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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 5,160
1. Review of Maybe a Fox

appelt_maybe a foxMaybe a Fox
by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Intermediate, Middle School   Dlouhy/Atheneum   261 pp.
3/16   978-1-4424-8242-5   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-8244-9   $10.99

Eleven-year-old Jules, a budding geologist, and her twelve-year-old sister Sylvie, the fastest kid in school, live with their father in rural Vermont. Because the girls’ mother died when Jules was small, her memories, frustratingly, are dim. She does remember the awful sight of their mother collapsing onto the kitchen floor, and then six-year-old Sylvie sprinting as fast as she could to get help, but it was too late. And now Sylvie is the one who has disappeared: one morning before school she takes off running in the woods and never comes back; they think she tripped into the river and was swept away. At the same time, a fox kit, Senna, is born, with the instinctual desire to watch over and protect Jules. Because foxes are considered good luck, Jules’s occasional glimpses of Senna bring her some peace. A catamount, too, is rumored to be in the woods, along with a bear, and at book’s climax, the human, animal, and (most affectingly) spirit worlds collide and converge. This is a remarkably sad story that offers up measures of comfort through nature, family, community, and the interconnectedness among them. The sisters’ best friend, Sam, who is himself grieving for Sylvie and desperately longs to see that catamount, is happy to have his brother Elk home from Afghanistan, but Elk’s own best friend Zeke didn’t return, leaving Elk bereft; he and Jules mourn their losses in the woods. Zeke’s grandmother is the one to whom Sylvie ran when their mother collapsed and who now brings soup for Jules, and for her kind, stoic, heartbroken father. A good cry can be cathartic, and this book about nourishing one’s soul during times of great sadness does the trick.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Maybe a Fox appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Something Old, Something Lu 2/12/16 — Is JONESY #1 Fun for All Ages? How Do Tynion IV & Paquette Fare on BATMAN #49?

BannerAre you ready to fall in love with comics this weekend?

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3. Ruta Sepetys and Marissa Meyer Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Stars Above (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending Feb. 7, 2016–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #1 in Young Adult) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: “World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in one another tested with each step closer toward safety.” (Feb. 2016)

(Debuted at #6 in Children’s Fiction Series) The Lunar Chronicles: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer: “The enchantment continues…The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories – and secrets – that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic.” (Feb. 2016)

(Debuted at #12 in Hardcover Fiction) The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel: “In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.” (Feb. 2016)

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4. Review: Cullen Bunn’s “Deadpool & the Mercs for Money” – Mo Money Indeed

Deadpool & the Mercs for MoneyBy: Nicholas Eskey During the month of January we saw: Deadpool: Massacre, True Believers: Deadpool, Deapool Origins, Deadpool the Musical!, Deadpool the Variants, Evil Deadpool, Deadpool & Cable: Split Second, Groovy Deadpool, The Meaty Deadpool, The Wedding of Deadpool, Detective Deadpool, Uncanny Deadpool, and even the very fan-anticipated Spider-Man/Deadpool crossover.  The entire month might well have […]

1 Comments on Review: Cullen Bunn’s “Deadpool & the Mercs for Money” – Mo Money Indeed, last added: 2/12/2016
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5. Review of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton

vernick_kid from diamond streetThe Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton
by Audrey Vernick; 
illus. by Steven Salerno
Primary   Clarion   40 pp.
3/16   978-0-544-61163-4   $17.99   g

Edith Houghton was “magic on the field,” a baseball legend of the 1920s. Playing starting shortstop for the 
all-women’s professional team the Philadelphia Bobbies, she drew fans to the ballpark with her impressive offensive and defensive talent. Besides that, Edith was just ten years old; her uniform was too big, her pants kept falling down, and her too-long sleeves encumbered her play. But she was good, and the older players took “The Kid” under their wing. And that’s the real story here, told through Vernick’s conversational text. It’s not so much about the baseball action but the team — barnstorming through the Northwest U.S. playing against male teams; experiencing ship life aboard the President Jefferson on the way to Japan; playing baseball in Japan; and learning about Japanese culture. Salerno’s appealing charcoal, ink, and gouache illustrations evoke a bygone era of baseball with smudgy-looking uniforms, sepia tones, and double-page spreads for a touch of ballpark grandeur. An informative author’s note tells more of Houghton’s story — the other women’s teams she played for, her job as a major league scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, and being honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. An engaging story that reminds readers that “baseball isn’t just numbers and statistics, men and boys. Baseball is also ten-year-old girls, marching across a city to try out for a team intended for players twice their age.”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton appeared first on The Horn Book.

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6. Review: The Red Drip Of Courage distills Stephen Crane to a cartoon essence

You can go for years reading comics and come upon plenty of bizarre works, but at least understand where these are coming from. It’s more rare to hit on one that are more confounding, the ones that make you ask questions like “Where did this come from?” and “Who would do this?” So it is […]

0 Comments on Review: The Red Drip Of Courage distills Stephen Crane to a cartoon essence as of 2/9/2016 9:00:00 PM
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7. Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesThe Smell of Other People’s Houses
by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Middle School, High School   Lamb/Random   228 pp.
2/16   978-0-553-49778-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49779-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49780-9   $10.99

Through sensory details that viscerally evoke the story’s physical and emotional landscapes, readers are transported to 1970s Birch Park, Alaska, where hunting and fishing are both livelihood and way of life for most families. As the book’s title suggests, richly described scents are pervasive. Sixteen-year-old Ruth associates the smell of freshly cut deer meat with her happy early-childhood home, in sharp contrast to the clinical, Lemon Pledge–clean of Gran’s house, where she and her sister have been raised in rigid austerity since their father’s death. A wealthy family’s lake house smells of cedar, while the heavily trafficked Goodwill “smells like everyone’s mud room in spring…moldy and sweaty.” Four distinct first-person narrative voices — no small feat — breathe life into the adolescent protagonists, whose engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning throughout the seasons, are enriched by their intersections. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse and mother’s neglect, Dora finds a welcome haven in the bustling energy of Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens lands Ruth scared, alone, and pregnant on a bus to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, an abbey with unexpected ties to her family. While some character crossings strain credulity, all the story lines are grounded in emotional honesty.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses appeared first on The Horn Book.

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8. Review of the Day: The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marios

SandwichThiefThe Sandwich Thief
By Andre Marois
By Patrick Doyon
Chronicle Books
$14.99
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4659-1
Ages 7-9
On shelves March 1st

Injustice, that sweet universal quality, makes for great children’s books. Whether it’s a picture book or a young adult novel, if you can tap into a reader’s sense of unfairness you have yourself some children’s book gold. It’s the instantaneous gateway to identification. Adults too often forget how painful those early lessons about how the world is an unfair place feel. Children’s books tap into that feeling, while also giving kids a sense of hope. Yes, the world is a mad, bad place sometimes. But there are times when things work out for the best. And if its takes disgusting flavor balls in delicious sandwiches to reach that cathartic ending, so much the better. I wouldn’t argue that Andre Marois’s The Sandwich Thief is the greatest book on this subject I’ve ever seen (it could use a little work in the empathy department), but when it comes to tapping into that feeling of unbridled rage in the face of a cold, calculating world, this title definitely knows its audience.

There are upsides and downsides to having foodies for parents. On the one hand, they can seriously embarrass you when they overdo your school lunches. On the other hand, delicious sandwiches galore! Marin’s a big time fan of his mom’s sandwich constructions, particularly when graced with her homemade mayonnaise, but then one day the unthinkable occurs. Marin goes to take his sandwich to the lunchroom only to find it is gone! When it happens a second time on a second day Marin is convinced that a thief is in his midst. But who could it be? A classmate? A teacher? Everyone is suspect but it’s Marin’s clever mama who knows how to use her mad genius skills to out the culprit, and in a very public way!

SandwichThief2Writing a good early chapter book takes some daring. The form is so incredibly limited. It’s best to have a story that can be read in a single sitting by a parent, or over the course of several attempts by a child just getting used to longer sentences. In this book Marois sets up his mystery with care. There are lots of red herrings, but the author also plays fair, including the true villain amongst the innocuous innocents. The adults made for particularly interesting reading. For example, I loved the portrait of Marin’s principal Mr. Geiger, a man so rumpled and ill-fed you wonder for quite some time how he got his current position (he redeems himself at the end, though).

I like to tell folks that we are currently in a new Golden Age of children’s literature. This is, admittedly, a fairly ridiculous statement to make since few people can be aware of a Golden Age, even if they are already waist deep in it. Still, the evidence is striking. Never before have authors or illustrators had so much freedom to play around with forms, construction, colors, art styles, etc. It’s not a free-for-all or anything (unless you’re self-publishing) but ideas that publishers might have balked at twenty years ago are almost commonplace today. Take The Sandwich Thief as one such example. Here you have an early chapter book that draws heavily on the classic comic tradition. But speech balloons aside, artist Patrick Doyon makes every single page an eclectic experience. A French-Canadian editorial illustrator who had never made a children’s book prior to this one, in this book Doyon moves effortlessly between two-page spreads, borderless panels, sequential art, the works. You might be so wrapped up in the form that you’d miss how limited his palette is. Working entirely in orange, red, and black, Doyon’s talents are such that you never even notice the missing colors during your reading experience.

SandwichThief3Sadly, there are some aspects to this brand new book that feel like they were written twenty or thirty years ago (and not in a good way). When identifying the potential thieves in his classroom, Marin falls back onto some pretty broad stereotypes. We’re in an era when body acceptance makes old-fashioned fat shaming feel downright archaic. With that in mind, the identification of one student as “Big Bobby” whose “main hobby is eating” is particularly unfortunate. Add in “Poor Marie” whose mom lost her job and can’t afford to eat, and you’ve got yourself an odd avoidance of sympathy. Another reader of this book mentioned that the villains is of a similar lower-socioeconomic level, which is questionable. There are also a couple insults like “Numbnuts” floating about the text that will pass without comment in some households and be a major source of contention in others. FYI.

Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustrated Children’s Literature, French Language, Marois and Doyon’s first collaboration is for any kid that comes in looking for a fun read with a mystery component. With its classy format and striking cover it may even appeal to the Wimpy Kid contingent. Hey, stranger things have happened. It’s a true bummer that the book dumps on so many people along the way but it may still appeal to any kid who craves a little justice in the world. Particularly if that justice comes with the taste of chalk-textured cat pee.

On shelves March 1st.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: Kirkus

Other Jackets:

It can’t really compare to the English language version, but the original French cover is pretty cute too:

SandwichThiefFrench

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5 Comments on Review of the Day: The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marios, last added: 2/10/2016
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9. Between the World and Me

cover artBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a powerful and passionate book. As a white person in America, it was at times difficult for me to read. I found myself whispering I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry over and over. How do we make things different? What can I do? And at other times, reading the words of a black man talking about how white society does whatever it can to control his body and lets him know regularly that his body is not his own, I thought, yes, I understand from my place as a woman in a patriarchal society what it means for the culture and the law to always be trying to control your body. The control comes in different forms, but I too know what it’s like to walk down the street and be afraid. And so Coates’s book had the curious effect of making me feel guilt and sympathy and anger in repeated waves of various intensities.

Between the World and Me is a “letter” Coates wrote to his fifteen-year-old son. It is inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 book The Fire Next Time, a book about what it means to be black in America. Certainly a great deal has changed since 1963 but so much remains stubbornly the same. I got the impression at times that Coates felt like nothing would ever change, that we will never see an end to racism, while at other times, especially when he was reflecting on his son’s life and experiences and how they have been different from his own, Coates seemed hopeful in a clear-eyed there is still much work and struggling ahead sort of way.

In thinking about the book and how I should read it and understand it, the best approach was to just listen. Don’t try to say, it’s not like that; don’t even think about suggesting things aren’t that bad. Don’t argue and critique or dismiss. Don’t compare my experience of oppression with his in order to determine who is worse off. Don’t go to an insensitive place and think, I have a black friend so I can’t possibly be racist. Don’t get defensive and definitely don’t try and claim I am not part of the system.

It is not always easy to listen, to refrain from Yes, but… I think I managed pretty well. Being open to Coates’s experience was unsettling at times. I caught myself thinking at one point when he was talking about slavery that my ancestors came to America after the Civil War, none of them owned slaves, my family had no part in it and can’t be blamed. But that is beside the point, isn’t it? While my ancestors may have had nothing to do with slavery they certainly reaped the benefits of a country made wealthy by the work of slaves. And they were definitely not immune from participating in casual and thoughtless racism.

It is hard to shut up and listen and not try to exonerate oneself, to think other people are like that but not me. When you grow up and live in a racist society, especially when you grow up and live with the privileges that come from white skin, you are not free from prejudice, I am not free from prejudice. And it hurts, I don’t want to be a “bad” person. And that is good. Because that is the only way we can move as individuals, as a culture, as a country, through prejudice to a society that is as free and equal as it imagines itself to be.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews

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10. Review of Here Comes Valentine Cat

underwood_here comes valentine catHere Comes Valentine Cat
by Deborah Underwood; 
illus. by Claudia Rueda
Preschool   Dial   88 pp.
12/16   978-0-525-42915-9   $16.99   g

Valentine’s Day has its haters, and Cat (Here Comes the Easter Cat, rev. 3/14, and sequels) is one of them. Cat can’t think of anyone to grace with a Valentine, and new neighbor Dog doesn’t seem a likely candidate, what with all the bones he annoyingly keeps lobbing over the fence. Using this series’ trademark format — offstage narrator addresses nonverbal Cat, who responds with humorous placards and body language — the book shows Cat’s escalating plans against Dog (starting, but not ending, with a few not-so-sweet Valentines), and then shows that Dog may not deserve such poor treatment. Rueda’s ink and colored-pencil illustrations, surrounded by white space, once again convey lots of information via Cat’s facial expressions and other simple cues. Young listeners should enjoy the simply delivered misunderstandings, as well as the opportunities to yell emphatically at the main character (“You can’t send Dog to the moon!”).

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Here Comes Valentine Cat appeared first on The Horn Book.

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11. Something Old, Something Lu 2/5/16 — Does MIRROR #1 Gleam? Do the PAPER GIRLS Stumble?

MirrorBannerWhat comics are worth your money this week? Managing Editor Alex Lu is here to let you know.

6 Comments on Something Old, Something Lu 2/5/16 — Does MIRROR #1 Gleam? Do the PAPER GIRLS Stumble?, last added: 2/6/2016
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12. Kiera Cass and Brandon Sanderson Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Siren Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending Jan. 31, 2016–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #2 in Young Adult) The Siren by Kiera Cass: “Kahlen is a Siren, bound to serve the Ocean by luring humans to watery graves with her voice, which is deadly to any human who hears it. Akinli is human—a kind, handsome boy who’s everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love puts them both in danger…but Kahlen can’t bear to stay away. Will she risk everything to follow her heart?” (Jan. 2016)

(Debuted at #9 in Children’s Illustrated) Ollie’s Valentine by Olivier Dunrea: “Ollie is looking. Looking for a valentine. Gossie, Gertie, Peedie, and BooBoo all have valentines, but Ollie wonders who will be his. His search leads him to a special valentine of his very own—a surprise for Ollie and readers!” (Dec. 2015)

(Debuted at #10 in Hardcover Fiction) The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson: “The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.” (Jan. 2016)

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13. The Martian Audiobook Receives 100,000 Fan Ratings

themartianThe audiobook edition of The Martian has drawn 100,000 fan ratings on the Audible website. The company released this audiobook back in March 2013.

Here’s more from the press release: “In addition to the 100,000 people who positively ‘rated’ the audiobook, it also enjoys a superb 4.8 out of 5-star average, and has had a continuous presence at the top of Audible.com’s bestsellers list. The Martian’s achievements demonstrate the burgeoning global popularity of audiobooks and their ascent as a rival to other entertainment mediums like books, television, and film.”

Andy Weir’s popular science-fiction novel was adapted into a critically acclaimed movie starring Matt Damon. Click on these links to watch the first trailer, the second trailer, and the third trailer.

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14. Thursday Review: SECRET CODERS by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Summary: I've been meaning to review this one for an embarrassingly long time. I had looked forward to reading it ever since first hearing about it—we are huge fans of our own (relatively) local Gene Yang here at FW and have not only interviewed... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Thursday Review: SECRET CODERS by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes as of 2/4/2016 5:44:00 PM
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15. Review: Kelly Froh & Dan Mazur’s two non-fiction delights

The Weekend Casserole Collection by Kelly Froh Froh brings together a number of short pieces from various sources — anthologies she’s contributed to, some of her own minis, as well as some previously unseen work — Covering incidents from all parts of her life — childhood sleepovers, high school crushes, strangers on buses, work acquaintances […]

0 Comments on Review: Kelly Froh & Dan Mazur’s two non-fiction delights as of 2/3/2016 8:42:00 PM
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16. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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17. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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18. Review: How It Went Down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Henry Holt. 2014. Review copy.


How It Went DownThe Plot: Tariq Johnson, sixteen, dies from two gunshots fired by by Jack Franklin. Tariq is black; Jack is white.

There are many people who know Tariq, who know Jack. Who saw them before the shooting and after. Each has a their own story to tell, about what they know.

The Good: There is an old saying, that for every two people there are three sides to their story. Their versions, and the truth.

The problem, of course, is figuring out what that truth is and is not.

Here, there are those who say that Tariq was just a teen with a chocolate bar. And others who say he had a weapon. And some that say that Jack was justified. And others who say it was murder.

How It Went Down is told in many voices, friends, family, acquaintances. It's the story of Tariq's life and death and the aftermath, but we also find out about the lives of those who in telling Tariq's story tell their own. What I like about these multiple narratives is it doesn't give any answers of what really happened. It's up to the reader to decide who is right -- but the thing is, it's clear that everyone is right. Or, rather, everyone believes that they are right in what they know, what they saw, and what they believed.

And it's not just the shooting of Tariq, and whether or not it's the self defense that Jack claims. It's also whether, as the story unfolds, Jack's claim of self defense is made in part not because of anything that Tariq did or did not do but because Tariq was a black teenager and so Jack assumed and believed things about Tariq. And along with that is how the others react to Jack's claims, including the police who release him. And then the community reaction, because a black teenager is dead and the white shooter is released.

From the start, the reader knows that Tariq is dead. Knowing that doesn't lessen the impact of this death, or feeling the sorrow and grief of his family and friends. It does make one wish "if only, if only." And while this will be a good book discussion book because it allows for the readers to say what they believe happened, it's also a good book discussion book because it allows the reader to take a closer look at their own beliefs. Who do they believe? And why?

How does one's own perspective influence their memory? What they see? And what they believe?








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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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19. Friday Feature: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow (Review)



Fear Not the Unexpected.  


Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom. 


As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past. 


Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure. 

For the first time ever, I'm bringing in someone to help me review this book. My eight-year-old daughter, Ayla, and I read this book together, so I figured it only made sense to review it together too. So here are our thoughts on The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow.

We loved the mystery right from the start with the old newspaper article. The Begonia House really came alive for us. Ayla loved how the noises from the house and the woman who made an appearance in Fairday's room were really creepy. It really made her want to know what was going to happen next, so much so that we read the book in just three days. Without giving away spoilers, we'll just say that we really enjoyed how the setting came to life, adding to the mystery and excitement of the story. Ayla also would like a pair of those magical ruby sneakers. ;) Overall, this is a fast-paced mystery with just enough creepiness to draw readers in and hold their attention to the very last page. It's also a great story about friendship, both old and new.

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20. Review: The Lake House

The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton. Atria. 2015. Library Copy.


The-lake-house-9781451649321_hr
The Plot: 1933 Cornwall. A eleven month old baby disappears from his crib during a house party at an estate. He's never found.

2003. A police detective is visiting her grandfather in Cornwall. She stumbles upon an abandoned house and hears the local story: how decades ago, a child disappeared and the family left and never came back.

A lost child, deep family secrets, the ties between mother and child, the choices made. And a mystery that was waiting to be solved, by the person willing to ask the right questions.

The Good: I loved this book so much. It had everything I love in a book.

Their are three main narrators, and two main time periods.

Alice Edevane was sixteen the summer her brother Theo was taken. The summer on the Cornish estate was as magical as any Alice had ever had at the beloved family estate, Loeanneth, and even more wonderful because its the year she falls in love for the first time and the year she decides to embrace a life as a writer, and writes her first mystery.

In 2003, Sadie Sparrow's visit to her grandfather isn't entirely voluntary. There were problems for a recent case involving a young mother who disappeared, and Sadie refused to believe the woman left her small child behind. When faced with the truth of the woman abandoning her child, Sadie made foolish mistakes and now is waiting in the country for things to get resolved in the city.

When she starts to investigate the mystery of Theo Edevane, she finds out that the home is now owned by Alice Edevane, also known as A. C. Edevane, a famous mystery writer. After the reader encounters the young, brilliant, hopeful Alice on the brink of life, they next encounter her as woman pushing ninety, succesful, but wiser about people than she was as a child.

Then there is Eleanor Edevane, mother of Alice and Theo, and her voice joins the story.

The book jumps from time to time and narrator to narrator, and this flow of story is brilliant. Morton is careful about what and when she tells the reader, but part of the reason is because each person knows only their own story and is limited to their own impressions, their own memories, their own knowledge. As a mystery, Morton deftly guided me so that I was guessing "who" or "what" or "why" just pages ahead of Sadie, so that I felt as clever or more so than Sadie. And then, with Sadie, realized when I was wrong, because I learned something new.

The Lake House is a mystery, but it's also a story of family. Of the brilliant Edevanes who at first seem like something out of a PBS Miniseries. The family had once had a grand house, and Loeanneth, grand as it seems, is the small house that is all that is left of that manor. The house is important to Eleanor and her husband, Anthony; to their children, Deborah and Alice and Clemmie and Theo; and part of the punch in the gut tragedy of the present is how the house was abandoned after Theo's disappearance.

Pull back, and it's more than a handsome couple and their beautiful children and the fairy tale estate. Fairy tale in part because the child Eleanor inspired a beloved children's book.

But no fairy tale is all sun and sunshine. As Sadie delves further into the past, as Alice reexamines her own memories and impressions, and as Eleanor steps forward and shares her story, secrets are uncovered. Because as anyone who does the math can figure, the Great War had ended just 15 years before. And what was the far away past to a sixteen year old Alice was very much part of the lives of her parents.

I don't want to give too much away, because as I said part of the joy of this book is the structure of what is revealed when and why and how. I will say this about those reveals. They aren't "aha" moments of crimes and terrible deeds. Rather, they are about perspective and knowledge. Eleanor's children see her as a certain type of mother, and their father as certain type of man, and yes -- the father is the favorite. As the story unwinds, it becomes clear that part of this is because Eleanor did what was necessary to give her children a safe, happy, childhood, at any cost. And she was so good that Alice, decades later, still didn't quite realize what her mother had done -- how her memory of a wonderful, carefree day was, to her mother, a day fraught with danger.

One of my Favorite Books of 2016. I now want to read all of Morton's books.












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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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21. Review of Dylan the Villain

campbell_dylan the villainDylan the Villain
by K. G. Campbell; illus. by the author
Primary   Viking   40 pp.
2/16   978-0-451-47642-5   $17.99   g

“‘Congratulations,’ said the doctor. ‘It’s a healthy little super-villain!’” Sweet, unsuspecting new parents Mr. and Mrs. Snivels are surprised by this development (and by the fact that they just “happened to have a baby”), but not disappointed. They tell their son Dylan, born wearing a purple mask and a fiendish expression, that he’s “the very best and cleverest super-villain in the whole wide world!” Dylan thinks so, too, until he goes to school and meets Addison Van Malice (sporting blue Princess Leia–style hair and a swashbuckling eye patch), who out-evils Dylan at every turn. Campbell’s soft-focus illustrations — rendered in watercolor and colored pencil on tea-stained paper — give all the characters personality, even those without speaking roles. The classroom of small villains is a hoot, and there are lots of dastardly details in the not-at-all-villainous art. The well-paced narrative’s comedic timing reinforces the absurdity of the premise. When a “most diabolical robot”–building contest is announced, Dylan seizes the chance to prove he’s more fiendish than Addison: “That hideous trophy…will be mine! All MINE!” And it is, after Dylan accidentally-on-purpose sends Addison and her menacing robot into space. And that’s that…or is it? In a satisfying twist, the final pages give Addison the last “MU-HA-HA-HA!!”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Review: Two rich offerings in Nobrow’s 17 x 23 series

Nobrow Press’ 17 x 23 series highlights accomplished smaller works in a pleasing package that speaks to graphic novel consumers who might not seek out short comics stories. Two recent releases are particularly success in the way they take story forms of old and present them through a modern lens, making traditional lessons applicable to […]

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23. Monday Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

The cover even LOOKS like a Libba Bray book...Summary: England in the Edwardian era…Besides bringing to mind a whole slew of fabulous Edward Gorey drawings, it was a time in which society was still stumbling out from under the long shadow of Queen... Read the rest of this post

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24. Fates and Furies

coverI’ve seen quite a few mixed reviews of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and wasn’t so very keen to read it but I got curious about it and had to find out for myself whether it was brilliant or so-so or terrible. It seems that many people don’t like the first half but those who stick with it and get to the second half end up liking that part better. So I began reading with low expectations. Perhaps it was this that helped me fall into the book, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t struggle to read it or like it. In the end, I didn’t find the book brilliant but I did like it very much.

The story is that of a marriage told from both sides. The first part is told from Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite’s point of view. He grew up in Florida in a wealthy family, his father, Gawain, having made a fortune selling bottled water. But his father died young and left Lotto and his sister to the care of an increasingly distant yet controlling mother and Aunt Sallie who ran the household. Left to run wild, Lotto turned to sex and drugs and alcohol and when his mother found out, she sent him away to an all-boys boarding school. There he had few friends, but this bright, very tall boy discovered the joys of Shakespeare and determined to go off to college and become an actor.

Near the end of his senior year of college he met Mathilde, statuesque, beautiful, smart. The charismatic Lotto gave up seducing women and decided to marry Mathilde. He believed her to be pure and because she was pure he considered her his savior. He failed in the real world as an actor but in a dark night of the soul moment, discovered he had a talent for writing plays. Soon he became a famous playwright and grew wealthy in the process. Until his mother died, he saw not a penny of his inheritance because she was so angry he had married without her permission that she cut him off financially.

In spite of his profligate sex life -pre-marriage, he remained loyal to Mathilde throughout, forever worrying that this pure, saintly woman would leave him:

If she was happy, it meant she wouldn’t leave him; and it had become painfully apparent over their short marriage that he was not worth the salt she sweated. The woman was a saint. She saved, fretted, somehow paid their bills when he brought in nothing.

Mathilde, of course, was no saint. Because of a terrible family tragedy when she was very young girl, her parents basically abandoned her. They shipped her off to a grandmother who didn’t want her and who then shipped her off to another grandmother who made her sleep in a closet. Mathilde was French, born Aurelie, and when she was a teenager she was shipped off to her uncle’s house. He lived in the United States and left her to raise herself. He was wealthy, however, so she was never wanting for anything but attention. Unable to make friends at school, she became Mathilde, a girl who was angry and hard, who would not let the world take advantage of her, and who was very, very lonely.

She was also terrified of Lotto abandoning her like everyone else in her life did. She never talked about certain parts of her life:

Great swaths of her life were white space to her husband. What she did not tell him balanced neatly with what she did. Still, there are untruths made of words and untruths made of silences, and Mathilde had only ever lied to Lotto in what she never said.

Any husband paying attention might wonder what she was hiding, but that is one advantage to being married to a charismatic, rather self-absorbed man. She did quite a few things he was never even aware of not least of which was edit his plays to make them better. And how she managed to hide the ongoing and ferocious war between her and Lotto’s mother without Lotto once suspecting a thing is beyond me.

As much as they both feared the other leaving them, in the end Lotto does leave Mathilde by an untimely death. She is devastated and her grief at losing her husband and once again being left is uncomfortable reading as well as heartbreaking.

I thought the book’s structure worked really well with clueless Lotto in the first half of the book and revelation after revelation from Mathilde’s part of the book. Still, as much as Mathilde knew and kept secret, Lotto had secrets too, though certainly not of Mathilde’s caliber. I liked getting both sides of the story and seeing how each one created and navigated their marriage. It is a more complete picture than we would ever get in a real life marriage and I found the completeness satisfying. From the outside, one would think their marriage would never work, and some of their friends even took bets on how long it would be before they were divorced and some, even after the pair had been married for years, tried to sabotage the relationship. The ending with an elderly Mathilde reflecting back on her marriage made me a little teary.

Contributing to my enjoyment of this book was a personal connection. Mathilde and Lotto were married at the age of twenty-two ( I was twenty-three when Bookman and I got married) and they married a year before my own wedding. So in many ways it felt like I was reading the story of a couple I might have known, except of course I didn’t and wouldn’t have known them if they were real, they not being the sort I would generally be friends with. Nonetheless, there was a certain happy friction, a bit of voyeurism and self-satisfaction regarding my own good fortune that smoothed away some of the annoying bits about the book (like the bracketed narrative intrusions, what the heck were those about?).

I’d like to say wow, you should read this book, but it isn’t that sort of book. I think it is one that will appeal to many, be enjoyed by some, and really liked by a few. Which one of those you might be, you’ll have to decide for yourself.


Filed under: Books, Reviews Tagged: Lauren Groff, Marriage

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25. Review: Meags Fitzgerald continues to her autobiographical innovations with Long Red Hair

In Meags Fitzgerald’s previous book, Photobooth: A Biography, which documented just about anything you ever wondered about photo booths, she went far beyond her central subject, wrapping in segments of autobiography, making it a work about a wider swathe that her more intimate moments exist within. For Long Red Hair she does the exact opposite, focusing […]

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