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Results 1 - 25 of 32
1. Review of Bow-Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors

newgarden bow wows nightmare neighbors Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighborsstar2 Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash; illus. by the authors
Preschool    Porter/Roaring Brook    64 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-640-4    $17.99    g

Bow-Wow is back in this fanciful wordless follow-up to Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug (rev. 7/07). This time, the stalwart canine sets out to retrieve his stolen doggy bed from the ornery ghost cats and kittens who live across the street in a haunted mansion — complete with loose floorboards, secret passageways, and moving-eye portraits. Around every corner, it seems as though the pup may have found his purloined cushion at last, but each time, he’s mistaken. With beady-eyed specters peering out from various nooks and crannies ready to nip the tip of his tail, Bow-Wow finally makes his way through the house — only to come face-to-face with the mother of all ghost cats in an absurdly funny (and cuddly) denouement. In a strange house with the lights out, the predominantly grayscale palette captures the eerie confusion of eyes playing tricks with the shadows, while carefully placed flourishes of color amp up the humor at just the right moments. Through expert use of comic-book panels, Newgarden and Cash play with perspective and timing, giving a sense of immediacy and light suspense to each increasingly silly scene. A fresh look at things that go bump in the night.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Neighbors

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Neighbors appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Neighbors as of 1/1/1900
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2. Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

barnett samanddave Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

star2 Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-7636-6229-5    $16.99

This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. Review of Rain Reign

martin reign rain Review of Rain Reignstar2 Review of Rain ReignRain Reign
by Ann M. Martin
Intermediate    Feiwel    226 pp.
10/14    978-0-312-64300-3    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-250-06423-3    $9.99

Eleven-year-old Rose’s “official diagnosis is high-functioning autism.” She lives with her single dad, who does not have the resources, material or emotional, to be a parent. At school she is laughed at by her classmates. Her life works, but just barely. Uncle Weldon has her back; she is soothed by her ongoing collection of homonyms; and, best of all, she has Rain, her dog. This fragile contentment is shattered by Hurricane Susan, during which Rain disappears. A bad dad, a missing dog — this could be a tearjerker. It isn’t. Rose is a character we root for every step of the way. She is resilient, honest, and, in her own odd way, very perceptive; a most reliable narrator. The plot here is uncontrived, the resolution completely earned, and the style whole-grain simple until it blossoms into a final sentence of homonymic joy: “I stand up, then squint my eyes shut for (fore/four) a moment, remembering the night (knight) with Uncle Weldon when music soared (sword) through (threw) the air (heir), and the notes and the sky and our (hour) hearts were one (won).”

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. Review of Neighborhood Sharks

roy neigborhood sharks Review of Neighborhood Sharksstar2 Review of Neighborhood SharksNeighborhood Sharks:
Hunting with the Great Whites
of California’s Farallon Islands

by Katherine Roy; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Macaulay/Roaring Brook    
48 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-874-3    $17.99    g

Look closely at the cover of this impressive account of great white sharks off the Northern California coast: that bright red in the illustration is blood trailing from a chunk of freshly killed immature elephant seal — and a signal that Roy’s book will fully examine the sometimes chilling, always fascinating details of what makes this animal a predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting, while well-integrated information-rich sections tell more about the biology and ecology of these sharks and about the scientists who study their role in the Farallon Island ecosystem. The explanations are thorough, even, and informative and benefit from excellent analogies (in both text and illustration) to elucidate such topics as sharks’ streamlined bodies and visual acuity. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ color and perspective: blood-reds flow through the blues and grays of the sometimes calm, sometimes roiling ocean. Don’t skip the endnotes, which include behind-the-scenes information on Roy and the research she conducted for the book.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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5. Review of Poisoned Apples

hepperman poisoned apples Review of Poisoned Applesstar2 Review of Poisoned Apples Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christine Heppermann; 
photos by various artists
High School    Greenwillow    106 pp.
10/14    978-0-06-228957-5    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-228959-9    $9.99

For this poet, there is no dividing line between fairy tales and reality: “You can lose your way anywhere,” claims the poem with which she begins this collection of fifty pieces on the devastating conjunction of girls’ vulnerability, the rapacious beauty industry, and fairy tales. Caustic, witty, sad, and angry, Heppermann (a former Horn Book reviewer) articulates what some of her readers will no doubt perceive already but what may be news to others: the false promises, seductions, and deathly morass of popular culture’s imagery of girls’ bodies. What makes Heppermann’s poetry exceptional, however, is not the messages it carries but the intense, expressive drive that fuels it. In “The Anorexic Eats a Salad”: “Mountains rise, fall, rise again. / Stars complete their slow trek into oblivion. / A snail tours the length of China’s Great Wall / twice. / All those pesky cancers — cured…She has almost made it through / her first bite.” Or, in “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”: “It used to be just the one, / but now all mirrors chatter. / In fact, every reflective surface has opinions / on the shape of my nose, the size / of my chest…” These poems dwell fiercely and angrily within the visual and verbal cacophony heard and seen by girls, offering an acerbic critique, mourning, and compassionate, unrelenting honesty.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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6. Review of Pom and Pim

landstrom pom and pim Review of Pom and Pimstar2 Review of Pom and PimPom and Pim
by Lena Landström; illus. by 
Olof Landström; trans. from 
the Swedish by Julia Marshall
Preschool    Gecko    32 pp.
3/14    978-1-877579-66-0    $16.95

Pom is a small child with sparse orange curls, clad in a long purple sweater; Pim is Pom’s inanimate sidekick of indeterminate species: a dirty pink, with two eyes and four floppy appendages, the better to be dragged around by. “Pom and Pim are going out. It’s warm. The sun is shining. What luck!” But ahead, lying in wait, are a rock and a piece of paper. Pom trips over the rock (“Ouch! Bad luck”) and does a face-plant on the paper — which turns out to be “Money! What luck!” Small adventures ensue, alternating good and bad luck. Eating a huge ice-cream cone leads to a tummy ache — but lying down to recover leads to spying a pink balloon above the bed; taking the balloon outside for a walk (“The balloon bounces beautifully”) leads to it popping on a thorn bush. Pom is downcast but then, indomitable, comes up with the ideal use for the limp leftovers: “A raincoat for Pim!” And what luck: it’s now raining. In matching pink coats the two friends splash through a spare but joyful double-page spread of raindrops and puddles. The brief text and droll ink and watercolor illustrations keep the focus tightly on Pom and Pim, working together brilliantly to bring out the considerable situational humor; Pom’s facial expressions telegraph every fluctuating emotion. The good luck/bad luck progression will let readers predict events — and then allow them to (perhaps) be happily surprised by the closing twist. Quirkier and much smaller in scope than classics such as Remy Charlip’s Fortunately and Margery Cuyler’s That’s Good! That’s Bad! — but just as entrancing.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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7. Fusenews: Blink and you’ll miss it

Hey all!  Before I dive into the oddities of the world in which we live, I just wanted to give a bit of a shout out to two distinct groups that allowed me to sprawl my librarian self all over their respective gatherings.  First up, credit and love to Nancy Castaldo and all the folks who made this weekend’s Eastern NY SCBWI Regional Conference the success that it was.  I’m mighty appreciative that I was able to offer the dessert keynote on Saturday.  Moreover, thanks to everyone who came out to see my censorship panel on Saturday at the Brooklyn Book Festival with David Levithan, Francesca Lia Block, and Lauren Myracle.  It’s always nice to moderate something that hardly needs any moderation at all.  Extra thanks to anyone who stayed around for my picture book reading later.  David Maybury I be looking at you.

And now, because the weekend was so darned exciting, I’m going to do some super quickie round-ups of the recent news.

WitchesPoster 500x319 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

Don’t mind if I do!

  • I have dealt with difficult reference desk requests in the past, but Benji’s story on dealing with a student looking for Effie?  That takes the cake.  Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.
  • Though it falls squarely into the Couldn’t Be Published in America category of European picture books, Sergio Ruzzier’s remarkable The Birds is WELL worth reading through today.  And not just because I like the name.
  • Ever been curious about the history of children’s theater in New York City?  Well, you lucky ducks, I just found a post that’s gonna make your day.
  • Confused as to where exactly I work and what exactly I work for?  My job has gotten a bit more complicated since I became part of BookOps.  This interview with my colleagues by Booklist should clear up any and all confusion, though.  At least I hope it does.
  • Take one look at this image and tell me what you think it is:

AnneGablesWedding 500x333 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

If you said it was an Anne-of-Green-Gables-inspired-wedding-shoot you would be correct.  Sadly it wasn’t a real wedding, but you can tell it’ll serve as inspiration to a lot of folks.

  • Hooray!  The good Elizabeth Bluemle has collected The Stars Thus Far for 2013 and they’re a doozy.  A bunch of five stars are up, but not a single six star book has appeared so far this year.  Whodathunkit?
  • Looks like we have a bookless library on our hands.  Now the only question is whether or not we’ll be seeing the community clamoring for print or not.  Not so sure I agree with the statement that “it will take more than 100 years before all libraries are paperless” (so that’s inevitable, eh whot?) but we can all watch this site with some interest.
  • Daily Image:

Yup.  That’s gonna be the walls of my house someday.  Though the books will undoubtedly be thinner.

BookWall Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

Thanks to Aunt Judy for the link!

printfriendly Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itemail Fusenews: Blink and youll miss ittwitter Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itfacebook Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itgoogle plus Fusenews: Blink and youll miss ittumblr Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itshare save 171 16 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

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8. Review of My Bus

barton my bus Review of My Busstar2 Review of My BusMy Bus
by Byron Barton; illus. by the author
Preschool    Greenwillow    40 pp.
4/14    978-0-06-228736-6    $16.99    g

In a companion volume to My Car (rev. 11/01), we ride along with Joe as he drives Bus #123 across a bold-hued landscape populated with feline and canine passengers. “At my first stop, one dog gets on my bus. / At my second stop, two cats get on my bus.” After four stops, he points out he has five dogs and five cats riding on his bus. And here’s where the real fun for toddler transportation enthusiasts begins: Joe drops off one dog and two cats at a boat (“They sail away”), two dogs and one cat at a train, and one dog and two cats at a plane; the last little dog (“My dog!”) goes home with Joe in his car. Beyond the initial excitement many young children will feel as they share Joe’s journey and see the departing animals through the windows of their various vehicles, there is so much here for repeated readings (and there will be repeated readings). Barton ingeniously introduces the basic concepts of cardinal and ordinal numbers, addition, subtraction, and sets, but he does it all so subtly that even parents may not realize they’re getting a math lesson. And yet it’s all there for little brains to absorb and work out on their own as they “sail, ride, and fly away” again and again. Illustrated in Barton’s signature style, with bold, flat colors and with only the most important visual details included, this is a welcome companion to My Car.

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9. Review of The Scraps Book

ehlert scraps book Review of The Scraps Bookstar2 Review of The Scraps Book The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
by Lois Ehlert; illus. by the author
Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    72 pp.
3/14    978-1-4424-3571-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-3572-8    $10.99

In a generously illustrated picture book memoir, Ehlert speaks directly to her audience, particularly readers who like collecting objects and making things. Aptly titled, the book is jam-packed with art from her books and photos from her life, beginning with pictures of her parents, the house she grew up in, and the small wooden table where she was encouraged to pursue her own art projects. Along the way, we see how autobiographical her books have been. There are her mother’s scissors and her father’s tools (used in Hands, rev. 9/97), and her sister’s cat (the star of Feathers for Lunch, rev. 11/90). The small, 
square volume uses the same distinctive typeface seen in most of Ehlert’s books and serves as a reminder of her unique color sense and recurring subjects: 
flowers, leaves, fruits and vegetables, cats and birds. In addition to the large text for children, she includes smaller hand-written notes to fill in details, much as her books use a smaller sans serif text to label birds, plants, etc. We are treated to a description of her creative process including reproductions of thumbnail illustrations and detailed sketches. In the final stage of building collages, she uses whatever is at hand and enjoys making messes. “I use old tools to create texture; I splash paint with a toothbrush or rub a crayon over my grater.” Ehlert emerges as a woman who lives a good life surrounded by the objects and colors that make her happy. She wants the same for her readers, ending the book with “I wish you a colorful life!”

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10. Review of The Children of the King

hartnett children of the king Review of The Children of the Kingstar2 Review of The Children of the King The Children of the King
by Sonya Hartnett
Intermediate, Middle School    Candlewick    266 pp.
3/14    978-0-7636-6735-1    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-7042-9    $16.99

Continuing her string of novels exploring the effects of war on innocents (The Silver Donkey, rev. 9/06; The Midnight Zoo, rev. 9/11), Hartnett’s latest book tackles the home front. In the early days of World War II, twelve-year-old Cecily Lockwood, her older brother Jeremy, and their mother flee London for the safety of Uncle Peregrine’s country manor. Jeremy chafes at being packed off to the country, since he desperately wants to contribute to the war effort, and tensions escalate between mother and son. Meanwhile, Cecily and an evacuee named May discover two boys dressed in fifteenth-century clothing hiding in the nearby ruins of Snow Castle, as Uncle Peregrine begins to recount the legend of Richard III and the young “Princes in the Tower.” As always, Hartnett’s gift for language deftly conveys both the sublime and the mundane in life. “[The sun’s] heatless light reached over miles of marsh…and finally crawled, with a daddy-longlegs’s fragility, up the walls of Heron Hall to Cecily’s window.” Hartnett grounds the relatively minor fantasy presence in the book with a heartfelt examination of the pain and hardships, endured by civilians in wartime. Cecily is a naive, spoiled, but well-intentioned heroine, effectively contrasted by the quietly independent and mature May and impetuous, brave Jeremy. Over the course of the story, Hartnett’s characters waver between feelings of helplessness, anger, and fear; ultimately, they find the necessary resolve to carry on.

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11. Review of Caminar

brown caminar Review of Caminarstar2 Review of Caminar Caminar
by Skila Brown
Middle School    Candlewick    197 pp.
3/14    978-0-7636-6516-6    $15.99    g

“Forest sounds / all around / but on the ground / the sound / of Me / grew. Echoed. / I heard a path I could not see.” Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel set in 1981, in the middle of the Guatemalan civil war. When the government helicopters appear in the air over the small village of Chopán, young Carlos obeys his mother when she tells him to go into the forest to hide. When all is quiet, he climbs down from his tree and soon comes across a group of four guerrilla rebel soldiers, lost in the forest. They confirm his greatest fears — that Chopán was burned to the ground, and that the people there were massacred by the government soldiers. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Carlos begins to walk — caminar — on a mission to reach his grandmother’s village at the top of the mountain, to warn them about the helicopters. The poems, all written from Carlos’s point of view, are emotional, visceral, and lyrical. Layered and varied, some are shape poems; some can be read in more than one way, as if written from two perspectives; and all are accessible to young readers. When Carlos first encounters Paco, the rebel soldier his own age, their meeting is described in a poignant mirror poem. All combine to give us a chillingly memorable portrait of one child surviving violence and loss in a time of war.

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12. Review of He Has Shot the President!

brown he has shot the president Review of He Has Shot the President!star2 Review of He Has Shot the President!He Has Shot the President!:
April 14, 1865: The Day John
Wilkes Booth Killed President Lincoln [Actual Times]
by Don Brown; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Roaring Brook    64 pp.
4/14    978-1-59643-224-6    $17.99    g

This fifth entry in Brown’s Actual Times series (including All Stations Distress, rev. 9/08) begins on April 14, 1865, the day Lincoln was assassinated. Brown introduces both major actors, Lincoln and Booth, and then begins the tricky task of chronologically following each man to his death. He does so successfully, switching back and forth between the actions of both men with impeccable transitions. The text is matter-of-fact and detailed. “At about 10:00 PM, Booth reentered Ford’s through the front entrance and made his way to the second floor and the president’s box.” The illustrations, in Brown’s slightly impressionistic style and rendered in somber shades of brown, blue, and gray, create drama. There’s the despair on Dr. Charles Leale’s face as he attends Lincoln and sadness in the posture of mourners watching Lincoln’s funeral train moving slowly through America’s farmlands toward its final destination. But there’s also menace in Lewis Powell as he attempts to kill Secretary of State William Seward and in the stance of a soldier questioning eleven-year-old Appolina Dean, an innocent boarder at Mary Surratt’s house. A bibliography completes this fine book.

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13. Review of We Were Liars

lockhart we were liars Review of We Were Liarsstar2 Review of We Were Liars We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
High School    Delacorte    228 pp.
5/14    978-0-385-74126-2    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-98994-0    $20.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-375-98440-2    $10.99

Cadence Sinclair Eastman, eldest grandchild in a Kennedy-esque clan, narrates this story about her wealthy family, one that’s rife with secrets and is broken under the hood. Cady begins the book by divulging an unspecified accident that happened during her fifteenth summer on the family’s private island — where the heart of this novel takes place — that left her with debilitating migraines and memory loss. Although her mother demands perpetual stoicism (“Be normal…Right now…Because you are. Because you can be”), Cady takes comfort from her close relationships with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and from her sweet, tentative romance with family friend Gat. As the intriguing, atmospheric story goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that the protagonist, beautiful and emotionally fragile, is also an unreliable narrator, and what follows is a taut psychological mystery marked by an air of uneasy disorientation. And this angst snowballs, even (especially) as pieces of that fifteenth summer begin to fit together. The ultimate reveal is shocking both for its tragedy and for the how-could-I-have-not-suspected-that? feeling it leaves us with. But we didn’t, which is Lockhart’s commendable triumph.

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14. Review of Josephine

powell josephine Review of Josephinestar2 Review of Josephine Josephine:
The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

by Patricia Hruby Powell; 
illus. by Christian Robinson
Intermediate, Middle School    Chronicle    104 pp.
2/14    978-1-4521-0314-3    $17.99

To describe Josephine Baker’s life as “dazzling” is not an exaggeration. In this incomparable biography both Powell and Robinson convey the passion, exuberance, dignity, and eccentricity of their subject through words and pictures that nearly jump off the page. There is a surprise at every turn as we learn how Baker, at fifteen, hid inside a costume trunk to stow away with a dance troupe. We see how she managed to stand out in a chorus line by crossing her eyes and acting goofy to win over audiences. We find her walking down the Champs-Élysées with her pet leopard, Chiquita, who wore a diamond choker. You think her life couldn’t get any more interesting? Wait until you hear about her years as a spy for the French Resistance. Or about the twelve children she adopted from all over the world (her “rainbow tribe”), to prove that people of different races could live together. Matter-of-factly introducing the racism her subject encountered throughout her life, Powell doesn’t shy away from the challenges Baker faced, but she makes clear that Baker never let them overwhelm the joy she got from performing and living life to its fullest. Robinson’s highly stylized illustrations, using bold colors and a flat perspective, are at once sophisticated and inviting to young readers. Even the few pages without pictures are made visually interesting by the broad strokes of acrylic paint in the background and by the clean typeface that judiciously uses uppercase to accentuate important words or lines in the text. Direct quotes from Baker — translated from the French, of course — are interspersed throughout. C’est magnifique!

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15. Review of West of the Moon

preus west of the moon Review of West of the Moonstar2 Review of West of the Moon West of the Moon
by Margi Preus
Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    216 pp.
4/14    978-1-4197-0896-1    $16.95

Preus, whose Shadow on the Mountain (rev. 11/12) was set in Nazi-occupied Norway, here takes readers to mid-nineteenth-century Norway in a tale strongly infused with myth. Fourteen-year-old Astri is determined to go to America to find her widowed father. But first she must escape the brutish goat herder to whom her greedy aunt and uncle have sold her, free the other young captive he’s been hiding, and rescue her little sister Greta from their aunt and uncle. Astri tells her story in three parts: her time slaving away for smelly Svaalberd the goatman, her discovery of the mysterious girl hidden in the storehouse, and her daring retrieval of Greta; the girls’ frantic flight through the countryside; and, finally, the ocean voyage to America, which ends on a heartbreaking yet hopeful note. Several Norwegian folktales are seamlessly integrated into the fast-paced, lyrically narrated story, which features a protagonist as stalwart and fearless as any fairy-tale hero. A glossary and select bibliography are appended along with an author’s note listing the folktales referenced and quoting the 1851 diary entry (by Preus’s great-great-grandmother) that inspired the novel.

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16. Review of Gaston

dipucchio gaston Review of Gastonstar2 Review of Gaston Gaston
by Kelly DiPucchio; 
illus. by Christian Robinson
Preschool, Primary    Atheneum    40 pp.
6/14    978-1-4424-5102-5    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5103-2    $12.99

Bumptious Gaston looms over his elegant poodle sisters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La; they’re “no bigger than teacups,” but he’s “the size of a teapot.” Like a good twenty-first-century parent, Mrs. Poodle praises her well-mannered daughters (“Good.” Well done.” “Very nice”), while Gaston gets an encouraging “Nice try” for his sloppy slurping. Out in the park, they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno and their petite sister Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? Should they trade families? It seems like the right thing to do until they try it, only to discover that what looks right doesn’t always feel right. So they trade back, to general contentment. DiPucchio’s lively, occasionally direct-address text was made to be read aloud (“And they were taught to walk with grace. Never race! Tip. Toe. Tippy-toe. WHOA!”). In Robinson’s elegant illustrations, the dogs’ basic white forms — on saturated acrylic painted backgrounds of cheery sky blues and grass greens — have minimal yet wonderfully expressive facial details; with the simplest of settings, all eyes will be on the action. Excellent messages about family, differences, and friendship are implicit. But first, just share and enjoy.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Review of This One Summer

tamaki this one summer Review of This One Summerstar2 Review of This One SummerThis One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    320 pp.
5/14    978-1-59643-774-6    $17.99

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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18. Review of Emily’s Blue Period

daly emilys blue period Review of Emilys Blue Periodstar2 Review of Emilys Blue Period Emily’s Blue Period
by Cathleen Daly; illus. by Lisa Brown
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    56 pp.
6/14    978-1-59643-469-1    $17.99

Young Emily is an artist — a fact thoroughly established, visually, from title page on. She draws and she paints; she pores over art books. In school, she is learning about Pablo Picasso, and his work and career make a surprisingly apt frame for this story of divorce, told in five chapters. Like the faces in Picasso paintings during his cubist period, expected elements are not where they are supposed to be (“Emily’s dad is no longer where he belongs. Suddenly, he lives in his own little cube”); Emily’s sadness over the changes in her family pushes her into her own blue period; later, an assignment to make a collage of her house helps her make sense of the situation (collage is “how you take things from different places to make a whole”). Daly (Prudence Wants a Pet, rev. 7/11) has a gift for taking familiar childhood experiences and elevating them into, well, art. Here her affecting but unsentimental story is elegantly supported by Brown’s simple pencil and watercolor illustrations and innovative book design. Inventively, the end of one chapter segues seamlessly into the beginning of the next on the same double-page spread. Dialogue is often indicated simply with circles penciled around text: instant speech balloons. This is a heartfelt, relatable, and even sometimes funny picture book (especially when Emily’s little brother Jack has a meltdown in a furniture store). It’s also empowering for readers struggling with similar situations, as Emily figures out a way to redefine her idea of home — herself, through the making of art.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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19. Exclusive Interview with Michael Chabon!

With villain names like Professor Von Evil and the Flaming Eyeball, how can you not be dying to read Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon’s debut picture book THE ASTONISHING SECRET OF AWESOME MAN, illustrated by Jake Parker?  With short text and plenty of derring-do action (take a peek inside), this picture book will be a favorite of kids who love comics, as well as kids in your storytime programs.

In its starred review, School Library Journal said “the depiction of a showdown between Awesome Man and his nemesis-the Flaming Eyeball-is priceless. Readers may notice that there’s a moral peeking out from Awesome Man’s cape, but they’ll still grab this story in their ‘ginormous Awesome Power Grip’ and not let go.”

Monica Edinger (of Educating Alice and Huffington Post fame) recently had the chance to interview Michael Chabon himself!  Here’s how the conversation went:

Photo by Jennifer Chaney

From reading your Pulitzer Prize-winning adult novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, fans probably know you have a long-term relationship with superhero comics.  Can you give us a taste of your own childhood introduction to them and how that might have inspired this story of Awesome Man?

Well, of course I remember seeing Batman and the first animated Spider-Man show on television when I was very small… but my first true plunge into the world of superheroes came through the comic books that my father began to bring home for me, as soon as I could read. He had grown up reading them himself, and felt they were an important part of a kid’s education.

You clearly revel in language and names — Professor Von Evil, Moskowitz the Awesome Dog, positrons, and…pooped (and what kid doesn’t like saying “pooped!”).  As an adult author known for reveling in words and language, how did you manage to balance that with the need to keep things relatively simple for a picture book audience?

I was really thinking about the parents here–how much it meant to me, when I was reading a book aloud to my children for the 33832nd time, if there was a little verve or snap to the language. Probably the all time champ, in that regard–to me, at least–is William Steig. Nobody used English, in kids’ books, the way he did.

You have children of your own — were they helpful in the creation of this book?

I wrote this book for my younger son (I have two, and two daughters), Abe. He was the direct inspiration, in every way, for the main character of AWESOME MAN.

Are you a reader of children’s books yourself and if so, what are some of your favorites?

One of the greatest, and most lasting, pleasures of having children, for me, has been the excuse and the opportunity that bedtime reading has given me to revisit, and re-relish (usually), so many of the books I loved a

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20. EVERY THING ON IT

The day has come!  Shel Silverstein’s newest poetry collection, EVERY THING ON IT, is on sale today!

You can get a peek at the book by using our Browse Inside feature, and check out the downloadable activities.  The New York Times also wrote a lovely piece about Shel Silverstein as an unexpected “authority on education.”  And don’t forget to check out Shel’s poems on NPR’s Morning Edition (seriously, you haven’t lived until you hear Shel’s editor Toni Markiet read “Italian Food” out loud!).

The reviews are coming in and they positively glow about EVERY THING ON IT:

“This posthumous collection of Silverstein’s poems and illustrations is not only familiar in design, but chockfull of the whimsical humor, eccentric characters, childhood fantasies, and iconoclastic glee that his many fans adore.” ~ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Like the boy holding the delightfully absurd hot dog with everything piled upon it, this collection offers a Silverstein smorgasbord that won’t linger on the library shelves.” ~ School Library Journal (starred review)

“Adults who grew up with Uncle Shelby will find themselves wiping their eyes by the time they get to the end of this collection; children new to the master will find themselves hooked.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

It’s a historic day, and we’re so excited to share it with you, readers.  And if you’d like to share memories and/or favorite poems by Shel Silverstein in the comments, please feel free – we’d love to hear it!

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21. Review of No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

nelson crystalstair 212x300 Review of <i />No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller</strong></p>star2 Review of <i />No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem BooksellerNo Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Middle School, High School    Carolrhoda Lab    188 pp.
2/12    978-0-7613-6169-5    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-0-7613-8727-5    $12.95
Inspired by Marcus Garvey and the drive to make a difference, Lewis Michaux opened the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem at the end of the Great Depression with an inventory of five books and a strong faith that black people were hungry for knowledge. Over the next thirty-five years, his store became a central gathering place for African American writers, artists, intellectuals, and political figures, including Malcolm X, who frequently gave his speeches in front of the bookstore. But Michaux also sought to reach ordinary citizens, believing that pride and self-knowledge would grow naturally from an understanding of global black history and current events. He didn’t just sell books; he surrounded his customers with ideas and provocative discussion. He also drew people in with pithy window signs that used humor and clever rhymes. When Sugar Ray Robinson stopped by in 1958, for example, Michaux communicated his disapproval of the hair-straightening products the boxer used: “Ray what you put on your head will rub off in your bed. It’s what you put in your head that will last ’til you’re dead.” Short chapters—some just a paragraph or two—are written in thirty-six different voices, mostly those of Michaux himself, family members, and close associates. Some of the voices are those of fictitious characters based on composites—customers, a newspaper reporter, a street vendor—but most are real people whose statements have been documented by the author in her meticulous research. The voices are interspersed with documents such as articles from the New York Amsterdam News and Jet magazine and with excerpts from Michaux’s FBI file. As Michaux’s grandniece, the author also had access to family papers and photographs. Given the author’s close relationship with the subject, she manages to remain remarkably objective about him, largely due to her honest portrayal of the lifelong conflict between him and many of his family members, most notably his evangelist brother, who didn’t approve of his radical politics. Sophisticated expressionistic line drawings illustrate key events. An extraordinary, inspiring book to put into the hands of scholars and skeptics alike. Appended are a family tree, source notes, a bibliography, further reading, and an index of historical characters.

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22. Review of The Mighty Miss Malone

fic curtis mightymiss Review of <I />The Mighty Miss Malone</strong></em></p>The Mighty Miss Malone
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Intermediate, Middle School    Lamb/Random    309 pp.
1/12    978-0-385-73491-2    $15.99
Library ed.  978-0-385-90487-2    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-375-89736-8    $10.99
To her father, twelve-year-old Deza Malone is “my Darling Daughter Deza,” “that sassy, smart, beautiful, charming little girl…my Mighty Miss Malone.” But it’s 1936, and the Depression has hit Gary, Indiana, hard. The loving Malone family is desperately poor and withering away. Older brother Jimmie hasn’t grown in three years, Mrs. Malone’s clothes hang on her, and Deza’s teeth are so bad it’s as if she’s rotting from the inside. In one poignant scene, Deza overhears her beloved father say to her mother, “I can’t breathe out of my nose when I’m near Deza because of the smell of her teeth. How sick is that?” Mr. Malone lights out for Flint, Michigan, in search of work, planning to write when his family can join him. But when they don’t hear, they journey to Flint in search of him. As incandescent and full of good cheer as Deza is (and as she was when introduced in Bud, Not Buddy, rev. 11/99, as the little girl who kissed Bud in a Hooverville camp), and as funny as the book’s early scenes are, this is an angry novel, unflinching in its portrayal of poverty, with plenty of resonance with the fifteen million poor children in the United States today. There’s certainly a measure of hope, hard won, by the end of the novel, but this is a depiction of a family and a nation that embody poet Robert Burns’s lines, much repeated here: “the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.

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23. Review of Code Name Verity

wein codename1 Review of Code Name Verity star2 Review of Code Name VerityCode Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
High School    Hyperion    337 pp.
5/12    978-1-4231-5219-4    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4231-5325-2    $16.99
Wein’s exceptional—downright sizzling—abilities as a writer of historical adventure fiction are spectacularly evident in this taut, captivating story of two young women, spy and pilot, during World War II. Wein gives us the story in two consecutive parts—the first an account by Queenie (a.k.a. Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart), a spy captured by the SS during a mission in Nazi-occupied France. Queenie has bargained with Hauptsturmführer von Linden to write what she knows about the British war effort in order to postpone her inevitable execution. Sounding like a cross between Swallows and Amazons’s Nancy Blackett and Mata Hari, she alternately succumbs to, cheeks, and charms her captors (and readers) as she duly writes her report and, mostly, tells the story of her best friend Maddie, the pilot who dropped her over France, then crashed. Spoiler: unbeknownst to Queenie, Maddie survived the crash; part two is Maddie’s “accident report” and account of her efforts to save Queenie. Wein gives us multiple doubletakes and surprises as she ratchets up the tension in Maddie’s story, revealing Queenie’s joyously clever duplicity and the indefatigable courage of both women. This novel positively soars, in part no doubt because the descriptions of flying derive from Wein’s own experience as a pilot. But it’s outstanding in all its features—its warm, ebullient characterization; its engagement with historical facts; its ingenious plot and dramatic suspense; and its intelligent, vivid writing.

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24. Review of A Confusion of Princes

nix confusion Review of A Confusion of Princesstar2 Review of A Confusion of Princes A Confusion of Princes
by Garth Nix
Middle School, High School    Harper/HarperCollins    337 pp.
5/12    978-0-06-009694-6    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-06-009695-3    $18.89    g
Nix’s gaming-inspired, sci-fi fantasy is a pleasing mix of high-adventure space drama, total bunkum (e.g., “it’s functioning on the tertiary backup level, without a holo…”), and wry, boyish charm. Khemri’s coming-of-age story begins with his emergence from years of genetic and technical “remaking” to take up his title of Prince. But he’s only one of millions of Princes in the Empire, and immediately finds that Princely life isn’t the easy, glamorous ride he’d imagined. Instead he has to join the Navy, suffer manifold humiliations, and, if he wants to live, heed his personal Master of Assassins. But Khemri’s telepathic intelligence is above average, and eventually he moves into a new sort of training that involves him becoming an almost normal human. That experience and his native intelligence cause him to reinterpret everything he’s been taught about the Empire. Nix’s fantasy has enough gadgets, escapes, battles, duels, deaths, and near-death experiences to keep die-hard adventure story readers enthralled. Happily, Khemri is also a thoughtful, winsome, and somewhat complex character, and his cheerfully self-deprecating tone and unpredictable choices make this romp entertaining on multiple levels.

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25. Review of Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

koertge lies knives and girls in red dresses1 Review of Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dressesstar2 Review of Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses
by Ron Koertge; illus. by Andrea Dezsö
High School     Candlewick     88 pp.
7/12     978-0-7636-4406-2     $19.99
A much-honored poet and novelist retells, in free verse and from various points of view, twenty-three familiar tales (mostly Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault). With a contemporary sensibility and voice, Koertge pitches directly to teenagers. Beauty’s Beast, though allowing that “her love…transformed me,” is still nostalgic for the time when his teeth were fangs and Beauty “almost wanted / me to break her neck and open her / up like a purse.” For the Ugly Duckling, “Grief is a street he skates down”; the swans, surrogate parents, beg, “Please don’t go away like / that again. We were worried sick.” There are several eager risk takers here, like the queen who outwits Rumpelstiltskin, then exits in a red cape, seeking a wolf. A few stories later, Red Riding Hood’s condescending account to her mother is a perfect parody: “I’m into danger, / okay? What? You said to tell you the truth and be, like, frank.” It’s also a swell mix of the comical, concrete, and macabre: “Anyway, it’s weird / inside a wolf, all hot and moist but no worse than flying / coach to Newark.” Dezsö’s choice of cut-paper illustrations is brilliant, a nod to Hans C. Andersen’s skill in that medium despite the radically different tone. Her stark silhouettes are peculiarly appropriate to such gruesome scenes as “The Robber Bridegroom” dismembering a bride, though the lurid gore is in a comfortably distancing black and white. Need to grab a restive class’s attention? Seek no further. And take note: “Wolf ” has the last word: “This is our forest…Perfect again when all your kind is dead.”

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