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Results 1 - 25 of 27
1. Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, 104 pp, RL: 4

Jane, the Fox and Me is a graphic novel by Fanny Britt, illustrated by the marvelous Isabelle Arsenault, but it feels like something different. The trim size of Jane, the Fox and Me is big, like a picture book. The handwritten text shifts from block letters to cursive to a delicate font just as the story shifts between worlds when Hélène, the young hero of the story, moves between the worlds of school, home and her inner life, fueled by her literary explorations that shape how she sees the world. Like the grey and sepia tones of most of Aresnault's illustrations, Hélène's worlds are bleak. School is a lonely landscape where she is taunted by mean girls. Flashbacks reveal that it wasn't always this way, once she had friends and was part of a group of girls who loved shopping vintage stores for crinoline dresses. Home is not much better, with her younger twin brothers and her overworked mother. Escape comes in the pages of Jane Eyre and the world of Thornfield Hall.

Everyone knows that kids are mean and will find (or create) a weakness in another child to prey on. Hélène's former friends ostracize her because of how she looks, writing graffiti on the walls of the bathroom about her weight and body odor. Britt handles this delicate subject with simplicity and honesty that speaks to the core of any girl who was (is) not slender and hopefully opens the eyes to those who are. Britt crystalizes the experience of being overweight when Hélène learns that her class will be going to nature camp, necessitating the purchase of a new swimsuit and her only options are a ruffled, skirted suit and one that is "all black and sad." Hélène sees herself as a sausage in a swimsuit. 

Hélène departs, "on a bus to Lake Kanawana with forty kids in shorts, not one of them a friend." The mean girl, fat shaming escalates at camp, where Hélène ends up in the outcasts' tent, believing that the moral of Jane Eyre and her own story is, "never forget that you're nothing but a sad sausage." When things seem at their lowest for Hélène, Géraldine appears and a friend is made. And, while Hélène finally finding a friend again is a wonderful plot thread, I especially appreciated how Britt ends Jane, the Fox and Me, with a visit to the doctor for an annual exam. Stepping on the scale, Hélène sees that she weighs less than the graffiti, but more than last year and claps her hands to her head and shrieks, the way she sees her mother (and the lady in the cereal ad) do when she steps on the scale. She tells the doctor that she is fat and the doctor tells her she is no such thing. Her mother asks where she ever got the idea that she was fat and, in her head Hélène ticks off the many places, including her own mother, but does not say them out loud. She realizes that the less she thinks about what other people say about her, the less it is true. I wish that every lonely, book loving, less that slim young girl could read Jane, the Fox and Me and think less about what is not true.

Source: Purchased at Porter Square Books 
in Somerville, MA

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2. The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet, 320 pp, RL: TEEN

Mal Peet was an award winning British author of young adult books, although he disliked being defined by his audience or by genre, who died at age 67 in March of this year. Although he seemed like a veteran writer, he only began his career as an author at the age of 52. Peet wrote over 100 easy readers with his wife, author Elspeth Graham, before writing his first novel for young adults, The Keeper, in 2003. He went on to write six more novels, The Murdstone Trilogy being his last. Peet's name was not unfamiliar to me and I always intended to review his books here before now. When I read the blurb for The Murdstone Trilogy I determined that this would be THE book by Peet that I reviewed and, it was only after reading (and listening to it) that I learned of his untimely death. The Murdstone Trilogy is a wickedly funny novel that skewers so many sides of the publishing industry, from literary agents and reviewers to literary awards and authors, as well as provincial British villages and the people who live in them. And, as I learned while reading reviews of The Murdstone Trilogy, Peet makes fun most of all of himself, his novels and the village he lived in. Although British reviews of The Murdstone Trilogy refer to it as Peet's first book for adults, the book is being published in here as a YA novel. I'm not sure I could think of the teenager who would enjoy this and get all the jokes, although there are plenty of them who have read enough of the phantasy genre to appreciate that portion of the novel and especially how Peet wraps it up...

Philip Murdstone is the protagonist of The Murdstone Trilogy. Like Peet, Philip is an author who shot to fame with the young adult novel Last Past the Post that "made Asperger's cool." Since then, as his agent puts it, Murdstone has, "in five lovely sensitive novels" said everything there is to say about "boys who are inadequate." Over lunch in London, during which Murdstone orders a Mexican Platter that consists of an "enormous square plate upon which, apparently, a cat had been sick in neat heaps around a folded pancake," his agent, the gorgeous, driven Minerva Cinch, urges Philip to try a new genre. Specifically, fantasy, or, even better, high fantasy, also known as "phantasy." Completely unaware of the phenomena that was Harry Potter and the new series, The Dragoneer Chronicles, that is sweeping the genre, Minerva explains this genre to Philip as "Tolkien with knobs on." She goes on to tell Philip the formula for writing high fantasy, which she "pinched out of the Telegraph. From a review of The Dragoneer Chronicles, actually." Armed with this formula and the knowledge that his total income for last year, from all five books, was "twelve grand and some change." As his agent, Minerva's share was "a measly eighteen hundred quid plus VAT." 

Even though he lives the quiet life in Devon in the tiny village of Flemworthy, Philip knows that if he doesn't do something drastic Minerva will dump him and his career will be over. After the Ploughman's lunch and a pint of Dark Entropy at the Gelder's Rest, Philip wanders home, a bit hammered, stopping by the Wringers, the stone circle of Flemworthy where he blacks out. While unconscious, Philip hears a voice in his head narrating a story - a phantasy story. When he goes home and types it into his laptop, it flows from him in a continuous, powerfully voices narrative stream. Peet's send up of the real world of publishing are hilarious, but the fun that he pokes at the world of fantasy is almost more intriguing that funny. As with the names of the towns, pubs and patrons in Flemworthy, Peet does an excellent job building the fantasy world and the glimpses of it we see are rich and intriguing. Pocket Wellfair, a Greme who is Clerk to "Orberry Volenap, last of the Five High Scholars," has a mind of his own and inserts his point of view into the story that he is supposed to be recording for Volenap, the story that becomes Murdstone's book, Dark Entropy. The book becomes an international sensation, and Philip a literary celebrity. It seems he can do no wrong, say no wrong, even when forced into events (like speaking to a crowd) that he would have previously fumbled. Knowing that he needs to write a sequel, Philip tries to recreate his black out at the Wringers and instead finds himself face to face with Pocket Wellfair.

Philip's life becomes irrevocably, and increasingly, uncomfortably, intertwined with Pocket's as he struggles with his success and the demands of his public. He makes a Faustian bargain that he thinks he can get out of, making the last quarter of the novel tense and suspenseful. The ending seems only right, given the spirit of The Murdstone Trilogy (which is NOT an actual trilogy, in real life or the book, although Peet slips in one, final brilliant jab at the creative act of writing on the final pages) but, having quite a soft spot of my own for fantasy, I wish it had been a bit different.

Source: Review Copy and Purchased Audio Book

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3. The Jacket

The Jacket
by Kirsten Hall
illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a book about a book who wants nothing more than "for a child to discover him. / To disappear into his pages. / To laugh at his story. / To love him and care for him in a way all favorite books know."

That day finally comes for Book, but unfortunately, the girl who loves him also loves her dog, who loves to roll in the mud, which spells disaster for Book.

All is not lost, though. The girl is creative. Can you guess what she makes for her book to cover the mud stains? Yup. A jacket!

Directions for making a book jacket are included. ("*Don't forget to cut eye holes for your book's eyes!")

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4. Inside this Book (are three books). by Barney Saltzberg

Inside this Book (are three books). is yet another   book with brilliant paper engineering from the master of picture books that playfully inspire creativity, Barney Saltzberg. When I was a kid there wasn't much more exciting than blank pages folded in half and stapled to make a book, and I have students in the library doing this every day. In fact, there is a really neat way to fold a

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5. When Books Went to War

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II. Molly Guptill Manning. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Love to read? Love to read about reading, about books? Or perhaps you love to read about war, especially World War II? Or even perhaps you have an interest in the how-and-why of book publishing? of the history of book publishing? When Books Went To War may be the perfect--oh-so-perfect--book for you.

When Books Went to War is about two things really: a) the need and desire to supply American soldiers (troops) with reading material to keep up their morale b) the effect that the books--and the act of reading--had on soldiers. Both elements of the story are fascinating.

The opening chapters focus on a national book donation drive to supply soldiers with books. After a year--or perhaps two--it became apparent this wasn't the answer, or the best answer at any rate. Hardbacks are NOT practical for soldiers to carry. And you never know what you're going to get with book donations. The types of books--the genres or subgenres--and the condition of books. Sending soldiers books that are decades old, that are cast-offs to begin with. The books are probably unwanted for a reason. Not that every single book would have been disqualified, mind you. But all the donated books had to be gone through, evaluated and sorted. Many books were just not a good match. 

The remaining chapters focus on their new solution: the production of special paperback editions--ASE, Armed Services Edition--of selected titles. Paperbacks, at the time, weren't all that common in the field of publishing. Mass paperbacks hadn't really evolved quite yet in the market. The committee picked titles each month--28 to 40, I believe--in a wide range of genres, fiction and nonfiction. These editions were shipped all over the world wherever troops were stationed. And to say they were appreciated would be an understatement! Each book could fit in a pocket. And they could be taken anywhere--read anywhere. (The book does include a list of each title published from September 1943 through June 1947.)

Probably my favorite aspect of the book was reading about how these books impacted soldiers. Individual stories by soldiers on what these books meant to them, on what certain authors meant to them, on how reading helped them, kept them sane, meant so much to them. The book is full of WOW moments. Like soldiers writing to authors and corresponding with them.   

Librarians felt duty-bound to try to stop Hitler from succeeding in his war of ideas against the United States.They had no intention of purging their shelves or watching their books burn, and they were not going to wait until war was declared to take action. As an ALA publication observed in January 1941, Hitler's aim was "the destruction of ideas...even in those countries not engaged in military combat." Throughout late 1940 and early 1941, librarians debated how to protect American minds against Germany's amorphous attacks on ideas. The "bibliocaust" in Europe had struck a nerve. America's librarians concluded that the best weapon and armor was the book itself. By encouraging Americans to read, Germany's radio propaganda would be diluted and its book burnings would stand in marked contrast. As Hitler attempted to strengthen fascism by destroying the written word, librarians would urge Americans to read more. In the words of one librarian: if Hitler's Mein Kampf was capable of "stirring millions to fight for intolerance and oppression of hate, cannot other books be found to stir other millions to fight against them?" (15)
What the Army needed was some form of recreation that was small, popular, and affordable. It needed books. World War II would not be the first time the Army and Navy welcomed books into their ranks. Yet no other war--before or since--has approached the rate at which books were distributed to American forces in World War II. (24)
Charles Bolte, who was wounded in Africa, hospitalized, and distressed over his future as he faced the amputation of his leg, remembered a momentous day. A friend (who was being treated for a bullet wound) walked up to Bolte's bed, triumphantly waved a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, which he had found in the hospital library. Bolte found comfort in a story about a hero who discovered that crying relieved the pain in his broken leg. Until then, Bolte had never dared cry. The story convinced him to cover his head with his blankets and give it a try. "It helped me, too." Bolte said. Although he endured multiple amputation surgeries, Bolte turned to reading throughout his hospitalization and credited books with helping him mend and move forward. "What happens during convalescence from a serious wound can sour or sweeten a man for life," Bolte remarked. For him, the latter occurred. "It was the first time since grammar school that I'd had enough time to read as much as I wanted to," he said. While there were many things that helped him heal, Bolte placed the dozens of books he read as among the most important. Tens of thousands of men would share Bolte's experience over the course of the war, finding in books the strength they needed to endure the physical wounds inflicted on the battlefield, and the power to heal their emotional and psychological scars as well. (46)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

Pamela Zagarenski is the recipient of two Caldecott  Honor silver medals. One for Sleep Like a Tiger, which was written by Mary Logue, and one for Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman. The Whisper is her first major picture book as author and illustrator and it is every bit as superb as her layered, dream-like, magical illustrations. The Whisper is a modern

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7. The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Daivs, 160 pp, RL 4

I first reviewed The Secret Science Alliance on 12/16/09 when I was just delving into the world of graphic novels. In the years since, I have read and loved many graphic novels (mostly for kids) but Davis' book remains at the top of my list for story, art and complexity. A must read! The Secret Science Alliance, by Geisel Award winner (for her excellent beginning reader comic book, Stinky)

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8. Ike's Incredible Ink by Brianne Farley

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Ike's Incredible Ink is the debut picture book from author/illustrator Brianne Farley. A story of epic procrastination - or is it inspiration? - Farley's

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9. Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Stewart

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - LITTLE RED WRITING -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Little Red Writing, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, who has illustrated nearly 100 children's book and won a Caldecott Honor and a

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10. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, 434 pp, RL TEEN

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - FANGIRL -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> When I reviewed Rainbow Rowell's stunning novel Eleanor & Park, there were so many things I wanted to talk about in relation to the book, in addition to the fact that

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11. Don't Turn the Page! by Rachelle Burk, illustrated by Julie Downing

Don't Turn the Page is a completely charming, cozy book-within-a-book by Rachelle Burk, perfectly paired with illustrations by Julie Downing. Don't Turn the Page is also a standout for being published by Creston Books, a brand (two seasons) new children's book publisher based in Northern California dedicated to resurrecting the "golden age of picture books, when fine books were edited and

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12. The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

I was instantly drawn to the illustrations of Kazuno Kohara when I was working as a bookseller and discovered the paperback edition of Ghosts in the House! back in 2010. Ghosts in the House! is the rare Halloween-themed picture book - one that captures the spirit of the holiday while also offering just the right amount of spooky for little listeners. Kohara's book was a joy to read at story

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13. My Pet Book by Bob Staake

I am a big fan of the work of Bob Staake and I hope you'll take time at the end of this review to explore his other books, many of which I have reviewed here. His newest picture book, My Pet BOOK, perfectly presents Staake's wacky sensibilities and his colorfully crowded world while expressing the joys of books and reading at the same time. Set in Smartytown, we meet a boy who wants a

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14. Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta, 276 pp, RL: ALL AGES

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is a behind-the-scenes look at the grown-up aspects of writing children's books written by three children's book specialists, Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta, who passed away in 2012. Having been a fan of the blogs of Betsy Bird (fuse#8, which was picked up by School Library Journal a few years ago) and Julie

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15. The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Daivs, 160 pp, RL 4

The Secret Science Alliance, by Geisel Award winner (for her excellent beginning reader comic book, Stinky) Eleanor Davis is beyond amazing. The plot easily could have taken up a couple of hundred pages of a traditional young adult novel (without pictures.) The depth of the personalities of the three main characters, as well as a few secondary characters is also equal to any good young adult

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16. Fanny written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie

If you are a woman and over 40, you probably remember the original Holly Hobbie, seen at left. This bonnet wearing, calico loving waif was an iconic part of my childhood. As an adult I was stunned to learn that Holly Hobbie is a real person, and artist and illustrator and not just an appropriately, adorably named prairie girl. I learned this when the first Toot & Puddle book was published in

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17. Reckless, written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch, 394 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

With Reckless Cornelia Funke returns to the dark world of fairy tales, however this time the portal to another world is a mirror instead of the magical voice of a reader. Although their last name is Reckless, brothers Jacob and Will seem to be direct descendants of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and the fairy tales that they recorded. In Reckless, the first book in what is to be a series, Funke proves

2 Comments on Reckless, written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch, 394 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 2/21/2011
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18. Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature

Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature. Tina Frolund. 2007. Libraries Unlimited. 392 pages.

Genrefied Classics is essentially a reference book. A book of bookish lists. There are ten genres explored in the book. Each chapter of genres is broken into sub-genres or categories. Each sub-genre has a list of recommended reads. Each entry lists the author, the title, the year and country of initial publication, details about more recent publications, and information about if the title has been done as a movie or an audio book. Each entry also features 'similar reads' and subject headings for that title.

Classics can be interpreted differently by people--depending on each person's definition of what a classic is and is not. This book only includes "classics" published before 1985. (Ender's Game would be an example of a more recent classic included in this one, the oldest examples would be The Iliad, Aesop's Fables, The Aeneid, etc.)

While the intended audience of this one may be adults who work with kids and teens (fifth grade on up through twelfth grade)--in other words librarians, teachers, etc., I think other readers can benefit from browsing this one. I don't think you have to be looking for a classic to put in the hands of a teenager to benefit from it.

There are categories or subcategories within this one which I wish were a bit longer because I would love even more suggestions. I would have LOVED it if the chapter on romance had been longer. I would have thought there would be more categories too. This section just felt a little uninspired, if that makes sense. Because while it's nice to include Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, it's not like those aren't oh-so-obvious choices. And to list only one Georgette Heyer?! I also think it would have been nice for Eugenia Price to get a mention or two either in this section or the historical fiction section. And Grace Livingston Hill, for that matter, either here or in inspirational fiction. And it just felt wrong, wrong, wrong for Elizabeth Gaskell not to be included in the romance section or the historical fiction section. Surely North and South and Wives and Daughters and Cranford are more than worthy to be included!!! I mean North and South is absolute must-must-must read in my opinion.

I was pleased to see some of my favorite authors included: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, John Steinbeck, L.M. Montgomery, etc. Some of the authors recommended were unfamiliar, which is a GOOD thing in my opinion. I picked this one up wanting to discover new-to-me-authors in my genres of choice. Unfortunately, some of them might be a bit tricky to find at the library. 

Because of my familiarity with some of the subjects (sub-categories), their recommended reading lists seemed too short, too incomplete, as you might expect. If you come to the book wanting new-to-you authors, new-to-you-books, the more you've read of the basics, the more that will be the case. But these lists aren't supposed to be comprehensive, they're supposed to be more basic than that.

One thing that also GREATLY annoyed me (I have low tolerance for this, don't laugh) is when they used the WRONG, WRONG, OH-SO-WRONG listing for the Chronicles of Narnia. Publication order. Publication order. Publication order. That's all I have to say about that.

As you might expect, the longest chapter is devoted to historical fiction. Over sixty pages worth of recommended reading. The shortest chapter is definitely the one devoted to inspirational fiction.
The ten genres are:


  • Espionage
  • Journey
  • Lost World
  • Nature and Animals
  • Sea Stories<

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19. Books Make Me Happy: My First Reading Log, created by Judy Pelikan

Books Make Me Happy: My First Reading Log by Judy Pelikan, published (THANK YOU!!) by Workman is so much more than just a reading log. Not only is it a great way to encourage reading and inspire a love of books, but it just might be your child's first introduction to critical thinking and writing.  In her note to parents a the start of the book creator Pelikan explains that a visit to The

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20. It's a Little Book

Written & illustrated by Lane Smith
$7.99 (board book), ages 4-8, 24 pages

A baby donkey tries to guess what a book is for and comes up with adorably silly uses in this pint-size companion to Lane Smith's gem It's a Book.

Instead of facing off over reading formats (the donkey's laptop verses the gorilla's book), as they did in last year's book, the two discuss the purpose of books as only babies would:

Plunked down on the floor, with their legs straight in front of them, as if they just lost their balance and tipped over, neither of them quite talking it over and both blurting out their thoughts.

The donkey's ears are perked up and he's trying to imagine what a book could be. The gorilla, a burly little guy with a tiny hat, is blankly watching him, as if didn't occur to him that he could help sort things out.

Every time the donkey guesses what the baby's gorilla's book is for and acts that idea out (as if he were playing charades), the gorilla dismisses his suggestion with a matter-of-fact, "No."

First, the donkey tastes the book, then he opens it over his brow like a hat, props it on his legs like a laptop and sticks it in his mouth to make a beak.

Soon he's making it flap in the air like bird, riding it like a saddle, rigging it up to be a roof for his building of blocks, and even trying it out as a pillow. Ugh, definitely not a pillow.

Of course none of these guesses are correct, and by the end of Smith's book, the taciturn gorilla finally spills what the book is really for.

"It's for reading…It's a book silly!" Gorilla tells him, then opens it up for both to share.

Lane's repartee between the donkey and gorilla is spare and hilarious, and made all the more funny because it's played out in the same way that babies play: alongside each other without a lot of interaction. 

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21. Speaking of Books... New from Puffin Classics and Daniela J Terrazzini!

Speaking of books and how much I love them, not just reading them but holding them and looking at them and admiring their lovely covers and creamy white pages.... Look at these absolutely gorgeous editions of classic children's books new from Penguin Classics and their children's division, Puffin. They already publish the best looking paperback editions of the classics (with great extras) at a

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22. Otto the Book Bear, written and illustrated by Kate Cleminson

Otto the Book Bear written and illustrated by Kate Cleminson is a new story that feels old and is simple and sweet while being moving and memorable at the same time. Or, as the Publisher's Weekly review says much better, "Cleminson is one of the latest in a long line of British storytellers who excel at being brisk and businesslike on the outside and deeply empathic on the inside." I couldn't

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23. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, written and illustrated by Lauren Child, 192 pp, RL 3

Many years ago I discovered Lauren Child's wonderful picture book I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, a very funny and clever book about a picky eater and her older sibling charged with feeding her dinner. Charlie and Lola, stars of this book and many others, went on to become television stars as well. Lauren Child has quite a way with kid-speak and presenting the world from a kid's perspective

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24. Open This Little Book, by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> There's been a lot of buzz about Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee for months now and I an so thrilled to finally have it in my

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25. The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: Here, There Be Dragons, written and illustrated by James A. Owen, 324 pp, RL 5

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - HERE THERE BE DRAGONS -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} The premise of Here, There Be Dragons, written and illustrated by James A. Owen, the first in a series of books that will come to an end with book seven, The First Dragon, in

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