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Results 1 - 25 of 253
1. DinoWriMo: Great Ladies

Who was dinosaurs’ favorite children’s book review journal editor? (sorry, Roger)

Zena Sutherland

Zena Sutherland

Xenotarsosaurus Sutherland.



For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

The post DinoWriMo: Great Ladies appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. DinoWriMo: Imprints

You know some fossils are imprints. But did you know what a dinosaur’s favorite imprint is?


ROARing Brook Press.


For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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3. Jacqueline Woodson, why are you so poet?

woodsonWhen the Cambridge Public Library announced that Brown Girl Dreaming would be this year’s Cambridge Reads book I was beyond thrilled. Now Jacqueline Woodson and I would be best friends! I’d say, Jacqueline, you are my hero, thank you for your perspective, your advocacy and for creating windows and mirrors for my students! Then she would say, Liz, I love your outfit and I would be like, I love your shoes! And together we would join forces to bring children representative literature and diversity to publishing practices and live happily ever after librarian and author best friends. The end.

While this particular fantasy did not come to fruition, she did in other ways fulfill my dreams for myself and my students who I brought with me. I don’t know if you have seen Jacqueline Woodson in person or heard her speak, but do yourself a favor and try to do just that. She is not only a dynamic author and speaker but also quite relatable, adding another layer to her already great capacity as a social commentator and leader in the field.

woodson_brown girl dreaming_170x258The audience was immediately endeared by her “Just Like Us” struggle to find the right outfit for that night (OMG you guys — I never know what to wear!). And just as you might think, she brought a deeper meaning to that seeming mundanity — recounting to the audience the advice passed down through the women in her family, now including Jacqueline’s thirteen-year-old daughter, about always looking smart. It’s a reminder that when you enter a room, your arms enter, your legs, your butt, your body…so wrap them up presentably. Jacqueline told us that’s why she usually wraps herself up in black.

The evening continued like this, bringing meaning and enlightenment to the audience. Adults were clearly moved. But it was the children in the audience — they added the poignancy and importance to the night. I felt immense pride as I looked over to see my students leaning forward not to miss a word, how they dutifully looked through the copies of their books to find the passages she was reading from, how when they asked questions, there were forethought, curiosity, and eagerness in their words.

The question-and-answer line went on for miles — all children! and all great questions (people were really interested in Jacqueline’s little brother, Roman). Close to the end, one girl in the audience asked  earnestly, “Why are you so poet?”I am not sure, little girl, but thank god she is.

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4. DinoWriMo: Authors

Who’s a dinosaur’s favorite children’s book creator?

Mac Barnett, Roger Sutton, Adam Rex

Mac Barnett, Roger Sutton, Adam Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex’s kid-brother, Adam.

Adam Rex

For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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5. Recommended books about adoption

This past Saturday, November 21st, was National Adoption Day, “a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families.” To celebrate, we’ve pulled together a list of recommended titles featuring adoption, all reviewed and recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews (with dates) reprinted below.

Picture books

cordell_wish“We wish you were here.” Two elephants describe their experience anticipating their child’s arrival in Matthew Cordell’s Wish. This poetic birth/adoption tale has an exquisitely light touch; pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations make what’s at stake clear. Try to keep a dry eye when a late-in-the-book illustration shows an ocean parting to reveal a child for its expectant parents on shore. (Disney/Hyperion, 2015)

dyckman_wolfie the bunnyIn Ame Dyckman’s Wolfie the Bunny, Dot isn’t pleased when a baby wolf foundling is left on the Bunny family’s doorstep — “HE’S GOING TO EAT US ALL UP!” Her smitten parents ignore her. At the market, however, Wolfie is a boon to his big sister when a bear lunges toward them yelling, “DINNER!” The text’s humor keeps scariness in check; Zachariah OHora’s cartoonish acrylic paintings with comical touches match the tone. (Little Brown, 2015)

friedman_star of the weekCassidy-Li, whose parents adopted her from China, is Star of the Week in kindergarten. She’s making a poster with photos of the important people in her life, “but something is missing.” What about her birth parents, whom she doesn’t know? Author Darlene Friedman and artist Roger Roth, adoptive parents themselves, give their protagonist plenty of personality as they thoughtfully explore questions faced by adoptive families in Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles. (HarperCollins, 2009)

heo_ten days and nine nightsA Korean American girl eagerly anticipates the adoption of her baby sister from Korea in Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story. Details are basic: Mommy leaves on an airplane, and big-sister-to-be helps Daddy, Grandpa, and Grandma prepare. Commendably, the story focuses on the girl’s experience rather than attempting to tug at parental heartstrings. Author-artist Yumi Heo’s airy illustrations match the child-friendly perspective. An author’s note offers brief facts about international adoption. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 2009)

joose_nikolai the only bearBecause he growls and doesn’t “play nice,” Russian orphan Nikolai hasn’t been adopted yet; the art portrays him (and only him) as a bear. But Nikolai turns out to be the perfect child for one American couple, who feel “soft-bearish” and who know how to growl. Touches of humor in Barbara Joosse’s text and Renata Liwska’s art keep Nikolai, the Only Bear from becoming cloying. (Philomel, 2005)

lopez_best family in the worldContrary to her fantasies, orphan Carlota’s terrific new parents don’t turn out to be pastry chefs, pirates, etc., but they do bring her yummy pastries and pretend to dig for buried treasure. In Susana López’s The Best Family in the World, the light-handedness of storytelling belies the book’s depth, and the domestic scenes of Carlota and her new family are as wondrous as the scenes she imagined in Ulises Wensell’s illustrations. (Kane/Miller, 2010)

miura_big princessTaro Miura’s The Big Princess is a companion to The Tiny King with a welcome adoption-story aspect. A childless king finds a bug-size princess. His and the queen’s love for her grows daily — as does the princess. How to stop her from outgrowing the castle (and the family)? Digital collages feature improbably harmonizing elements: geometric shapes coexist with realistic imagery, and characters with Hello Kitty–like blank faces live out emotional scenes. (Candlewick, 2015)

parr_we belong togetherTodd Parr’s We Belong Together: A Book about Adoption and Families lists things that children need (a home, kisses) and explains that the parents and children pictured belong together because the adults can provide these things. The text is as simple as Parr’s bold illustrations, which feature many gender and color combinations (some people are blue and purple). The message is a bit obvious, but it’s a worthy and welcome one. (Little/Tingley, 2007)

sierra_wild about youWhen the zoo animals start having babies, two pandas and a tree kangaroo bemoan their childless state. Soon, however, the three find themselves with families that aren’t what they expected. Judy Sierra’s rhymes include plenty of surprises; Marc Brown’s illustrations feature a gently colored palette and little patterns. Like the duo’s Wild About Books, Wild About You! is good both for group sharing and as a bedtime story. (Knopf, 2012)

thisdale_niniA baby in a Chinese orphanage misses “a special voice and the promises it had made.” Far away, a couple longs for a baby to love. François Thisdale’s heartfelt sentiments in Nini are illustrated with a striking combination of drawing, painting, and digital imagery. At times this adoption tale strains for lyricism, but the feelings will resonate with many adoptive parents (if not their children). (Tundra, 2011)


Chapter books

harper_just grace and the terrible tutuTwo chapter books in Charise Mericle Harper’s Just Grace series have adoption-related plotlines. In Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu, Grace’s best friend Mimi’s parents are adopting a little girl. When the friends are hired as mother’s helpers by a neighbor, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Mimi to practice being a big sister. In Just Grace and the Double Surprise, Mimi’s little sister arrives, and things don’t go as planned. These entertaining stories are filled with Grace’s insightful, humorous commentary and amusing cartoon drawings, charts, and lists. (both Houghton, 2011)


Middle-grade fiction

ellis_out of the blueIn Out of the Blue by Sarah Ellis, Megan learns that as a young woman, her mother gave birth to a baby girl and placed her for adoption. Now, twenty-four years later, that child has sought out her birth mother. The family adjusts to this new situation, but Megan cannot reconcile herself to knowing that she may no longer be first in her mother’s affections. A rich story, written with grace and empathy, in which very real troubles are tempered with humor and love. (McElderry, 1995)

hof_mother number zeroIn Mother Number Zero by Marjolijn Hof, well-adjusted adopted child Fejzo decides to search for his birth mother (whom he calls “Mother Number Zero”). His hugely understanding parents are nervously supportive, but his sister (also adopted) is resentful. Once the search becomes official, Fejzo begins to have his own doubts. This quiet, thoughtful, and nuanced Dutch import is an original and touching addition to the literature of adoption. (Groundwood, 2011)

levy_misadventures of the family fletcherDana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, four adopted (and racially diverse) brothers and two dads star in this Penderwicks-esque chronicle of a year in their lives. Focusing each chapter on one boy while still keeping the whole family in the picture, Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. Readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family. (Delacorte, 2014)

walter_close to the windIn Close to the Wind by Jon Walter, young Malik escapes from an unnamed war-torn country and grows up quickly in the company of older boys on the refugee ship. Once Malik arrives in the New World, he is adopted–but now that he is safe, Malik falls apart emotionally. Walter tells this suspenseful displacement story with restraint, the accumulation of small, concrete details in each scene sustaining tension. (Scholastic/Fickling, 2015)


Young adult fiction

kearney_secret of meIn Meg Kearney’s The Secret of Me, fourteen-year-old Lizzie was adopted as an infant, a fact she shares only with her closest friends. With their help, she reconciles her desire to know her birth mother with her overall contentment as part of a loving family. This sensitive, cathartic novel is told entirely through Lizzie’s poetry and includes author’s notes on poetics, recommended reading, and Kearney’s own adoption experience. The sequel, The Girl in the Mirror: A Novel in Poems and Journal Entries, is also beautifully wrought with memorable characters and true-to-life issues. (Persea, 2005 and 2012)

smith_alex crowIn Andrew Smith’s The Alex Crow, fifteen-year-old war refugee Ariel is adopted into the family of “de-extinction” scientist Jake Burgess and sent to camp with adoptive brother Max. Meanwhile, psychotic Leonard Fountain is on a deranged road trip. And the crew of the ship Alex Crow fights for survival on an ill-fated late-nineteenth-century Arctic voyage. Strong prose with a distinct teenage-boy sensibility anchors this ambitious novel’s exploration of survival and extinction. (Dutton, 2015)

zarr_how to save a lifePregnant eighteen-year-old Mandy agrees to live in the home of the woman, Robin, who is adopting her baby in Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Robin’s daughter Jill hates the idea, still grieving her father’s death. Mandy and Jill’s distinct voices tell their intertwined stories. The girls’ growth is made realistic through small inroads and slow progress. The depth of characterization is exceptional in this rewarding read. (Little, 2011)



deprince_taking flightMichaela DePrince’s inspirational memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina (co-written with Elaine DePrince) traces Michaela’s journey: from an orphanage in war-ravaged Sierra Leone, through her adoption by an American couple, and finally to her rising ballet stardom (appearing in the documentary First Position; joining the Dutch National Ballet). Throughout, the daughter-and-mother writing team emphasizes how important optimism, love, and perseverance were to Michaela’s success. Striking textual imagery heightens the immediacy of Michaela’s experiences, whether tragic or triumphant. (Knopf, 2014)

hoffman_welcome to the familyMary Hoffman’s Welcome to the Family, a chatty, informative survey, covers all the bases, from families formed by birth and adoption to foster and blended families. Same-sex and single parents are represented in friendly cartoon art and text; mixed-race families are depicted in the Ros Asquith’s illustrations. The tone is light, though Hoffman acknowledges that things don’t always “go smoothly.” A teddy bear appears on most spreads, adding its own commentary. (Frances Lincoln, 2014)

rotner_i'm adoptedI’m Adopted! by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly features simple, conversational text and loads of colorful, engaging photos to cover how families are formed through adoption. The authors approach the subject in very general terms, allowing children to impose their own experiences. While most of the book is upbeat, the loss inherent in adoptions is also acknowledged. Children touched by the subject will find the straightforward discussion reassuring and easy to understand. (Holiday, 2011)

skrypuch_one step at a timeOne Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (sequel to Last Airlift) describes Tuyet’s adjustment to life with her adoptive Canadian family, the drama revolves around the surgery she must have on her leg due to polio. Readers will be just as riveted to this quieter but no-less-moving story as Tuyet bravely dreams of being able to run and play. Illustrated with photos. Reading list, websites. Ind. (Pajama Press, 2013)

warren_escape from saigonIn 1975 a child named Long emigrated from Vietnam to the United States and was adopted. In Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy, Andrea Warren deftly weaves into Long’s story information about the Vietnam conflict, life in Saigon, the plight of children during war, and the political machinations involved in airlifting thousands of youngsters to safety during the American evacuation. Reading list, source notes. Ind. (Farrar/Kroupa, 2004)

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6. Native American Heritage Month resources

charleyboy_dreaming in indianNovember is Native American Heritage Month, a celebration of Native American people, their varied cultures, and their accomplishments. Check out the official website for more information and lots of resources; here some additional resources from our archives.

Recommended books

Articles on representation of Native Americans in children’s books

Check out Debbie Reese’s blog American Indians in Children’s Literature for much more on this topic.

And here’s author Sherman Alexie’s 2008 BGHB Fiction Award acceptance speech for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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7. DinoWriMo: E-newsletter

What’s the dinosaurs’ favorite email newsletter?


Giganotesosaurus from the Horn Book.




For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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8. 3 terrible truths about NaNoWriMo (that prove you should absolutely do it)

nanowrimoWe’re a little over a week into National Novel Writing Month, and it seems an excellent time to let a few terrible secrets out of the box. For those curious outsiders, NaNoWriMo is a thirty-day writing challenge to produce a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30th. But when you’re writing, as those who are already knee-deep in their word counts can attest, NaNoWriMo feels more akin to a delicate balancing act undertaken while riding a rollercoaster during an earthquake. Which brings us to the secrets about this wonderfully ludicrous tradition:

1. November is maybe the worst month for this.

Hey! You know that month when you spend weeks preparing to make, to help make, or to coordinate and eat a huge family dinner with several relatives you don’t see any other time of year (and with good reason)? That month when, if you’re in school, your life is reduced to weeks of studying, class reading, and paper-writing, punctuated by moments of sheer panic that you have no idea what you’re doing? That month when the midwinter holidays leer at you from the other side of a calendar-flip as if they know just how unready you are? What do they call that month?

That’s right: NaNoWriMo!

November is packed with end-of-year obligations, distractions, and, frankly, totally legitimate excuses for giving up on trying to writing a whole novel in thirty days. And that, oddly enough, is something like the point. Any month in any year in any stage of your life will be full of distractions and excuses, and waiting for the perfect downtime to start writing will only make you extremely good at waiting. Writing when it is inconvenient, disruptive, and downright impossible is something all writers must do, and November is as good a time as any to learn how.

2. Be prepared to hate everything.

And I mean everything.

  • The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that informed you of NaNoWriMo’s existence.
  • The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that keep distracting you as you try to hit your daily word count.
  • The word count! (a.k.a. “your new measure of self-worth”)
  • The English language, which utterly abandons you by Day 10.
  • Your computer and its terrifying game of “Do you want to save those changes you don’t remember making?”
  • The need to eat or to sleep.
  • And of course, almost every word of your NaNo novel. (Except for those one or two perfect sentences — you know the ones I mean.)

Just bear in mind that NaNoWriMo is thirty days of the creative writing process hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity while on fire — feelings (negative and positive) are inevitable. Happily, with NaNoWriMo, you have a supportive, national community of other writers going through the same process. The other good news? A little (or a lot) of emotional turmoil is a sign that you’re invested in your narrative. And investment is the difference between writing it and giving it up.

3. You may not hit 50K words.

But…then what was the point?

You can take it from me, a reasonably together human being who has battled this beast on four different occasions and never won — sometimes you don’t make it to 50,000 words. And that is a beautiful thing.

NaNoWriMo is like sprinting through a marathon — a marathon where your goal is not just to reach a finish line, but to shape something interesting with your footprints as you run. It is a thirty-day challenge to put words and narrative events in some semblance of order, to turn off (or to at least dial down) the internal editor that wants you to keep looking backwards, and perhaps most importantly, to shove past the paralyzing fear of the blank page in front of you. The finish line — that 50,000 word count — is a lovely thing, but you’ll find that reaching it or not reaching it has very little effect on the story that you’ll have actually created.

Remember, remember that in the month of November, NaNoWriMo is exhausting, thrilling, terrifying, entertaining, ridiculous, and amazing. If you’re thinking about participating, try taking a test run during Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July before officially participating in November. And if you’re already participating this year, remember that you’re writing because you want to, which is one of the coolest things you can do with any thirty days.

Now, stop procrastinating, and good luck!

For more NaNoWriMo, look for write-ins and workshops on our events calendar, then check out our silly series of #DinoWriMo puns.

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9. DinoWriMo: Picture book heroines

What’s a dinosaur’s favorite literary grandma?


Stega Nona

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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10. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson on The Book Itch

Vaunda Micheaux NelsonIn our November/December issue, our editors asked Vaunda Micheaux Nelson about revisiting the source material of her BGHB Award–winning No Crystal Stair in new picture book The Book Itch. Read the full review of The Book Itch here.

Horn Book Editors: What compelled you to revisit the material from No Crystal Stair to create your picture book The Book Itch?

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: I was writing in Lewis Jr.’s voice in No Crystal Stair when I realized that his perspective might entice younger readers into Lewis Sr.’s world. Moved by Lewis Jr.’s story, I wanted to explore how his father and the bookstore influenced him in particular. You could say Lewis Jr. cut in line and stepped onto the speaker’s platform, making me pause the longer work.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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11. DinoWriMo: Theme parks

What’s a dinosaur-publisher’s favorite theme park?



Scholastic Park.


For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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12. Barry Deutsch on Hereville

deutsch_hereville how mirka caught a fishIn our November/December issue, reviewer Shoshana Flax asked Barry Deutsch about the third entry in his graphic novel series about “11-year-old time-traveling Jewish Orthodox babysitter” Mirka. Read the full starred review of Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish here.

Shoshana Flax: We hear more about the modern world in this third installment. What do you think the neighbors think of Hereville?

Barry Deutsch: I can honestly say no one’s ever asked me that before! The people in the next town over are pretty suspicious of Hereville. There are a lot of weird rumors flying around, as you’d expect. (The Hereville folks tend to be pretty insular.) But in real life, one of my neighbors has become a big Hereville fan! We sometimes talk about it on the bus.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. DinoWriMo: Literary classics

What classic novel do dinosaurs love?


Allosaurus in Wonderland

tenniel alice in wonderland

For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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14. DinoWriMo: Awards

How did the dinosaur get to the award ceremony?


By following the footPrintz.

nelson_i'll give you the sun

For more terrible puns, click the tag DinoWriMo.

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15. Countdown to BGHB festivities!

2015 BGHB announcement

Rebecca Stead and Roger Sutton are all smiles as they make the 2015 BGHB awards announcement

Who’s excited for BGHB15 and HBAS15? You know we are! All this week we’ll be highlighting the winning books and their creators with extras from our archives — interviews, reviews, articles, and more — to help you prep for the ceremony and colloquium taking place October 2nd and 3rd.

Get started now with our reviews of the winners and honor books: picture book, fiction, and nonfiction.

The BGHB award ceremony and Horn Book at Simmons colloquium are coming up quickly — but it’s not too late to register! We hope to see you there.

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16. 2015 BGHB Fiction Day

Cartwheeling in ThunderstormsToday we’re honoring our BGHB Fiction Award winners! Read reviews of all of the 2015 fiction winners here; see below for more web extras to celebrate them. Join us on October 2–3, 2015, for the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium: Transformations, featuring several 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book award recipients.

The 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award winner is Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell (Simon and Schuster).

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick) received a BGHB Fiction Honor.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman and illustrated by Brendan Shusterman (Harper/HarperTeen) received a BGHB Fiction Honor.

Stay tuned for web extras on our nonfiction winner and honorees tomorrow!

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17. Siân Has the Best Weekend Ever!

As many of you know, the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium: “Transformations” was this past Saturday. It was interesting, engaging, educational, and fun (it was also exhausting for those of us working it, and even more so for the amazing Katrina Hedeen, who planned the whole durn thing).

But what you don’t know is the most important thing that happened over our BGHB/HBAS weekend.

Was it the Shuster-men speaking eloquently about Challenger Deep and mental illness?

Was it the informative and funny editor panel?

How about getting to see Marla Frazee’s pre-book sketches (including the illustrated thank-you note that became A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever!)?


What was it?

Susan Cooper took a picture of my Dark Is Rising tattoo.


tattoo  Cooper autograph
For more on the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards and the following day’s HBAS Colloquium: “Transformations,” click on the tag BGHB15.

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18. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials movie review

scorch trials posterMaze Runner sequel The Scorch Trials (Twentieth Century Fox, September 2015) reminded me of two very important Siân facts:

  1. I should never, ever drink anything before or during a movie.
  2. I am no hero.

If you’re looking to take a road trip in which you do not stop every 45 minutes for pee breaks, you probably don’t want to be traveling with me. Additionally, if you’re looking for someone to run toward the gun fight, carry you to safety as you slowly change into a zombie, or single-handedly storm a government-controlled facility of horror to save you, you definitely don’t want to be traveling with me.

A plane flew low over my apartment recently and my only panicked thought was, “THE END IS NIGH!”

No one can accuse me of excess courage.

Now that we’ve discussed my cowardice, let’s move on to how scared I was during the movie.

The Scorch Trials is thrilling. I have no idea how similar it is to the book (I’m guessing from the Wikipedia entry that the answer is “not at all”), but the movie was downright gripping. The Gladers, thinking they have been saved from the supposedly-good-but-actually-evil hold of WCKD, find themselves prisoners once again. Led by handsome, heroic, and utterly heedless Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), several boys and one girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), escape from the facility and go storming into The Scorch (which appears to be the once-lush, now-barren-desert San Francisco) with little aim beyond “escape.”

What followed was 132 minutes of me hiding behind my knees, desperately thinking, “nonononononono this suspense has to let up sometime, right? RIGHT?”

The band of teens race through wind-blown desert, vacant and neglected cities, and into the mountains hunted by the WCKD doctors Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Aiden Gillen); attacked by horrifying zombie-like people infected with…something (the flare?); and harassed by healthy people who are just plain mean (like Alan Tudyk’s character, Blondie, who really should have had a cooler name than that).

James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic world is brought to terrifying life with some incredibly expansive and remarkably detailed settings whose stark monoliths are paralleled in a number of shots of the teens, standing backlit, brave, and alone. The special effects help highlight the sheer terror present in this world — awful thunderstorms, disgusting zombies — without pushing realism (too far) or diverting from the plot.

Clarkson and Gillen’s stoic adults are perfect bad guys: frighteningly calm and emotionally removed but motivated by red-hot moral righteousness. The boys are exactly the type of teen heroes we want to root for: O’Brien’s Thomas is all determined morality; Ki Hong Lee’s Minho is smart, sassy, and totally badass; Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt is just the right mix of skeptical observer and dedicated friend; and Dexter Darden’s Frypan brings gentle humor and kindness to the daring crew.The only character who doesn’t add anything to the ensemble is, unfortunately, Teresa, the only female in the group. Through no fault of her own, Scodelario’s character speaks little and does even less, seemingly a character whose sole purpose is bringing about the emotional growth of the male protagonist. I will also add that, ideologically, I am angry with the character of Brenda (Rosa Salazar), who seems to exist only to tempt the sainthood of Thomas and thus suffer karmic repercussions because can we PLEASE stop using female characters as tools for male character growth? But that would be a digression. And we all know the internet is not the place for digression or outrage.

Overall, The Scorch Trials made me, as a viewer and consumer, very happy. It was exciting, visually stimulating, and fast-paced; the actors were engaging and likable (or perfectly detestable, which is also great fun); and the cliffhanger was intense but not brutal.

Bring on the third one, folks! I’ll bring my blankie for more effective hiding.

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19. Trend takeaway from 2015 BGHB/HBAS: Transformations

Imperial Russia is the new vampires.



And then there’s this:

mccoola_baba yaga's assistant

And, okay, yes, it’s way-post-Imperial, but also this:

anderson_symphony for the city of the dead

Dasvidaniya, Edward. Privet, Dmiti.

For more 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book and Horn Book at Simmons: Transformations, click on the tag hbook.com/bghb15.

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20. October’s Notes from the Horn BoooOOOOoook

The October issue of Notes from the Horn Book is here! This month (just in time for El Día de los Muertos!) we’ve got 5Q for Duncan Tonatiuh on Funny Bones, plus (just in time for Halloween):

  • picture book tricks and treats
  • books on mixed-up magic for intermediate readers
  • creepy middle-grade fantasy
  • YA horror short stories, novels, and a book that’s a bit of both

oct 2015 nfthb

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — along with Nonfiction Notes, Talks with Roger, and other occasional treats — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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21. Brainbean app review

brainbean titleWhen you open Brainbean (Tanner Christensen, 2014), you’re greeted with eight possible brain-stimulating games (plus a “Surprise me!” option). Each game gives you sixty seconds to complete a challenge; you can read a brief description and watch a demonstration of each by tapping the information icon.

In “Letter List,” see how many words you can think of that start with a certain letter. “Incomplete Drawing” gives you a few lines and lets you add to a picture. “Remote Association” asks, “What one word can be added to the one below?” “Pattern Tiles” displays most of a pattern and asks you to choose which shape best completes it.

brainbean instructions

In “Word Scramble,” create as many four-letter words as you can from a set group of letters. “Mosaic Drawing” starts with a solid block made of lots of colored squares, and you can make a design by tapping the squares to resize them. “Lost Connections” asks you to rearrange tiles to reconnect the colored wires on them. And “Block Builder” lets you “build” with Lego-like blocks by dragging them.

The app encourages brain training in a wide variety of ways. And I do mean encourages: there are constant messages like “Great!,” “Keep going!,” and even “You look nice today!” (Okay…) The app will tell you gently if you, say, try to spell a nonexistent word (“Did you make that up?”), but the affirmations keep coming…even if you happen to be a reviewer who’s just thrown a game to see what would happen. In any case, there’s plenty of exercise here for verbal as well as well as visual thinking, and thus different strengths get a chance to shine. (I didn’t need to try to lose at “Lost Connections,” but I’ll take on anyone at “Letter List.”)

I was a little confused by the scoring. In some of the games, success is easily quantified, but how is the score computed in an open-ended activity like “Incomplete Drawing”? A few other little things gave me pause, too. For one, the instructions for “Remote Association” were somewhat unclear. “What one word can be added to the one below?” Did that mean the answers all had to be compound words? (They didn’t — any new word formed from the original worked. To be fair, the description found by tapping the information icon was a little clearer.) “Letter List” didn’t seem to recognize contractions, and “Word Scramble” flat-out failed to recognize a few simple words. (Take and hope are words, right?)

The sound is unobtrusive — the app has happy, chirpy ring when you do something right, a few low tones when your minute is almost up, and not much else. There’s no sound for when you get something wrong, which I appreciated both for the positivity factor and because when apps do have WRONNNNNNNG sounds, they’re usually pretty irritating.

Overall, Brainbean is an addictive way to exercise a variety of mental muscles. It just needs to work out a few kinks.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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22. Don Brown on Drowned City

brown_drowned cityIn our September/October issue, reviewer Betty Carter asked Don Brown, author/illustrator of nonfiction graphic novel Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans, about what we can learn from the events of Hurricane Katrina. Read the full starred review of Drowned City here.

Betty Carter: So many of your books cover a pivotal moment in American history. What do you believe is the most important takeaway from Hurricane Katrina for our country as a whole?

Don Brown: Hurricane Katrina presented America with two questions that have not yet been fully answered: Why did all levels of government fail the most vulnerable citizens of New Orleans, and what part did class and race play in that failure?

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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23. #DinoWriMo

dinowrimo“It’s National Novel Writing Month!

“It’s Dinovember!

Stop! You’re both right! #DinoWriMo

More to come from The Horn Book @HornBook

(Spoiler alert: there will be puns. Terrible ones.)

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24. The Earth app review

tinybop earth title screenAt the start of The Earth app (Tinybop, September 2015), our blue planet rotates against a field of stars, with occasional comets flashing by (reminiscent of the opening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos). Scroll along a timeline at top of the screen to move through four geological eras, beginning with the Hadean Eon — the earth’s appearance changes with the era.

You can also move a sliding bar across the earth to see it in cross-section, with labels identifying core, mantle, crust, and other features (tap a key-shaped tab at top left to access a pull-out menu when you can turn the labels on/off, change the language, etc.).

earth slider

When you get to the Phanerozoic Eon — the current era — tap on Earth to explore the ways geological features are created and eroded. This screen displays two mountain ranges illustrated with a cut-paper look: the left-hand mountain is in a warmer, coastal locale and the right is in a snowy region. Tap anywhere on the screen or touch the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner to zoom in on each landmass. You can interact with many of the geological features — causing rain to fall and tectonic plates to shift — but most of the action takes place inside highlighted circles.

Tap the circle near a volcano, for instance, to zoom in on it. Here you can change the height and width of the volcano using icons at the right, and a sliding bar allows you to see the cross-section. Make magma spew up and over the top by tapping repeatedly. What’s particularly cool is that when you exit this zoomed-in screen to get back to the mountain ranges, any changes you made to the volcano remain (mine is now short and fat). It’s even cooler when you accidentally throw a lighthouse into the sea (oops) and then can find it there every time you go back to that area. And there is a hotspot volcano underwater which, when tapped repeatedly, spews lava that then solidifies, making the volcano larger with every eruption. When it gets big enough, it emerges from the water and becomes a volcanic island that’s still there every time you revisit the app. The pull-out menu at the left side of the screen allows you to easily access any of these featured geological events.

earth hot spot volcano

earth hot spot volcano zoomed

It is not always easy to figure out what to do in the app. For example, in the “River Erosion” section, you  can tap the bank to make more and bigger rocks fall into the water. However, when the individual rocks are tapped, they become highlighted by a purple circle that doesn’t seem to do anything. And the river bank doesn’t actually appear to erode (even though in other sections — “River Meandering,” for one  — the geological forces change the landscape significantly).

There is a handbook in the parent’s dashboard with useful terms and helpful explanations. But while navigating the app itself, more guidance would have been welcome — an optional voiceover explaining different phenomena or indicators hinting what to do in each activity would be incredibly useful. Otherwise, The Earth could certainly be entertaining, attractive, and educational for a patient, science-minded middle-grade user.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $2.99. Recommended for intermediate users.

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25. November Boston-area children’s lit events

Photo: Marty Umans

Jacqueline Woodson. Photo: Marty Umans

November is absolutely packed with children’s literature related events in and near Boston. Here are just a few highlights; see our calendar for even more events.

  • It’s National Novel Writing Month! Check the calendar for write-in events throughout the month in various venues.
  • Tonight, November 5th at 7:00 pm, author Mike Lupica will be signing his new book Fast Break. The event is free and hosted by Wellesley Books.
  • Wondermore is hosting its annual “What’s New in Children’s Books” conference on Saturday, November 7th, at Lesley University. The half-day conference will run from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. Speakers include former HB editor in chief Anita Silvey; author/illustrators Rebecca Bond, Marika McCoola, and Dan Moynihan; authors Elaine Dimopoulos and Megan Dowd Lambert; Children’s Bookshop owner Terri Schmidt; and librarian Christian Porter. Registration fees are $65 for individuals; $25 for students (with valid ID); and $40 for Lesley University alums.
  • Also on Saturday the 7th: Tomie dePaola and Barbara Elleman will discuss dePaola’s new collection The Magical World of Strega Nona at 1:00 pm at The Carle Museum.This event is sold out; call 413-658-1126 to be added to the waitlist.
  • On Sunday, November 8th, the 26th annual “Children’s Illustration Celebration” exhibit will open at the R. Michelson Galleries. An opening reception will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces author Isabel Quintero will be speaking at the BPL’s Connolly Branch at 6:30 pm on Monday, November 9th, and at the East Boston Branch at 3:00 pm on Tuesday the 10th.
  • Porter Square Books will hold a launch party for Manners & Mutiny with author Gail Carriger on Tuesday the 10th at 7:00 pm.
  • George author Alex Gino will visit The Blue Bunny on Wednesday, November 11th, at 4:30 pm.
  • Gregory Maguire will discuss and sign his new book After Alice at the CPL’s Main Branch on Thursday, November 12th, at 6:30.
  • Exhibit “Magic, Color, Flair: The World of Mary Blair” opens at The Carle Museum on Saturday, November 14th, with a members’ reception at 5:00 pm.
  • Jacqueline Woodson will speak about her multi-award-winning verse memoir Brown Girl Dreaming at the CPL’s Main Branch on Wednesday, November 18th, at 6:30 pm as part of the CPL’s Cambridge Reads initiative. On Thursday the 19th,  she will visit the BPL’s Codman Square Branch at 10:00 am and the Dudley Branch at 7:00 pm.
  • The Carle will host an “All About Alice” Day on Saturday, November 22nd, to celebrate the 150th publication anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Events include a gallery talk, crafts, a tea party, and a presentation by Leonard Marcus, Barry Moser, and Charles Santore.

See our monthly events calendar for lots more events and all the details. Have a local event you’d like to see listed? Email the info to cbb (at) hbook.com.

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