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1. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd -- Nominated for the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery (ages 9-12)

Last week, two girls came bounding into our lunchtime book club bubbling over about how much they loved a new book they both just read: A Snicker of Magic. Their enthusiasm immediately spread to other friends. Hooray!! And so, here is our first book nominated to the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery, followed by Thea and Fiona's review.
A Snicker of Magic
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014
preview on Google Books
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
A Snicker of Magic
Review by Thea and Fiona

A Snicker of Magic is a great book about a young girl, Felicity Pickle, who sees words around people and things .”Some words glow, and some words dance Some have wings , and some have zebra stripes.” After moving (again) to her mom’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, (which is magic) she learns some important things about her family. But there’s still a gaping hole. Will she find it out in time or is she going to feel the hole forever?

Natalie Lloyd
We think that the moral of A Snicker of Magic is you can believe in anything you want to and always believe in yourself and your family. Our evidence of this is at first Felicity did not believe in magic until she started learning about her family. What we have in common with Felicity is that sometimes we don’t always believe in something until we have seen or witnessed it.

We recommend this book because this story has a really good plot that makes you want to never put it down once you started it. It has magic mixed with family drama , and amazing characters like Felicity and the Beedle, and lots of suspense.

WE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thea enjoyed Natalie's recent post on the Nerdy Book Club, all about the magic of memories that are hidden away in the books we read. This is certainly part of the wonderful charm of A Snicker of Magic.
There's a Lion in My Closet, by Natalie Lloyd

My first novel, A Snicker of Magic, takes place in a quirky Tennessee mountain town called Midnight Gulch. The sugar-wind blows through Midnight Gulch thanks to a famous (er… infamous, rather) ice cream factory called Dr. Zook’s. While Zook’s boasts all sorts of strangely delicious concoctions, the most popular flavor is only sold locally. It’s called Blackberry Sunrise, and years ago, the first batch was made from a crop of wild berries, sugar, milk … and memories. That’s the problem with eating Blackberry Sunrise, as my hero, Felicity Pickle, soon discovers. That particular flavor always calls up a memory. And you never know if the memory will be sweet or sour unless you’re brave enough to take a bite.

Sadly, I don’t know how to hide memories in ice cream.

But I know how to hide memories in books.

For more, head to the Nerdy Book Club post.

Thea and Fiona are nominating A Snicker of Magic to our 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery. Our process is that a book must be nominated by two readers to be entered into our final reading list. Students commit to reading at least 5 books from our list to participate in our voting in January. Thank you, Thea and Fiona, for sharing about why you want all of us to read A Snicker of Magic!

The review copy was kindly sent to us by the publishers, Scholastic Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. My friend's son is in jail

My friend’s son is in jail. These aren’t words I ever thought I’d write; they’re not words my friend would have ever thought I’d write. And at first glance, they’re not words about books and writing, which is what this blog is about.
But writing comes from life, and our characters’ thoughts and deeds spring from our own reflections, no matter how deeply buried the source sometimes seems to be. We’ll never grow as writers without reflecting on the harsh times of life: even the cheeriest story has at least the threat of some misery, or there’d be no plot at all.
Writing can sometimes seem cannibalistic, gobbling up other people’s traumas for story fodder.  I can’t imagine that I would ever write a story based on this particular tragedy, but anything that I care deeply about it is likely to inform some story in some way. It’s not a simple matter of being grateful for the roads my own children have chosen or pitying my friend’s family. It’s not even my respect for the extraordinary wisdom that she has grown into. It’s just sitting and reflecting on the feelings of all those concerned; of truly imagining what it would be like to know that you will not be leaving this room for another twelve hours, or leaving this building for another six months. Of imagining the complex web of emotions for the family on the other side of the walls. And it is complex, more than I’d ever considered before.
Whether I ever use any of these complexities in a book is irrelevant. Allowing myself to contemplate the issue from all its different angles can only help me grow as a human being, which is, ironically, not only more important than any writing skill, but basic to it.
I hadn't intended this as a Good Friday reflection, though perhaps it's appropriate. So, whatever your religion or beliefs, why not take a moment out of your day to imagine someone else's suffering, and their road through it. It won't hurt - you have the choice of stopping whenever you like - and it just might lead you into new understanding and stories. 

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3. Where were you?

Where were you when you first heard the sound? Good sounds – your husband’s voice, your baby’s giggle, the words “I love you?” Do you remember? Can you picture the scene and surroundings?

I experienced a condensed courtship with my wife because I was briefly called back to service during Desert Storm. I don’t recall the first expression of the four- letter L word in our relationship. I know it came, and stuck. I have said it to her every day for nearly twenty-two years. I say it every night to my girls and sometimes in front of other people, much to their chagrin.

I wish I remembered the first time I said it, though.

I will never forget the first time I heard the word Cancer as it related to my family. I was in the hospital just a week ago when it was introduced to me, while my little girl lay sleeping nearby. The doctor actually used the words “oncological event” before I made him dumb it down for me. Cancer.

I held my wife in my arms as she collapsed into a puddle. Doesn’t cancer affect other families? Why would he be saying this word? I felt an instant dislike for this man, but my mind clouded to nothing. My wife’s head heaved in my chest. I couldn’t think in more than three word bursts. I have no idea how long we stood that way. I was roused only by the sound of a man pushing a cart way down at the end of the hall. The wheel squeaked as he carried out his task and I remember thinking, “How can he be pushing that? Doesn’t he know? It doesn’t matter where that squeaky cart is! Why isn’t he stopping?”

It was then I realized this isn’t everyone’s diagnosis. It is Kylie’s and ours: our family’s, our friends and network of support. But the rest of the world will continue to march on around us.

I will add a link to Kylie’s Caring Bridge at the end of this post because I won’t allow cancer to dominate my writing. It will peak its evil head in from time to time, I have no doubt. But I won’t allow it to take over my life, steal my joy, soil my faith, or crush my little girl.

It took a while to determine the enemy. Until then, we’ve been punching at shadows. Now we start to take it out. We are at the beginning of a long road, but there is hope. Kylie knows what is going on, she is scared. We cried together and prayed. She has decided that this is happening because God must have a really big, great plan for her. I don’t know if I could have gotten to those words so quickly at twelve – she’s just chock-full of amazing.

image

The picture I added is one of Kylie as Annie in her school play a couple of years ago. She is an incredible actress and I can’t wait to see her on stage again.

Because our minds are reeling right now, the verse we’ve been holding onto is Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, friends. I have to go now, the bell just sounded for round one…

 

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kyliemyers

 


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4. Picture Book Roundup - Wordless edition

It's been ages since I've done a picture book roundup!  Here are two wordless masterpieces.

  • Becker, Aaron. 2013. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation.  Beautiful!




  • Kim, Patti. 2014. Here I Am. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. 
An insightful story of a young boy's experience in emigrating from Asia to the United States.



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5. Roberto Bolaño and the New York School of poetry

By Andrew Epstein


The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño is of course best-known as a novelist, the author of ambitious, sprawling novels like The Savage Detectives and 2666. But before turning to prose, Bolaño started out as a poet; in fact, he often said he valued poetry more highly than fiction and sometimes claimed he was a better poet than novelist. His work is marked by a deep and abiding fascination with poetry and the people who write, read, and teach it. As Ben Ehrenreich wrote several years ago in an essay for the Poetry Foundation, “through his legions of fictional poets (some more fictional than others), through their political compromises, their self-betrayals, their struggles and feuds both petty and grand, Bolaño built a world.”

Ehrenreich is surely right about the importance of poetry, and fictional poets, to Bolaño’s oeuvre, but the critical discussion of this element of Bolaño’s work thus far has mostly remained on a general plane, instead of connecting his writing to particular poets and poetry movements. However, with the recent publication of his unfinished novel Woes of the True Policeman and of his complete poetry in The Unknown University, Bolaño’s rather surprising links to a specific poetry movement — the New York School of poetry — have come into sharper focus.

It is common for readers to link Bolaño to Latin American and Spanish literary influences, to European avant-garde movements, or to other fiction writers. But Bolaño clearly read and absorbed the New York School of poetry and painting, along with a truly astonishing range of other sources. Although commentators on his work have barely mentioned it thus far, the New York School plays an important role in his work. It flickers just on the margins of Bolaño’s fictional universe, a ghostly example of the kind of poetry — as well as the type of intimate avant-garde community of like-minded others — that continually beckons and frustrates Bolaño and his characters.

Bolaño’s preoccupation with poetry can perhaps be seen best in his wonderful novel The Savage Detectives, which is actually a novel about poets. At its heart is a semi-fictional movement of young poets Bolaño calls the “Visceral Realists” (loosely based upon his own youthful involvement in a coterie called the Infrarealists). Throughout the remarkable opening section of the novel, this group — with all of its subversive energy, its iconoclasm and playfulness, its goofy, idealistic naivete, romanticism, and tragic flaws — reminds one of a host of other avant-garde communities, including the Surrealists, the Beats, and the New York School.

But it is more than just a novel about poets. The Savage Detectives is a moving meditation on poetry as a horizon of possibility and disillusionment. In fact, it’s one of the most exhilarating, devastating, exhausting, and revealing accounts of avant-garde poetry — and the movements and social worlds that sustain it — that I have encountered. It portrays the avant-garde as dream, as tragedy, as farce, as inspiring coterie and impossible community, tantalizing potential and heart-breaking, inevitable failure. In this, Bolaño echoes one of the hallmarks of the New York School itself: an intense, often ironic awareness of the paradoxes inherent in any avant-garde community, both its allure and its limitations.

Larry Rivers, "The Athlete's Dream" (1956) source: lunacommons.org

Larry Rivers, “The Athlete’s Dream” (1956) Source: Luna Commons

However, The Savage Detectives contains few direct references to the New York poets themselves (except for a passing reference to poets Ted Berrigan and John Giorno). Traces of the New York School stand out more prominently in the recently published book Woes of the True Policeman, one of the many (and perhaps the last) of Bolaño’s posthumous works that have appeared in recent years. At the novel’s center is a Chilean university professor named Óscar Amalfitano who falls in love with a young Mexican artist whose specialty is making forgeries of paintings by … Larry Rivers, of all people. Rivers, of course, was Frank O’Hara’s close friend, collaborator, and sometime lover, and the painter who is perhaps most closely allied, both socially and aesthetically, with the New York poets. This unusual detail — and the figure of Rivers himself — becomes a significant thread in Bolaño’s novel. The young artist, Castillo, explains that he sells the forgeries to a Texan who “then sells them to other filthy rich Texans.” When Castillo informs Amalfitano that Rivers is “an artist from New York,” he replies “I know Larry Rivers. I know Frank O’Hara, so I know Larry Rivers.”

Soon after, as Amalfitano meditates on the strangeness of this situation — the amateurish Rivers’ forgeries, the Texans who buy them, and the art market in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas — Bolaño writes:

“he immediately pictured those fake Berdies, those fake camels, and those extremely fake Primo Levis (some of the faces undeniably Mexican) in the private salons and galleries, the living rooms and libraries of modestly prosperous citizens… And then he imagined himself strolling around Castillo’s nearly empty studio, naked like Frank O’Hara, a cup of coffee in his right hand and a whiskey in his left, his heart untroubled, at peace with himself, moving trustingly into the arms of his new lover” (58).

Near the end of the book, the Rivers plot culminates with a strange and funny anecdote about running into Larry Rivers himself at an exhibition of his work.

The novel also features an amusing collection of Amalfitano’s “Notes for a Class in Contemporary Literature: The Role of the Poet.” This takes the form of an almost Buzzfeed-ready list that consists of items like “Happiest: Garcia Lorca,” “Banker of the soul: T.S. Eliot,” and “Strangest wrinkles: Auden.” Among other names cited in this rather crazy, irreverent list, one finds several important figures of the New York School – Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, and Diane Di Prima — getting top honors in some strange categories: “Biggest cock: Frank O’Hara,” “Best movie companion: Elizabeth Bishop, Berrigan, Ted Hughes, José Emilio Pacheco,” and under “Biggest nervous wreck: Diane Di Prima”.

Signs of Bolaño’s interest in poets of the New York School can be found elsewhere across the body of his work, as when Frank O’Hara pops up in a short story collected in Last Evenings on Earth in which two poets meet, share poems with one another, and discuss their influences: “We talked a while longer, about Sanguinetti and Frank O’Hara (I still like Frank O’Hara but I haven’t read Sanguinetti for ages).” In the newly published collection of his complete poetry, The Unknown University, Bolaño’s connection to O’Hara is considerably more substantial. He not only uses a passage by Frank O’Hara as an epigraph to a poem, but the (untitled) poem itself closely echoes O’Hara’s work:

I listen to Barney Kessel
and smoke smoke smoke and drink tea
and try to make myself some toast
with butter and jam
but discover I have no bread and
it’s already twelve thirty at night
and the only thing to eat
is a nearly full bottle
of chicken broth bought this
morning and five eggs and a little
muscatel and Barney Kessel plays
guitar stuck between a
rock and an open socket
I think I’ll make some consommé and
then get into bed
to re-read The Invention of Morel
and think about a blond girl
until I fall asleep and
start dreaming.

(translated by Laura Healey)

With its “I do this, I do that” narrative conjuring up an ordinary but melancholy-tinged everyday moment, its references to listening to music, and jazz at that (Barney Kessel), its intimate and conversational tone, its lack of punctuation and its headlong rush, Bolaño’s poem seems to intentionally evoke O’Hara’s signature style.

In another poem in The Unknown University, Bolaño chronicles his experience of reading Ted Berrigan’s 1963 book The Sonnets.

A Sonnet

16 years ago Ted Berrigan published
his Sonnets. Mario passed the book around
the leprosaria of Paris. Now Mario
is in Mexico and The Sonnets on
a bookshelf I built with my own
hands. I think I found the wood
near Montealegre nursing home
and I built the shelf with Lola. In
the winter of ’78, in Barcelona, when
I still lived with Lola! And now it’s been 16 years
since Ted Berrigan published his book
and maybe 17 or 18 since he wrote it
and some mornings, some afternoons,
lost in a local theatre I try reading it,
when the film ends and they turn on the light.

(translated by Laura Healey)

The poem portrays the speaker’s formative encounter with Berrigan’s ground-breaking collection of experimental sonnets, but also hints at the frustrations or limitations of his exposure to it: the “lost” speaker, who may also have recently lost his lover (Lola), merely tries to read the book. He seems to long for the energy he seems convinced Berrigan must have had so many years ago when he wrote those poems. The poem also underscores both the cosmopolitan nature of Bolaño’s imagination and the international reach of the New York School of poets. Berrigan’s book The Sonnets, like this sonnet itself, crosses time and space, speaking across 16 years, and sliding across boundaries and nationalities: written in New York, circulated around Paris by a Latin American poet who is now in Mexico, read by a young 26 year old Chilean poet in a movie theater in Barcelona.

Bolaño of course read voraciously, immersing himself fully in a wide range of 20th century avant-garde writing and art, but as the final pieces of his work appear in translation, it has become clearer than ever that he seems to have had a special connection to a poetry movement that sprouted from a place far from Santiago, Mexico City, Barcelona, and other key points in his own geography — the world of Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers, Ted Berrigan, and other New York poets.

Poetry — especially the kind of poetry the New York School produced, and even more so, embodied, in its example and its ambivalent attitudes about community — seemed to exemplify Bolaño’s guiding belief about art in general: that it always promises us shimmering possibilities and perpetual disappointment at the same time.

Andrew Epstein is Associate Professor of English at Florida State University. He is the author of Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry.

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6. nothing like a little seahorse love...


©the enchanted easel 2014
on the easel this week, a custom painting in the works...for a mermaid loving little girl. :)

i "heart" custom work!

©the enchanted easel 2014

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7. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (ages 3-6)

Sometimes my kids ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because they are just craving comfort food. Jarrett Krosoczka's newest picture book, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, is exactly like that -- comforting, a little gooey and certainly sweet. Reach for it if you're in the mood for something that will make you smile.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Best friends Peanut Butter and Jellyfish love to swim up, down and around--all over their ocean home. But every time they swim past Crabby, he shouts out something mean to them, like: “What a bunch of bubbleheads!” or “You guys smell like rotten barnacles!” What is it with that guy? More importantly, what should these two happy friends do about it?
Best of friends who spent their days exploring...
When Crabby gets caught in a lobster trap, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish have to decide whether they're going to reach out to help him. Krosoczka's story touches just the right notes, creating empathy and suspense along the way. His artwork is bright and cheerful, with lots of kid appeal.

I know many families will enjoy this as they snuggle up for a story at the end of the day. Lovely comfort food, and without the sticky mess! Enjoy this delightful trailer:



Illustration copyright ©2014 by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. #530 – My Friend Suhana by Aanyah Abdullah & Shaila Abdullah

suhana.

My Friend Suhana

by Aanyah Abdullah & Shaila Abdullah

Loving Healing Press      1/1/2014

978-1-61599-211-9

Age 6 to 8    30 pages

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 “A simple tale of love and friendship to warm your heart. This is the tale of a little girl who forms a close bond with a child with cerebral palsy. The girl finds that through her art, she can reach her special friend Suhana.”

Opening

“My friend Suhana is like no other girl I know.”

The Story

Suhana has Cerebral Palsy or CP for short. She is a quiet girl who moves little and depends upon others for all her needs. Despite all her limitations, Suhana can communicate. It takes someone special to understand all of Suhana and her needs. The narrator, an unnamed little girl, is trying to be that someone special for Suhana. The young girl, a budding artist, tries to use her art with Suhana. She uses different colors to symbolize Suhana’s various moods. Red equates being upset, blue is calm and pink is love. The young girl rocks Suhana in her arms and shows her the pictures she draws. Both girls are seven-years-old, which is not lost on the young girl.

Review

My Friend Suhana is a sweet homage to a young girl with cerebral palsy from a young girl who tries to be her friend. As narrator, the young girl tells us about Suhana and their relationship. The young narrator displays a great deal of empathy for Suhana, a girl her own age. Suhana’s mother tries to help the young girl understand her daughter. The young narrator volunteers with Suhana each week–

“But for one hour each week I get a chance to rock her in my arms and imagine that she is my special friend!”

1

What the young girl fails to realize is that she needs not imagine. Suhana is her special friend and she is Suhana’s special friend. Volunteering at the special needs class, the young narrator begins to understand Suhana through her own art, probably more than Suhana understands what the young artist is trying to say. The young volunteer does not say if she has helped Suhana make her own art, but that would be a great step to take.

As a story, My Friend Suhana falls quite short. The protagonist is the young narrator, telling her own story, but there is no antagonist, unless you consider CP. A teacher tells the narrator that her art can help ease anxiety in others, so the girl starts giving her art to her friends. What changes does this make? Do these kids find relief and does this help the protagonist grow? The narrator is seven-years-old, as was the author when she co-authored this book. She relates her experiences well, but for what reason. What is the story? Where is the conflict that will change her? Who is the protagonist?

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Rather than go into craft, conflicts, and all that stuff the young writer may not grasp, but a story needs, I would rather say this is a fine attempt for a first book. Putting oneself out there with kids who are so extremely different from yourself is difficult. Then telling the world about it, trying to relate what a great kid Suhana is, turns a hill into a mountain and this young author climbs that mountain gracefully and with much empathy. Aanyah is a great kid.

She realistically explains Suhana’s reactions to things she does not like, “she clenches her fists,” and when happy, “she waves her legs and arms wildly.” When Suhana bumps her head she, “screams unhappily . . . tired from crying, she fell asleep.” For seven years of age, this young girl is extremely observant and insightful. Everything the young narrator mentions about Suhana, I have seen repeated many times by kids with CP I have worked with. It takes a special individual with great empathy and patience to help these kids, even more to be a friend. Which is why I would rather exult the young author’s ability to work with others, her empathy, her patience, and her art, which she uses to help others.

3

My Friend Suhana is not a story. It is a loving tribute to a special friend and as such can be very helpful for other kids to read. Mainstreamed schools are a great place for this work to be available. Volunteer centers that allow kids to help, is another. Obviously, places with cerebral palsy patients are great places for this work, but any place with young children as clients that allows children to volunteer can benefit from having the volunteers read this young writer’s first work. My Friend Suhana may not be a “story,” but it has a lot of heart.

MY FRIEND SUHANA. Text copyright © 2014 by Aanyah & Shaia Abdullah. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Shaila Abdullah. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Loving Healing Press, Ann Arbor, MI.

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Learn more about My Friend Suhana HERE.

Buy My Friend Suhana at AmazonB&NLoving Healing Pressyour local bookstore.

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Meet the author, Aanyah Abdullah at her website: http://myfriendsuhana.com/

Meet author, Shaila Abdullah at their website:  http://www.shailaabdullah.com/

Find other interesting books at the Loving Healing Press  website: http://www.lovinghealing.com/ 

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.my friends suhana


Filed under: 3stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Aanyah Abdullah & Shaila Abdullah, art, cerebral palsy, children's book reviews, CP, friendship, hardships, Loving Healing Press, relationaships, volunteerism

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9. the rainbow connection

finally got around to scanning this little beauty....my homage to my FAVORITE childhood doll, Rainbow Brite. along with her BFF, Starlight, of course. ;)

PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE:

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10. So Good It Hurts (In a Good Way)

OMG, this video had me bawling. So great. Love this whole idea of making the sky rain goodness over one person.

Enjoy!

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11. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill: Megan Frazer Blakemore

Book: The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill
Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8-12

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill is a historical mystery novel set in a small Vermont town in 1953. Hazel Kaplansky lives with her parents in a home adjacent to the graveyard that they manage. She's prickly and smart, and doesn't fit in very well, despite having grown up in Maple Hill. At a time when everyone is nervous about Russian spies and possible nuclear attacks, Hazel is suspicious of the new gravedigger, a man with the too-banal-to-be-true name of Mr. Jones. Hazel soon enlists lonely new kid Samuel Butler in her investigation. But she soon learns that Samuel has secrets, too, which everyone seems to know about except Hazel. Hazel and Samuel's developing friendship is set against a backdrop that includes a McCarthy investigation of the men in the local factory, and corresponding swirl of local rumor and innuendo.

I think that Blakemore does a nice job integrating the historical time period with Hazel's story. She introduces lots of details, but keeps all of them tied closely to Hazel's perspective. For instance, she captures Hazel's mortification when she sneezes during an air raid drill. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill covers everything from the scars that remain from the depression and influenza epidemic to how people treated unwed mothers during and after World War II to the fear and gossip triggered by McCarthyism. And she slips in little tidbits, too, like the fact that Alaska isn't a state yet. 

There is a bit of an old-fashioned feel to The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill, as you would expect from a book so decisively set in the 50s. Bike riding, microfiche searches at the library, only mothers expected to show up at school events, etc. I think that the presence of a graveyard, together with active spying, will still keep kids interested, but there's always that risk with historical fiction that it will appeal more to adults than it does to the kids. There's a pretty clear sub-text in some of the scenes, where the adults, particularly Hazel's parents, talk over her head. I suppose that kids who understand this will have the chance to feel superior. Certainly I would expect young readers to be surprised at how different the world was 60 years ago. 

Anyway, I quite liked Hazel, despite (or perhaps because of) that fact that she isn't completely likable at all. She makes mistakes, she runs away with her assumptions, and she is flat out wrong about most things. But she's smart and loves books and doesn't really try to fit in - she is utterly herself. When a popular girl invites Hazel, unexpectedly, to a birthday party, she attends only so that she can conduct her investigation. She attempts to turn a mausoleum into a fallout shelter. She does remind me a bit of Harriet the Spy, writing things down in a little notebook, though the lives of the two girls are quite different. 

Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Hazel:

"What was in that box?

Hazel sat up in the tree chewing her lip. Something was not on the up-and-up. Last year she had read every single one of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and just like Nancy always did, she had a hunch, but you didn't need to be a young sleuth like Hazel and Nancy to know that when a person locked something up, he was hiding something. And just like that, Hazel had her first real mystery." (Chapter 2)

and:

"It should come as no surprise that Hazel loved the library. She loved everything about it, even the smell, like paper, and paste, and sometimes, when Richard Begos was there, a little bit like pipe smoke." (Chapter 6)

Despite the presence of some mean-spirited, gossipmongers in the town, there are several wonderful adult role models for Hazel, including a service station owner and a librarian. I also liked the fact that the conflict that Hazel has with a couple of mean girls is not resolved to any great degree. This comes across as realistic, and Hazel never feels like she needs their approval anyway. 

A hint of a mystery is left open at the end of The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. It's not a cliffhanger, just something to keep the reader guessing. Kids who enjoy mysteries or realistic historical fiction (like Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now) will definitely want to check this one out. I enjoyed it as an adult, and I think that I would have loved it when I was ten (having been something of a geek like Hazel). Although this is Hazel's story, the engaging cover should help it to appeal to boys, too. Recommended! 

Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BWKids)
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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12. Review – The Duck and the Darklings

The Duck and the DarklingsFrom beneath a mountain of brightly coloured picture books all screaming for review, I spied the oddly unassuming cover of The Duck and the Darklings. Odd because apart from Peterboy’s candle-hat, this was one sombre looking picture book. Even the title sounded desolate, quirky. Surely though something fantastical had to be dwelling between those black covers because this was the new creation of two of Australia’s most revered story tellers, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King.

The Duck and the Darklings is less of a blasé five minute read and more of a whimsical journey of despair, discovery, renewal and hope. It opens bleakly in the land of Dark and is about a small child named, Peterboy and his Grandpa, who share everything. Their home, though ‘built with care and lit with love’ is not a joy-filled place and is populated by others who depressingly are trapped by their own decayed memories.

But buried deep within Grandpa are ‘scraps of wonderfulness’ and ‘symphonies of stories’ past; tinder that Peterboy hopes to ignite and so rekindle the fire in his Grandfather’s eyes. He searches the ‘finding fields’ for something to make Grandpa’s inner light burn bright again but instead finds a wounded duck and takes her home.

Grandpa reluctantly repairs Idaduck and fosters a ‘forbidden fondness’ for her. But, just as Grandpa warned, it isn’t long before Idaduck gets the urge to be gone on the wind.

Peterboy is determined to make Idaduck’s departure memorable and enlists the Darkling children and Grandpa to help him light Idaduck’s way. It is a farewell and dawn that will never be ‘disremembered’ in the land of Dark.

This picture book sent tremors through nearly every one of my heartstrings. As I navigated my way through Peterboy’s and Idaduck’s story for the first time, it felt that Glenda Millard was deliberately tailoring each piece of prose for Stephen Michael King to work his illustrative genius on. Turns out, that was the case.

Glenda MillardMillard delivers unforgettable word images and unique refrains that defy banality and fill every page with pure poetry. Sorry drops; rusty latch key of his magnificent remembery; crumbs and crusts of comfort; and speckled surprises are just a few of my favourites amongst many of the fine examples of Millard’s exemplary way with words.

The Duck and the Darklings appears something of a departure from the norm for Stephan Michael King as well, at first. A noticeable lack of colour, definition and tea pots marks the first two thirds of his illustrations. Splats, smears and stains define the imperfectness and soulnessness of the land of Dark. The world Peterboy inhabits, bereft of light and cheer and hope, reminded me of the slum cities of some third world countries and of the dark depths of one’s own despair.

SMKBut gradually, almost imperceptibly, the landscape lightens as we eventually rise from the dark of night and the bruised ‘wounds man had made’ with his indifference, heal. A new day dawns, happily, in true trademark Stephen Michael King style.

The Duck and the Darklings is indeed a little bit strange, a little bit dark and a little bit different. It is also a lot of wonderful. Beneath an opaque veil of futility and the poignant reality of the inevitability of life, glows an inextinguishable brilliance.

Millard and King reassure us that even though physically all may be lost, deep down inside, hope beats. It hangs on like life itself and can be strengthened and restored to full splendour; ‘quack, waddle and wing.’ Truly inspirational.

Share this triumphant story with children 5 years and beyond and any adult who’ll listen.

Then, listen to this – not certain if the book motivated my mindset for this song or the reverse. Either way both are something special.

Allen & Unwin March 2014

 

 

 

 

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13. Puddle Pug, by Kim Norman | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Puddle Pug, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi. Giveaway begins March 30, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 29, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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14. The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly, written by Jaleigh Johnson. Giveaway begins March 29, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 28, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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15. Jane, the fox & me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault


I am smitten with this graphic novel that hits all of the right spots for any tween who has ever felt alone.

Hélène has been dumped by her friends. Not only dumped, but they are actively making her life intolerable.  Huddled in the hallways of school, snickering when she walks by, writing on the walls of the girls' bathroom.  "Hélène weighs 216! She smells like BO?" There's nowhere to hide.

Hélène finds some solace in her reading of Jane Eyre.  She reads better when her old friends aren't on the bus.  If they are she can at least look like she's not listening even when she can't help but hear them.

Hélène doesn't want to burden her mother with what is going on. Her mother works so hard for the family, and Hélène doesn't want to add to her pile of things.  But her mother does have to take her shopping downtown when it is announced that Hélène's class will be going to the woods to nature camp for four nights.  Four night with Geneviève, Sarah, Anne-Julie and Chloé.  And bathing suits will be involved.

Not surprisingly Hélène is selected into the tent of outcasts.  Which is okay with her because at least it's quiet.  But a chance encounter with a fox and noticing the empathy in someone's eyes combine to shift Jane's world of exile.

Exquisitely drawn, this is a book to be owned.  And shared.  I borrowed it from the library, but then quickly purchased the English and French versions.  Jane's life is depicted in black and white, while the Jane Eyre portions are awash in blocks of color.  I would buy this book for the panels on pages 58-59 and 74-75 alone.  I look forward to reading the (original) French version to see what nuances might be different.  This is a quiet book, but it is not to be missed.

0 Comments on Jane, the fox & me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault as of 3/28/2014 6:15:00 PM
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16. Across a War-Tossed Sea by L.M. Elliott

It's September 1943 near Richmond, Virginia and Bishop brothers, Wesley, 10, and Charles, 14, have been living with the Ratcliff family for over three years now, after being evacuated from war-torn London.  And there is nothing Charles, called Chuck by his American family, would like more than to return home and do his bit for the war, but his parents still refuse to let him.  Besides, Wesley still has frequent nightmares about firebombs hitting their home during the Blitz and about the possibility of being torpedoed by Nazi submarines while crossing the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic and Charles feels responsible for taking care of him when they happen.

The Ratcliffs are a large farming family.  Patsy, the only girl, is 16 and has a boyfriend named Henry flying missions overseas, next is Bobby, 15, who has become a great pal of Chuck's, followed by Ron, 12, Wesley's real nightmare, and lastly are the twins, Jamie and Johnny, 7.  The war is a constant presence in this novel, making it truly a home front story.

Life isn't always easy for the Bishop brothers.  Ron has always jumped at every opportunity to bully Wesley.  So when Wes ends up skipping two grades and, much to Ron's annoyance, lands in his 7th grade class, the bullying only intensifies.  Charles, who has become quite muscular from farm work, has made it onto the football team along with Bobby.  Everyone must help out on the farm and the work is long and difficult, because of a dWes has a fascination for Native Americans that he has read about and longs to meet one, but when he does, much to his surprise, Mr. Johns is nothing like what he expected.  Wes also befriends a young African American boy, and learns first hand about segregation and prejudice.

And Chuck must come to terms with his feelings about the German POWs that are brought into the area and used to help on the farms, and, ultimately, on the Ratcliff farm as well.  The more he sees them, the angrier he becomes and the more he wants to go home and help.  Chuck is also dealing with a crush he has on Patsy, which is especially hard on him, since he knows that her heart belongs to someone doing just what he wishes he could do.

Across a War-Tossed Sea follows the Bishop boys and the Ratcliff family through the year up to and a little beyond the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June 1944.  It is a nice home front book that gives a good idea of what life was like for people in the United States, interspersed with letters exchanged between the boys and their parents, giving the reader a good picture of life in England under siege.  In fact, this is really like a series of vignettes all connected to each other.

Given all the things that happened in this novel, I thought it was odd that after living with the Ratcliffs for over three years, the boys would feel like new arrivals and make the kind of mistakes that would most likely happen in their first year.  But that didn't diminish my feelings about the story.

I thought Across a War-Tossed Sea was an exciting, interesting, thought provoking novel documenting life on the home front and the adjustments that had to be made by everyone during World War II.  At the end of the book, there is a very informative Afterword giving a short recap of what was going on in Europe, the evacuation of children overseas that sometimes ended in tragedy and further explaining many of the things referred to in the novel, such as U-boats, V-bombs and secret air bases (a particularly amusing part of the novel, even though it involves a runaway German POW).

Across a War-Tossed Sea is a companion book to Across a War-Torn Sky, which follows what happens to Patsy Ratcliff's boyfriend, Henry Forester, after he is shot down over France on a flying mission for the Air Force.  And, bringing things full circle, they are both companion pieces to A Troubled Peace, and the end of the war.  Luckily, I have not read the two companion books yet, so I have them to look forward to.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an eARC received from Net Galley

Across a War-Tossed Sea will be available on April 1, 2014, meantime have a look at this very nicely done trailer:

0 Comments on Across a War-Tossed Sea by L.M. Elliott as of 3/27/2014 11:01:00 AM
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17. Ned & Rosco, by Robin Robinson | Dedicated Review

Ned is a book-smart turtle with a very introspective way of thinking. As Rosco cartwheels onto the scene singing a song, Ned’s long awaited moment of serenity is shattered and so begins the story’s true tale of accepting differences and finding a balance between learning and living.

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18. Review – The Simple Things

Great Aunt Lola is about to die. At least ten year-old Stephen thinks she could because she’s that old, and grumpy. And Stephen, labouring under a self and parent imposed ‘shy label’, is more than a little scared of her. He simply wants to flee, but is stuck in Aunt Lola’s house for the next three weeks until she turns eighty, or dies.

The Simple ThingsThey say the simple things in life are the best, but could friendship with his elderly aunt be that easy and straightforward? Award-winning author Bill Condon convinces me it can.

Condon’s latest ‘tween’ novel, The Simple Things is for bridging the generation gap, what styling gel is for rampant adolescent hair-dos; maybe not 100% essential but essentially 100% worth the effort.

Actually, it was no effort at all to immerse myself into this heart-warming tale about letting go, facing personal doubts and overcoming uncomfortable situations. It’s a story about an only child who does what his parents tell him to do, is scared of climbing trees and doesn’t seem surrounded by an ocean of friends.

Blue, Stephen’s dog back home, is the one he misses most during his enforced exile at Aunt Lola’s place. However, he soon meets Lola’s neighbour and past flame, Norm, and Norm’s granddaughter, Allie. With their help, Stephen is able to confront a few of his short comings. He also embarks on a small sojourn of self-discovery as he learns about the simple things in life – like fishing, cricket, climbing trees and death. All this explicably pulls him closer to Aunt Lola. They form a prickly alliance, each benefitting from the other until finally they are forced to admit a deep and special friendship.

The Simple Things is ‘smiley face perfect’ (re; the wet cement moment page 127). Condon writes with unaffected adroitness, delivering this story with equal measures of gentle humour and poignancy, and just enough secrecy to entice readers to want to find out what really lurks behind Aunt Lola’s tough-guy bravado.

Bill CondonCondon’s characters are bright, sharply drawn individuals with enough depth to make us laugh and cry, minus the melancholy. I found Stephen’s charismatic, larrikin father and sarcasm-welding Allie most endearing along with our hesitant hero’s comical boyish charm.

The Simple Things is one of those easy to read, easy to enjoy books, so I suspect it was not that simple to write. But I for one am grateful Condon persevered as Stephen did with his aunt, for it simplifies the complexities of a young person’s relationship with themselves and their aging relative with composite grace and humour, allowing young male and female readers to value and cherish their own relatives all the better.

See why here.

Allen & Unwin February 2014

 

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19. #508 – Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu

9781561457380.

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

by Anca Sandu

Peachtree Publishers*    March 1, 2014

978-1-56145-738-8

Age 4 – 8     32 pages

Inside Jacket

“When Churchill the pig loses his precious tail, his friends help him hunt for a new one. But trying on new tails is so much fun that soon Churchill has forgotten his friends completely.  Can Churchill solve the mystery of his missing tail? But more importantly, can he learn to put friendships first?”

Opening

“Churchill valued many things in life:  smelling beautiful flowers, painting self-portraits, playing classical music, and reading good books.”

The Story

Churchill is a proud pig. Nothing unusual about that, as he is a pig and pigs are a proud animal. He loves spending time with his friends Billy and Gruff. Of all the things Churchill loved to do, the things he possessed, or the friends he had, there was one most important thing to Churchill: his small, curly, tail. That tail made Churchill feel great.  Then one morning, Churchill woke up to find his precious tail was gone. He searched everywhere but came up empty. Churchill was miserable without his tail. Billy and Gruff came up with a bright idea. They called Zebra, who arrived with a spare tail for Churchill.

fr 1

Churchill did not think the zebra tail felt right ad decided to try other tails. Churchill’s tail made him feel proud. He lost the feeling when he lost his tail. Maybe Peacock would have a tail that would make him proud once more. The large beautiful peacock tail made Churchill feel beautiful. He decided to try on other tails. 

He tried Fish’s tail and could swim. Each tail, from Mouse’s tiny tail to Elephant’s big tail allowed Churchill to do something he could not do with his own tail. Soon, Churchill was so busy trying on tails he forgot about his friends. He just did not have time for them anymore.

Review

 I love the play on words in the title, Churchill’s Tale of Tails. Churchill is a happy pig when he had his tail. He did all sorts of things and had time for tea with his friends. When he wakes up missing his tail, he is frantic. Churchill’s good friends try to help him but Churchill becomes so carried away trying on tails he forgets all about his friends and the other things he loved to do. Churchill goes from being a proud pig to a selfish, self-centered pig. It is easy to fall into such a pattern, especially when trying out something new or trying to fix something important, like your missing tail. But Churchill may lose his friends if he does not wake up.

fr2

I love the illustrations and all the little details Ms. Sandu included. Churchill wearing a peacock tail is great. All those feathers nearly smother Churchill. Churchill felt strong and brave wearing the tiger tail. One of the best scenes is Churchill behind a dressing divider, with dozens of different tails to try on. How many tails can you recognize? A little fun for kids to do. Ms. Sandu used Adobe’s Illustrator software and added hand-drawn textures and shading. This works well, giving the illustrations a soft, pastel look.

In the end, it is best for Churchill to wear his own tail, if only he can find it. Maybe then, he will remember he has friends and spend time with them. When Churchill finds his tail, he learns a valuable lesson and makes a new friend. He also discovers that his important, proud tail does not mean the same to others. The animal that found Churchill’s tail but, not knowing what it was, he came up with several things it could,  then decided against them. In the end, the animal decides Churchill’s tail is useless.

fr3

I think young kids will enjoy Churchill’s Tale of Tails. The various tails will keep them entertained as Churchill tries to find the right fit. Kids will love the way Churchill acts with each new tail. The story stresses the importance of friendship and self-identity.  Churchill finally gets his tail back, remembers his old friends, and the other things he enjoyed. He needs to ask his friends to forgive him for his selfish behavior. I like that Churchill takes his new collection of tails and uses them to help his new friend. Turns out, tails can be something other than a tail.

.

Learn more about Churchill’s Tale of Tails HERE!

Get your copy of Churchill’s Tale of Tails at AmazonB&NPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

Also available at Waterstones

.

Find out more about author/illustrator Anca Sandu:      website     blog     facebook     twitter

Get more great books at Peachtree Publishers:    website     blog     facebook     twitter

.

*Churchill’s Tale of Tails was originally published in Great Britain in 2012 by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Random House Children’s Publisher, UK.

.

CHURCHILL’S TALE OF TAILS. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Anca Sandu. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

 .

.

chuchillc tale of tails

PEACHTREE BOOK BLOG TOUR

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

Check out all the participants!

Monday

Sally’s Bookshelf   www.sallysbookshelf.blogspot.com

It’s About Time http://itsabouttimemamaw.blogspot.com/

Tuesday

Reading to Know.  www.readingtoknow.com

Wednesday

A Word’s Worth.  www.awordsworth.blogspot.com

Thursday

Tolivers to Texas www.ToliversToTexas.com

Kid Lit Reviews. www.kid-lit-reviews.com

Friday

Geo Librarian   http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Anca Sandu, animal tails, animals, children's book reviews, friendship, Peachtree Publishers, picture book, self-identity

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20. #508 – Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu

9781561457380.

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

by Anca Sandu

Peachtree Publishers*    March 1, 2014

978-1-56145-738-8

Age 4 – 8     32 pages

Inside Jacket

“When Churchill the pig loses his precious tail, his friends help him hunt for a new one. But trying on new tails is so much fun that soon Churchill has forgotten his friends completely.  Can Churchill solve the mystery of his missing tail? But more importantly, can he learn to put friendships first?”

Opening

“Churchill valued many things in life:  smelling beautiful flowers, painting self-portraits, playing classical music, and reading good books.”

The Story

Churchill is a proud pig. Nothing unusual about that, as he is a pig and pigs are a proud animal. He loves spending time with his friends Billy and Gruff. Of all the things Churchill loved to do, the things he possessed, or the friends he had, there was one most important thing to Churchill: his small, curly, tail. That tail made Churchill feel great.  Then one morning, Churchill woke up to find his precious tail was gone. He searched everywhere but came up empty. Churchill was miserable without his tail. Billy and Gruff came up with a bright idea. They called Zebra, who arrived with a spare tail for Churchill.

fr 1

Churchill did not think the zebra tail felt right ad decided to try other tails. Churchill’s tail made him feel proud. He lost the feeling when he lost his tail. Maybe Peacock would have a tail that would make him proud once more. The large beautiful peacock tail made Churchill feel beautiful. He decided to try on other tails. 

He tried Fish’s tail and could swim. Each tail, from Mouse’s tiny tail to Elephant’s big tail allowed Churchill to do something he could not do with his own tail. Soon, Churchill was so busy trying on tails he forgot about his friends. He just did not have time for them anymore.

Review

 I love the play on words in the title, Churchill’s Tale of Tails. Churchill is a happy pig when he had his tail. He did all sorts of things and had time for tea with his friends. When he wakes up missing his tail, he is frantic. Churchill’s good friends try to help him but Churchill becomes so carried away trying on tails he forgets all about his friends and the other things he loved to do. Churchill goes from being a proud pig to a selfish, self-centered pig. It is easy to fall into such a pattern, especially when trying out something new or trying to fix something important, like your missing tail. But Churchill may lose his friends if he does not wake up.

fr2

I love the illustrations and all the little details Ms. Sandu included. Churchill wearing a peacock tail is great. All those feathers nearly smother Churchill. Churchill felt strong and brave wearing the tiger tail. One of the best scenes is Churchill behind a dressing divider, with dozens of different tails to try on. How many tails can you recognize? A little fun for kids to do. Ms. Sandu used Adobe’s Illustrator software and added hand-drawn textures and shading. This works well, giving the illustrations a soft, pastel look.

In the end, it is best for Churchill to wear his own tail, if only he can find it. Maybe then, he will remember he has friends and spend time with them. When Churchill finds his tail, he learns a valuable lesson and makes a new friend. He also discovers that his important, proud tail does not mean the same to others. The animal that found Churchill’s tail but, not knowing what it was, he came up with several things it could,  then decided against them. In the end, the animal decides Churchill’s tail is useless.

fr3

I think young kids will enjoy Churchill’s Tale of Tails. The various tails will keep them entertained as Churchill tries to find the right fit. Kids will love the way Churchill acts with each new tail. The story stresses the importance of friendship and self-identity.  Churchill finally gets his tail back, remembers his old friends, and the other things he enjoyed. He needs to ask his friends to forgive him for his selfish behavior. I like that Churchill takes his new collection of tails and uses them to help his new friend. Turns out, tails can be something other than a tail.

.

Learn more about Churchill’s Tale of Tails HERE!

Get your copy of Churchill’s Tale of Tails at AmazonB&NPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

Also available at Waterstones

.

Find out more about author/illustrator Anca Sandu:      website     blog     facebook     twitter

Get more great books at Peachtree Publishers:    website     blog     facebook     twitter

.

*Churchill’s Tale of Tails was originally published in Great Britain in 2012 by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Random House Children’s Publisher, UK.

.

CHURCHILL’S TALE OF TAILS. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Anca Sandu. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

 .

.

chuchillc tale of tails

PEACHTREE BOOK BLOG TOUR

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

Check out all the participants!

Monday

Sally’s Bookshelf   www.sallysbookshelf.blogspot.com

It’s About Time http://itsabouttimemamaw.blogspot.com/

Tuesday

Reading to Know.  www.readingtoknow.com

Wednesday

A Word’s Worth.  www.awordsworth.blogspot.com

Thursday

Tolivers to Texas www.ToliversToTexas.com

Kid Lit Reviews. www.kid-lit-reviews.com

Friday

Geo Librarian   http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Anca Sandu, animal tails, animals, children's book reviews, friendship, Peachtree Publishers, picture book, self-identity

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21. Afternoon of the Elves (1989)

Afternoon of the Elves. Janet Taylor Lisle. 1989. Scholastic. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Afternoon of the Elves. At its heart, the novel is simply about an unlikely friendship, and how that friendship impacts the two girls. Sara-Kate is the oldest of the girls. She does not have any friends at school. She is not exactly invisible, but, her real self is not seen by anyone. If Sara-Kate were successfully invisible at school, perhaps the girls would not go to so much trouble to talk about her all the time, to tell of scandalous doings, to share every rumor, perhaps to invent every rumor. They are noticing Sara-Kate for all the wrong reasons: she doesn't look like me, she doesn't dress like me, she doesn't act like me, she doesn't talk like me. Hillary, the youngest girl, is Sara-Kate's neighbor. Sara-Kate has NEVER to anyone's knowledge invited another girl to play with her. But she does invite Hillary into her backyard. She shows her an elf-village. Hillary isn't exactly sure that elves are real, that they do in fact live in a village in her neighbor's backyard. But the "proof" of such a village does exist. And together these two girls meet almost daily through the fall. They keep it to the yard. They keep the subjects limited. No probing questions on subjects Sara-Kate would rather avoid. But. Hillary, eventually, comes to realize that some of the rumors she thought were mere lies had some basis in truth.

The book is interesting. Sara-Kate is mysterious: veiling her darkest truths but at the same time showing glimpses here and there that do hint at her desperate need to be seen and loved and helped. Hillary is observant enough to know that Sara-Kate likes to have control, that she hates to be vulnerable. She comes to think of her friend as an elf, having all the elf qualities that she learns about from Sara-Kate. Hillary does make decisions. She decides to NOT listen to her friends. She chooses to befriend Sara-Kate even though no one else likes her. She does decide to go over to her friend's house every day despite the fact that her mother does not approve. She decides that her mother just doesn't know Sara-Kate, and that her mother is wrong to think the worst of Sara-Kate and her mother. She decides to steal money from her mother's purse to help Sara-Kate when she realizes that her friend has no food in the house. Hillary never has to make the hardest decision. She never has to make the ultimate choice of keeping her friend's secret no matter what, or, telling her mom. I'm not sure what Hillary would have decided.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Afternoon of the Elves (1989) as of 3/6/2014 12:42:00 PM
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22. Unicorn Think’s He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea | Book Review

A beautifully illustrated, sarcastic tale of interspecies rivalry and friendship.

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23. Doodles and Drafts – A Blog Tour with Alison Reynolds

Alison ReynoldsA couple of years ago a diminutive orange cat sprang into our hearts and homes courtesy of picture book creators, Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie. That cat was, Marmalade. He caused quite a sensation around our home, so when we heard he was on tour with Alison Reynolds, purrs of satisfaction reverberated throughout the house once more.

Alison Reynolds is no stranger to children’s fiction, but when she teams with illustrator, Heath McKenzie, her work is picture book paean.Heath McKenzie 2

A New Friend for Marmalade, sequel to the hugely successful, A Year with Marmalade, is a simple story about making new friends. But as we all know, the art of forming and maintaining friendships is seldom that straightforward. Hierarchy and the delicate differences between boys and girls all begin to surface in early primary years, making social interplay more of a challenge.

A new friend for MarmaladeWhen Toby, the boy across the road attempts to join BFFs, Ella, Maddy and Marmalade, things go instantly awry. Toby’s endeavours to fit in are not particularly successful nor welcomed by Ella and Maddy. He is over-exuberant, clumsy and dresses funny. Marmalade, however, sees him differently.

In Marmalade’s moment of crisis, his gamble on Toby pays off and beautiful new friendships are forged all round.

I love the snappy, clean layout of this picture book. Swirling text works effectively against plenty of white space, giving readers the sensation of floating seamlessly along with the story.

The narrative itself is succinct and character driven, with enough repeating phraseology to prompt even the most modest beginner reader to join in the fun.

McKenzie’s soft smudges of pastel colour highlight significant aspects and emotions of the story: the girls’ cubby house and sand castle city, Toby’s cap and scooter, and of course, our little orange hero, Marmalade.A NFM illos

Acceptance, tolerance and making that leap of faith permeate appealingly through this dreamy picture book, resulting in a fine example of ‘less is more’. It certainly stacks up for me.

Uncover why sand-castle-city builders from the age of 4 years and up will treasure A New Friend for Marmalade, here.

Stick around with Alison and Marmalade for the rest of their tour and participate in the fantastic competitions listed below. You never know, you might just make few new friends along the way!

The Five Mile Press 2013

Alison Reynolds Blog Tour Dates

March 2014

11th Dee White – review and post http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

11th Chris Bell – post http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

12th KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog/

15th Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine/

18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

Pet contest for all ages!

Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to www.alisonreynolds.com.au, alrey@msn.com.au or upload to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524

Random book giveaways!

Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on Facebook or even email Alison that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White. http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/ Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

 

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24. #512 – Lost for Words by Natalie Russell

9781561457397.

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Lost for Words

by Natalie Russell

Peachtree Publishers    3/01/2014

978-1-56145-739-7

Age 4 to 8  32 pages

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“Tapir and his friends all have nice new notebooks, just waiting to be filled. Giraffe decides to write a poem, Hippo writes a story, and Flamingo composes a beautiful song. But poor Tapir can’t think of anything to write – and the harder he tries the more upset he becomes! But everything starts to change when Tapir stops trying to write and begins to draw… this gentle story will inspire even the littlest artists to find their creative sparks.”

Opening

“Tapir had some pencils and a nice new notebook. But he didn’t know what to write.”

The Story

Tapir and his friends all have new notebooks and pencils. Giraffe, Hippo, and Flamingo all easily fill their notebooks with poems, stories, and songs. Tapir is stuck. He is having classic writer’s block. Nothing would come to mind. Tapir thought he must doing something wrong. He imitated his friends. First, Tapir tried humming but no words came. He tried chewing on nice green leaves off the tree, but all that came was a grumpy feeling. Finally, Tapir tried wallowing in the mud. Nothing. Tapir’s friends told him not to worry something would come to him. Poor Tapir didn’t think so. He walked away, way up to the top of the hill, where he could see everything and everything was so beautiful. No words came.

Review

For anyone who has ever had writer’s block, this is the picture book for you. Poor Tapir could not think of anything to write. Giraffe is writing poetry, Flamingo composes a song, and Hippo writes a story, but Tapir could not think of anything to write. Words would not come for Tapir. He tried so hard to force words to flow. Tapir tried copying his friend’s methods—humming, eating leaves, wallowing in mud, but they didn’t work because Tapir’s mind works Tapir’s way.

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I love that Tapir wandered off somewhere quiet where all he had was his own resources. Then he simply looked around and inspiration hit. Words still did not come to Tapir, because he did not need words to express himself. Tapir needs pictures. When he was lost for words, Tapir tried to be like his friends when all he needed was to be true to himself. What a great message.

The beautiful illustrations are in lighter shades of blues, greens, and yellows, with orange and a little brown thrown in. Author/illustrator Natalie Russell’s spreads are screen prints, not charcoal, pencils, or digitally made with Illustrator or Photoshop. Even drawn creativity can be many different styles, just as writing can be many different forms and genres. It is good to remember Hippo’s process of writing stories will not be Tapir’s way of creating pictures. A gentle push—a walk up a hill—might work, but creativity cannot forced.

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Lost for Words will entertain young children and might spark their imaginations. The story of these four friends and the different ways they filled their notebooks is itself creative. After reading Lost for Words several times—or maybe just once—young children will be asking for a notebook of their own. Some will find words and write a poem or a story, or maybe a song. Others will draw pictures to express themselves. If Lost for Words encourages creativity, it has been a success.

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Learn more about Lost for Words HERE.

Buy your own copy of Lost for Words at AmazonB&NPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

Meet the author / illustrator, Natalie Russell at her website:  http://www.natalierussell.co.uk/

Find more great Peachtree books at their website:  http://peachtree-online.com/

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LOST FOR WORDS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Natalie Russell. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

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Other Spring 12014 Releases from Peachtree

grudge keeper.

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The Grudge Keeper   4/01/2014

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charlie bumpers nice gnome.

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Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome  4/012014

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claude at beach.

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Claude at the Beach   4/01/2014

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lost for words

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Peachtree Book Blog Tour

Lost for Words

Monday, 3/10/14
Sally’s Bookshelf


Tuesday, 3/11/14

It’s About Time Mamaw

Wednesday, 3/12/14
Chat with Vera

A Word’s Worth

Thursday, 3/13/14

Tolivers to Texas

Kid Lit Reviews

Friday, 3/14/14
Geo Librarian

 

Next Peachtree Book Blog Tour: ABOUT HABITATS: FORESTS, starting Monday, March 17th


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: animals, children's book reviews, compositions, creativity, friendship, Natalie Russell, Peachtree Publishers, poetry, prose, writer's block

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25. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg | Book Series Giveaway

Enter to win a set of all three books in Julie Sternberg's Eleanor series. Giveaway begins March 13, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 12, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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