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<<October 2016>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Scholastic, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 591
1. Board Book: You Are My Pumpkin

You Are My Pumpkin. Joyce Wan. 2016. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You are my happy, smiley Pumpkin. My sugary, sweet Candy Corn.

Premise/plot: You Are My Pumpkin is a board book for parents to read to their little ones. Joyce Wan has a handful of board books that are just perfect for this youngest age group. (My personal favorite is You Are My Cupcake. You Are My Cupcake is without a doubt my favorite, favorite, favorite board book of all time.)

My thoughts: I liked this one. It isn't quite as magical as You Are My Cupcake. But it is good. Is it Halloween themed? Maybe. There's mention of candy corn, ghosts, bats, and monsters. But there's also mention of cute little kitties and pumpkins. There's something cozy-sweet about the book not at all scary.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens

Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. Brandon Sanderson. 2010. Scholastic. 294 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So there I was, holding a pink teddy bear in my hand.

Premise/plot: The fourth book in the Alcatraz fantasy series for children. Is Alcatraz brave or stupid in this one? He insists that bravery and stupidity are essentially the same. The free kingdom of Mokia is in danger of falling. Their capital city seems doomed to fall within days...if not hours. The royal family has been evacuated, so we're told, and unless a famous person whose life is so very, very, very valuable is there to be saved, no knights or soldiers will be endangered or sacrificed recklessly. Alcatraz's scheme? To go to Mokia so that the KNIGHTS will go to Mokia. Once he arrives, he learns, well, that would be SPOILERS. But he learns that he isn't the only person with Smedry blood to be stupid or brave. Bastille is along for this adventure....Kaz as well.

The new character introduced in this one is Aydee, and, her talent is being BAD AT MATH.

My thoughts: This one is definitely the best of the series perhaps. Or rereading all four books within two weeks has made me care so very much about these characters?! Either way, I recommend the series.

This book left so many unanswered questions. I had almost come to terms with having no true answers...when I learned that the fifth book will be released this year. So after years, I can finally know what happens next!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. The Scourge

The Scourge. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Few things were worth the risk to my life, but the juicy vinefruit was one of them. Even more so today because I was long past hungry. If I didn't eat something soon, my life was in danger anyway.

Premise/plot: Ani and Weevil are best, best friends who will face much DANGER together in Jennifer Nielsen's newest fantasy book, The Scourge. It has been hundreds of years since the plague--the scourge--has devastated their country. The scourge has left its mark on their history. And the fear of it has never completely gone away. Now, it seems, almost out of nowhere, the scourge is back. Those who test positive for the scourge are sent to an isolated island--a former prison--to live out the rest of their lives. Ani and Weevil end up there. (It's complicated to try to summarize). And they will spend most of their time a) trying to survive b) distinguishing between lies and truth c) trying to change the way things are.

My thoughts: If you love Shannon Hale's fantasy novels, you MUST read The Scourge. I greatly enjoyed this one. And I think it has a similar feel to some of Hale's novels. This one is, however, different from Nielsen's other series. It is perhaps slightly less action-packed than her previous books. And it is written from a female perspective.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Behind-the-scenes: How new picture book PIRASAURS! was created, with insights from author Josh Funk and illustrator Michael Slack

Back in May 2013, I posted an interview with Celia Lee, an editor at Cartwheel Books / Scholastic, and Celia invited Inkygirl readers to submit manuscripts for a limited time; apparently Celia received over a thousand submissions (!). A couple of years later, I met Josh Funk at nErDcampMI and found out that he had sold one of his picture book manuscripts to Celia as a result of my Inkygirl post, and it was being illustrated by Michael Slack.

I'm thrilled that PIRASAURS! is launching this week from Cartwheel/Scholastic. You can find out more about the book at the Scholastic page about the book, Josh Funk's Pirasaurs! page (where you can also find lesson ideas, reviews, links to other interviews and more), and the trailer below:

I asked Josh Funk how PIRASAURS! got created, and here's what he told me:

On February 27th, 2013 at 2:53 in the morning, I woke up. I don't remember what I was dreaming of. I don't remember what I watched on TV the night before or what I ate for dinner (or late night snack). I do know that I sent a text with a single word to myself:


Ok, maybe that's not a word (yet). But it was a single string of letters. And I knew what to do with them.

Over the next two days, I furiously wrote a story featuring pirate-dinosaurs and a slew of other characters. It was my first time using internal rhyme (rhymes within a single line of text) and I had a blast with it. It turned out to be sort of a concept book. There were a bunch of crazy characters. The ending didn't really make all that much sense. But about 40 hours later, I had a full first draft that was ready to be sent to a critique group.

Here is the opening section of the 'Concept Book' version of Pira-Saurs!

I brought the manuscript to my critique group twice over the next three months, and while much of the manuscript was tweaked, the opening Pira-Saurs! section stayed pretty much the same.

And then on May 20th, 2013, Debbie Ohi posted an interview with Celia Lee, editor at Cartwheel Books an imprint of Scholastic. Within a week, news had spread that a fancy Scholastic editor was accepting unsolicited submissions of picture books for ages 0-5. The funny thing was, Pira-Saurs! was the only manuscript I had that really fit the 0-5 age range. Most of the manuscripts I'd written fell more into the 5-8 area (although I personally believe that most of what I write is good for anyone between the ages of 0 and 92).

So, in late May, I sent Pira-Saurs! to the Scholastic offices in NYC via snail mail. I never sent Pira-Saurs! to anyone else. And then I went about my business, because at the time, I had no book deals, no agent, and really, I'd never received any positive feedback on anything I'd sent to an industry professional up to that point.

PIRASAURS! author Josh Funk with his editor, Celia Lee

And then on July 9th, my phone buzzed. I'd received an email with the subject "Pira-Saurs! for Cartwheel Books" and everything slowed down. I was used to getting email rejections, so when I saw that it was a writing-related email, I instinctively thought, "oh, well, another no." But a few more synapses fired and I realized that I'd only sent Pira-Saurs! to one person, and it had been snail mail. And why would an editor bother sending an email rejection to a snail mail submission? That just wouldn't happen. Could this actually be good news?

Yes! Celia Lee had found the manuscript and liked it! It wasn't perfect (yet), but she wanted to work on it before bringing it to acquisitions. The next ten days were a flurry of emails and brainstorms and waking up in the middle of the night with new lines and rhymes. And on July 19th, Celia thought the manuscript was ready to bring to acquisitions. Hooray!

Or not hooray? On September 5th, Celia wrote back that Scholastic was going to pass on Pira-Saurs! ... but, they editorial team liked my voice and writing style. Celia asked if I would write another story, this time featuring just Pirasaurs - and cut the rest of the slew of other characters. My answer was "Of course!

But all I had were those three stanzas. And I needed to create a whole story with a full plot and compelling characters. And as an unpublished, unagented writer, I felt I needed to strike quickly before Celia Lee forgot who I was. I frantically wrote a draft, shared it with a few critique partners:

Thank you, Paul Czajak for suggesting I add an adventure and Anna Staniszewski for pushing that I add a little heart. Within a week of rejection, I had sent Celia a brand new completed manuscript. We revised it over the next few days, and on September 19th (which happens to be Talk Like a Pirate Day), I handed it off to Celia to take to acquisitions again. I didn't hear anything until a month and a half later, I received an offer on Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and subsequently signed with an agent. At that point, Celia mentioned that the editorial director and art director were trying to set up a meeting to discuss potential illustrators before taking to acquisitions. I was told this was a good sign. And by late January of 2014, 8 months after Debbie's interview, Scholastic offered to acquire Pirasaurs! And pretty quickly they found the perfect illustrator... Michael Slack.

Illustrator Michael Slack's creative space.

From Debbie: 

Illustrator Michael Slack worked with art director Patti Ann Harris, editor Celia Lee and designer Jessica Tice-Gilbert for Pirasaurs!

Michael says that he did a lot of sketches early on. "Pages and pages of dinosaurs, hats, swords, and cannons."


"Once I found the characters I did a few rounds of really loose thumbnails. After  I had the story pacing in good shape, I switched from pencil and paper to digital to create the sketch dummy. Ultimately I ended up with three different versions of the dummy. The final illustrations were digitally painted in Photoshop."

Thanks to both Michael and Josh for sharing about the process of creating PIRASAURS!

You can find out more about PIRASAURS! at the Scholastic website.

More about Josh Funk and his work at JoshFunkBooks.com.

More about Michael Slack and his work at Slackart.com.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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5. Daisy the Kitten (Dr. KittyCat #3)

Daisy the Kitten. (Dr. KittyCat #3) Jane Clarke. 2016. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peanut the mouse wheeled a dentist's chair into the middle of Dr. KittyCat's clinic. "There's a lot to do in Shiny Smiles day," he squeaked, as he pulled a folding screen around the chair. "And don't forget it's the Thistletown Festival, too. Don't forget we're judging the Cupcake bake-off at three o'clock."

Premise/plot: I love the early chapter book series Dr. KittyCat. This is the third book in the series. In this one, Dr. KittyCat with some help from Peanut does two things: a) hold a Shiny Smiles dental clinic b) visits the Thistletown cupcake bake-off. The first chapter focuses on the dental check-ups. Some patients are anxious, others not so much. The remaining chapters focus on the cupcake contest. First, DAISY, one of the bakers, is in need of medical attention. Her paws and her tongue hurt and she has no idea why. Peanut and Dr. KittyCat piece together the clues and have a diagnosis. Then it's time for the two to taste all those cupcakes and declare a winner....

My thoughts: I LOVE Dr. KittyCat. I do. If I could box up these books and send them back in time to myself when I was six or seven I'd be ecstatically HAPPY. I could easily see myself as reading them a couple hundred times. I love them now, but, don't feel the need to reread them every day!

Like the other books in the series, it's CUTE and ADORABLE and FUN. It blends photographs and illustrations. The books provide some very basic medical information.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Weekends with Max and His Dad

Weekends with Max and His Dad. Linda Urban. 2016. HMH. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When Max's dad came to pick him up on Friday night he said, "Tomorrow, I will show you my new neighborhood."

Premise/plot: Max's parents are divorced and he spends the weekends with his Dad. This book chronicles three of those weekends with his Dad. We're not explicitly told if the three weekends are back to back. (I'd like to think they're not.)

The book is divided into three weekends. Each weekend reads like a little chapter book. (I believe each weekend is told in five chapters.) Weekend One is entitled "Spies." In this section, Max goes to his father's apartment for the very first time and sees his new room. Max's new craze is SPIES so when the two go out to explore the neighborhood the next day, they go as secret agent spies. Weekend Two is entitled "The Blues." In this section a couple of things happen: the two go furniture shopping because there's only one chair in the apartment...and Max empathizes with his Dad about missing open mike night. Max thinks his Dad is sad/disappointed/frustrated that he can't go to open mike night because he can't take Max with him. Max is super-sweet in this one and he invites the neighbors to their house for an open-mike night of their own. Weekend Three is entitled "Habitat." It may just be my favorite of the three. I really haven't decided yet. In this section, Max forgets part of what he needs to finish his homework project, invites his friend to sleepover at his dad's place, and generally comes to accept that "Yes, this is home, and this is where I belong too."

My thoughts: I really really liked this one. I'm not sure I LOVED it. But it was so good, so sweet. I loved meeting Max. He seems like such a great kid. I also enjoyed meeting the Dad. I liked that there wasn't really a focus on why the parents were newly divorced. No blame seemed to be passing back and forth. (But the Mom wasn't in this one at all, if I recollect.) The characterization felt authentic. Like these two were real and living in a real neighborhood. It was refreshing to have a middle grade book focusing on the the father-son relationship. I think many, many books are so focused on children that adults seem completely irrelevant to the plot.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Brave LIke My Brother

Brave Like My Brother. Marc Tyler Nobleman. 2016. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dear Joe, If there wasn't a war on, you'd kill me for this. I know I'm not supposed to touch your stuff without asking.

Premise/plot: Brave Like My Brother is an epistolary novel for young readers featuring an exchange of letters between Joe and Charlie. Joe is the older brother who's off to fight in World War II. Charlie is the younger brother who stays at home trying not to fight the bullies picking on him. Mainly readers here from Joe who is first stationed in England. The letters are somewhat realistic but not really considering that all letters had to pass through censors. A LOT of detailed information reaches Charlie that would never have really made it through. But a book is a book is a book.

My thoughts: This one is definitely an early chapter book of sorts. I'm thinking primarily for second to third graders--maybe fourth graders. It seems perhaps even for a younger audience than Number the Stars. I do like it. It's historical fiction with a strong family focus. The relationship between Joe and Charlie remains the central focus throughout. He wants to be there for his little brother without actually being there. He wants to be honest and encouraging. The fact that he resists being his little brother's hero and wants his little brother to see him and love him for who he is--makes him even more of a hero. Charlie does seem a bit wise for his years. That's not a bad thing really. He makes the observation that no one really wins a war because war means death---a lot of death for both sides. Who wins when so many lives are cut short? But the epilogue aside, this one gives young readers some basic facts about World War II in an age-appropriate way.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. LEGO Knights & Castles

LEGO Knights & Castles. 2016. Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Knights and Castles is one of the first books in a Lego-themed nonfiction series published by Scholastic. The series is being marketed as "a Lego adventure in the real world."

What I liked about this one:

I enjoyed the nonfiction narrative. Both the main, flowing narrative that is simple and quick paced. And the overflow of facts found in the text of the side bars, asides, captions, etc. There is plenty of information packed into this one. And it's all appropriate for the elementary audience.

I enjoyed the layout. I liked the use of photographs, illustrations, and bright, bold colors. The book is designed to be appealing to readers. I think it works. It certainly looks nothing like the nonfiction from thirty or forty years ago.

I enjoyed two out of the three Lego features. I enjoyed the "Build it!" and Build it Bigger!" feature. I enjoyed the "Play it!" feature.
p. 15 Build it! Build a tournament area for your jousting knights!
p. 16-7 Play it! Find out about the stories of King Arthur's knights. What amazing adventures will your knights have? Do your knights argue, or are they friends? Is there a wizard in your knight world? Who is your most evil knight?
p. 29 Build it! Build a hospital for the Order of St. John to work in.
While I enjoyed the build it and play it features in Lego Planets, I really LOVED these two features in this one. I also found the narrative to be more compelling. (But that could be my love of history talking!!!)

What I didn't quite enjoy:

The illustrated Lego minifigures. I think there comes a point in your life where you grow up and grow beyond the kind of dialogue that these minifigures engage in. The speech bubbles are heavy on bad jokes and jests. It's just squirmy to read the text as as an adult. Kids, the intended audience, might have a complete different reaction.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Peppa's Busy Day Magnet Book

Peppa's Busy Day Magnet Book. 2016. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peppa and George love visiting the museum. But the museum is very big and they're lost somewhere inside! Can you find Peppa and her family and put them in the dinosaur room?

Premise/plot: Peppa's Busy Day is an interactive magnet book. The book comes with eight magnets. The book features several different scenes: the museum, the park, the beach, the family's living room, and Peppa and George's bedroom. The text guides/encourages participation. For example, the last page reads: "It's nighttime and Peppa and George are tucked in bed with Teddy and Mr. Dinosaur. Can you put Mummy and Daddy Pig in the room and ask them to read a bedtime story?"

My thoughts: I like it. I do. I'm not sure I love, love, love it. But for someone who loves Peppa Pig, for someone who is still young enough to PLAY, I think this one would be a good choice.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Clover the Bunny (2016)

Clover the Bunny (Dr. KittyCat #2) Jane Clarke. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Dr. Kittycat series as a child. I would have. I know it. Partly because even as an adult, I am charmed and quite pleased. Partly because I've always had a fondness for cats and animals.

So Clover the Bunny is the second book in the series. Dr. KittyCat and Peanut are planning a camping trip. Sadly, some animals who were planning to go with them came down with paw pox. Fortunately, not everyone got sick. (You do only get paw pox once, and if you've had it, you're immune.) Clover, a bunny, is one of the animals going camping. And it is Clover who happens to need quite a bit of medical attention throughout the book! Dr. KittyCat is always prepared, and so is Peanut!

The story is cute and charming, and, probably won't appeal to every adult certainly. It probably won't appeal to every single child either. But for the right child, this might be the series that gets them super-excited to pick up a book! And series books are so essential in this stage of development!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. How To Dress A Dragon

How To Dress A Dragon. Thelma Lynne Godin. Illustrated by Eric Barclay. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If you have to dress a dragon, you must be prepared to catch him as he flies by. You may have to tickle-tackle him to the floor and give him belly kisses.

Premise/plot: A boy demonstrates for readers HOW to dress a dragon. It isn't an easy task certainly!!!! The book is quite informative. Dragons LOVE underwear, but, hate shirts and pants. (Good thing they like capes, shorts, and hats!)

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. So silly. So funny. So quirky. (Its endpapers are underwear!) It just had me at hello from the very start. I think I "knew" how good this one would be based on the cover alone.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. BuzzFeed Reveals Cover Art fro Illustrated Chamber of Secrets!

BuzzFeed exclusively revealed a first look at Jim Kay’s new work on the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of  Secrets. The pop-culture news site revealed the cover art, as well as one beautiful diagrammed image of a Phoenix.

Please take a look at the new images below. Visit the original BuzzFeed article here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.22.00 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.22.17 AM


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13. UPDATE: Publishing Partners Release Press Statements on ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Merchandise

Following last week’s announcement of the publishing partners assisting with the creation and distribution of Fantastic Beasts merchandise and companion books, press releases from the publishers are circulating, giving us little hints at what to expect.

The CEO of Insight Editions, Raoul Goff, said of the announcement:

“Insight is thrilled to continue working with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, extending our current line of Harry Potter film-related products to include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The Fantastic Beasts line will have a little something for everybody and will feature all of the hallmarks of quality and creativity that fans have come to expect from the Harry Potter film publishing program.”

Their press release reminds us of their great merchandise, and the amazing works partnerships like this can produce on a global scale:

“For the last seven years, Insight Editions has published a wide range of books and collectible products for the Harry Potter franchise, including the Monster Book of Monsters prop replica (featuring a limited edition of Harry Potter: The Creature Vault), Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book, and several other titles and formats released in over twenty-five languages worldwide.

In addition to products they have published themselves, Insight Editions has created multiple books for the Harry Potter film franchise that have been published in the US through HarperCollins and Scholastic—including the New York Times bestsellers Harry Potter: Film WizardryHarry Potter: Page to Screen, and Harry Potter Coloring Book.

“Our partnerships, both in the US and internationally, have become a cornerstone of the success of our Harry Potter film publishing,” said Goff. “We look forward to creating an equally strong global program for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for years to come.”

Ellie Berger – President of Scholastic Trade – commented on the partnership:

“As the U.S. publisher that introduced Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to American readers in 1998, we are thrilled to partner with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to complement the expansion of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. We look forward to bringing the world of these amazing movies to existing fans and a new generation of readers.”

Catherine Bell, Scholastic UK’s Co. Group Managing Director, said:

“We are delighted to be publishing the tie-in programmes for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the original Harry Potter movies. With a range of exciting formats, we look forward to bringing the world of these amazing movies to existing fans and a new generation of readers.”

Iole Lucchese, President of Scholastic Canada, commented:

“We are absolutely delighted to partner with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to create products complementing the broadening scope of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. This publishing program for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, marks the start of an exciting year for J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, generating a magical publishing moment for Canadian fans and readers.”

Chief Executive of HarperCollins UK, Charlie Redmayne, commented:

“We are delighted to be publishing the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tie-in books. The film promises to be a spectacular rendering of the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, and the books will be the perfect companions for fans everywhere.”

President and CEO of HarperCollins Worldwide, Brian Murray, said:

“For the first time we are able to seamlessly plan, coordinate and integrate book publication of film tie-in editions across multiple languages and markets with Warner Bros. Consumer Products in North America and internationally to ensure the widest possible readership and awareness of the books and the film.

You can read the full press releases over at Mugglenet, here, and our coverage of the original announcement here!

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14. ‘Harry Potter: Magical Places & Characters’ Colouring Book Out Now!

We all loved the Harry Potter and Harry Potter: Magical Creatures colouring books by Scholastic. The exciting news is, Harry Potter: Magical Places and Characters is available now!

According to Mugglenet, the pattern designs seem simpler in this instalment, however, the scenes themselves are extremely detailed.

Check out photos of inside the book over at Mugglenet here, and get the book now on Amazon here – we can’t wait for the next in the series!


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15. I Survived the Hindenberg Disaster, 1937

I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster. Lauren Tarshis. 2016. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Scholastic has published many books in the I Survived series for middle schoolers, but, this is the first I was curious enough to pick up and read. I've seen a couple of documentaries on the Hindenburg Disaster, and, I find it a fascinating subject. The book is written from a young boy's perspective.

Our hero's name is Hugo Ballard. He is an American travelling with his family back to the U.S. His younger sister, Gertie, is very, sick--a matter of life and death. Accompanying the family--but in the cargo hold--is the family dog. Hugo meets fellow passengers, and, quite a few things happen to move the plot along BEFORE the big disaster. Most of the book is in fact "the before." Readers, of course, know that the voyage is doomed--that disaster awaits the Hindenburg.

I liked this one. I think it would be a good choice for those who perhaps may not seek out historical fiction for the sake of history... Me? I was the kid who LOVED history practically from the time I could read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Cheryl Klein — Editor/Author Interview

I have been interviewing members of our kid lit community for about four years now, chalking up well over a hundred interviews, and I never tire of them. It has given me a wonderful opportunity to connect with people I … Continue reading

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17. Owl Diaries #4 Eva and the New Owl

Eva and the New Owl. Rebecca Elliott. 2016. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Eva and the New Owl is the fourth book in Rebecca Elliott's Owl Diaries series. If you've read any of the previous books in the series, you know what to expect from this one. If you're unfamiliar with the previous books, you could probably pick up any book in the series and catch up. Eva, the heroine, is an owl who keeps a diary. She has strong opinions, and, is thoroughly likable. Puns abound as do illustrations. The illustrations and puns may both be on the cutesy style. But there is something about the series that I think will appeal to young girls--think ages five to eight. Each book focuses on school life and home life with relationships between friends and family being very important.

There are two main stories in this one. First, Eva's class has started a newspaper. Eva is a reporter. Other classmates have other jobs for the paper. Second, Eva's class will be welcoming a new owl, Hailey. Eva really, really, really, really wants Hailey to be her friend. In her mind, the two are already close friends. Eva makes her a welcome necklace and a special drawing--a map. But when her plan to change seats so that Hailey can sit by her backfires--Hailey chooses to sit in Eva's old seat, the one by Lucy, Eva's best-best friend, Eva is left confused and frustrated. No matter how hard she tries, Hailey is not becoming her best friend. And Lucy and Hailey are becoming closer and closer and closer. Eva finds herself alone...

Can Eva learn an important lesson about friendship?

I think the theme of this one is true to the age of the audience. I think young girls understand all too well about the ups and downs and ins and outs of friendship. Friendship can be confusing and frustrating!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Everland

Everland. Wendy Spinale. 2016. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Everland is a dystopian, steam-punk retelling of Peter Pan.

If I was giving stars for premise, it would be five stars for sure. The premise is surely the most interesting and captivating thing about Everland. Gwen Darling is the heroine. Since a virus/plague killed off most--if not all--of the adults in England, Gwen is responsible for her younger siblings, Mikey, the youngest, and her sister Joanna. When Gwen is out scavenging one day, Joanna is kidnapped by the Marauders, the Marauders are led by Captain Hook, though Hook is just a nickname. His initials are H.O.O.K. Fortunately for Gwen, on the same scavenging trip, she caught her first glimpse of Pete and Bella. These two come to her rescue. Pete eagerly and generously. Bella with much protest and grumbling. Pete hopes that Gwen is truly IMMUNE, the one human on earth who is immune to the virus, the one whose blood or antibodies in the blood may hold the cure for saving those left alive. Pete takes Gwen and Mikey to the underworld--the underground remains of Everland, or London. She'll join the Lost Boys. Bella is the only other girl. Jack and Doc are two Lost Boys that seem to stand out from the rest.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the premise gets five stars from me. Unfortunately, I found the world-building, the storytelling (narration, plotting), and the characterization to all be lacking.

The world-building seemed all-surface and not much depth. Like flimsy props on a set that could potentially be tipped over leading to disaster. I never once forgot myself in the story or got lost in the story. And that's what you want in fantasy: to be swept into a whole new world, to become absorbed in it, fascinated even. It isn't that the world created doesn't have potential or promise. It does. But I don't want potential-fulfillment, I want actual fulfillment. One thing that bothered me was the depiction of this "war" between England and Germany. The German bad guys--led by the oh-so-evil Queen that we never once meet--didn't come across to me as well-executed.

The narration was an almost for me as well. I really did not enjoy the alternating narrators. Chapters alternate perspectives between Gwen and Hook. If I had to have alternating characters, I'd much rather have gotten to know Bella or Pete or if it absolutely had to be a bad guy, Smeeth. Seeing Captain Hook through Smeeth's eyes would have likely been more entertaining than being stuck in Hook's head. Still, I think readers didn't get to know Bella enough, and, it would have been great to have alternating chapters between Gwen and Bella. It would have made for a lively, tension-filled read. Because Bella seemed fierce, strong, stubborn.

The plot itself was okay, but, it was the little things that annoyed me. For example, the "need" to represent pixie dust leading to the gold dust powder that somehow, someway enables all the characters to see in the dark. That's just one example of how the need to represent as many details as possible from Peter Pan led to a weaker story. That being said, the surprise introduction of Lily was very much necessary. Now that I think about it, LILY would have made a good alternate narrator. What I was not thrilled with was the "instant" romance between Pete and Gwen.

The characterization. I personally found it on the weak side. If the premise wasn't so strong, would anyone really keep reading? Or, would I have kept reading?! (That would be the fairer question). Gwen, Pete, Bella, Hook, all the characters really felt like paper dolls. Some readers prefer action-driven novels. Some readers prefer character-driven novels. I happen to prefer character-driven novels. And I like my action novels to have a certain depth to their characters. I think the best villains should be fleshed-out villains. Even though we were in Captain Hook's head, I never once really thought of him as being a developed character.

Think of LOST. Tons of characters, plenty of action and drama, plenty of tension and suspense, plenty of mystery. Yet what hooks me is the DEPTH of the characterization. Every single character is fully fleshed out--past, present, everything in between. You may or may not "like" a character. But every action, every word seems to come from within a character, staying true to that character. The same could be said of Once Upon A Time. And that show put a WHOLE new spin and then some on Peter Pan and Captain Hook!!!!

Would a rereading at some point persuade me to reevaluate this one, and "like" it more??? Perhaps. After all, such has occurred before. But I'm not eager to do so now.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Review of the Day: The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

KingKazooKing of Kazoo
By Norm Feuti
Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic)
ISBN: 978-0545770880
Ages 9-12
On shelves July 26th

When I used to run a children’s book club for 9-12 year-olds, I’d regularly let them choose the next book we’d discuss. In time, after some trial and error, I learned that the best way to do this was to offer them three choices and then to have them vote after a stirring booktalk of each title. The alternative was to let them choose the next book we’d read for themselves. Why would this be a problem? Because given a choice, these kids would do the same kinds of books week after week after week: graphic novels. In fact, it was my job to give them the bad news each week (after they plowed through our small comic section) that we didn’t have any new comics for them. To their minds, new graphic novels for kids should come out weekly, and secretly I agreed with them. But five years ago there really weren’t a lot to choose from. These days . . . it’s not all that different. In spite of the fact that comics have been sweeping the Newbery and Caldecott Awards and our current National Ambassador of Children’s Literature is a cartoonist by trade, the number of graphic novels produced in a given year by trade publishers isn’t much different from the number produced in the past. Why? Because a good comic takes a long time to create. You can’t just slap something together and expect it to hold a kid’s interest. There was a time when this fact would make me mad. These days, when I see a book as great as King of Kazoo, I just give thanks that we’re living in an era where we get any comics at all. A debut GN from a syndicated cartoonist, Kazoo is a straight-up, kid-friendly, rollicking adventure complete with magic, big-headed kings, robots, volcanoes, and trident wielding frog people. Everything, in short, you want in a book.

The King of Kazoo is not a wise man. The King of Kazoo is not a smart man. The King of Kazoo is not a particularly good man. But the King of Kazoo, somehow or other, has a wise, smart, good daughter by the name of Bing, and that is fortunate. Bing dabbles in magic and has been getting pretty good at it too. That’s lucky for everyone since recently the nearby mountain Mount Kazoo kinda, sorta exploded a little. When the King decides the only way to secure his legacy is to solve the mystery of the exploding mountain, he ropes in Bing and silent inventor/mechanic Torq. Trouble is, Bing’s dad has a tendency to walk over everyone who tries to help him. So just imagine what happens when he runs into someone who doesn’t want him to fare well. It’ll take more than magic to stop the evil machinations of a crazed alchemist. It’ll take teamwork and a king who understands why sometimes it might be a good idea to let others take some credit for their own work.

KingKazoo2As a general rule, it is unwise to offer up comparisons of any cartoonist to the late, great Carl Barks. The man who lifted Uncle Scrooge out of the money pit to something bigger and better, set the bar high when it came to animal-like semi-humans with long ears and big shiny black noses (not that Barks invented the noses, but you know what I mean). All that said, it was Barks I kept thinking of as I read The King of Kazoo. There’s something about the light hand Feuti uses to tell his tale. The storytelling feels almost effortless. Scenes glide from place to place with an internal logic that seemingly runs like clockwork. I know it sounds strange but a lot of graphic novels for kids these days are pretty darn dark. Credit or blame the Bone books if you like, but for all that most of them contain humor the stakes can run shockingly high. The Amulet series threatens characters’ souls with tempting magic stones, the Hilo books are filled with questions about the absolutes of “good” and “bad”, and the aforementioned Bone books delve deep into madness, apocalypse, and dark attractions. Little wonder a goofy tale about a hare-brained king in a wayward jalopy appeals to much to me. Feuti is harkening back to an earlier golden age of comics with this title, and the end result is as fresh as it is nostalgic (for adults like me).

KingKazoo3Which is not to say that Feuti sacrifices story for silly. The biggest problem the characters have to overcome isn’t what’s lurking in that mountain but rather the King’s love of bombast and attention. Each character in this story is seeking recognition. The King wants any kind of recognition, whether he deserves it or not. Torq and Bing just want the King to recognize their achievements. Instead, he takes credit for them. And Quaf the Alchemist has gone mildly mad thanks to years of not receiving sufficient credit for his own inventions. To a certain extent the book is questioning one’s desire for applause and attention on a grand scale, focusing more on how necessary it is to give the people closest to you the respect and praise they deserve.

KingKazoo1The style of the art, as mentioned, owes more than a passing nod to Carl Barks. But the seeming simplicity of the style hides some pretty sophisticated storytelling. From little details (like Torq’s missing ear) and sight gags to excellent facial expressions (Feuti is the lord and master of the skeptical eyebrow) and uses of body language (Torq never says a word aside from the occasional sigh, but you are never in any doubt of what he’s feeling). I’m no expert on the subject, but I even think the lettering in the speech balloons may have been done entirely by hand. The coloring is all done on a computer, which is a pity but is also pretty par for the course these days. There’s also something sort of classic to the story’s look. With its strong female character (Bing) you wouldn’t mistake it for a tale published in the 1950s, but on all the other fronts the book harkens back to a simpler comic book time.

I read The King of Kazoo to my four-year-old the other day at bedtime. She’s not the book’s intended audience but her inescapable hunger for comics can drive a mother to grab whatsoever is handiest on the shelf. Lucky is the mom that finds this book sitting there when you need it. Perfect for younger readers, ideal for older ones, and with a snappy plot accompanied by even snappier dialogue, Feuti has produced a comic that will actually appeal to kids of all ages. That King is a kook. Let’s hope we see more of him in the future.

On shelves July 26th

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.


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20. Memory of Light: Francisco X. Stork

Just finished The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. The exploration of depression is honest and may give words as well as hope to those within the condition. Learning to exist in the midst of the trial is displayed with a tender compassion.

Watch for Vicky's story of crisis and recovery. It may help you find your own memory of light or assist another along the path beside you.

The Memory of Light
by Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2016
Edited by Cheryl Klein

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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21. All We Have is Now: Lisa Schroeder

My most recent read is All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder. With the end of the world quickly approaching, how would you spend your last hours? What if you were a homeless teen, what choices would you make?

Lisa explores the value of now and the gift of kindness. A diverse group of characters is met and wishes are fulfilled as humanity explores compassion when all is to be lost in moments.

Thought provoking and hopeful, be kind to yourself and read All We Have is Now, rgz. A great follow-up movie would be Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Poster

All We Have is Now
by Lisa Schroeder
Point, Scholastic, 2015

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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22. Bloomsbury Announces Theme for HP Book Night 2017

The ever-growing and popular Harry Potter Book Night, a night celebrating the publication of the Harry Potter books, is coming back in 2017! Bloomsbury recently announced the theme for the 2017 Harry Potter Book Night, taking place Thursday 2nd February.

Many of our favorite characters are Hogwarts professors. Many of the Harry Potter series most complex characters are Hogwarts professors. Many of the most influential people in our lives are professors, teachers, and mentors that helped us grow into the people we are today. Honoring the importance of these figures, Bloomsbury announced The Professors of Hogwarts as the theme for Harry Potter Book Night 2017.


Bloomsbury stated in a press release:


“They say that the influence of a good teacher can never be erased so who better to celebrate on Harry Potter Book Night than those who taught Harry Potter and his friends many magical skills.

“Whether it was the suave charm of Gilderoy Lockhart or the dark complexity of Severus Snape, many of the professors of Hogwarts had a huge impact on Harry Potter’s adventures.

“So, make a date in your diary as Harry Potter Book Night returns for a third year on Thursday 2nd February 2017.

“Since the first Harry Potter Book Night in 2015 there have been over 24,000 events organised and 2017 is set to be even bigger. With an updated event kit themed around the Professors of Hogwarts and lots more exciting elements yet to be announced, once again fans of all ages will have the chance to celebrate J.K. Rowling’s wonderful novels – and pass the magic on to young readers who haven’t yet discovered these unforgettable books.”


Fans are invited to visit the Harry Potter Book Night website to register, and download event kits to begin planning their Harry Potter book night celebrations. Fans can share their ideas, plans, and suggestions for Harry Potter Book Night parties on social media, using #HarryPotterBookNight.

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23. 2 Million Copies in 2 Days

It felt like old times. There were midnight release parties. People dressed in costumes lining up for a new Harry Potter story. Many of us stayed up until the early hours of July 31st reading every line of the eighth Harry Potter story. While we have been gifted this sequel it may be our last Harry story. Since the release J.K. Rowling has said that this will be the end of Harry’s story which the Leaky Cauldron reported on recently. About the new excitement Ellie Berger, President Scholastic Trade stated,

“Eager fans of all ages gathered at midnight parties in bookstores and libraries to get their copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, bringing communities together to celebrate the magic of reading and the power of great storytelling.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 5.05.34 PM

According to Entertainment Weekly Harry’s eighth story has sold over 2 million copies in 48 hours. These sales totals are for the United States as well as Canada and were released by Scholastic. Ellie Berger continued to discuss Cursed Child sales.

“It’s an incredible start and all the signs are indicating continued strong sales for this exciting release.”

While some fans are still sorting out their feelings toward this eighth story, one thing is for certain Harry still has the power to captivate his audience. To read more about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sales visit ew.com.


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24. LEGO Planets

Lego Planets: A Lego Adventure in the Real World. 2016. Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Planets is one of the first books in a Lego-themed nonfiction series published by Scholastic. The series is being marketed as "a Lego adventure in the real world."

What I liked about this one:

I enjoyed the nonfiction narrative text. The main narrative text keeps things moving. Just a few sentences per page. Each two-page spread features more text: side bars, charts, captions for photographs, etc.

I enjoyed the layout. Big, bright, bold, colorful photographs.

I enjoyed two out of the three Lego features. Some spreads include a "build it" feature. Other spreads include a "play it" feature.
p. 37 Build it! Your astronauts need a space base. Design a space station. Here are some of the important partss. Solar panels. Living quarters. Docking station. Viewing window. Laboratory. Radiator.
p. 19 Play it! Take your astronauts to the Moon and help them explore. What will they find?
p. 26 Play it! Take your rover and astronauts to Mars! It's a whole new world of adventure. What will they find on the Red Planet? Will they be safe?
What I didn't really like:

I mentioned liking two out of the three lego features of this one. The third feature, the one that predominates the book, is the dialogue between Lego minifigures. These conversations are found in speech bubbles and are heavy on bad jokes. They add no intelligence to the book, in other words.

They are illustrated minifigures, by the way.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. My Name Is Not Friday

My Name Is Not Friday. Jon Walter. 2016. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My Name is Not Friday is not a book I could say I "enjoyed." For who would want to ever admit to enjoying a book about slavery?

Could I say it was a good book? Yes, I think I could say it was solidly good. (Maybe not solidly great, but good, yes, I can see that.)

Do I think that it is a book adults will like/love more than kids? Yes, I think that's true. Some kids *do* voluntarily read historical fiction. Some kids do read "heavy" serious books. This one is decidedly heavy. It is set during the Civil War.

But this, to me, seems more like a book adults would try to coax/pressure kids into reading because it is "good for them" or "important." And if My Name Is Not Friday does eventually become assigned reading, well, I don't think kids will "like" it or admit to liking it.

Samuel is the hero of the novel. He and his brother Joshua live in an orphanage for Negroes/free blacks run by Father Mosely. Samuel is the "good" one. He's a "good" student, a "good" brother, a "good" friend. Joshua, his younger brother, is not as "good." Let's just say that learning and following rules isn't as easy and natural as breathing. To protect his brother from punishment (the crime is shocking, and the big reveal at the end even more so) Samuel confesses to something he didn't do. His punishment is that he 'disappears' from the orphanage. Samuel finds himself "kidnapped" by someone--a white man--and taken south to a slave market where he is sold into slavery with forged papers. Before he's sold, he's "stripped" of his name/identity and told that he is now FRIDAY.

Two-thirds of the book focuses on Friday's new life as a slave in the south, in Tennessee, I believe. He's bought by Gerald, the stepson of Mrs. Allen. Gerald and Samuel are about the same age. And Gerald seems more interested in having a playmate and friend than a field worker. But Friday isn't overly grateful to his young master who wants to play baseball and go swimming with him. Especially since Mrs. Allen and everyone on the place--white and black--thinks his place is to work from sunrise to sunset at whatever task he is given. (In the morning, he's in the field, in the afternoons, he's assigned to the house.) Friday does have an ally, of sorts, in Gerald. Part of that friendship is based on a lie, on flattery at that. But Gerald considers Friday to be his friend, and, is completely honest with him and somewhat vulnerable. It violates Friday's conscience to actually be friends with Gerald, but, at the same time he feels guilty for lying and pretending and doing whatever is necessary to appear "good." My impression is that Friday/Samuel has understandably mixed feelings about Gerald and Mrs. Allen both, though especially Gerald.

Readers meet the other slaves on the plantation. Men. Women. Boys. Girls. He makes friends, and, pieces together a family of sorts. Though not everyone treats him as a friend/brother/son. Almost halfway through the novel, he has a revelation of sorts. He feels that God has led him purposefully into slavery so that he can teach others how to read and write. His calling will be questioned and doubted now and then for the rest of the novel, but, he holds onto the idea that there is a purpose for his life for the most part.

I have very mixed feelings on the "Christian" aspects of this one.

Samuel himself seems VERY confused in terms of what Christianity is and what it means to be saved. From start to finish, he carries the notion that it is what he himself DOES that determines the matter. In other words, if every single day of my life, I am good and make more good choices than bad choices, then God will look down on me see my effort and reward me by delivering me from my troubles in this life and letting me into heaven in the next life. Samuel also seems to be a bargainer. Most of his prayers equating to: Lord, I know Joshua was bad today, but, count some of my goodness towards him and keep him safe. I can be good enough for the two of us if I just keep on working and trying. I just have to say emphatically THIS IS NOT the gospel; THIS IS NOT Christianity.

Samuel is not the only one who is confused. The white minister who preaches in the town and makes a once-a-month visit to the slaves to teach to them the joys of slavery and how they will still be slaves in heaven is a mess as well. I have no doubt that there were Southern ministers who did preach that slavery had God's approval. But ministers--then and now--are not infallible in their sermons, their books, or their interpretation of Scripture. The Bible has plenty to say about slavery, but, not celebrating it as wonderful and beneficial and absolutely necessary.

Mrs. Allen does seem to be a woman of faith. She may be a slave-owner, or, the wife of a slave-owner. She may erroneously believe that the slaves are like children, and will always--no matter their age--need to be taken care of. But my impression was she did care about their spiritual needs, and, wanted to do whatever she could to teach them about God. Meeting with them daily, reading to them from the Bible, leading them in songs. These are things that she didn't have to do, or make time to do--especially with the stress and uncertainty of war. There were scenes where I couldn't bring myself to hate her. Then again, some scenes, it wasn't all that hard. I think the author did a good job in depicting Mrs. Allen and Gerald as complex human beings.

Another "layer" of this is the portrayal of some slaves having no faith, or having lost the faith, because of their reckoning that if God exists and if God is good, then slavery wouldn't exist. In other words: because I am a slave, because I have been whipped and scarred, because I have endured much suffering then God doesn't exist.

But there is yet another layer that gives a fuller picture. A handful of the slaves--not all of them--gather together some nights--secretly--go to the woods, and have their own meetings. They sing. They dance. They testify about God's goodness. They talk of the day when He will deliver them from slavery. They speak of God in a vibrant, real way illustrating that their faith is core to who they are. That even though the "white minister" might preach down at them, their faith is stronger and deeper and more substantive than that. God is not defined to them as being "the white man's God." Samuel reads the Bible to them at these meetings. Before they could just look at the pictures and try to remember what they've heard from others through the years. (I don't know where the Bible comes from, or, who owns it. But it is much treasured.)

I am glad I read this one. I think it is a solidly good novel. Adults may be more amazed at it than kids are.

I don't know if I should admit that I didn't "see" the cover properly until I happened to look at it upside down at the time I was reviewing it. The reflection in the water is DIFFERENT. One sees both Friday (the slave) and Samuel (the scholar).

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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