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1. KU Addendum

 Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference  The official logo of the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference.

My KU Addenda ( or "um", I can't remember which) is up on the Lists page.  But here is the link if you need immediate gratification.

And here is the link to the list I handed out at the KU Children's Literature Conference on Saturday.

Thanks.  Stay tuned for more book stuff.

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2. Dayenu!

Pour the wine (or grape juice) and chop the nuts and apples. Here are some new books for Passover. (And here are two more.)



balsley its a mitzvah grover Dayenu!Two Shalom Sesame series entries, written by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer and illustrated by Tom Leigh, follow Sesame Street characters in Israel as they learn about doing good deeds. In It’s a Mitzvah, Grover!, Grover and friends clean up a playground after a storm, though Moishe the grouch hesitates to participate. In Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration, Big Bird joins Grover and learns about Passover as they do mitzvot en route to a seder. The tone is un-preachy and preschoolers will recognize the friendly cast of characters. (both Kar-Ben, 2013)

glaser hoppy passover Dayenu!The rabbit family that celebrated Hanukkah in author Linda Glaser and illustrator Daniel Howarth’s Hoppy Hanukkah! now joyously observes Passover. In Hoppy Passover!, siblings Violet and Simon participate in traditions such as reciting the Four Questions and preparing the Seder plate. The rabbit-children’s infectious excitement comes across in both text and illustrations (though the cheerful, pastel-colored palette and bouncing bunnies may bring to mind another springtime holiday).
(Whitman, 2011)



adler passover Dayenu!David A. Adler follows up 2011′s The Story of Hanukkah with the The Story of Passover . The straightforward text touches on Jacob and the Children of Israel; slavery and Pharaoh’s cruelty; Moses’s encounter with the burning bush; the ten plagues; and the Red Sea escape. Jill Weber’s expressive, rich-hued acrylics play up the drama (ew, lice) but also offer reassurance and even some humor through small, eye-pleasing details. (Holiday, 2014)

glaser stone soup with matzoh balls Dayenu!Stone Soup with Maztoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm begins with a stranger arriving in Chelm on Passover. Let “all who are hungry come and eat,” sure, but the villagers don’t have much to share. The stranger produces a stone, promising to make matzoh ball soup…and you know the rest. Linda Glaser’s well-cadenced text and Maryam Tabatabaei’s digital-looking art are as light as the Chelmites’ matzo balls (“…so light they can almost fly”). (Whitman, 2014)

kimmelman little red hen and the passover matzah Dayenu!Who will help make the Passover matzah? When Sheep, Horse, and Dog prove unreliable, stereotypical Jewish mother Little Red Hen (somewhat grudgingly) takes up the reins.  The good-natured cadence of Leslie Kimmelman’s text for The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah extends the mother-hen comparison, while Paul Meisel’s affectionate ink, watercolor, and  pastel illustrations keep things from going too far over the top. An author’s note about Passover and a matzah recipe are appended. (Holiday, 2010)

passover lamb Dayenu!Miriam, protagonist of Linda Elovitz Marshall’s The Passover Lamb, is looking forward to singing the Four Questions at her grandparents’ Passover seder. But when a newborn lamb on the family’s farm is abandoned by its mother, Miriam worries she’ll have to miss the seder to care for the unwanted baby. Her solution is unsurprising but charming; soft illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss reinforce Miriam’s affection for the (particularly cute) baby sheep. (Random House, 2013)

portnoy tale of two seders Dayenu!In A Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra, a young girl has gone to six different Passover seders in the three years since her parents’ divorce. At the sixth seder, attended by both her mom and dad, the girl’s mother likens families to different varieties of charoset, a traditional dish: “Some have more ingredients…But each one is tasty in its own way.” The realistic story is accompanied by Valeria Cis’s pattern-filled illustrations. Charoset recipes are included. (Kar-Ben, 2010)

longest night Dayenu!A young Jewish slave describes the ten plagues and the Israelites’ hurried flight from Egypt in The Longest Night: A Passover Story. Illustrator Catia Chien’s dark, expansive acrylic paintings are well matched with Laurel Snyder’s impeccable rhyming couplets (although some illustrations, such as a full-page, open-jawed wolf, may be too intense for very young readers). The concluding spreads, featuring the parting of the Red Sea and a gorgeous sunrise, are a treat. (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2013)

strauss elijah door Dayenu!In a small village long ago, the once-close Lippa and Galinsky families feuded. With the rabbi, their children (who loved one another) enacted a plan to bring their families together for Seder so that Passover could truly be celebrated. How the whole village participates makes Linda Leopold Strauss’s The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale  a warmhearted story of reconciliation and togetherness. Strikingly painted woodcuts by Alexi Natchev illustrate the Passover tale. (Holiday, 2012)

weber yankee at the seder Dayenu!In 1865, a Jewish family in Virginia hosts an unanticipated Passover guest: a Yankee soldier. The “festival of freedom,” here celebrated by people with conflicting beliefs but a common cultural history, has great meaning. Elka Weber’s The Yankee at the Seder, a well-told tale based on actual events, is accompanied by Adam Gustavson’s richly textured oil paintings. Endnotes provide more information about the real-life figures and the Passover holiday. (Tricycle, 2009)

ziefert passover celebrating now remembering then Dayenu!Harriet Ziefert’s appealing Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then presents contemporary Passover rituals alongside a retelling of the festival story. Left-hand pages include “Now” information while right-hand gatefold pages open to reveal the “Then” side: additional details about the Passover tale. Karla Gudeon’s unfussy illustrations against natural-paper-textured backgrounds help illuminate events. The decorated endpapers are adorned with holiday symbols. (Blue Apple, 2010)

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The post Dayenu! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. KU Children's Lit Conference

The Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference occurred today and it was, as always, wonderful.  Thanks so much to all the people who pull this conference together.  The keynote speakers, Frank Serafini, Jim Murphy and David Wiesner, were amazing and the book reviews were, too.  (She lowered her eyes, modestly.)  The problem with being a book review presenter is that you can't see what the other reviewer is doing.  I put out a booklist.  I wonder if she does, too. My booklist is up on the Lists page but check back in a day or two to see The Titles That I Forgot!

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4. Best Books of March 2014

March 2014: 21 books and scripts read

Non-Fiction Picks
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Teen Fiction Picks
Hung Up by Kristen Tracy
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

The Play's the Thing
Alice by Laura Wade (a modern-day adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

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5. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Erin go bragh! Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with nonfiction about Ireland and its history, fiction starring Irish and Irish American protagonists, and a little bit of pure blarney, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.


Picture books

bunting ballywhinney girl Happy St. Patricks Day!In Eve Bunting’s Ballywhinney Girl (Clarion, 2012) Maeve’s grandpa unearths a mummy — common in Ireland, where (a note says) scores of remains have been found. Maeve’s uneasiness at the find turns to empathy for the long-ago girl who, like her, had blond hair. Emily Arnold McCully’s masterful pen-and-ink lines capture Maeve’s feelings; watercolors evoke the lush countryside. This is a sensitive opening to the universal theme of curiosity about death.

depaola jamie orourke and the pooka Happy St. Patricks Day!In Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka (Putnam, 2000), Tomie dePaola’s good-humored tale about the folly of counting on someone else to do your work, Jamie O’Rourke, “the laziest man in all of Ireland,” and his cronies have a grand time while his wife is away, but the house ends up a mess. When a pooka, or animal spirit, arrives and cleans the place from top to bottom, Jamie thinks his problems are over. DePaola’s cozy, colorful illustrations are a good match for the lighthearted, rhythmic text.

wojciechowski fine st. patricks day Happy St. Patricks Day!In the St. Patrick’s Day contest with rival burg Tralah, young Fiona Riley’s idea to paint the town green gives the town of Tralee hope for a win. When Tralee stops painting to help a red-bearded little man in green, it looks like they’ve sacrificed their chance to win. Susan Wojciechowski’s A Fine St. Patrick’s Day (Random, 2004) is a folk-like tale of kindness rewarded featuring a winning heroine and lots of atmosphere in Tom Curry’s rich illustrations.


Intermediate fiction

dowd kathleen Happy St. Patricks Day!A light hand, sharp wit, serious social issues, and a hint of subversion are ingredients in Siobhan Parkinson’s lively Kathleen: The Celtic Knot (Girls of Many Lands series; AmericanGirl, 2003). Times are hard for Kathleen and her family, who live in a crowded tenement in 1930s Dublin. Her opportunity for advancement comes when an unexpectedly kind nun recommends Irish-dance lessons. Well-contextualized Irish words and phrases are further defined in the appended glossary; historical notes and photos are included.

giff nory ryans song Happy St. Patricks Day!Patricia Reilly Giff’s Nory Ryan’s Song (Delacorte, 2000) recounts the tragic days of Ireland’s mid-nineteenth-century potato famine. Twelve-year-old Nory’s struggle to find food for her family brings her to the outcast village wise woman, where she overcomes her superstitions to learn the art of healing. Reflective rather than suspenseful, this first-person narrative allows the reader to become an eyewitness to history. This is a story of raw courage that ends hopefully if not happily. Look for sequels Maggie’s Door (2003) and Water Street (2006).


Older fiction

dowd bog child Happy St. Patricks Day!In 1981, eighteen-year-old Fergus finds a body of a girl from the Iron Age in the bog between Northern Ireland and the Republic. He dreams about her while struggling to focus on exams as his brother, a political prisoner, begins a hunger strike. Parallel themes of sacrifice and resurrection dominate the imagery of Siobhan Dowd’s novel Bog Child (Random/Fickling, 2008), and the suspense sustains momentum. An author’s note gives background.

heneghan grave Happy St. Patricks Day!After construction workers discover a mass grave in his schoolyard, thirteen-year-old foster child Tom falls — or is pulled — into the excavated grave. He emerges from the darkness to find he has traveled through time from 1974 Liverpool to 1847 Ireland. Tom’s colorful first-person narrative in The Grave by James Heneghan (Farrar/Foster, 2000) describes the era of the great potato famine with honesty; his time travel experiences also provide some clues to his family background.


Nonfiction, Poetry, and Folklore

bartoletti black potatoes Happy St. Patricks Day!In explaining how repeated years of blighted crops decimated Ireland’s huge subsistence class, Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine (Houghton, 2001) draws on an impressive array of sources to give faces and names to those who suffered and to those in positions of influence in Ireland and England. Added materials include a map, time line, and discussion of sources. Numerous archival prints add haunting evidence.

brown across a dark and wild sea Happy St. Patricks Day!A picture book biography based on the Irish legend of Columcille, Don Brown’s Across a Dark and Wild Sea (Roaring Brook, 2002) emphasizes the love of books and learning that helped preserve Western civilization during the Dark Ages. The text is lilting; the sentences vary in length and intensity to make it suitable for reading aloud. The design (with calligraphy by Deborah Nadel) is dramatic, and Brown’s illustrations are almost dreamlike in quality. An informative author’s note is appended.

depaola patrick the patron saint Happy St. Patricks Day!In Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland (Holiday, 1994), Tomie dePaola separates his narrative into two sections: the first, a biographical account of Patrick’s life; the second, a compilation of legends. The uncluttered illustrations are reminiscent of murals in their emphasis on essential elements of the narrative. The whole is a well-executed treatment of an appealing subject.

doyle one two three oleary Happy St. Patricks Day!Malachy Doyle gathers together seventeen Irish playground rhymes for calling someone out in One, Two, Three O’Leary (McElderry, 2004), a tale about the O’Learys and their ten children. Illustrator Will Hillenbrand depicts the family as bouncy and jolly, with bright colors against white backgrounds. The premise of the book is quite ambitious (a story told completely in nonsense rhymes), but the pictures tie the rhymes together to tell a lively bedtime story.

doyle tales from old ireland Happy St. Patricks Day!In another collection, Tales from Old Ireland (Barefoot, 2000), Doyle retells seven of his favorite tales, beginning with “The Children of Lir,” one of the best loved of Irish tales. “Lusmore and the Fairies” warns of the need to respect supernatural powers; “Fair, Brown, and Trembling” is a Cinderella variant; other tales are deeply rooted in Celtic mythology. Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are richly colored like illuminated manuscripts. Thorough source notes are included.

snell thicker than water Happy St. Patricks Day!While sharing a common Irish heritage, the voices and styles of the well-known and award-winning writers gathered in collection Thicker than Water: Coming-of-Age Stories by Irish and Irish American Writers (edited by Gordon Snell; Delacorte, 2001) are as refreshingly diverse as those of any top-notch short story collection. A strong sense of place, from a tiny island off Ireland’s west coast to a roadhouse in West Texas, is the common thread of these growing-up stories; that, and the strength of the writing.

souhami mrs mccool and the giant cuhullin Happy St. Patricks Day!Irish folk-hero Finn McCool hides behind his clever wife in Jessica Souhami’s Mrs. McCool and the Giant Cuhullin: An Irish Tale (Holt, 2002), a teasing tale of two cowardly giants. When Finn sucks his magic thumb, he can see fierce Cuhullin, who has his own magic finger, coming after him. Finn runs home to his wife, who hatches a plan to fool Cuhullin and deprive him of his magic finger. Both the light, playful text and vividly colored art are well matched to the comic tale. A well-made source note is appended.

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6. Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014

anderson wintergirls Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014Anderson, Laurie Halse Wintergirls
282 pp. Viking 2009.
Lia, an anorexic and cutter, hears that her estranged friend Cassie was found dead in a motel room–after leaving Lia thirty-three messages. Cassie’s death tips the already fragile Lia into a vortex of self-destruction. Anderson conveys Lia’s illness vividly through her dark, fantastic thoughts. This stream-of-consciousness, first-person, present-tense work is tangled and illuminating.

george looks Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014George, Madeleine Looks
240 pp. Viking 2008.
Meghan Ball is the fat girl nobody notices. She’s hyper-aware, a keen observer of her classmates. Too-skinny Aimee Zorn is a talented poet who’s seriously anorexic. After learning that Meghan’s ex-friend plagiarized one of Aimee’s poems, the two plan the girl’s comeuppance. George’s writing is sharp and insightful, and her treatment of eating disorders never devolves into sermonizing or stereotypes.

metzger trick Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014Metzger, Lois A Trick of the Light
196 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2013.
The narrator of this startlingly original book is a voice inside fifteen-year-old Mike Welles’s head. At first, the voice seems to be on Mike’s side, but then it tells Mike to lie (to doctors, parents, teachers), turns him toward self-destructive behaviors–and pushes him to starve himself. The narrative voice–Mike’s eating disorder, personified–is the star of this masterfully written novel.

walsh doesthisbook Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014Walsh, Marissa, editor Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?
216 pp. Clarion 2008.
In short stories and real-life anecdotes, fourteen well-known authors–from size “XS” Margo Rabb to “XXXL” Daniel Pinkwater–explore attitudes and societal expectations about body image. Their personal reflections are especially affecting. A message of self-acceptance is clear throughout, perhaps inspiring teens to feel more secure about their looks. Recommendations for love-yourself movies, songs, books, and websites are appended.

Reviews are from The Horn Book Guide.

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7. Best Books of March 2013

March 2013: 20 books and scripts read

For adults and older teens
The Graves of Saints by Christopher Golden
Last Breath by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala
Throat Culture by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala

For ages 10 and up
The Lovely Shoes by Susan Richards Shreve

Short Story Time
Down to a Sunless Sea by Neil Gaiman

The Play's the Thing
Translations by Brian Friel

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8. What to Read While Waiting for the Veronica Mars Movie

Ever since the Veronica Mars movie was announced, I've been obsessively checking the Kickstarter page, watching Logan and Veronica clips on YouTube, and reading every piece of news about who is going to be in the film and what the plot my be I can get my hands on. Yep, I love Veronica Mars and I'm thrilled she'll be making a comeback. Obsessed like me? Or new to Veronica Mars and need to get in a YA mystery mood? Here's what you can read while waiting for the Veronica Mars movie:

-Before he was creating TV show detectives, Rob Thomas was writing YA novels. The book just got a new cover and re-released this month.

-High school murder mystery and total fluffy fun

-Veronica Mars if she was born in 1942

-If Veronica Mars was a bit more chick lit and went to a school for spies

-Veronica Mars meets Harry Potter

And if you just can't get enough of Veronica:

Any other suggestions for Veronica Mars fans?

6 Comments on What to Read While Waiting for the Veronica Mars Movie, last added: 3/26/2013
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9. Trends in YA: Dystopian Fairy Tales

Trends are a funny thing. Some come all at once and others seem to slowly creep up on you as you read. I feel like in the dystopian genre there more books coming out that take a fairy twist in a dystopian world. Fairy tales are always popular, but the dystopian twist seems to be taking off. Here are a few I've noticed:

-This was the first dystopian fairy tale I noticed. I listened to it on audiobook when it came out in 2011 and really enjoyed it. It's a dystopian/future/scifi take on Sleeping Beauty.

From Goodreads: Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.

Cinder is  a cyborg Cinderella tale set in the future. I read it and really enjoyed it and liked the cyborg take on Cinderella. It was unique and fun.

From Goodreads: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future

And Cinder's sequel/companion novel, Scarlet. This time it's a future tale of Little Red Riding Hood. 

From Goodreads: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner

This one comes out in April and is another Sleeping Beauty retelling.

From Goodreads: There is no cure for being stung.

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.

Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.

Any others  you have noticed? Do you like fairy tale retellings with a dystopian twist?

6 Comments on Trends in YA: Dystopian Fairy Tales, last added: 3/23/2013
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10. So You Want to Read YA?

Kelly from the Stacked blog rounded up a bunch of bloggers, booksellers, and librarians and asked them to list the YA novels they'd recommend to someone who is just starting to dip their toes in the waters of the Young Adult bookshelves. When she asked if I'd like to kick off this round, I replied, "Twist my arm!" Here are a dozen books to get you started.

Body Bags by Christopher Golden begins with the line: "It was a beautiful day to grow up." Body Bags is the first in a line of ten novels - collectively known as Body of Evidence - which follow Jenna Blake as she begins college and starts working as an assistant at the Medical Examiner's office. I highly recommend this series. Both adults and teenagers will discover plenty to relate to and enjoy in this line. Readers will find Jenna visiting crime scenes and autopsy rooms nearly as often as she's in her dorm. Her relatives, friends, and studies factor into the books just as much as serial killers and detectives.  Throughout the series, Christopher Golden - and, later, collaborator Rick Hautala - created characters who are believable but anything but cookie-cutter. The quality of Body Bags is above and beyond most suspense novels, and it continues throughout the series, versus other series which lose the momentum after a few books, or series in which the books become carbon copies. If you enjoy medical thrillers with great characters, especially if you watch(ed) television series such as CSI or Profiler, or read or watch Rizzoli & Isles, then you need to read these books right now. You won't be sorry.
Read my review of the book, and the entire series.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is, dare I say, a coming-of-age story. It's not about breaking the rules, nor it is about controlling others. It's about daring: daring to be yourself, daring to stand up for yourself, daring to step outside of your comfort zone, daring to change the world. This novel possesses all of the elements necessary for a good bildungsroman, following the protagonist's journey through her formative years. Both snarky and serious, this History is written by the victors: the memorable narrator and the author. Frankie is smart, grounded, and direct, but she also has a quirky side. Author E. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List, Dramarama) writes with heart and authentic feeling. History has an incredible conclusion, and Frankie becomes a remarkable young woman.
Read my full-length review of the book.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is about grief, acceptance, and everything in-between. It's about running - running for fun, running out of fear, running from yourself, running from the truth. It's also about to-do lists, kitchen messes, and really good waffles. It's about long conversations and comfortable silences. It's about forever, which is yesterday, today, and tomorrow - and forever is never long enough. Dessen is always good, and this is Dessen at her best.
Read my reviews of all Sarah Dessen's novels.

Deb Caletti writes really fantastic realistic novels. My favorite Caletti novel to date is The Nature of Jade, about an overachiever who has developed panic disorder. Jade doesn't know yet that she wants something more out of life - and that she is about to meet someone that will change her life.
Read my reviews of all of Deb Caletti's novels.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is an absolute staple of modern YA fiction. This story is an example of how to use first-person narration to connect readers to a largely silent and introverted protagonist - and how to reveal things slowly, to connect actions and emotions. This book is gritty and real without being gritty for the sake of it. Often imitated, never replicated, this book is what inspired the wave of YA books that tackle tough issues.
Check out my Speak playlist.

The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark. Wow, wow, wow. After her mother passes away, Alison is reluctant to confide in anyone other than Laurie, her long-time best friend. She pulls away from pretty much everyone else and decides to quietly lives by the rules she's made for herself. Read it, then share it.
Read my full-length review of The Alison Rules.

I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak, which you should go into completely spoiler-free, so I'm not going to tell you anything about it. Go read it, and when you're done, tell me what you think, because you will definitely have a reaction to how this story unfolds and how it turns out.
Check out my interview with Marcus Zusak - and then read The Book Thief.

Feathered by Laura Kasischke tells the story of two best friends who travel to Cancun for Spring Break. After an auspicious start, the unexpected happens, and their dream vacation turns into a nightmare which they can't simply escape by waking - which, perhaps, they cannot escape at all. Feathered wonderfully captures that feeling of freedom one gets while far from home, when it's possible (easier?) to be uncharacteristically impulsive. Fueled by the toxic intensity of perfect strangers, fast friends, and foreign cultures, the girls find themselves in an extremely dangerous situation, and, in the blink of an eye, everything changes. Every high school student who is planning a big-deal trip for Spring Break (or for any break) needs to read this book - and so do their parents, teachers, and chaperones. So do writers who aspire to craft stories with alternating points of view.
Read my full-length review of the book.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is not your typical boy meets girl story. Sure, it starts when boy meets girl - but then boy asks girl to pretend to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes, and girl agrees. Over the course of one night, two perfect strangers fall in and out of love with life, music, friends, cars, food, the city, and maybe - just maybe - each other. This book definitely popularized multiple narrators in modern YA fiction.
Read my review of Nick and Norah - Check out my own Infinite Playlist

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers shows that sometimes, what you don't do can be as consequential as what you do. Parker was a good girl. A nice girl. A cheerleader. A straight-A student. Then something happened. Something which changed Parker completely. Something she wishes she could change. Her mood, her grades, and her spirits have all plummeted. Haunted, Parker is no longer the girl she once was - and she doesn't want to be, not anymore. Courtney Summers' debut novel is not to be missed. When the characters speak, they sound authentic: some kids swear and some kids laugh while others toss out a word or two while swallowing down what they really want to say. Adult readers will quickly be transported to the halls of high school and feel as if they never left. Pick up Summers' other novels while you're at it, but start with this one.
Read my review of the book.

The Fallen by Thomas E. Sniegoski led the pack of immortal/angel fantasy/action stories that now line the YA shelves. The premise: Aaron has always known that he was adopted, but he never suspected he was half-angel - or that he could be a hero in the ultimate fight between good and evil. Fun fact: Before he portrayed Stefan Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries, Paul Wesley starred as Aaron Corbet in the film adaptation of Fallen - and Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad played Lucifer!

Check out the Fallen website.

Looking for Alaska by John Green has energized a new generation of readers, writers, and all kinds of people searching for their great perhaps. It's thought-provoking, poignant, and lovely. Please read it.
Here's my Looking for Alaska playlist.

For those of you dropping by Bildungsroman for the first time, welcome! I'm Little Willow. Here's a quick intro to me and this blog: In addition to being a bookseller, blogger, and writer, I'm also an actress, singer, and webdesigner. I always have a script or a book in my hands and a song in my heart. I primarily review YA novels, hence the blog name:

Bildungsroman: A novel whose principal subject is the moral, psychological, and intellectual development of a usually youthful main character. (dictionary.com)

Looking for additional YA staples and recommendations? Click through the blog and the corresponding archive for reviews, exclusive author interviews, and more. I have a slew of booklists I hope you'll check out, including:

Tough Issues for Teens

Coming-of-Age Novels

Transition Times / Set in School

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11. Best Books of February 2013

February 2013: 45 books and scripts read

Recommended for ages 8 and up
Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Three by Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith

Recommended for teens and adults
The Waking: A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden and Thomas Randall
Brain Trust by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala
Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

The Play's the Thing
The Skin of Our Teeth by Thorton Wilder

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12. Booklist: (Mostly) Realistic Graphic Novels

One of my favorite people asked me for graphic novel recommendations yesterday, and this is the list I drafted for her. It includes some of my favorites as well as some volumes I knew she'd appreciate because of the art or the storyline or both.

For those of you shocked at the lack of caped crusaders here, don't be too upset; I love those stories, too! This list leans heavily towards the realistic...until you reach the last few titles, because I couldn't help myself. The Coraline graphic novel is one of the best book-to-GN adaptations I've ever read, and if I didn't list it here, along with some Golden books, my heart would hurt. Then, of course, there are the younger series which employ talking animals - and amoebas - but I at least began the list with realistic tales:

Graphic novels for the younger set, sweet stories and adorable art:
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix adaptations by Raina Telgemeier (Get all 4 volumes)
Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm
The Squish series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm
The Flying Beaver Brothers series by Maxwell Eaton III

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Teen Boat! by Dave Roman and John Green
The Alison Dare series by J. Torres and Jason Bone

Artistic protagonists:
The Plain Janes series by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston

12 Reasons Why I Love Her by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

Modern style, dystopic stories:
Uglies graphic novels by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson, illustrated by Steven Cummings
Coraline by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell
Talent by Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, and Paul Azaceta
The Baltimore series by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola

Which of these graphic novels have you read and enjoyed? Which graphic novels would you recommend to me? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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13. Post Downton Abbey Reading List

Downton Abbey is over (with a shocking and frustrating ending!) and now I'm suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal. I've got a reading list full of books that I hope will satisfy my post-Downton Abbey cravings and I thought I'd share what's in my pile and get suggestions for other after Downton reads. Here's what I hope to be reading this year (a mix of YA and adult titles):



                 A couple Julian Fellowes reads:


 And a few re-reads:


What's on your Post-Downton Abbey reading list?

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14. Best Books of January 2013

January 2013: 28 books and scripts read

Best Bets for Kids
Bone: Quest for the Spark: Book #3 by Thomas E. Sniegoski and Jeff Smith
Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy (coming out in August)

Best Bets for Teens and Adults
Prowlers by Christopher Golden (re-read)
A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden and Thomas Randall (conclusion to The Waking trilogy)

Non-Fiction Pick
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

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15. 50 Essential Science Fiction Books, and my commentary

Recently, AbeBooks posted a list by Richard Davies of 50 Essential Science Fiction Books. It's a pretty good list, and I agree with many of the choices, but there are some changes I would make, and some books that I think should have been included.

There were some constraints placed on the list that affected the books selected. Davies was trying for a diverse mix of subgenres and themes, so in some ways diversity overrode influence in making the selections. He also limited the list to no more than one book from each author, so highly influential authors are woefully underrepresented. (How can you choose only one book to represent the canon of authors such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, or Bradbury?)

Working within the constraints as defined, in some cases, I would have chosen a different book to represent some of these authors.

Stranger in a Strange Land
For Robert A. Heinlein, I think I would have selected Stranger in a Strange Land for sheer influence, rather than Starship Troopers. However, my favorite Heinlein book has always been The Door Into Summer, which has been a favorite of mine since about fourth grade.

The White Mountains
For John Christoper, my choice would have been the first book in his young adult Tripods series, The White Mountains, over Davies' selection of The Death of Grass or No Blade of Grass. The White Mountains has been very influential in introducing generations of new young fans to the science fiction genre. Read my review of The White Mountains.

I enjoyed Rendezvous with Rama quite a bit, but I agree with commenters who said that Childhood's End would have been a better selection to represent Arthur C. Clarke.

Additions to the List

There are some books and authors that I was surprised to find weren't represented on the list. A list that excludes Andre Norton, E.E. Doc Smith, and A.E. van Vogt can't really be considered representative of the greatest works of science fiction.

Andre Norton is probably best known for her Witch World fantasy series, but she was also well known for her adventure science fiction for young adults. Storm Over Warlock was significant as an early science fiction adventure novel with a female protagonist.

E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series is probably the foundation on which all other space opera is based. Although some of the societal aspects of the story are pretty cringeworthy by todays standards (ie., racist and sexist) it's still a shining example of what space opera could be. As a teen I loved the sweeping story that traveled through time, space, and history. Although Triplanetary is listed as the first book in the series, I believe that First Lensman was originally the first book and Triplanetary was added later as a prequel (similar to what John Christopher did with When the Tripods Came).

Slan is another book that was a big influence on my younger self. It's been a long time since I read it, but from what I remember of it, it would have a lot of appeal for today's fans of dystopian literature. 

Modern SFF

Some of the modern selections seem odd to me. Although I respect that it's sometimes difficult to identify which of the newer books will have lasting value, I disagree with more of his modern selections than the classic ones. I've never been able to get more than a few chapters into a China Miélville book; I just don't enjoy them and don't see the appeal. And while I loved Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, it's very much a product of its time, and I'm not sure it will have the lasting value to be included on a list like this.

What are your thoughts, fellow SFF fans? What science fiction (not fantasy) would you include on a list of essential science fiction books?

1 Comments on 50 Essential Science Fiction Books, and my commentary, last added: 1/28/2013
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16. Gift Kids with THESE Books

There is always a flurry of recommended book lists that appear in November in anticipation of the holiday buying season. Most (my own included) concentrate on gems and somewhat gauzy suggestions that appeal to the gifted kid, grandkid, great niece or nephew. Not that most kids are that gifted but adults in their lives sometimes make picks that they think the kids might like.

Sara over at Bryce Don't Play takes holiday book selection in a delightful new direction, steering adults away from their insanely stupid inclinations to more practical and soon-to-be-devoured-by-reluctant-readers picks. If you missed this, get on her feed and make sure you follow this blogger!

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17. Pinterest link on SFF booklist page fixed

Apologies—just realized today that the link to my Pinterest with the up-to-date booklists on the old science fiction fantasy booklist page was broken and only linking to the picture of the page, not the page itself. Sorry!

Originally published at Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. You can comment here or there.

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18. Books mentioned in the June 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Picture books
Where the Wild Things Are (1963) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
In the Night Kitchen (1970) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
Outside Over There (1981) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1962) written by Charlotte Zolotow, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.

Easy readers
A Hole Is to Dig (1952) written by Ruth Krauss, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.
Little Bear (1957) by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.
Nutshell Library (1962) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.

Chapter books and intermediate
Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (1967) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 7–10 years.
The Animal Family (1965) written by Randall Jarrell, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Pantheon, 7–10 years.
The Wheel on the School (1954) written by Meindert DeJong, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 9–12 years.

The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm (1973), selected by Lore Segal and Maurice Sendak, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Farrar, 7–10 years.
I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book (new edition, 1992) edited by Iona and Peter Opie, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, di Capua/HarperCollins, 5–8 years.

Brundibar (2003) retold by Tony Kushner, illus. by Maurice Sendak, after the opera by Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister, di Capua/Hyperion, 5–8 years.
Lullabies and Night Songs (1966) edited by William Engvick, with music by Alec Wilder, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
The Nutcracker (1984) written by E. T. A. Hoffmann, translated by Ralph Manheim, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Crown, 5–8 years.

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19. Spanish-English bilingual books

The books recommended below were published within the last several years. While some titles contain only a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary, many are fully bilingual. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.



Suggested ages level for all titles: PS

¡Muu, Moo!: Rimas de animales / Animal Nursery Rhymes written by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy; illus. by Viví Escrivá; English versions by Rosalma Zubizarreta (HarperCollins/Rayo)
Sixteen traditional nursery rhymes are presented first in Spanish and then in a free retelling in English that captures the flavor of the original. Soft, warm watercolor illustrations accompany the rhymes. 48 pages.

Waiting for the Biblioburro written by Monica Brown; illus. by John Parra (Tricycle)
Ana impatiently anticipates the arrival of a burro-riding librarian in her remote village; she reads avidly, writes, and creates her own book while she waits. Spanish words are defined in context and in a glossary. 32 pages.

Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche written by Ina Cumpiano; illus. by José Ramírez (Children’s)
Quinito’s (Quinito’s Neighborhood) bilingual descriptions of his family, friends, and activities are accompanied by naive-style paintings. This book of opposites also succeeds as an exposition of bilingual vocabulary and a portrayal of community. 24 pages.

My Way: A Margaret and Margarita Story / A mi manera: Un cuento de Margarita y Margaret by Lynn Reiser (Greenwillow)
This bilingual tale is structured in an ingenious way, with the English (Margaret’s voice) and Spanish (Margarita’s) mirroring each other on facing pages, but with each girl presenting a distinct self. 32 pages.


Picture Books

Suggested grade level for all titles: K–3

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People written by Monica Brown; illus. by Julie Paschkis (Holt)
Neftali’s boyhood love of reading, writing, and nature informed his poetry and his “dreams of peace.” Stylized illustrations are embellished with words—in English, Spanish, and other languages—related in both sound and sense. 32 pages.

Número Uno written by Alex Dorros and Arthur Dorros; illus. by Susan Guevara (Abrams)
When their village needs a new bridge, architect Socrates Rivera and builder Hercules Hernandez entertainingly pit brains against brawn. Simple Spanish dialogue punctuates the story-hour-ready text with verve.  32 pages.

My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art / Mi papá Diego y yo: Recuerdos de mi padre y su arte written by Guadalupe Rivera Marín; illus by Diego Rivera (Children’s)
In this bilingual tribute, Marín pairs thirteen of her father’s paintings with first-person text. Her personal insight is conveyed simply, letting the art speak for itself. End matter offers more information about the paintings. 32 pages.

Tía Isa Wants a Car written by Meg Medina; illus. by Claudio Muñoz (Candlewick)
The young narrator describes how Tía Isa wants a car that’s “the same shiny green as the ocean.” However, they don’t have enough money—yet. Spanish words are incorporated naturally. Soft watercolor illustrations mirror the text. 32 pages.

Gracias / Thanks written by Pat Mora; illus. by John Parra (Lee and Low)
A boy says thanks to everything, from the sun that wakes him up to his pajamas. Poetic

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20. Books mentioned in the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

5 Questions for Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illus. by Molly Bang, Blue Sky/Scholastic, 5–8 years.

Under-the-sea reading for kids
In the Sea written by David Elliott, illus. by Holly Meade, Candlewick, 3–6 years.
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems written by Kate Coombs, illus. by Meilo So, Chronicle, 5–8 years.
Dolphin Baby! written by Nicola Davies, illus. by Grita Grandstom, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola, Foster/Farrar, 5–8 years.

Summer fun for little ones
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Grey, Knopf, 3–6 years.
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee, Ottaviano/Holt, 3–6 years.
The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos, illus. by Johanna Wright, Dial, 4–7 years.
The Shark King [TOON Books] by R. Kikuo Johnson, Toon/Candlewick, 5–8 years.

Great escapes (some quite literal!) for middle-grade summer reading
Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton, Philomel, 8–11 years.
Summer in the City written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel, illus. by Marie-Louise Gay, Groundwood, 8–11 years.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 8–11 years.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage , Dial, 8–11 years.

Beach reads for teens
37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon, Holt, 14 years and up.
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti, Simon Pulse, 14 years and up.
Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman, Lamb/Random, 14 years and up.
Seize the Storm by Michael Cadnum, Farrar, 14 years and up.


These titles were featured in the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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21. They shouldn’t have to ask us!

I recently received an email from an author stating ”I hate to ask, but…”  She had read the review I wrote for her book and she knew I really enjoyed it, so she asked me if I’d nominate it for an award. Can you imagine how she felt? I assume it’s something like how I feel when I as an author to do an interview, but a little worse.

And, she should have to feel like that, shouldn’t have to ask! Reader, I’m on a mission here to promote literacy for teens of color and by default, to promote authors of color and books that feature teens of color. I feel like I’ve been failing that mission. How about you? Are you promoting authors better than I am, and if so what are some of the things you’re doing?

Here are my suggestions.

  • As soon as you finish reading this post, go to your local library’s online catalog and look up 2 -3 new books by authors of color or that do an excellent job of featuring main characters of color. If the library does not currently own the books, request that they purchase them.
  • Buy your next 2-3 books by authors of color at a local bookstore. Call ahead and if they don’t have the books you want, have them place an order. Wait a few days to pick up the books so that the store employees can have a little time to explore the books.

These next suggestions are really, really important.

Nominate your current favorite books written by authors of color for awards and booklists. We have to stop passively complaining about how few authors who write for teens of color are included in a booklist if we make no effort to have their books included.

You might have missed the opportunity to nominate books for NPRs list of best books ever, but you still have time to vote on the finalists.

Nominations are open for YALSAs Best Fiction for Young Adults. Anyone can nominate a book, but authors cannot nominate their own books. So, nominate for them.

Finally, each state has lists of books that are nominated for awards in that state. These lists are often what teachers look at when selecting books for class reads and many librarians rely upon them to select must have books for their libraries. These lists are critical in getting books by authors of color to become part of the curriculum and thus part of the cultural landscape. Know what list your state uses and know the process for getting books on these lists.

The Cybils will begin soon and what was once a small award among bloggers has grown into something quite prestigious. Be sure to get your favorite authors nominated.

Part of the reason that Latino, African-American, Native American and Asian American authors have a difficult time publishing new books is that they’re not getting on these lists; their works are not getting enough recognition.

Readers, we often hold the key to our favorite author’s success!

It’s really late here. I’ve tried to proofread this, hope I’ve caught my typos but I hope you’re feeling my passion here and I hope it motivates you to do something!


Filed under: awards, Causes Tagged: authors, booklists, literacy
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22. Best Books of July 2012

There were some days in July when I had perhaps 15 minutes to pick up a novel and read. But I'm happy to report that I spent some time writing, and plenty of time reading scripts, rehearsing, and doing research. Since I had a low book count this month, I'll just offer up a few highlights:

Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, the first volume in a planned trilogy, will be officially released this September. I have enjoyed all of their solo efforts to date, so I was eager to see what happened when they collaborated. Burn for Burn is a compulsive read, a layered story in which three teen girls attempt to bring down three peers who have deeply hurt them. I look forward to reading the second and third books, which will be released in 2013 and 2014.
Related posts:
Interview: Jenny Han
Interview: Jenny Han, Again!
Interview: Siobhan Vivian
Book Review: A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
Book Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones - When the Dog Star, Sirius, is found guilty of a crime, he is sent to Earth to live as a dog and seek out something fantastic. This was, if you can believe it, the first standalone Diana Wynne Jones novel I've ever read; I read The Chronicles of Crestomanci and The Dalemark Quartet years ago.
Related post: Diana Wynne Jones Blog Tour at Bildungsroman

At the end of August/beginning of September, I'll post my picks for August. In the meantime, check out my other booklists (organized by topic, age group, time period, etc) and click through the "Best of" tag on my blog.

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23. Friday Catchup

I've been "gone".  So now I have to catch up. 

Seems like everybody has an idea of what books kids' should read.  Oprah has a whole page dedicated to suggestions for age appropriate books for children.  When your young reader has run out of Big Nate books or Dear Dumb Diary books, here's another place to look for ideas.

I finally read David Benedictus' Return to the Hundred Acre Woods.  I didn't want to read it because the original Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner are tied for my number 1 favorite book of all times.  (It's a three-way tie with The Lives of Christopher Chant. )

I was afraid of what Benedictus would do with my memories.  I mean, Disney already reduced Eeyore to a one-note joke.  Without the superb humor of A. A. Milne, how would Pooh and Rabbit and Piglet, to say nothing of Eeyore, fare?

Benedictus is not as laugh-out-loud funny as Milne.  I should not even have hoped for that!  But Benedictus respects Milne's characters.  Sometimes, there is a joke that is overdone or a characteristic that is overemphasized.  But Pooh is not a "fuzzy little tubby all stuffed with fluff" or whatever.  The stories reflect the ways that 8 or 9 year old boys play.  When the animals decide to open a school, Benedictus hits all the right notes.  And Christopher Robin's cricket instructions were quite edifying!  I prefer Lottie the Otter in this book to that whistling gopher in the Disney adaptations. The illustrations were nicely close to E. Shepard's originals.

And the ending left me misty-eyed. So hats off to you, Mr. Benedictus.  You did quite well.  But, one revisit was enough for me.  Thank you.

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24. Best Books of November 2012

November 2012: 31 books and scripts read

For kids of all ages
Make Magic! Do Good! by Dallas Clayton

For teens and adults
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks
Skin Deep by Christopher Golden
Burning Bones by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala
Last Breath by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala
(Can you tell that I'm re-reading the fantastic Body of Evidence series?)

For stage and screen
Am I Bovvered? The Catherine Tate Show scripts
Proof by David Auburn

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25. YAY! NYPL's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

The New York Public Library has posted its annual 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.  Awesome!  Awesome!  Awesome!

It's on the list!!!

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