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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Scholastic, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 451
1. YouTube Sensation Jenn McAllister Inks Deal With Scholastic

JennxpennYouTube sensation Jenn McAllister (also known as JennXPenn) has landed a deal with Scholastic for a book called Really Professional Internet Person.

According to the press release, the 18-year-old internet star’s title will be “a personal and funny guide to creating successful online content and handling the pressures of internet fame.” It will contain pictures, screenshots, social media posts, and biographical stories.

Vice president and publisher Debra Dorfman negotiated the terms of the agreement. A release date has been set for September 2015. Click here to watch McAllister’s video announcement about this project.

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2. Scholastic Acquires Minority Stake in Make Believe Ideas

Scholastic has acquired a minority stake in Make Believe Ideas (MBI), a UK-based children’s book publisher. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Make Believe is known for its educational books for babies and young children. The two publishers will reveal their first co-branded books for Early Learners ages 0–5 at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair next week. The series is slated for a global English language release in Fall 2015.

“Make Believe Ideas’ focus on early learning and creativity and its engaging product line extends our publishing program and fits seamlessly into our distribution channels at Scholastic,” stated Ellie Berger, EVP, Scholastic, and President, Trade Publishing.

“With a renewed focus on the importance of reading with babies beginning at birth, we are thrilled to expand our offerings in the global English language market with co-branded, gorgeous, colorful books that make reading and learning fun for babies and young children,” continued Berger.

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3. Audrey's Tree House (2015)


Audrey's Tree House. Jenny Hughes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Your house is getting too small for me," said Audrey one morning.
"You do look much bigger than you did yesterday," said Dad. "But where will you go?"
"I haven't decided yet," said Audrey.

Premise/plot: Audrey has "outgrown" her house, or, so she thinks at the opening of this delightful picture book by Jenny Hughes. Audrey and her Dad go outside looking for a house--a new house--that is just right for the bigger-than-yesterday Audrey. They decide to build a treehouse. Side by side, they spend the day. But when evening approaches, well, Audrey realizes just where she belongs, where she'll always belong.

My thoughts: Loved, loved, loved it!!! Cute premise, cute illustrations, lovely text. This one just works really well for me!!! My favorite illustration is of Audrey in her Dad's sweater with the cat following along behind her.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. The Princess and the Pony (2015)

The Princess and the Pony. Kate Beaton. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In a kingdom of warriors, the smallest warrior was Princess Pinecone. And she was very excited for her birthday. Most warriors get fantastic birthday presents. Shields, amulets, helmets with horns on them. Things to win battles with. Things that make them feel like champions. Princess Pinecone got a lot of cozy sweaters. Warriors do not need cozy sweaters.

Premise/plot: Princess Pinecone wants a pony for her birthday. The pony she wants is different than the pony she gets. The pony she gets is short and round and--depending on your point of view, either cute and adorable or ugly. She certainly can't imagine riding the pony, especially not into battle. The pony isn't very warrior-ish. But the pony has a way of charming the other warriors and even Princess Pinecone herself.

My thoughts: If pony farting books are your thing, then The Princess and the Pony may be just right for you. (I believe it got a starred review from Kirkus). Unfortunately,  I am not the right reader for the book. I found it odd and not charming enough.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Five Family Favorites with Todd Tarpley, Author of My Grandma’s a Ninja!

My sweet little boys somehow grew into teenagers, so we have to take a trip back in time to talk about the five books that are special to my family ... Read the rest of this post

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6. The Octopuppy (2015)

The Octopuppy. Martin McKenna. 2015. [March] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Edgar wanted a dog. But Edgar didn't get a dog. He got Jarvis. Jarvis couldn't do anything a dog could do. But Edgar couldn't deny that Jarvis was clever.

Premise/Plot: Edgar, the hero, isn't pleased to receive an octopus instead of a puppy. He wants Jarvis to act just like a dog would. Jarvis is smart, and, now and then, Jarvis tries to act like a puppy. But he can't keep it up, Jarvis always goes back to being Jarvis. Edgar doesn't really appreciate that until it's too late. Jarvis does NOT want to stay where he's not wanted. Now that he's gone, Edgar regrets his behavior. Will these two be reunited.

My thoughts: What a strange, strange book. The good news? Well, readers can see for themselves and judge this book by its cover. The strangeness is not at all subtle. Did I like it? Not really. In fact, I really didn't like it at all. I found the scene where Jarvis flushes himself down the toilet to be disturbing!!! Will other readers like this plot twist? Perhaps! Who knows? But this book is not a good match for me.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Short Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue


The Raven Cycle #3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie StiefvaterScholastic, 2014. Review copy from publisher. Sequel to The Raven Boys (Book 1) and The Dream Thieves (Book 2).

This continues the story of the search in Virginia for a missing Welsh king. The searchers are prep school students Richard Gansey III (the driving force behind the search), his friends Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch, and Noah Czerny, and local girl Blue Sargent.

By the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I'm not going to lie: it's complicated. There are a mess of characters, plus the search, plus the issues that the characters are dealing with in the present. Gansey is driven by his search; Ronan discovered dangerous family secrets, including his own ability to pull things out of dreams into the real world; Adam is a scholarship student with the drive for more and a serious, well earned chip on his shoulder. Noah has his own issues.

And Blue: Blue is from a family of psychics, without any real power herself, and with a curse upon her: her kiss will kill her true love. And since she's falling hard for Gansey, and since one of her aunts foresaw Gansey's death, it's, well, messy. Like life. Now take life and add in magic and history, myth and legend.

Readers know that I like when teen books have interesting adult characters: well, this has them and then some. The enigmatic Mr. Gray -- I mean, how often is a hired killer so sympathetic and likable? (And yes, I keep picturing him as Norman Reedus). Blue's mother has disappeared, but this allows other adults to move center. And Mr. Gray's boss also enters into the picture. It's not just magic and myth that is a danger.

The only frustration with Blue Lily, Lily Blue is there is still one more book in the series. So while the adventure moves forward, and questions are answered, there's still so much more to find out


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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8. The Case for Loving (2015)

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Donald, Peggy, and Sidney had two parents who loved them, and who loved each other. In fact, from almost the moment Richard Loving met Mildred Jeter they wanted to get married and have a family. But for them, it wasn't that simple, and here's why: Richard was white: a fair-skinned boy who got quickly sunburned in July. Mildred was what they called "colored" in those days: her skin a creamy caramel. In 1958, they lived in the small town of Central Point, Virginia, where people every shade from the color of chamomile tea to summer midnight made their homes.

A nonfiction picture book about the legal case Loving vs. Virginia which went to the Supreme Court. The book tells the story of how interracial marriage used to be illegal in Virginia and other states. (I'm not sure if the 16 states included Virginia or if there were 16 states in addition to Virginia where interracial marriage was illegal.) Richard Loving wanted to marry the love of his life, Mildred, but was unable to do so in their hometown, in their state. So the couple married in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, as they discovered, the two could not live together as husband and wife in Virginia. They had no choice but to move. Almost a decade later, the two decided something needed to be done, that they needed to be a part of the fight, the change. Interracial marriage should NOT be illegal. The book follows the family's journey during this troubling time.

It is a compelling read. It was informative but still at its heart a story not a lesson. This one will be for older readers (as opposed to other picture books with the usual preschool audience). Definitely recommended.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. A Peek at the Creative Space of Dan Gemeinhart

Joining us today for Creative Spaces is Dan Gemeinhart. Dan's debut middle grade novel, The Honest Truth, publishes today from Scholastic Press. The Honest Truth is a moving, fast-paced story about a boy, his dog, and the adventure of a lifetime:


In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.
But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from. 
So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
To learn more about Dan Gemeinhart, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.







Describe your workspace.

My workspace is a big, brown couch. It's a ratty couch, scuffed and threadbare in places, but it's soft and and comfortable and it reclines with a footrest and it never complains when I spill things on it (which is often). It's in our living room, facing a big picture window that looks out on the street. There's an end table within reach and our computer (which serves as our stereo) within remote range, so I can turn the music on, off, up or down as my feverish brain requires. There are no overhead lights but there are numerous lamps around the room's perimeter, so I can adjust the lighting anywhere from sunlit meadow to burial cave, depending on mood (I write almost exclusively at night).

Describe a typical workday.

A typical writing workday (I also have a day job) begins at about 9:30 pm. The kids are in bed, as is my wife. I've made a hot cup of tea which sits on the end table beside me. There's a decent chance I've also got a glass of red wine and a chunk of really dark chocolate. I'm sitting on the couch, my laptop sitting on a pillow that's sitting on my lap. When I've got everything situated just right and everything I need within reach (an up-and-down, oops-I-forgot-something process that can take 15 minutes), I start writing. Depending on how the story is flowing and how early I have to get up the next day, my end time can vary from 10:30 to 2:00 am.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

Since I don't have a dedicated “office workspace” and have to use a shared family space, I don't really have personal, meaningful objects around me when I write. My objects are functional, but they're important:

1.      The couch. I've got to be comfortable to write. I can't do it sitting upright in some stiff  chair. I sink into that couch with my feet up and get everything set just right and I can just go.

2.      The desktop computer over in the corner, which gives me the exact music I need (see below).

3.      The end table. Sounds silly, but it's like a little workstation. I keep my drink and snacks there, right within reach, and sometimes also notes, books, notebooks, outlines, etc. I'm always reaching over there for something and would be lost without it.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

For me it's just the tea and the couch arrangement. I put one pillow behind my head to stave off a sore neck, put another under my laptop to bring it closer to eye level, prop my feet up to the perfect elevation, and cover my legs with a blanket if it's chilly. My little nest has to be just right – it's kind of pathetic, I suppose. I'm like a little old lady watching her shows, with my warm tea and blanket thrown over my legs. But, hey, it works. My brain is very easily distracted and looks for any excuse to get off-task, so getting that environment just right matters. I'm a cozy worker.

What do you listen to while you work?

It depends. Sometimes I need silence, sometimes I need just the right mood music. I've got several different playlists for different vibes . . . a pensive, gloomy list, a fast-paced tension list, etc. Sometimes the right music absolutely helps me get into a scene and capture the right kind of energy and mood. It has to be instrumental, though. . . music with words will definitely not work for me. So it's mostly classical or kind of dark, acoustic instrumental Americana. For the last book I wrote I found one song that completely embodied the tone, mood, and identity of the story I was writing; it was “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and many a night I sat there writing with that song on repeat.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Tea! Green tea mostly, black tea occasionally in the morning, herbal tea later at night. I use it as a motivator, too . . . as I finish off one cup of tea I'll set a word count mark, and I don't get to make another cup of tea until I hit it. I don't snack too much, but if I do it's probably gonna be dark chocolate.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

I totally struggle with focus, so it's really just a matter of self-discipline. I've got to stay on myself and be mindful of when I'm just sitting there, daydreaming.  Keeping an eye on measurable productivity really helps, too (“how many words have I written so far this hour?”). This is one reason I cannot--really, truly cannot--write in coffee shops. Way too many distractions. If I spend an hour in a coffee shop I'll be lucky to get five minutes of writing in.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Computer. I like the romantic image of scratching away at a paper notepad with a trusty pen, but rough draft writing for me has to be a computer. The story comes in quick, urgent bursts, and when I get on a tear there's no way I could keep up with a pen. Editing and revising I always do on a hardcopy, though, with a pen. I've got to be able to physically circle, cross out, underline.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

A bit of both! When I start writing a book I tend to know most of the first third of the story, and most of the last third. There are holes here and there, and the entire middle is kind of a mystery, but as I write through that first third it starts to kind of gel and develop some gravity and momentum and then it fills in as I go. There are surprises every time, though. As much as I'd like to and as hard as I try, I just really struggle to do much pre-outlining. I just stare at the paper and my brain says, “How the hell should I know what happens next? I haven't started writing the story yet!”  I wish I could outline, because I think it's better practice; I think I'd have to do less revising if I could do more planning ahead on the rough draft.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Someone incredibly dull and quiet. Not my wife or my friends, because I'd always want to talk to them. As hard as I would find it to work with someone else in the room, though, there's no doubt that break time would be fun if I was sharing my space with another writer. It would be awesome to commiserate, bounce ideas off each other, feed off each other's energy. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, it'd be nice to have someone there in the trenches with you.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

It's the simplest, the most often repeated, the most basic, and the most important: write. That's it. You've got to get your butt in that chair (or ratty old couch) and write. Write, write, write. Then revise, revise, revise (I learned much more about writing from revising my first book than I did from writing it). You should read tons, yes; and you should elicit (and listen to) honest feedback, yes; I'm a big believer in attending writing conferences, absolutely; but at the end of the day the single most important thing is to sit down and do it. Write.


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10. Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

When Scholastic launched its Graphix imprint 10 years ago, graphic novels were a novelty, if you can pardon the expression, in the mainstream publishing world. And kids comics were an unknown quantity—comics shops didn’t want them and bookstores didn’t know what to do with them. In the first wave, there were many miscues and misunderstandings at many houses along the way. But Graphix wasn’t the one making them. Granted, starting out a line with Jeff Smith’s Bone is about as much a sure thing as possible—6.9 million copies in print and counting. But picking Raina Telgemeier to do a Babysitter’s Club relaunch and eventually Smile, and Kazu Kibuishi to publish his Amulet series weren’t as sure—but they sure paid off. Along the way Graphix has picked up multiple Eisner Award wins and nominations, a Stonewall Book Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor, an Edgar Allan Poe nomination, and 14 New York Times bestsellers. They’ve published many more top cartoonists such as Doug TenNapel, Greg Ruth, Mike Maihack and Jimmy Gownley. And there’s more to come.

To celebrate their tenth anniversary—Bone: Out From Boneville was published in 20o5—Scholastic has some cool stuff on tap. To kick things off they’re revealing two covers for the first time:

SpaceDumplins Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplins comes out in August. It’s the first kids book by the acclaimed author of Blankets and Habibi, and his first one in full-color, with Dave Stewart adding hues.

SunnySideUp Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

And the sister/brother duo of  Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, best selling authors of Babymouse and Squish have a new one as well: Sunny Side Up (August 25, 2015; ages 8-12), which is a semi-autobiographical story, their first.

In addition, 12 Graphix artists have created new art that will be offered as prints throughout the year at events and online. The line-up: James Burks, Nathan Fox, Jimmy Gownley, Matthew Holm, Kazu Kibuishi, Mike Maihack, Dave Roman, Greg Ruth, Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier, Doug TenNapel, and Craig Thompson. Events include ALA Midwinter (Chicago, IL), Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA), Texas Library Association (Austin, TX), BookExpo (New York City, NY), ALA Annual (San Francisco, CA), Comic-Con International (San Diego, California), Long Beach Comic Expo (Long Beach, CA), Salt Lake Comic Con (Salt Lake City, UT), and New York Comic Con (New York City, NY).

Finally, on February  24, Graphic will publish BONE #1: Out from Boneville, Tribute Edition, with a new illustrated poem from  Jeff Smith and new tribute art from sixteen top artists.

Along with the cover reveal, Graphic has announced some future projects:

  • Two more installments in the Amulet series
  • A new graphic novel, as yet untitled, by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Books 3 and 4 in Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series
  • And from Raina Telgemeier, a nonfiction family story in the vein of  Smile and Sisters), a collection of short stories, and a fictional graphic novel.

It’s definitely worth giving Graphix and its founder, David Saylor, a tip of the cap. 10 years ago it was a gamble. Today it’s an institution.

 

4 Comments on Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm, last added: 1/30/2015
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11. Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

When Scholastic launched its Graphix imprint 10 years ago, graphic novels were a novelty, if you can pardon the expression, in the mainstream publishing world. And kids comics were an unknown quantity—comics shops didn’t want them and bookstores didn’t know what to do with them. In the first wave, there were many miscues and misunderstandings at many houses along the way. But Graphix wasn’t the one making them. Granted, starting out a line with Jeff Smith’s Bone is about as much a sure thing as possible—6.9 million copies in print and counting. But picking Raina Telgemeier to do a Babysitter’s Club relaunch and eventually Smile, and Kazu Kibuishi to publish his Amulet series weren’t as sure—but they sure paid off. Along the way Graphix has picked up multiple Eisner Award wins and nominations, a Stonewall Book Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor, an Edgar Allan Poe nomination, and 14 New York Times bestsellers. They’ve published many more top cartoonists such as Doug TenNapel, Greg Ruth, Mike Maihack and Jimmy Gownley. And there’s more to come.

To celebrate their tenth anniversary—Bone: Out From Boneville was published in 20o5—Scholastic has some cool stuff on tap. To kick things off they’re revealing two covers for the first time:

SpaceDumplins Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplins comes out in August. It’s the first kids book by the acclaimed author of Blankets and Habibi, and his first one in full-color, with Dave Stewart adding hues.

SunnySideUp Graphix is 10 and reveals covers to new Craig Thompson and Jenni and Matthew Holm

And the sister/brother duo of  Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, best selling authors of Babymouse and Squish have a new one as well: Sunny Side Up (August 25, 2015; ages 8-12), which is a semi-autobiographical story, their first.

In addition, 12 Graphix artists have created new art that will be offered as prints throughout the year at events and online. The line-up: James Burks, Nathan Fox, Jimmy Gownley, Matthew Holm, Kazu Kibuishi, Mike Maihack, Dave Roman, Greg Ruth, Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier, Doug TenNapel, and Craig Thompson. Events include ALA Midwinter (Chicago, IL), Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA), Texas Library Association (Austin, TX), BookExpo (New York City, NY), ALA Annual (San Francisco, CA), Comic-Con International (San Diego, California), Long Beach Comic Expo (Long Beach, CA), Salt Lake Comic Con (Salt Lake City, UT), and New York Comic Con (New York City, NY).

Finally, on February  24, Graphic will publish BONE #1: Out from Boneville, Tribute Edition, with a new illustrated poem from  Jeff Smith and new tribute art from sixteen top artists.

Along with the cover reveal, Graphic has announced some future projects:

  • Two more installments in the Amulet series
  • A new graphic novel, as yet untitled, by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Books 3 and 4 in Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series
  • And from Raina Telgemeier, a nonfiction family story in the vein of  Smile and Sisters), a collection of short stories, and a fictional graphic novel.

It’s definitely worth giving Graphix and its founder, David Saylor, a tip of the cap. 10 years ago it was a gamble. Today it’s an institution.

 

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12. Little Red's Riding 'Hood (2015)

Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Here and there, up and down, in and out, Little Red loved riding around his 'hood. One day, Big Blue Mama gave Little Red an important job. "Poor Granny Putt Putt is feeling run-down," she said. "Her oil is muddy, her exhaust pipe's exhausted, and her wiper fluid is wiped out. Please take her this basket of goodies right away."

Well. I almost don't know what to say about it. It's unusual and original all in one, I suppose. I'd never have thought about retelling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in this way. The book is set in Vroomville, and all the characters are machines. Little Red is a scooter; Granny Put-Put is a golf cart; and the Big Bad Wolf, well, he's a very mean monster truck. The story is familiar enough, I suppose, in the end, yet it has an original feel to it. That doesn't mean that I personally love it.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. The Cats in Krasinski Square

The Cats in Krasinski Square. Karen Hesse. Illustrated by Wendy Watson. 2004. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

The cats come from the cracks in the Wall, the dark corners, the openings in the rubble.

The Cats in Krasinski Square is an incredible read: a picture book written in verse about the Warsaw ghetto in World War II. Readers meet a young girl, a Jewish girl, who escaped the ghetto and is trying to survive by passing as Polish.
I look like any child
playing with cats
in the daylight
in Warsaw,
my Jewish armband
burned with the rags I wore
when I escaped the Ghetto.
I wear my Polish look,
I walk my Polish walk.
Polish words float from my lips
and I am almost safe,
almost invisible,
moving through Krasinski Square
past the dizzy girls riding the merry-go-round.
But she can't forget--won't forget the Jews still "living" in the ghetto. She wants to do her part to help them. She hears through an older sister, I believe, about a project to smuggle food into the ghetto. But the Nazi's have also heard something. It might take a miracle for the food to reach the Jews now...or it might take hundreds of CATS.

I loved the story, loved the storytelling. The illustrations are great.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Best Kept Secret (2014)

Best Kept Secret. (Family Tree #3) Ann M. Martin. 2014. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Better To Wish, the first in the series, introduced readers to Abby. The Long Way Home, the second in the series, introduced readers to Dana, Abby's daughter. Best Kept Secret, the third in the series, introduces readers to Francie, Abby's granddaughter, Dana's daughter.

This is Francie's novel. The book spans a little over a decade. Francie's first grade year through her arrival at college her freshman year. (1977-1988) Each chapter captures something significant about her growing up. A chapter could be good and happy (getting a puppy, finding a friend, going on vacation). Or a chapter could be sad and depressing (finding out a loved one has cancer, a funeral, learning your parents are getting divorced). One chapter was even traumatic.

The book as a whole has a heavy feel to it. Yes, I know there are a few good things in Francie's life, and Francie herself seems to be at peace--mostly--with everything that has happened. But. It felt like it was weighed down with dozens of issues. Perhaps because the chapters tended to focus more on the dramatic, and not enough on the day-to-day, ordinary moments where you just are.

The last chapter or two had a different feel to them. The chapter where she goes to college seems over-the-top rosy and optimistic. (Perhaps how a ten year old might fantasize about college?)

Because of how this one unfolds, it seems almost impossible for any character to be truly developed except for the main character. The characterization lacks something, in my opinion. It's not that I didn't like Francie. I did. But I wanted more depth and substance in general to all the people in her life.

For readers who love, love, love drama and more drama, this series may be a must. Each book tackles an issue or two or three. The good news is that if you hated The Long Way Home, there is a chance that you might still enjoy Best Kept Secret more.

The book is set primarily in New Jersey. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe (2015)

How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: How does a dinosaur stay safe all day? Whether at home or at school or at play? Does he climb up too high? Or jump on his bed? Does he race on his bike with no helmet on head? Is he rough with the cat? Does he stand up on chairs? When Mama says "No!" does he run down the stairs?

I can't say that I liked How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? Then again, I'm not sure that I have "liked" any of this dinosaur series by Jane Yolen. If you're looking for a book written in rhyme about safety for a dinosaur-obsessed child, then this is the book for you. Especially if you can embrace the idea of a dinosaur having a human mom and dad and living in the modern day world. Wearing helmets, being warned of stranger danger, and knowing to call 9-1-1 in an emergency are all good things technically speaking. But the book is far from entertaining. Should picture books tell a story or teach a lesson? Can they ever do both? Should they do both? Do they have to do both? For those looking more for a book about safety than an actual story this one may be of some use.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Emily Clement: Seven Essentials You Need to Know about Writing Literary Fiction

Emily Clement is an associate editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. She has worked on books by Shaun Tan, Jaclyn Moriarty, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Erin Bow, among others.

She manages her imprint’s international literature program, and has edited books translated from German, Dutch, and Russian. Emily attended Stanford University, followed by the Columbia Publishing Course, and translates children’s books from Italian. She grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and now lives in Brooklyn.

She talked to us about what that tricky word "literary" means, and how we can achieve it in our writing. But first, she told us the backstory behind a Russian novel coming out on the Arthur A. Levine spring list.

Called "Playing A Part," it was published just after Russie passed anti-gay propaganda laws. While it wasn't illegal for the book to be published, it could not be shelved with children's books.

After she read about it in The Atlantic, she looked into acquiring it, not knowing whether it was well written or appropriate for their list. She discovered a "gorgeous, beautiful, moving, and sensitive novel." And now it's the first young adult novel to be translated from Russian into English.

"It's crazy that hasn't happened before," she said.

The word "literary" is a tricky one for her. She doesn't love talking about books as literary or commercial because the two things aren't mutually exclusive. And some people are put off by the concept of literary, so she always tries to pair the word "accessible with it."

Here are four items from her list of seven essential literary qualities:
  1. It's about something. The book tackles a big idea and one of the larger themes of life, challenging the reader to think from a new angle.
  2. It has voice. Voice is informed by the character and his or her world, and makes your work engaging and feel authentic. 
  3. It has plot. You can tell if your plot is lacking if you can't explain your book's premise in a few sentences (and the usual cause is that your voice is getting in the way).
  4. It has resonant details. "Every piece of clothing, every meal, every book your characters read" is intentional. 
Some books Emily recommends for their literary qualities:




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17. It's the most wonderful MONTH of the year - Eve Ainsworth



Usually I hate February. It’s a dark, bleak little month. Rain dances through the days and frost greets every morning. You have no money and little motivation. Additional weight gained at Christmas still hangs from your waist like a guilty secret and the resolution to take regular jogs feels like a long forgotten joke.

Yep, it’s usually a month I enter with fear and loathing. It’s usually the month I put a big black cross through, before rushing back to bed and reading myself through it.
 Except this year! This year was different.
February 2015 would be significant for me in many ways.
1    
      1.  I would leave my job
      2.   I would run my first Author visit
      3.  7 Days would finally be published.

Leaving my job was the first positive more. It was a tiring and stressful job that was no good for me in the long term. A job where I would go home and feel mentally and physically exhausted, barely able to think, let alone type. Resigning was like a strange release and I already know it’s the best thing I could’ve done. Yeah ok, we’re poorer. But I’m calmer and that has to be a good thing, right?
Next was a thing that filled me with fear. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger right? That’s exactly how I felt about stepping out of my comfort zone and entering a brand new school as an author.

I’d done events at my own schools, but this was new and alien. I walked into the building, clutching my bag and trying to ignore the gnawing feeling in the pit of my tummy. BUT it ended up being the best. The students I met were so lovely and engaged and so interested in both 7 Days and my work as an author. I left feeling both inspired and accepted. I realised the buzz I’d gained was a totally new and refreshing experience. This was good for me.

And finally, February was when 7 Days was let out into the big bad world.

And it was a lovely day. I had cake mid-morning (why not). I treated myself to a dress. I received lots of wonderful tweets from supportive followers everywhere. I chatted on-line to other fabulous authors who were being published on the same day. We were all doing different things, but we all felt the same mixture of excitement and anticipation.


Then in the afternoon, I received a wonderful bouquet of flowers from my publisher that so far I have managed not to kill (a new record I feel). 



Later, I went for a meal with my husband. I had a lovely cocktail and a delicious Caribbean curry and toasted the start of an amazing year.

Because it will be an amazing year. This will be the first year I can actually admit to myself that I have ‘done it’, I have accomplished a dream. And whatever life throws at me, whatever the new ups and downs – I need to remind myself of this one moment.

The moment when I became a published author.


The moment when I finally felt like me.


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18. Books of Love – For Kids

How will you be celebrating this Saturday February 14th?  Some see it as a chance to demonstrate the most romantic of gestures, showering their special ones with gifts of affection. Others only need to show an act of kindness to prove they care. Either way, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, International Book Giving Day or Library […]

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19. Monkey and Duck Quack Up! (2015)

Monkey and Duck Quack Up! Jennifer Hamburg. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Monkey spied the bright blue sigh, hanging from a nearby vine. Rhyming contest, enter now! Register with Lou the Cow. Find a friend and rhyme in twos. (Winners win a three-day cruise!) Monkey screeched and turned to Duck. "Buddy, ol' pal, are we in luck! We can do this, we can rhyme! We're young, we're hip, we're in our prime. We'll find the perfect words to use, and then we'll win a three-day cruise!" "I'll say a rhyme, you say one back. Sound good to you?" And Duck said, "Quack."

Monkey and Duck Quack Up is an amusing picture book starring two good friends. Monkey, our hero, loves to rhyme. And he really wants to win the contest. He can picture it all: winning the contest, and enjoying the cruise.
But to win, he needs help from his friend Duck. If only, if only, if only Duck could do more--would do more--than say QUACK, QUACK, QUACK. Can Monkey find a way to win this contest with his friend?!

I liked this one very much. It was very playful. It reminded me--in a good way--of Jan Thomas' Rhyming Dust Bunnies. I'd definitely recommend this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Such A Little Mouse (2015)

Such A Little Mouse. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue. 2015. [March 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Way out in the wide world there is a meadow. In the middle of the meadow, under a clump of dandelions, there is a hole. And way down deep in the hole lives a mouse. Such a little mouse, with his smart gray coat with his ears pink as petals, with three twitchety whiskers on each side of his nose.

Such a Little Mouse is a concept book about seasons. It stars a little gray mouse. Readers learn what the little mouse does each day in spring, each day in summer, each day in autumn to prepare for each day in the winter. It is a simple nature-focused book. It is very descriptive, which is a good thing. I liked some of the details and descriptions. It provides a certain perspective of the world. The mouse is aware of his surroundings, and enjoys exploring and working.

I thought the illustrations were very well done. Especially of the mouse. I definitely enjoyed this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Step Into The Spotlight (2015)

The Amazing Stardust Friends #1: Step Into the Spotlight! Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Marlo's mom has just joined the circus: joined as a chef. Her and her mom will now be living on a circus train. There are several other children for Marlo to get to know: some are performers themselves, some are children of employees and/or performers. Marlo really wants to become friends with the three Stardust girls: Allie, the acrobat, Bella, the animal trainer, and Carly, the clown. She's been told she can join the Stardust Parade IF she can come up with an amazing act of her own. She has just TWO days until the next performance. She's very determined and quite ambitious. Perhaps she can learn to be an acrobat? or a clown? or work with animals? Or perhaps not. Can Allie, Carly, and Bella help Marlo find her own way of being amazing? And will Marlo become a Stardust girl too?

This is an illustrated chapter book. I liked it. I did. It's a fun book with a playful premise.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Review Round Up

I'm behind in reviews, so I'm doing a few round ups of titles -- better a couple paragraphs than nothing!

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper. Little, Brown. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

Salt and Storm is set in an alternate 1860s, where witches and magic are real. Avery is the granddaughter of the witch of Prince Island, and should have been trained and raised to be the next witch. Except, her mother -- who refuses to have anything to do with magic or witchcraft -- drags Avery away from her grandmother and forbids her to see her. At sixteen, Avery is trying to escape her mother's control and claim her inheritance.

What I liked most about Salt and Storm is that Avery wasn't aware of the full picture. She knew what she knew, believed she had the full picture, believe she knew the real story about the witches of Prince Island. She thought she knew herself, but it turns out things aren't what she thinks they are. Which means what she wants isn't what she thinks it is. I also like the historical information in here, about life on nineteenth century islands.

The Raven Cycle #3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic, 2014. Review copy from publisher. Sequel to The Raven Boys (Book 1) and The Dream Thieves (Book 2).

This continues the story of the search in Virginia for a missing Welsh king. The searchers are prep school students Richard Gansey III (the driving force behind the search), his friends Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch, and Noah Czerny, and local girl Blue Sargent.

By the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I'm not going to lie: it's complicated. There are a mess of characters, plus the search, plus the issues that the characters are dealing with in the present. Gansey is driven by his search; Ronan discovered dangerous family secrets, including his own ability to pull things out of dreams into the real world; Adam is a scholarship student with the drive for more and a serious, well earned chip on his shoulder. Noah has his own issues.

And Blue: Blue is from a family of psychics, without any real power herself, and with a curse upon her: her kiss will kill her true love. And since she's falling hard for Gansey, and since one of her aunts foresaw Gansey's death, it's, well, messy. Like life. Now take life and add in magic and history, myth and legend.

Readers know that I like when teen books have interesting adult characters: well, this has them and then some. The enigmatic Mr. Gray -- I mean, how often is a hired killer so sympathetic and likable? (And yes, I keep picturing him as Norman Reedus). Blue's mother has disappeared, but this allows other adults to move center. And Mr. Gray's boss also enters into the picture. It's not just magic and myth that is a danger.

The only frustration with Blue Lily, Lily Blue is there is still one more book in the series. So while the adventure moves forward, and questions are answered, there's still so much more to find out!


The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Scholastic. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Iron Trial starts a series set in the modern world, where magic is real -- but hidden. Twelve-year-old Callum's father has done everything possible to keep Callum away from this world. Call is supposed to do everything possible to fail his entrance tests to the Magisterium, a school of magic hidden in the United States. Instead, Call finds himself in the Magisterium, studying magic, and finding out his father hasn't been totally honest with him. Magic isn't the big, dangerous, evil he's been told about.

Most of this book is the "forming" part of an adventure story: Call discovering the truth about magic, that it's not a simple matter of good or evil, and Call forging friendships and allies (and sometimes enemies and frenemies) with his fellow students. He also has to study magic, and it's not all fun and games -- it's also hard work. (And, well, fun. Because magic!)

Part of what Call learns about are some epic battles from over ten years before, including those who fought on the good side and the bad side. (Magic is neither good nor bad, but those who practice it -- they fall on those two sides.) Call is sometimes frustratingly ignorant about magic and his own family's connection to it, but it works for the book -- the reader learns as Call learns.

The ending of the book -- oh, the ending! Personally, I felt as if the story was just truly beginning with the ending, and that the real story will be next year, now that the reader, and Call, has the full knowledge of what is going on. Or do we know as much as we think?



















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

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23. Big Bad Detective Agency (2015)

Big Bad Detective Agency. Bruce Hale. 2015. Scholastic. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Once upon a time in Fairylandia, when magic was common and cheese was two shillings a pound, there lived a wolf named Wolfgang. Being a wolf, he was widely adored, called "cute" and "cuddly," and invited to all the best parties. Not. What makes you think Fairylandia is so different from anyplace else?

Premise/Plot: Wolfgang, the hero, is falsely accused of a crime. Of breaking into the homes of all three little pigs, of destroying property, of stealing. He didn't do it. And there isn't exactly any evidence that he did it. Except for the fact that he's a wolf, and everyone in the community can get away with blaming him whenever something goes a bit wrong. "The wolf did it!" is such a handy thing to be able to say. He's been given a chance to clear his name, however. He'll have one day to find another suspect, to find proof that someone else did the crime. He teams up, reluctantly, with the fourth little pig: Ferkel. Can these two unlikely amateur detectives solve the crime? Will Wolfgang prove his innocence and avoid being locked up?

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was fun and playful. The premise was just too much fun to resist. I liked the detecting in this one, loved getting all the clues, watching the team piece it all together.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Please, Mr. Panda (2015)

Please, Mr. Panda. Steve Antony. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
Give me the pink one.  (penguin)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind.  (panda)
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
I want the blue one and the yellow one. (skunk?)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind. (panda)


If the book had not been described as a book about manners, I would have been puzzled by Steve Antony's Please, Mr. Panda. In my opinion, it is still a very strange book. My first impression of the story was NOT that the animals were lacking in manners and being rude to Mr. Panda. Far from it. I actually found Mr. Panda to be the rude one since he was ASKING animals, "Would you like a doughnut?" and then abruptly changing his mind and saying NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE AFTER ALL. The description may say that Panda is patient and polite, but, that was not my impression. He came across as bored, disinterested, and disgusted. But apparently, that isn't the proper way to read Please, Mr. Panda. Readers are supposed to believe that it is the animals who say "Yes, I'd like a doughnut" who are being RUDE. At least according to Mr. Panda, no matter what else is said if you fail to include the word "Please" it means YOU are being unforgivably rude and justifies completely his subsequent actions. Perhaps further complicating the situation, I never could distinguish if Mr. Panda was offering free doughnuts he'd made OR if Mr. Panda had a job selling doughnuts. If selling doughnuts was his job, if it was his job to go around asking animals if they'd like a doughnut, he was TERRIBLE at it. Clearly Mr. Panda would be far, far happier at another job where he didn't have to interact with anyone at all. Since clearly he is not what I'd call a "people-person." If none of this was job-related, I'm still confused. Clearly, Mr. Panda hates doughnuts. And he probably hated making them just as much as he hates walking around trying to give them away. The question I have is WHY would he bother? Either way, I think Mr. Panda had a bad attitude and was extra-sensitive to "insults." It wasn't as if the animals were going: Hurry up, I want it NOW, NOW, NOW! Or whining WHY ARE THERE NO SPRINKLES?! I NEED SPRINKLES!!! Or THESE DOUGHNUTS ARE TOO SMALL. The animals didn't come across as demanding or whining or picky or complaining. If the book is teach the importance of saying Please and Thank You always, always, always, then a little exaggeration of the "rudeness" so it was less subtle and actually obvious may have been preferable. I think the animals in the story are just as puzzled as I was. They're probably thinking, WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM, ANYWAY? Now that I've read the book three or four times, I can see that the ostrich was definitely rude and the whale was very, very tacky. But still am puzzled by the book as a whole.

This one was originally published in the UK. I do like the illustrations well enough. But it was hard to like Mr. Panda.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Chasing Freedom (2015)

Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Michele Wood. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is 1904, a year in which the 28th Annual Convention of the New York State Suffrage Association met in Rochester, New York. On this occasion, Susan B. Anthony will introduce the guest speaker, the legendary Harriet Tubman. 

Historical fiction based on a what-if, the what-if being "What if Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony sat down over tea to reminisce about their extraordinary lives?" While the two women certainly met--at the very least twice since they spoke at the same conferences--there is no evidence that these two were friends or good friends who would sit down and spend an hour or two in conversation sharing their lives over cups of tea.

The whole book is a dialogue between the two women taking place in 1904. Their life stories are told alternately. This worked some of the time. Other times I felt the two were not so much connecting and sharing so much as talking AT one another. Susan being so focused on telling details of her life and Harriet being so focused on telling details from her life that the two were just being polite waiting for their turn to steer the conversation back to themselves. Not every page reads that way, of course. But it sometimes did. One thing that both women seemed to have in common is an admiration almost an idolization of John Brown.

For those interested in learning the basics about these two women, this book is certainly an interesting place to start. While it is fiction, the stories they are telling are based on facts. Readers will learn a handful of things about each woman and the significance of both women in history.

I liked the layout of this one. On one side, readers get text. On the other side, readers see lovely illustrations. I loved the illustrations!!! 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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