sky Pony Press     10/06/2015 978-1-63450-179-8 32 pages         Ages 4—8 “’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a Lego mouse! “You and your …

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8. #795 – The Reindeer Dance by Christianne C. Jones & Emma Randall

The Reindeer Dance Series: Holiday Jingles Written by Christianne C. Jones Illustrated by Emma Randall Picture Window Books     8/01/2015 978-1-4795-6496-5 20 pages     Ages 0—3 “Move like Santa’s reindeer, Hop in a graceful prance. Then twirl and spin and shake To do the reindeer dance!” [back cover] “Move those hooves and dance …

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9. #794 – Kid Athletes by David Stabler & Doogie Horner

Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends Series: Kid Legends Written by David Stabler Illustrated by Doogie Horner Quirk Books      11/17/2015 978-1-59474-802-8 208 pages      Ages 8—12 “Forget the gold medals, the championships, and the undefeated seasons. When all-star athletes were growing up, they had regular-kid problems just like you. …

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10. 2015 Book Favorites

I’ve been looking at all of the year-end book lists and getting even MORE recommendations for my To-Be-Read (TBR) list. Since moving into the city, I have been able to read more books. But I’ve also become a book hoarder as well and there is a ton of books still on my nightstand.

I think YA author Beth Revis said it best on Twitter:



However I still want to share with you some books that I did enjoy this year. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

2015Favorites

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Slade House by David Mitchell
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
When by Victoria Laurie

Hope everyone is ending the year on a positive note and that 2016 will be even bigger and better for all of you! :)

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11. #793 – Orangutanka: A Story in Poems by Margarita Engle & Renée Kurilla

LAST DAY! $50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  . Orangutanka: A Story in Poems Written by Margarita Engle Illustrations by Renée Kurilla Henry Holt & Company     3/24/2015 978-0-8050-9839-6 32 pages     Ages 4—8 “All the orangutans are ready for a nap in the sleepy depths of the afternoon . …

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12. #792 – The Knights before Christmas by Joan Holub & Scott Magoon

ENDS IN 2 DAYS! $50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  . The Knights Before Christmas Written by Joan Holub Illustrated by Scott Magoon Henry Holt & Co.      9/08/2015 978-0-8050-9932-4 32 pages      Ages 4—8 “’Twas December 24th, and three brave (but somewhat clueless) knights were just settling …

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13. #791 – The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading

$50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  . The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading 2/22/2015 (originally 12/18/2014) 978-1-50563366-4 236 pages     Ages 8—12 “[This is] the story of Ayana Fall and Tyler Travers, two best friends who stumble across an extraordinary magical book and soon find themselves …

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14. #790 – The Best Part of Christmas by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

$50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  The Best Parts of Christmas Written & Illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia Candlewick Press    9/22/2015 978-0-7636-7556-1 32 pages    Ages 4—8 “Fritz knows that the best parts of Christmas—from decorating to sharing treats ad opening presents—happen around the tree. And Fritz gets to …

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15. #788 – Stay! by Alex Latimer

$50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  . Stay! A Top Dog Story Written & Illustrated by Alex Latimer Peachtree Publishers     9/01/2015 978-1-56145-884-4 32 pages     Ages 4—8 “Looking after Ben’s dog, Buster, is no walk in the park—Buster is messy, he is rowdy, he is EXHAUSTING! But Ben loves …

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16. #787 – Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda

$50 Gift Certificate Holiday Giveaway Enter here:   Mudpuppy Holiday Giveaway  . Here Comes Santa Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrations by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers  10/21/2014 978-0-8037-4100-3 88 pages     Age 3—5 . “HO, HO . . . WHO? CAT! NOT AGAIN. “The holidays are around …

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17. Picture Book Roundup - December Holiday edition

Each year, hundreds of new holiday books are printed. Many are trite, forced, or pedantic—but not these gems.  Here are my five new favorites. Readjoice! 

  If you have trouble viewing the slideshow, visit it on Riffle.
Featured books:
  • A Homemade Together Christmas
  • Oskar and the Eight Blessings
  • Me and My Dragon: Christmas Spirit
  • Too Many Toys!
  • Miracle on 133rd Street

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18. #785 – Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream by Tom Watson

Look at all the falling snow. (Move your mouse right and left and watch the snow switch direction.) Virtual snow I can love. Real snow, not so much. What happened? As a kid I loved snow, played outside in the snow, was thrilled to see snow falling. Now, I groan. You might find yourself groaning …

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19. #776 – Bear and Bunny by Daniel Pinkwater & Will Hillenbrand

This month is Picture Book Month for those who love picture books, and Picture Book Idea Month if you are on the writing or illustrating end of picture books. Continuing with that theme is a wonderful, heartfelt picture book by Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand. Bear and Bunny Written by Daniel Pinkwater Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand …

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20. #777 – The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen & Dan Hanna

THE NOT VERY MERRY POUT-POUT FISH VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish Written by Deborah Diesen Illustrations by Dan Hanna Farrar Straus Giroux BYR    9/08/2015 978-0-374-35549-4 32 pages     Ages 2—6 “A gift should be BIG, And a gift should be BRIGHT, And a gift should be PERFECT— Guaranteed to …

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21. Frog Explains Why He Doesn’t Want to be a Frog!

Kid Lit Reviews is pleased to welcome Frog and his father. Frog is the star in Dev Petty’s debut picture book, I Don’t Want to be a Frog! from  Doubleday Books for Young Readers and artist Mike Boldt. Frog doesn’t like being a frog. He’s rather be a cat, or an owl, or even a pig. Dad just …

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22. #778 – I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty & Mike Boldt

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog Written by Dev Petty Illustrated by Mike Boldt Doubleday Books for Young Readers  2/10/2015 978-0-385-37866-6 32 pages      Ages 2—6 . “Let me ask you something . . . If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be? Probably NOT a frog, right? …

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23. #781 – A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Mo

A Dog Wearing Shoes Written & Illustrated by Sangmi Ko Schwartz & Wade Books    9/29/2015 978-0-385-38396-7 32 pages     Ages 4—8 A Junior Library Guild Selection “When Mini finds a dog wearing bright yellow booties, she wants to keep him. And who wouldn’t?! But a dog with shoes on must belong to someone, …

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24. #783 – Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd

Saturday was an exciting day. My Ohio State Buckeyes won the border battle against University of Michigan. I was not expecting the trouncing Michigan took in their, no, in Ohio State’s win. Score: 42 to 13. By all rights the Bucks should have had 45 points, but instead of a field goal, they ran out …

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25. #784 – Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka & Chuck Groenink

Last year, I was hospitalized from September until March and was unable to bring you this wonderful Christmas book from Bob Raczka and Chuck Groenink (Carolrhoda). I love this picture book and its illustrations of life at the North Pole–the simplified, down-to-earth version–and Santa’s poems, one haiku for each day, from December 1st to 24th. I am …

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