What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'scholastic')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: scholastic, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 409
1. Madman of Piney Woods (2014)

The Madman of Piney Woods. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2014. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

In Christopher Paul Curtis' latest novel, readers meet two young boys, one white (Irish), one black. One boy, Benji Alston dreams of being a reporter. He wants to be a great reporter, to write compelling stories. All of his chapters contain one or more of his imagined headlines. The other boy, Alvin "Red" Stockard, dreams of a better home life. You see, Red lives with his father and grandmother, his maternal grandmother. And she can be a bit too much to take. He doesn't even know if it is possible to be on her good side! She seems to always, always be after him about something. And it gets physical. His father is sympathetic, but, kind-hearted. How can he throw his mother-in-law out of his house? Even if she does get her cane after his son? Even if he disagrees with her on most things most of the time? These two boys live in different towns. But Benji's new apprentice-type job as a reporter for a newspaper brings him to Chatham regularly. And once these two boys meet, well, they become close friends.

For better or worse, this book isn't so much about WHAT happens as it is about characters and setting and atmosphere. If you happen to like or love Red and Benji, then you're in for a treat. The two alternate chapters. It isn't easy to summarize what happens and what the book is about. You can summarize a chapter here and there, but, it doesn't really do the book justice.

The Madman of Piney Woods is set in Buxton, Canada--the same locale as his earlier novel Elijah of Buxton. The Madman of Piney Woods, however, is set forty years after the events of Elijah of Buxton. It introduces readers to a new generation of residents. (I do not believe it is essential to have read Elijah of Buxton in order to enjoy The Madman of Piney Woods. I don't. I think Elijah of Buxton is a wonderful novel, and, personally I enjoyed it more than The Madman of Piney Woods. But The Madman of Piney Woods is great all on its own.)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Madman of Piney Woods (2014) as of 10/14/2014 10:13:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. The Only Thing To Fear (2014)

The Only Thing To Fear. Caroline Tung Richmond. 2014. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What if the Nazis had won the war? The Only Thing To Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond is set in an alternate universe where this is so. It is set in the future, eighty years after the Nazis win the war. Zara St. James is our sixteen year old heroine. She is a bit unusual. And not just because the Nazis are so strict as to what is normal and abnormal. There are a couple of premises in the book: 1) Germany and Japan were successful in creating super-soldiers, genetically enhanced superior soldiers giving them the military advantage. 2) Russia, or the Soviets, never joined the war against the Nazis. I share these details because it is important to be grounded in this imagined reality or future. Both facts are important not only in understanding the past--as created by the author--but the future as well.

Though the eastern states have been under Nazi rule for almost eight decades, there are plenty of Americans still angry enough to fight and rebel. Zara's uncle Redmond leads the local Alliance. Zara whines for almost the entire book on how it is so completely unfair that she's not allowed to join yet. Zara is the only family Uncle Red has left. He's lost almost everyone he's ever cared about. Plenty of people have lost loved ones to the Nazis. Zara refuses to accept that that is just the way things are. She demands justice. Not clinging to future justice when the Alliance gains strength and numbers, but a RIGHT NOW justice even though all the odds are against them.

So Zara's rebellion is strengthened by her odd gifts. To say more would be to spoil the book. To say less would give you the wrong impression of the book. This book is DEFINITELY speculative fiction and not just because it's set in an alternate future. Zara has a unique advantage over most people--an unnatural advantage. I almost wish that it hadn't gone that direction. I wasn't looking for that kind of read.

Romance. What would a YA read be without a little romance?!

The Only Thing To Fear was a quick read. I liked it just fine. I didn't love it.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Only Thing To Fear (2014) as of 10/8/2014 1:33:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Liza Baker & Abigail Stahlman Join the Scholastic Trade Publishing Team

scholasticTwo new additions have been made to the Scholastic Trade Publishing team.

Liza Baker has been named vice president and executive editorial director of Cartwheel and Orchard Books. Just before this move, Baker held the executive editorial director position at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Abigail Stahlman will serve as graphic designer of the trade marketing group. Prior to this appointment, Stahlman freelanced for the company.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
4. Ten 2014 Picture Books

The Mouse Who Ate The Moon. Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

One evening, Little Mouse peered out of her hole. She was looking at the moon. "The moon is beautiful," she said as she settled down to sleep. "I would love to have my very own piece of the moon."

I enjoyed reading The Mouse Who Ate The Moon. I liked Little Mouse very much. One night Little Mouse wishes she could have a piece of the moon. The next morning, she discovers that her wish has come true. She is delighted to find a piece of the yellow moon had fallen from the sky and landed on her doorstep. She never expected it. She also didn't expect to be tempted by it, tempted to want to eat it. One thing leads to another, and soon Little Mouse is convinced that she's eaten HALF the moon and the sky will never be the same again... Her friends try to gently tell her that she's just being silly. NO ONE can eat the moon they say again and again and again. Can her good friends cheer her up again?

I love the illustrations. I love "the piece of the moon" that Little Mouse discovers. Readers may realize the truth about "the moon" long before Little Mouse does! It is a simple story that is beautifully illustrated.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

The Way to the Zoo. John Burningham. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

One evening, just before Sylvie went to sleep, she thought she could see a door in the wall of her bedroom. She decided to look again in the morning to see if the door was really there. In the morning, Sylvie was late for school and forgot about the door until bedtime. 

What will Sylvie find when she opens the door? You'll want to read this one and find out for yourself.  (Or you could read the title and take a guess, I suppose!) I loved John Burningham's The Way to the Zoo. It was oh-so-magical for me. I loved the story progression. How Sylvie brings back animals--small animals, mainly--back to her own room night after night. I loved how careful she was with this magic. She always made sure to leave the door closed. But I also loved that there was just this one time when she forgot...

The story is just fun and joyful. I loved seeing what happened next, what animals she brought back with her. I loved the story, I did. But I didn't love the illustrations. At least not as much as I loved the text itself.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


Alexander, Who's Trying His Best To Be The Best Boy Ever. Judith Viorst. Illustrated by Isidre Mones. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Can Alexander be "the best boy ever" for one whole week?! After suffering the consequences of eating a whole box of donuts, Alexander sets out to prove that he CAN and WILL be good, better than good, the BEST. His parents and his brothers may have their doubts, big doubts, that Alexander can stay away from trouble for even just a day or two. But Alexander has something to prove to himself. His goal is ambitious, his temptations are many. At home and at school, everywhere he goes Alexander is tempted. There are so many things he wants to do during those six or seven days that are a bit naughty--some more naughty than others perhaps. What will Alexander learn about himself during this week? Is it good or bad that he learned it? Will readers agree or disagree with Alexander's conclusions?

I liked it. I didn't love it.


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


Druthers. Matt Phelan. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

It was raining. And raining. And RAINING. "I'm bored," said Penelope. "If you had your druthers, what would you do?" asked her Daddy. "What are druthers?" "Druthers are what you would rather do if you could do anything at all." 

I really enjoyed reading Matt Phelan's Druthers. I loved how Penelope and her Dad played together on a rainy day. I loved turning the pages to see what she wanted to do next. Each activity was a "druther" of course. For example, wanting to go to the zoo, wanting to be a cowgirl, wanting to go to the moon, etc. Each druther leads to a fun opportunity for this father and daughter to explore together. This is a book that celebrates imaginative play. It also celebrates family! (I suppose you could also say the book handles disappointments as well.) The book is very sweet. I definitely recommend it.

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


Frances Dean Who Loved To Dance and Dance. Birgitta Sif. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Once there was a girl whose name was Frances Dean. She loved to dance and dance. 

Frances Dean loves to dance. She does. She loves, loves, loves to dance. But only in private. Only outside surrounded by nature. In front of people, well, Frances Dean gets too shy to dance. Will meeting a little girl who loves to sing inspire her to share her love of dance with another person? It just might! 

I love the illustrations. I do. This is a beautiful book. The story and illustrations are charming. I love how passionate Frances Dean is. This book is dedicated to "all those who live with all their heart."

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


A Bunny in the Ballet. Robert Beck. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Of the great many things in this world that we rabbits LOVE to do, ballet dancing tops the list! At least it does for me, Desiree Rabbit. But there were NO BUNNIES in the ballet until I came along. And this is my story...

Desiree is a bunny with big dreams. She is a Parisian bunny that wants to study ballet. She loves it so much. Dancing is her life, her passion. She adores ballet. If only she can convince a couple of humans to give her a real chance to learn and perform. Will Desiree achieve her dreams? Will she dance in a ballet? 

This one is a cute read. It's predictable, I suppose. But charming too. I definitely enjoyed some of the illustrations. There were one or two that were just so very right. (I liked the illustrations of Desiree better than the illustrations of the humans in her life.)

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


My Pet Book. Bob Staake. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Most pets, you know, are cats and dogs. Go out and take a look. But there's a boy in Smartytown whose pet is... a little book. 

The boy in this story has a book for a pet. It's not that his parents wouldn't allow a cat or a dog, but, that this boy really wanted a pet book. The premise is quirky and not without potential. For some readers, this one may prove completely charming. 

My problem with the Pet Book was not the premise. I found the rhythm and rhyme to be a bit off or unnatural. The rhyming just didn't work for me. And it felt like it was the need to rhyme that was driving the book, the story. For example when the book "runs away," this is the rhyme we're "treated" to:
"He ran away! He ran away!" The boy began to bleat. "How could a pet book run away without a pair of feet?" 
It continues, 
The maid could hear the crying boy. (That sound was such a rarity.) "I think I know what happened..." (gulp) "I gave your book to...charity."
Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 5

The Good-Pie Party. Elizabeth Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Posy Peyton doesn't want to move. 

Posy Peyton may not want to move, but, Posy Peyton really doesn't have a choice in the matter. What she does have a choice in perhaps is how to handle it, how to cope with it. And one of the ways she does handle it is by baking in the kitchen with her friends. (The kitchen is the only room in the house that hasn't been boxed up...yet.) What she discovers is that GOOD PIE is better than saying good bye. And so inspiration comes, they throw a good-pie party and invite their friends and neighbors. Everyone is to bring a pie....

I liked this one.

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

Say Hello Like This! Mary Murphy. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A dog hello is licky and loud...like this!
bow-wow-wow-wow!
A cat hello is prissy and proud...like this!
purrrrrr...meow

Say Hello Like This! is a fun, playful book to read aloud to little ones. It is all about the animal sounds! It is also rich in descriptive words. (licky, loud, prissy, proud, silly, happy, tiny, tappy, etc.)

I would recommend this one as a read aloud. I love the bright illustrations.

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

The Midnight Library. Kazuno Kohara. 2014. Roaring Brook. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Once there was a library that opened only at night. A little librarian worked there with her three assistant owls. Every night, animals came to the library from all over the town. And the little librarian and her three assistant owls helped each and every one find a perfect book. 

I really, really liked this one. I still don't know what it is about it that I do like so very much. If it is the illustrations. If it is the premise. But there is just something magical about this one for me. I find myself mesmerized by the illustrations. Most picture books are after all illustrated in more than three colors. (Midnight Library is all black, blue, and yellow.) They are simple too. Yet I find myself spending time looking at the illustrations carefully. I find the story charming. My favorite part? Well, I guess that would be when the little librarian insists that the tortoise gets a library card. The image of him with the book on his back, it just makes me smile!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Ten 2014 Picture Books as of 10/5/2014 1:11:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. Four 2014 Board Books

Open Wide. Stephen Krensky. Illustrated by James Burks. 2014. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Time for dinner, Sam. You must be hungry. Open wide for the airplane. Pay attention, Sam. There's a lot of good food on board. 

Two frustrated parents try their best to get their son, Sam, to eat his dinner. I'm not sure which parent has the "easy" role in this one: Mom with the spoon, or Dad with his crazy antics. Sam is not impressed enough, I suppose, by Dad's antics to open wide enough for Mom to slip in the spoon. Will the two give up? Should the two give up? Will Sam's dinner go into Sam?

I liked this one okay. The Dad is certainly silly. And both Mom and Dad are persistent and frustrated. But I didn't love the illustrations. (I liked them okay. But I didn't LOVE them.)

Can You Say It Too? Roar! Roar! Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Who's that behind the bush? It's a friendly lion! Roar! Roar!
Who's that in the treetops? It's a tall giraffe! Munch! Munch!

Does your little one love to make animal sounds? Does your little one love to lift flaps in books? Then this new series in the Nosy Crow line might be a good match. The books are simple, very simple. There are only a few words per page making this one a good choice for little listeners with short attention spans. It can also be an interactive experience if you encourage your little one to join in on making all the sounds. I will say that this probably isn't the best in the series for actual animal sounds. The animals featured are lion (great choice), giraffe, hippo, crocodile, and elephant (great choice).

 Earlier in the year, I reviewed two books in this series. Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! And Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof!

Can You Say It Too? Growl! Growl!  Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Who's that behind the rock? A hungry bear! Growl! Growl!
Who's that among the flowers? It's a pretty parrot! Squawk! Squawk!

This is the fourth book in Nosy Crows' Can You Say It, Too? series. This series is great for little ones who love animal sounds. Also there is a big (seemingly sturdy) flap to lift for each page. All the animals are hiding, of course! Which animals can little ones find in this book? A bear! A parrot! A snake! A monkey! A tiger. You can guess based on this selection, that reading it aloud will be a treat. Plenty of opportunities to get loud and play!

Bizzy Bear's Big Building Book. Benji Davies. 2014. Candlewick. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bizzy Bear has an exciting building project to do today! First he makes sure he has all the tools he needs. Then he gets started with some measuring.

Bizzy Bear and three of his friends, Eric, Rosie, and Freddy, are all busy building something. When the project is finished, they'll all be able to enjoy it. But building can be fun too. This one is an interactive book for little ones. Little ones can measure with the tape measure. They can saw wood. They can use a drill. They can paint. The book itself seems sturdy. There are a few flaps--some of the smaller flaps--that seem a little less durable than the rest. But for the most part, I think this one was designed to be played with by the target audience.

I liked this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Four 2014 Board Books as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
6. Sinner, by Maggie Stiefvater | Book Review

SINNER is the fourth book in the SHIVER series by Maggie Stiefvater. Fans of the series are treated to a beyond-the-ending look into what happens to two of their favorite characters after the original series ended.

Add a Comment
7. Mindfulness: Kids Books on Mindfulness, Kindness and Compassion

Kids books are a fantastic mechanism to start the discussion with young readers on what is mindfulness and ways to incorporate it into lives.

Add a Comment
8. Scholastic Publishes the ‘Open a World of Possible’ Anthology as a Free eBook

scholasticlogo082310Scholastic has published a free eBook entitled Open a World of Possible: Real Stories About the Joy and Power of Reading to celebrate the launch of its new literacy initiative.

This anthology contains over 100 stories and essays written by literacy experts and authors. The dedication in this book honors the late Walter Dean Myers and features his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”

Some of the contributors include bestselling author James Patterson, former National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieska, and education expert Karen L. MappFollow this link to download the digital book.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
9. Illustration Inspiration: Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey’s Darth Vader series was originally geared towards adults as it was about the experience of being a parent; however, parents shared it with their kids and now both adults & kids love the series. Goodnight Darth Vader was created with both audiences in mind.

Add a Comment
10. Nine 2014 Picture Books

Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Hurry, hurry, for the BEST SHOW ON EARTH! Tonight for your entertainment and delight, we proudly present, from all the way behind the curtain, the world's youngest magician. Please put your hands together for... MAX THE MAGNIFICENT. 
DRUMROLL, PLEASE!
Tonight we will see his world-famous and death-defying PUTTING OFF BEDTIME FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE SHOW!
For his first trick...

 Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show is a delightful picture book. The hero, Max, who is not tired and does not want to go to bed--at least not yet--is putting on a show for his family. The show also involves the family dog, Brian. Brian, well, he's not quite as magnificent as Max himself. The text is lively and clever. I love the descriptive language and the playfulness of it. It is a bit over-the-top, but, in a good way. For example,
And now prepare to be SHOCKED and AMAZED. You are about to witness the seldom seen FLOATING PAJAMA TRICK. Max will cause his pajamas to float off the chair and across the room. And, perhaps the most difficult part of all, he'll attempt to put them on. Audience, be warned, this trick can take up to half an hour to perform...though, luckily, not tonight. 
I also love the illustrations. I do. I loved Max's expressions. Overall, this one is oh-so-easy to recommend. (This one was originally published in the UK.)

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

Red Panda's Candy Apples. Ruth Paul. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Red Panda is selling candy apples. He made them himself. They are delicious and very sticky. Rabbit is his first customer. He gives Red Panda some money. Red Panda counts the coins and puts them in a jar. But Red Panda is sad to give Rabbit the candy apple. He is not very good at selling things he would like to eat himself. Lick. Crackle. Crunch.

I love this book. I do. I love the character of Red Panda. I could sympathize with his dilemma. On the one hand, he has made the apples to sell, and he is making money. On the other hand: Lick, crackle, crunch. He has to watch his customers eating "his" candy apples. I loved this one cover to cover. The text has a just-right feel to it. Not too wordy, not too sparse.

I love the illustrations. They are quaint but not cutesy. I love the subdued colors. I definitely recommend this one. I agree that this book may now wow everyone. (It's not a call-attention-to-myself book like, for example, Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show.) But what picture book ever does, really? (This one was originally published in New Zealand.)

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

I'm My Own Dog. David Ezra Stein. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself. I work like a dog all day. When I get home, I fetch my own slippers. I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I'm not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over. And I do.

What a fun book! I'm My Own Dog is a funny, playful book about a dog and his pet human who follows him home one day. The first half of the book establishes his independence, and the second half focuses on his new relationship. The book ends with a sweet confession.

As I said, it's fun, playful, and a good read-aloud choice. Especially for dog-lovers. I found the text to be quite clever.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out 5
Total: 9 out of 10

Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson. Adapted by Elizabeth Schaefer. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Mummy Pig is taking Peppa to her first ballet lesson. Madame Gazelle greets them at the door. "You must be young Peppa," she says with a graceful bow.

I love Peppa Pig. I do. That being said, some Peppa Pig books are better than others. Some seem to capture the magic of the show in book-form better than others. I thought the Ballet Lesson worked well. It captures the playfulness of the episode well. I liked all the thumping. I liked how Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig just happen to have been quite good at ballet back in the day.

For fans of the show, this book is a good read aloud choice. It is also an affordable choice.

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

I Feel Five. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

On his fourth birthday, Fritz Newton ate birthday pancakes, got his very own cape, and picked apples for birthday pie. Being four was fun, but tomorrow...Fritz will be five! And he is quite sure that five will feel very different. He'll probably even lose his first tooth.

 Will Fritz wake up FEELING five on his birthday? Will being five really feel differently than being four? Fritz thinks so. At least in the beginning. He has this idea in his mind of what it will be like to be five, what it will feel like. Ultimately, he's disappointed for most of the book. What he does day-to-day at five is essentially the same as what he did day-to-day when he was four. There does come a point in the book where Fritz does start feeling five. This happens when he helps a girl. He helps her by picking an apple for her from the tree. Something he can do--just barely--by jumping in his brand-new shoes.

I Feel Five! is an almost book for me. The premise makes sense, in a way; people of all ages can have high expectations of BIG birthdays and be a little disappointed at the sameness. And it does handle the concept of disappointment relatively well. It is a thoughtful book. But it isn't exactly a happy again-again read-aloud. It's not funny or playful or sweet.

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

Go To Sleep, Little Farm. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose,
because the bee knows day has come to a close.
Somewhere a beaver weaves a bed in a bog. 
Somewhere a bear finds a bed in a log.
Somewhere gray mice hide their bed under roots,
safe from the owl who whoo-whoo-hoots.

Well. It has at least one starred review. (Publishers Weekly) But. This bedtime book didn't quite work for me. Not that it was awful. It wasn't. It leans more towards poetry than most picture books. For better or worse. Some lines, some rhymes seem to work well. Take the opening line, for example, "Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose, because the bee knows day has come to a close." This book is all about imagery and language and the sounds of words--being lulling. If a lulling bedtime book works, works dependably to send little ones to sleep quickly, or, efficiently then that has some value especially to parents.

The reason this one doesn't quite work for me is because some of the imagery is a bit too bizarre or whimsical...for me. It doesn't start out that way. It really doesn't. So the whimsy sneaks up on a reader. Is that good? Is that bad? Who can say! I'll show you what I mean, "Now little fish lie still in a brook. Somewhere a story goes to sleep in a book. Somewhere a worm sleeps in the dirt. Somewhere a pocket sleeps in a skirt."

The illustrations. Well. Some spreads I do love. Others seem--at least at first glance--even more bizarre than the text itself. They do match the whimsical, surreal tone of the text. So if you love one, you'll probably love the other.

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

The Scarecrows' Wedding. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay were scarecrows. (They scared lots of crows every day.) Harry loved Betty, and Betty loved Harry. So Harry said, "Betty, my beauty, let's marry! Let's have a wedding, the best wedding yet. A wedding that no one will ever forget." Betty agreed, so they hugged and they kissed. Then Betty said, "Harry, dear, let's make a list." "Just as you say," answered Harry O'Hay. So they wrote down the Things they would Need on the Day: a dress of white feathers, a necklace of shells, lots of pink flowers, two rings and some bells. Then Harry gave Betty O'Barley his arm and the scarecrows set off on a hunt round the farm.

It's certainly an interesting story with a couple of unique elements. I had no idea what to expect, and, it certainly ended up surprising me here and there. Which I guess is a good thing? The first half of this book is focused on Betty and Harry being together and looking for all the things on their list. The trouble occurs when the two go their separate ways. Just one item remains on their list. Harry wants to get it himself. But. Harry is slow, very, very, very, very slow. So slow in fact that the farmer presumably gets another scarecrow to replace him! His name is Reginald Rake. Almost everything that occurs after his arrival is a bit bizarre. (I wasn't expecting cigars in a picture book! I actually found that plot twist a bit disturbing.) It is still plenty predictable though by the end. I'm not quite sure how this book was both predictable and surprising, but, it was.

(This one was originally published in the UK.)

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

The Loch Mess Monster. Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In faraway Scotland there was a famous lake called Loch Ness. And legend had it that deep in this lake lived a monster. No one had ever seen it. But guess what? The legend was false. In truth, way, way, down at the bottom of Loch Ness there lived not one...but three monsters! there was Nessie, her husband, Fergus, and their wee laddie, Angus.

The Loch Mess Monster has a glossary of Scottish terms (in order of appearance) before the story. It is needed. Trust me. Unless you happen to know that hummie-doddies are mittens or that puggy-nits are peanuts. The story will make more sense if you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary!

The Loch Mess Monster is a book about being messy, too messy. It is a book about how one should clean up after himself, to put things back where they belong. Angus is the mess-maker. His messy room is out of control. Some of his mess belongs in the trash. It's simply disgusting. Some of his mess are his own books and toys. Until he sees for himself the dangers of being TOO messy, the problem just keeps growing worse.

The book is obviously a lesson book. For better or worse. This one is not my favorite on the subject. But it's a nice book. This one will appeal especially to storytellers who like to do accents or try to do accents.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

Big Bad Bubble. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

You may not know this, but when a bubble pops, it doesn't just disappear. It reappears in La La Land...where the monsters live. For some reason, all the big, scary monsters are terrified of bubbles. Froofle, why are you running away? Yerburt, what's the matter? Wumpus, stop crying. (Tell Wumpus to stop crying.)

What you see is what you get. For the most part. In my opinion, if a book is going to be strange and bizarre, it's best to know that from the start, preferably from the cover. Monsters and bubbles. That's what readers are promised. Now. Are the bubbles big and bad?! Well, that's a matter of perspective. Readers expect monsters to be big and bad, but, bubbles?

The premise of this one is silly but simple. Monsters live in La La Land. Monsters are scared of bubbles. Bubbles disappear from here--when they're popped--to La La Land. Therefore monsters spend a lot of their summers terrified by bubbles. The narrator (and the reader) try to talk some sense into the monsters. Bubbles are not scary. Bubbles can be easily popped. Especially by monsters. There is no reason to run away from a bubble. Will the narrator successfully help the monsters?

It's silly. It's weird. It's certainly unique. It probably won't be for everyone. It seems like a book people will either love or hate. It was better than I expected. However, I wasn't expecting much.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Nine 2014 Picture Books as of 9/7/2014 12:02:00 PM
Add a Comment
11. Eight 2014 Early Readers

Poppy the Pirate Dog's New Shipmate. Liz Kessler. Illustrated by Mike Phillips. 2014. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Poppy the Pirate Dog was bored. She was home alone. Again. Over the summer, she'd read books about pirates with Tim. She'd found buried treasure with Suzy. She'd worn her skull-and-crossbones scarf and had pirate adventures every day. But now Tim and Suzy had gone back to school and Mom and Dad were at work all day. 

I liked this chapter book for young readers. I enjoyed all five chapters. In the first chapter, Tim and Suzy realize that Poppy is a bit unhappy and very lonely. In the second chapter, the family decides what to do about it, how to cheer Poppy up. They conclude that every pirate needs a shipmate. In the third chapter, Poppy meets her new "shipmate." Her  idea of a shipmate was another dog. The shipmate she gets, however, is a cat, a kitten to be precise! The fourth chapter recalls Poppy and George's first day together. Poppy is NOT happy. The fifth chapter concludes with Poppy and George making peace with one another. In other words, Poppy accepts the family's offering of a new shipmate. She realizes that George belongs.

This is the second book in the Poppy Pirate Dog series. I definitely recommend both books!

Tony Baloney Buddy Trouble. Pam Munoz Ryan. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I liked this chapter book for young readers. (This one has four chapters.) The star of this book is a macaroni penguin named Tony Baloney. In the first chapter, readers learn of an upcoming event. That night is BOOKS AND BUDDIES. Tony Baloney definitely wants to attend! He will bring Dandelion, his stuffed animal. He will hang out with his best friend Bob. Big Sister Baloney also wants to attend. Their mother tells them that they have to clean up if they want to be allowed to go. Tony Baloney is determined. He will clean up. He will get along with his sister. He will. No matter how provoked. No matter how bossy his sister gets. But sometimes determination isn't enough. Enter the spilled glitter!

The second and third chapters introduce the conflict and punishment! In these chapters readers learn that Big Sister Baloney is a meanie! For in her anger, she has STOLEN Dandelion and hid him in the twins' diaper bag!!! Say it isn't so! Tony Baloney is most distraught. As is Dandelion. Let's just say that he's not quite the same! Will these two ever get along?

The fourth and final chapter resolves all of course. Will Dandelion be okay? Will Tony and his Big Sister forgive each other? Will the two be allowed to go to Books and Buddies after all?

I thought this one was very well done. I liked it very much. I especially liked the dialogue between Tony Baloney and Dandelion. It was just cute to see Tony Baloney's imagination in action.

Biggety Bat: Hot Diggety, It's Biggety! Ann Ingalls. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

As the sun went down in the west, a bat named Biggety left his nest. He was looking for a friend. 

This is a simple, repetitive level one early reader. I didn't exactly like it. For young readers who like bats, or, young readers who like the phrase "hot diggety" this one may please.

The plot of this one is simple. A lonely bat is looking for a friend or two. He flies about. He hears various animals. He sees different animal groupings. He remains in search of friends and company. Some of the animals he comes across: snowy egret, gopher tortoise, green tiger beetle, mockingbird, possum, raccoon.

Cinderella in the City. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Fairy Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Early one morning, Cindy got a text from her stepmom, Helen. 
To: Cindy
From: Helen
Get me a double mocha with whipped cream. Pronto!
Cindy got dressed and jumped on her skateboard. 

Scholastic has a new series of early readers called Flash Forward Fairy Tales. The series is about adapting classic stories like Cinderella and Snow White into contemporary times.

Cindy wants to enter a dance contest. The prince is looking for a dance partner. Cindy knows that she's a great dancer, and, that she'd love to go to the Royal Dance Academy. But Fay, May, and Helen do not want Cindy to enter the contest.

I didn't dislike it. But. I wasn't wowed either.

Snow White and the Seven Dogs. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It was Sunday. The mall didn't open until noon. But Snow White and her stepmother were busy getting the shop ready. "Snow!" yelled Evilyn. "Bring those boxes over here! Set out the shoes! Hang up the 'sale' sign!" Even though Evilyn was mean. Snow loved working at the mall.

I think I liked Cinderella in the City better than Snow White and the Seven Dogs. This adaptation did not work for me. Evilyn is Snow's stepmother. They both work at the mall. Instead of the magic mirror, Evilyn relies on a purple-man on the security monitor. When the monitor-man thinks Snow is more beautiful, Evilyn fires Snow. But Snow doesn't seem to mind losing her job all that much. That's not quite true. But her distress lasts a mere minute or two at most. Soon she finds seven dogs that need some grooming. There's nothing surprising or particularly charming about this adaptation. For young readers who love, love, love dogs, then this one may satisfy.

Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2014. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Monkey washed her small, pink ears. Elephant washed his big, floppy ears. Monkey brushed her fur. She smiled. Elephant dusted his hide. He smiled. 
"You look nice," said Elephant.
"You look nice, too," said Monkey.
"We both look very nice," said Elephant. "Too nice to just stay home," said Monkey, twirling around.

I liked this chapter book for young readers. (It has three chapters.) Monkey and Elephant are best friends. One day they decide to go gadding about together. They hope that in their gadding about they come across some fun surprises. The second and third chapters are about their gadding about adventures. They meet Elephant's uncle, Uncle Phump. He surprises them both by giving them hats. They then meet Monkey's cousins. Great fun is had playing with Monkey's cousin MeeMee and her three little ones. But by the end of the day, Monkey and Elephant are quite exhausted and ready to go back home.

Racing the Waves (Tales of the Time Dragon #2) Robert Neubecker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Lilly spotted something new in Mr. Miller's class.
"What is it?" asked Joe.
"A ship in a bottle," said Lilly.
"I know that! What kind of ship?"
Lilly looked closer. "A clipper ship."

Joe and Lilly want to research clipper ships. They use the library computer, the same computer that sent them back in time to meet Red the Time Dragon. The children find themselves in New York City in 1851. They board the clipper ship, "Flying Cloud." They set sail. Their goal? California, of course!!! They meet Perkins and Ellen Creesy, a husband and wife team who set a world's record for sailing speed in 1851.

The trip has certain challenges, of course, but not exactly the same challenges I remember from playing a certain Gold Rush game way back when. 


Steve & Wessley in The Sea Monster. (Level 1) J.E. Morris. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Review copy] 

 Steve and Wessley were walking by the pond. Steve saw something in the water. "Look! A sea monster!"
"That is just a stick floating in the water."
"Are you sure? I think sea monsters can float, too."
"I am sure. I can see leaves on it."

 Did Steve really really see a sea monster? He sure is convinced. But his friend, Wessley, is equally convinced that it is NOT a sea monster. I think Wessley doesn't believe there is such a thing as a sea monster. By the end, one friend will be proved right as readers will see. But will Wessley be right? Or will Steve be right? Can readers follow all the clues? Can they guess which friend is right?



© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Eight 2014 Early Readers as of 9/7/2014 12:02:00 PM
Add a Comment
12. Best Selling Kids Series | September 2014

Wow! This month is proof of good reads, everything remains the same on our best selling kids series list; including the blast from the past ... the Mr. Men and Little Miss books.

Add a Comment
13. Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Maybe it’s Common Core.  Maybe not.  I’m not always quite certain how far to place the blame in these cases.  However you look at it, children’s nonfiction bios are getting weird these days.  In some ways it’s quite remarkable.  I’m the first one to say that nonfiction for kids is better now than it has ever been.  I mean, when I was a young ‘un the only nonfiction I ever enjoyed was the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  Not that it was actually nonfiction.  I mean, it made these interesting suppositions about the youth of various famous people, complete with fake dialogue (I am the strictest anti-fake dialogue person you’ll ever meet).  I enjoyed them the way I enjoyed fiction because, for the most part, they were fiction.  Boy, you just couldn’t get away with that kind of thing today, right?

Right?

Meet three new “nonfiction” series of varying degrees of fictionalization and authenticity that caught my eye recently.  I can’t exactly call them a trend.  Rather, they’re simply interesting examples of how publishers are struggling to figure out how to tackle the notion of “nonfiction” and “high-interest” for kids.  And it’s now our job to determine how successful they’ve become.

First up, let’s go back old Childhood of Famous Americans.  They remain beloved, but they’re problematic.  So what do you do when you have a product that slots into that category?  You rebrand, baby!

Introducing History’s All-Stars from Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).  Observe the following covers:

Sacagawea Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

JackieRobinson Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Look vaguely familiar?  Pick up the book and you may find the words “Childhood of Famous American” in there individually, but never strung together in that particular order. The publication page only mentions that the books were previously published as far back as the 1950s (little wonder I’m worried about that Sacagawea title, yes).  Yet the design, as you can see, isn’t far off so we had to wonder.  Is it just the same series?  A side-by-side comparison:

BetsyRoss2 Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?BetsyRoss Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

The publisher description calls this “a narrative biography” which is technically the accepted term for this kind of book.  But there is no way you could use this for a report.  They’re fiction, baby.  A kind of fiction that doesn’t really have a designated place in a library collection at this time, though that could change.  Which brings us to . . .

Ordinary People Change the World – A series by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

AmeliaEarhart Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

AbrahamLincoln Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

It’s the series bound to wreck havoc with catalogers everywhere!  They look like Charles Schulz characters.  They read like nonfiction . . . sorta?  Kinda?  Kirkus said of I Am Rosa Parks that it was, “A barely serviceable introduction with far more child appeal than substance.”  Yet they’re bestsellers and visually incredibly appealing.  Published by Dial (a Penguin imprint), the books were a risk that appears to have paid off in terms of dollars.  In terms of sparking interest in these historical figures it’s also a success.  But is it factual?  Is it accurate?  Does it stand up to scrutiny?  Does it matter?  Why shouldn’t it matter?  You see the conundrum.

Finally, there’s a series coming out from Scholastic that looks like it might be along similar lines to these, but that I haven’t seen firsthand quite yet:

BenjaminFranklin Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

SallyRide Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Called the When I Grow Up series, again we’re seeing historical figures as children.  But maybe these are entirely accurate in their retellings?  They’re Scholastic Readers, made to meet the needs of early readers.  It’s the title “When I Grow Up” that raises the red flag for me.  Because, you see, they’re written in the first person.  And as a librarian who has had to field reference questions from first graders asking for “autobiographies”, this is problematic.  If a book is entirely accurate but seems to come from the lips of its biographical subject, what is it worth in the pantheon of nonfiction?

People will always say that worrying along these lines is ridiculous.  If the books are good and spark an interest, isn’t that enough?  Why do you have to require strict accuracy at all times?  My argument would be that when biographies are written for adults, people are meticulous (hopefully) about maintaining authenticity.  Why should we hold our kids to different standards?

It’s a debate.  These books just crack it open wide.

Along the same lines (WARNING: Shameless plug looming on the horizon!) I’ve gotten out the jumper cables and restarted the old Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL.  Babies have been born and it is time to get back in the swing of things.  On that note, on Saturday, September 6th I’ll be hosting one of children’s nonfiction all-stars in a conversation that might very well touch on this topic.  Behold!

Personal Passions and Changes in Nonfiction for Children and Teens: A Conversation with Marc Aronson

Author, professor, speaker, editor and publisher by turns, Marc Aronson’s love of nonfiction and his conviction that young people can read carefully, examine evidence, and engage with new and challenging ideas informs everything he does.  Join us for a conversation about the changing role of nonfiction for youth, and the special challenges and advantages of this one-of-a-kind genre.

See you there, yes?

share save 171 16 Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

10 Comments on Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?, last added: 8/26/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. Scholastic Expands its Book Club With More Preschool Titles

In a move to get books to younger children, Scholastic has expanded its book club reading program to reach kids from birth to age 5.

Scholastic’s new early childhood regime includes more books for readers under 5 in its Scholastic Reading Club, as well as Scholastic Preschool Book Fairs and early education-readiness parent workshops.

“It is crucial that every child be exposed to age-appropriate books and early reading materials before they enter preschool,” stated Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer. “Scholastic continues to bridge the learning and literacy gap by providing an array of preschool programs, books and resources for parents and teachers to ensure all children have the opportunity to discover the power and joy of reading at an early age.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
15. Best Selling Kids Series | August 2014

This month we have a blast from the past on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list. Who remembers the Mr. Men and Little Miss books?

Add a Comment
16. Donalyn Miller Hired to Join the Scholastic Book Fairs Team

Donalyn Miller has been hired as the manager of independent reading and outreach at Scholastic Book Fairs.

Here’s more from the press release: “In this newly created role, Ms. Miller will serve as the national ambassador for independent reading, speaking at employee and parent trainings, book fair chairpersons’ workshops and professional learning seminars for educators to raise awareness of the importance of independent reading for all children. In addition, she will be responsible for tracking research on the role of independent reading in children’s growth and development through data collection and in-depth interviews with childhood literacy thought-leaders.”

Miller will report to the vice president of program development, Anne Lee. In the past, she devoted twelve years of her life to a career in education. In addition to teaching, she has also established herself as a speaker, author, and blogger.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
17. Six Early Readers (2014)

Petal and Poppy. (Level 2, Green Light Readers) Lisa Clough. Illustrated by Ed Briant. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Poppy is not here. It is time to practice my tuba. Bah-bwab-baah! Bwah-bu-baah! 
Ack! Petal is practicing. It is time to go scuba diving!

Petal and Poppy are best friends. (Petal is the elephant. Poppy is the rhinoceros.) They are best friends, but, they are very different from one another. In this first book, readers learn that Petal can be a worrywart, and that Poppy is very understanding.

Poppy goes scuba diving. Petal comes along. She brings her tuba. She alternates playing her tuba and panicking about Poppy. Is Poppy okay? How about now? And now?

Did I like it? Sure. I didn't not like it. With the exception of Elephant and Piggie, I am unlikely to get EXCITED about any early readers I pick up.

Petal and Poppy and the Penguin. (Level 2, Green Light Readers) Lisa Clough. Illustrated by Ed Briant. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Someone has stomped on my flowers. Uh-oh--a storm is coming! Boom! Honk, honk! Who is there? Ahhh! A monster! 

Was there really a monster? Or was Petal, the elephant, just panicking again? Poppy, the rhinoceros, is such a good and understanding friend. Poppy will "save" Petal from the monster outside who is stomping on the flowers. Who is the monster making spooky sounds? A penguin, of course! It is called Petal and Poppy and The Penguin after all. These two take the penguin in. Petal very reluctantly. But these three may be great friends yet.

I liked this second book better than the first. I'm not surprised. I think with series books it can take a few books sometimes for readers to make a connection with characters. The third book in the series will be released at the end of August.  Petal and Poppy and the Spooky Halloween.

Steve & Wessley in The Ice Cream Shop. (Level 1 Reader) J.E. Morris. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Steve walked down the street. 
Steve walked by an ice cream shop.
Did someone say "ice cream"?
Steve liked ice cream.
Steve liked ice cream very much.

I like Steve. I do. He may not be very bright or smart. But there is something about him that is just likable. (Maybe he reminds me of Pinky?) In this book, Steve really wants ice cream. He wants it bad. One thing is standing in his way. The door. It won't open. Steve is very frustrated. What is the deal with this door?!

Wessley is much smarter than Steven. He realizes that some doors you push, and other doors you pull. 

I liked this one fine. The second book in this new series will release at the end of August. The Sea Monster.

Days of the Knights. (Level 2 Reader) Robert Neubecker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"What's up, Joe?" asked Lilly. 
"I'm doing a report on the Middle Ages." Joe shrugged. 
"With knights and queens and castles? What fun!"
"I guess so," mumbled Joe.
"I'll help you research," said Lilly. She tapped the keys on the library computer...

In Days of the Knights, readers meet Lilly, Joe, and Red the Time Dragon. Red the Time Dragon is their personal guide to the middle ages. Lilly and Joe learn a handful of facts about the middle ages during their brief stay. Red the Time Dragon also manages to find time to lead a peasant revolt against Sir Vile, a selfish knight.

I don't know what to think about this new series. I really don't! The second adventure is Racing the Waves. It releases in late August.


Little Big Horse: Where's My Bike? (Level 1) Dave Horowitz. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I can't wait for class to be over. 
Finally.
To the bikes!
Where is my bike? I left it right here.

Someone has stolen his bike! Who did it? Why? What motivated the crime? Will he get his bike back?

This one is very simple. Of all the books I'm reviewing today, this one is the simplest. Simple can be a good thing. Young readers need access to simple books with big font.

I liked it well enough. I liked the illustrations. I liked reading the emotions on the faces of the two characters we meet.

Drop It, Rocket! (Step 1) Tad Hills. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Rocket and the little yellow bird love words. They love their word tree, too. "Are you ready to find new words for our word tree?" asks the bird. "Yes, I am!" says Rocket.

Readers may be familiar with the character of Rocket already. Rocket is the star of several picture books: How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story.

This story is simple and repetitive. Rocket wants to learn new words and add new words to the word tree. He brings new things--new objects--to his friend the yellow bird. The bird tells him to "drop it" each time. Rocket is usually a good dog, so he obeys. New words are added. But what happens when Rocket does not want to drop it?

I liked this one. I liked the problem solving. It's a cute story.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Six Early Readers (2014) as of 8/3/2014 5:02:00 PM
Add a Comment
18. Nine 2014 Picture Books

Clifford Visits the Zoo. Norman Bridwell. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm Emily Elizabeth and this is my dog. His name is Clifford. Today we are going to the zoo. The people at the zoo have never seen anything like Clifford. So I tell them, Clifford is my dog. And he is very friendly. The first animals we see are penguins. The penguins are small. And Clifford is very, very big!

There are many, many books in the Clifford series. In this latest book, Norman Bridwell has Clifford visiting the zoo with Emily Elizabeth. The focus is on opposites. Readers observe one thing about an animal (the penguins are small) and note how Clifford is the exact opposite (he is very very big). This pattern continues through the entire book: animal by animal. The opposites include small and big, sleeping and awake, light and heavy, dirty and clean, noisy and quiet, slowly and quickly, hard and soft, up and down, curly and straight, wet and dry. The book concludes with a few facts about each of the animals visited at the zoo: penguins, koalas, monarch butterflies, hippopotamuses, howler monkeys, sloths, tortoises, birds, chameleons, and seals.

I liked this one. I'm not a big fan of Clifford in general, with a series this big, it would be hard to have each book in the series be of equal quality. But this one was a nice book.

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

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Dreidel. Caryn Yacowitz. Illustrated by David Slonim. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel...
Perhaps it's fatal.
I know an old lady who swallowed some oil--
A pitcher of oil, 'bout ready to boil.
She swallowed the oil to wash down the dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel…
Perhaps it's fatal.

I have read a handful of "Old Lady Who Swallowed A…" books in the past. This one fits the pattern, but with an obvious Jewish theme. Items swallowed include a dreidel, oil, latkes, sauce, brisket, gelt, menorah, and candles.

For readers of all ages who enjoy those kinds of books, then this one will prove an interesting addition. For more impatient readers who tired of the "Old Lady" books after the first or second imitation, this one is not extraordinary enough to make it a must read. At least the text alone isn't extraordinary enough. However. I must say that the illustrations are quite wonderful.

David Slonim chose classic art masterpieces to parody in his illustrations. Each spread pays unique tribute to a masterpiece while matching perfectly the text of the story. The masterpieces: Mona Lisa, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, American Gothic, The Milkmaid, The scream, Nighthawks, Campbell's Soup Cans, Spectrum II, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Whistler's Mother), The Thinker, Doctor and Doll, Christina's World, The Starry Night, and Dance I. The illustrators note includes the name of each piece, the date, and the museum location of the original.

I definitely enjoyed this one; I enjoyed it mostly because of the illustrations. But I don't think that is a bad thing. Illustrations are very important to storytelling and reading.

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

If Kids Ran the World. Leo and Diane Dillon. 2014. Scholastic. 32 Pages. [Source: Review copy]

If kids ran the world, we would make it a kinder, better place.
Maybe we'd run the world in a big tree house, and everybody would be welcome.
We'd take care of the most important things.
We know people are hungry, so all over the world, everyone would have enough to eat.


If Kids Ran The World is saturated in lessons. It's just dripping with moral messages. It's not that the message of peace and love and joy and harmony are bad. But as the Peppa Pig episode, "International Day" CLEARLY shows, "Peace and harmony in all the world," is not easily achieved even among children, or especially among children.

The book's premise is that children are more mature than adults. That somehow children are more innocent, more kind, more forgiving, more loving, more sensitive, more compassionate, more generous than adults. The premise is that children could solve problems like health care, the environment, bullying, world hunger, poverty, etc. just by being their little lovable selves. (Of course kids NEVER are selfish, ALWAYS willing to share, NEVER tell lies, ALWAYS speak kindly. NEVER exclude anyone or call names ALWAYS include everybody no matter their age or gender.)

Is that premise true? Each reader will have to decide that for themselves. Some readers may embrace the optimism and positiveness of this one. Others may question it from cover to cover.

I found this one to be very message-heavy. And the illustrations in my opinion were strange and quirky. It was little things really. Like all the slanted eyes. Like all the rosy cheeks. But there were a few big things as well that made this one, well, creepy. Like on the title page. The illustration has a globe of the Earth for a head on a body. This "person" also has wings. This globe-head character also shows up towards the end in a two-page spread that features two other creepy additions. A child's body with a lion's head and a child's body with a lamb's head. 

Perhaps the illustrations are supposed to "represent" children from around the globe? But if this is the case, it has a very "It's A Small World" feel to it.

Text: 1 out of 5
Illustrations 1 out of 5
Total: 2 out of 10

My Grandfather's Coat. Jim Aylesworth. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My grandfather came to America when he was very young. He came alone and with little more than nothing at all. The years passed, and he became a tailor. He worked very hard. And then, on the luckiest day of his life, he met my grandmother, and they fell in love. When she agreed to marry him, my grandfather went right to work. He snipped, and he clipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made for himself a handsome coat…that he wore on his wedding day.

This is a retelling of a story based on the Yiddish folksong "I Had A Little Overcoat." It is a sweet story spanning the generations. The beloved coat transforms from coat to jacket to vest to tie to toy to material for a mouse's nest, to nothing but a story. It's a family-oriented story which makes it a gem in my opinion.

I loved the illustrations. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the illustrations. I love seeing the story come to life. I love watching his family grow. From his own wedding to his daughter's wedding to his playing with his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was just so much sweet going on. I loved it!!!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


The Night Parade. Lily Roscoe. Illustrated by David Walker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Have you ever wondered what happens at night while mothers and fathers lie sleeping? Children wake up. They clamp out of their beds, some crawling, some running, some leaping. As the moon shines down they escape into town. To the night parade they go sneaking…

The Night Parade is a silly, imaginative book. Roscoe has created a "secret world" of sorts where children nightly sneak out of their houses and do amazing things with other children. Things like make cakes for the moon, turn somersaults in the park, dress up in costumes, tell mermaid stories, etc. They also read LOTS AND LOTS of books. By morning, all children will be safely back in their beds.

This one was okay. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. The children are super-active, super-creative. The illustrations match the playfulness of the text. My favorite page was probably of the children marching by in their costumes. Even the moon is dressed up. Then again, I also liked the idea of all those cakes and all that frosting.

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


Noodle Magic. Roseanne Greenfield Thong. Illustrated by Meilo So. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The emperor's birthday was coming, and excitement filled the air. Every day, Mei watched Grandpa Tu make magic with his hands and a bit of dough. She loved the powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light. Every evening, Grandpa slapped the dough on the table, kneaded it with his hands, and stretched it into coils. Everyone oohed and aahed over Grandpa Tu's noodles--even the Moon Goddess, who brightened the night sky.

Mei loves, loves, loves to watch her Grandpa Tu make noodles. She thinks--the whole village in fact--thinks that there is something magical about Grandpa Tu's noodles. So everyone--Mei included--is shocked that Grandpa Tu chooses NOT to make noodles to celebrate the emperor's birthday. Instead he chooses Mei for the job. He wants her to find the magic within herself, he wants her to see that she too can do it. Readers watch as Mei tries and tries her best to make noodles special enough, magical enough, for the occasion. At times, it seems Grandpa Tu has more confidence in his granddaughter than she does in herself. Even the moon goddess thinks Mei can do it!

I liked this one. I really liked some aspects of it. I liked the writing, the language. I liked the imagery. For example, "powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light." There were places this one worked really well for me. I also liked the focus on the grandfather-granddaughter relationship. I definitely liked the ending!

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

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma. Diane and Christyan Fox. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma celebrates storytelling. To be precise, this book celebrates interruptions at story time. The cat is trying very, very hard to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood to the dog. By the end, this cat is VERY frustrated. The dog, you might say, has trouble focusing his attention on the actual story. Dog imagines the story a bit differently. For one, he gets the wrong impression from the very beginning. The dog hears about the red cape and instantly thinks SUPER HERO, SUPER POWERS. The cat has to veto all the dog's changes to the story, which is where the EXPLODING EGGS come into it. The dog does ask some good, solid questions. For example, if the wolf wanted to eat the little girl--as he clearly does when he's dressed up as Grandma--WHY didn't he eat her in the woods to begin with?

This book was fun and playful. I liked the focus on storytelling, liked the questioning of it too.

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

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann. Teresa Johnston. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Emily Ann just had to say, she was not very thankful on Thanksgiving Day.
Her brother was mean. Her sister, a bore.
And with Grandpa in town she slept on the floor.
There was food to be cooked and chores to be done.
With everyone busy there was no time for fun.


Well, it is what it is. It's a Thanksgiving-themed story in rhyme. Emily Ann goes from ungrateful to grateful in 32 pages. The story includes all the things you'd expect: an emphasis on food, and an emphasis on family. The rhyming. Well. Some pages worked better than others. I liked the illustrations better than the text.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustration: 3 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10


Fly Guy #14 Fly Guy's Amazing Tricks. Tedd Arnold. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A boy had a pet fly. He named him Fly Guy. And Fly Guy could say the boy's name--Buzz!
Chapter 1: Buzz's friends came to see The Amazing Fly Guy Circus. Buzz said, "Get ready for Fly Guy's amazing new tricks!" "Now," said Buzz, "The Backstroke." "Now," said Buzz, "The Dizzy Doozie!" "And now," said Buzz, "The Big Booger!" "Time for supper, said Mom. Buzz's friends all went home.

I liked this one. Fly Guy has learned some "amazing" new tricks. The tricks went over well with his friends for their circus. The tricks do not go over well with his parents when Fly Guy performs at the dinner table. Of course that wasn't the end of Fly Guy. But. He did have to learn when NOT to perform. The last chapter is perhaps the funnest. Someone starts teasing Buzz, and, Fly Guy "saves" the day by driving the bully away.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Nine 2014 Picture Books as of 8/3/2014 11:16:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. Best Selling Kids Series | July 2014

Thanks to World Cup Soccer, the new Magic Tree House book, Soccer on Sunday, has the series on top of The Children’s Book Review’s best selling kids series list.

Add a Comment
20. Hidden Like Anne Frank (2014)

Hidden Like Anne Frank. Marcel Prins. Peter Henk Steenhuis. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

If I had to pick just a few words to describe this Holocaust collection, I would choose the words honest and haunting. Hidden Like Anne Frank is a collection of fourteen true stories of survival. All of these stories are set in the Netherlands during World War II. All focus on children (or teenagers) who hid from the Nazis. Anne Frank is perhaps the most famous hidden child from the war, but unlike Anne Frank, these are the survivor stories, the so-called happy-ending holocaust stories. Before I read the book, I would have considered the fact that they survived through the war enough to make it a happy ending. What I learned was that was not always the case.

What followed was years of tears. A whole lifetime. That war will not be over until I take my last breath. (211, Donald de Marcas)

The fourteen: Rita Degen, Jaap Sitters, Bloeme Emden, Jack Eljon, Rosemary Kahn, Lies Elion, Maurice Meijer, Sieny Kattenburg, Leni de Vries, Benjamin Kosses, Michael Goldsteen, Lowina de Levie, Johan Sanders, and Donald de Marcas.

I liked the fact that these were individual stories. Each writer, each survivor, has their own voice, their own story, their own message. No two stories really read alike. This is as it should be. Readers catch glimpses of what life was like before, during, and after the war.

I found Hidden Like Anne Frank was a book I had to read very slowly. To read more than two or three stories at a time proved too much. This one is not a light read. It is compelling and honest and important. But it is not easy.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Hidden Like Anne Frank (2014) as of 7/14/2014 10:33:00 AM
Add a Comment
21. Scholastic’s Revenue Grew 2% in 2014, 8% in Q4

Scholastic’s total revenues for fiscal 2014 reached $1.82 billion, representing a 2 percent increase from $1.79 billion in 2013. The company also revealed that its fourth quarter revenues for the year were $549.3 million, up 8 percent from the $506.9 million in revenue that the company brought in during the fourth quarter of 2013.

The company also revealed that its Book Clubs revenue rose 12 percent during 2014 and that its  education technology sales grew by 9 percent during the year.

The publisher expects their momentum to continue into 2015. Here is more from the press release:

In fiscal 2015, Scholastic expects revenue growth and enhanced profitability across the majority of its businesses and channels.  In its children’s book businesses, the Company’s outlook reflects expectations for continued growth in its re-positioned book clubs and increased revenue per fair in its book fairs unit.  Scholastic also expects the recent success of Minecraft to continue, with two additional titles and a boxed set scheduled for release later this year, as well as new titles in many of its bestselling series, like Captain Underpants and Star Wars: Jedi Academy.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
22. Swift Boys and Me (2014)

The Swift Boys & Me. Kody Keplinger. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Having read The Swift Boys & Me, I'm not sure the book matches the cover. I think the cover is cute enough, mind you, but The Swift Boys & Me is not exactly a "cute" kind of book. For one thing, this coming-of-age novel is much more serious than you might suppose. I also don't like the fence, though I suppose it might work symbolically to show the new and uncomfortable distance between the heroine, Nola Sutton, and the three Swift brothers (Brian, Canaan, and Kevin). Still. In Nola's subdivision, there is only ONE house with a fenced in yard. All the other houses are fence-free. The children run and play WHEREVER they want, WHENEVER they want throughout the neighborhood. Teddy Ryan is the boy who lives in the fenced-in house. He is the boy in isolation, the boy with no friends.

So. The Swift Boys & Me is a coming-of-age novel. It opens with Nola witnessing something big, though she was clueless at the time. She sees Mr. Swift drive away late one night. She doesn't learn until later that his driving away meant he was LEAVING the family for good. Brian, Canaan, and Kevin react to their dad leaving in different ways. Though none of the ways really includes staying friends with Nola. Kevin, the youngest, stops talking. He blames himself for the last argument. Canaan, after the first forty-eight hours or so, decides that Nola is nothing to him. That he should start hanging out with other boys his age instead. He ends up getting in with a group of boys who thinks it's fun to step on dog's tails and spray paint mailboxes with bad words. And Brian, well, he essentially runs away from home skipping around from friend-to-friend-to-friend. This will be the very first summer that Nola remembers where she is NOT friends with the Swift brothers at all. Do you see why the description "Four friends. One summer." is a bit off?!

So since Nola is NOT friends with Canaan and Kevin and Brian, how does she spend her days?! She spends them working small jobs and hanging out with other neighborhood kids. She discovers that she LIKES spending time with other kids. Even Teddy Ryan. In fact, she might like like him. She also spends her time getting ready for her mom's wedding. She also is preparing to pack up and MOVE neighborhoods.

The Swift Boys & Me is definitely a book about changing and growing up. Nola is essentially preparing to say goodbye to what was. Changing neighborhoods isn't the only change in her future. She'll be starting middle school in the fall. The fact that she is no longer speaking to the Swift brothers (with the slight exception of Kevin who sometimes still comes around though he doesn't really speak) makes the change easier to accept.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Swift Boys and Me (2014) as of 7/25/2014 12:48:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

MadmanPineyWoods Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul CurtisThe Madman of Piney Woods
By Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-63376-5
$16.99
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 30th

No author hits it out of the park every time. No matter how talented or clever a writer might be, if their heart isn’t in a project it shows. In the case of Christopher Paul Curtis, when he loves what he’s writing the sheets of paper on which he types practically set on fire. When he doesn’t? It’s like reading mold. There’s life there, but no energy. Now in the case of his Newbery Honor book Elijah of Buxton, Curtis was doing gangbuster work. His blend of history and humor is unparalleled and you need only look to Elijah to see Curtis at his best. With that in mind I approached the companion novel to Elijah titled The Madman of Piney Woods with some trepidation. A good companion book will add to the magic of the original. A poor one, detract. I needn’t have worried. While I wouldn’t quite put Madman on the same level as Elijah, what Curtis does here, with his theme of fear and what it can do to a human soul, is as profound and thought provoking as anything he’s written in the past. There is ample fodder here for young brains. The fact that it’s a hoot to read as well is just the icing on the cake.

Two boys. Two lives. It’s 1901, forty years after the events in Elijah of Buxton and Benji Alston has only one dream: To be the world’s greatest reporter. He even gets an apprenticeship on a real paper, though he finds there’s more to writing stories than he initially thought. Meanwhile Alvin Stockard, nicknamed Red, is determined to be a scientist. That is, when he’s not dodging the blows of his bitter Irish granny, Mother O’Toole. When the two boys meet they have a lot in common, in spite of the fact that Benji’s black and Red’s Irish. They’ve also had separate encounters with the legendary Madman of Piney Woods. Is the man an ex-slave or a convict or part lion? The truth is more complicated than that, and when the Madman is in trouble these two boys come to his aid and learn what it truly means to face fear.

Let’s be plainspoken about what this book really is. Curtis has mastered the art of the Tom Sawyerish novel. Sometimes it feels like books containing mischievous boys have fallen out of favor. Thank goodness for Christopher Paul Curtis then. What we have here is a good old-fashioned 1901 buddy comedy. Two boys getting into and out of scrapes. Wreaking havoc. Revenging themselves on their enemies / siblings (or at least Benji does). It’s downright Mark Twainish (if that’s a term). Much of the charm comes from the fact that Curtis knows from funny. Benji’s a wry-hearted bigheaded, egotistical, lovable imp. He can be canny and completely wrong-headed within the space of just a few sentences. Red, in contrast, is book smart with a more regulation-sized ego but as gullible as they come. Put Red and Benji together and it’s little wonder they’re friends. They compliment one another’s faults. With Elijah of Buxton I felt no need to know more about Elijah and Cooter’s adventures. With Madman I wouldn’t mind following Benji and Red’s exploits for a little bit longer.

One of the characteristics of Curtis’s writing that sets him apart from the historical fiction pack is his humor. Making the past funny is a trick. Pranks help. An egotistical character getting their comeuppance helps too. In fact, at one point Curtis perfectly defines the miracle of funny writing. Benji is pondering words and wordplay and the magic of certain letter combinations. Says he, “How is it possible that one person can use only words to make another person laugh?” How indeed. The remarkable thing isn’t that Curtis is funny, though. Rather, it’s the fact that he knows how to balance tone so well. The book will garner honest belly laughs on one page, then manage to wrench real emotion out of you the next. The best funny authors are adept at this switch. The worst leave you feeling queasy. And Curtis never, not ever, gives a reader a queasy feeling.

Normally I have a problem with books where characters act out-of-step with the times without any outside influence. For example, I once read a Civil War middle grade novel that shall remain nameless where a girl, without anyone in her life offering her any guidance, independently came up with the idea that “corsets restrict the mind”. Ugh. Anachronisms make me itch. With that in mind, I watched Red very carefully in this book. Here you have a boy effectively raised by a racist grandmother who is almost wholly without so much as a racist thought in his little ginger noggin. How do we account for this? Thankfully, Red’s father gives us an “out”, as it were. A good man who struggles with the amount of influence his mother-in-law may or may not have over her redheaded grandchild, Mr. Stockard is the just force in his son’s life that guides his good nature.

The preferred writing style of Christopher Paul Curtis that can be found in most of his novels is also found here. It initially appears deceptively simple. There will be a series of seemingly unrelated stories with familiar characters. Little interstitial moments will resonate with larger themes, but the book won’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Then, in the third act, BLAMMO! Curtis will hit you with everything he’s got. Murder, desperation, the works. He’s done it so often you can set your watch by it, but it still works, man. Now to be fair, when Curtis wrote Elijah of Buxton he sort of peaked. It’s hard to compete with the desperation that filled Elijah’s encounter with an enslaved family near the end. In Madman Curtis doesn’t even attempt to top it. In fact, he comes to his book’s climax from another angle entirely. There is some desperation (and not a little blood) but even so this is a more thoughtful third act. If Elijah asked the reader to feel, Madman asks the reader to think. Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn’t sock you in the gut quite as hard.

For me, it all comes down to the quotable sentences. And fortunately, in this book the writing is just chock full of wonderful lines. Things like, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and the same can be said of many an argument.” Or later, when talking about Red’s nickname, “It would be hard for even as good a debater as Spencer or the Holmely boy to disprove that a cardinal and a beet hadn’t been married and given birth to this boy. Then baptized him in a tub of red ink.” And I may have to conjure up this line in terms of discipline and kids: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but you can sure make him stand there looking at the water for a long time.” Finally, on funerals: “Maybe it’s just me, but I always found it a little hard to celebrate when one of the folks in the room is dead.”

He also creates little moments that stay with you. Kissing a reflection only to have your lips stick to it. A girl’s teeth so rotted that her father has to turn his head when she kisses him to avoid the stench (kisses are treacherous things in Curtis novels). In this book I’ll probably long remember the boy who purposefully gets into fights to give himself a reason for the injuries wrought by his drunken father. And there’s even a moment near the end when the Madman’s identity is clarified that is a great example of Curtis playing with his audience. Before he gives anything away he makes it clear that the Madman could be one of two beloved characters from Elijah of Buxton. It’s agony waiting for him to clarify who exactly is who.

Character is king in the world of Mr. Curtis. A writer who manages to construct fully three-dimensional people out of mere words is one to watch. In this book, Curtis has the difficult task of making complete and whole a character through the eyes of two different-year-old boys. And when you consider that they’re working from the starting point of thinking that the guy’s insane, it’s going to be a tough slog to convince the reader otherwise. That said, once you get into the head of the “Madman” you get a profound sense not of his insanity but of his gentleness. His very existence reminded me of similar loners in literature like Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson or The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton, but unlike the men in those books this guy had a heart and a mind and a very distinctive past. And fears. Terrible, awful fears.

It’s that fear that gives Madman its true purpose. Red’s grandmother, Mother O’Toole, shares with the Madman a horrific past. They’re very different horrors (one based in sheer mind-blowing violence and the other in death, betrayal, and disgust) but the effects are the same. Out of these moments both people are suffering a kind of PTSD. This makes them two sides of the same coin. Equally wracked by horrible memories, they chose to handle those memories in different ways. The Madman gives up society but retains his soul. Mother O’Toole, in contrast, retains her sanity but gives up her soul. Yet by the end of the book the supposed Madman has returned to society and reconnected with his friends while the Irishwoman is last seen with her hair down (a classic madwoman trope as old as Shakespeare himself) scrubbing dishes until she bleeds to rid them of any trace of the race she hates so much. They have effectively switched places.

Much of what The Madman of Piney Woods does is ask what fear does to people. The Madman speaks eloquently of all too human monsters and what they can do to a man. Meanwhile Grandmother has suffered as well but it’s made her bitter and angry. When Red asks, “Doesn’t it seem only logical that if a person has been through all of the grief she has, they’d have nothing but compassion for anyone else who’s been through the same?” His father responds that “given enough time, fear is the great killer of the human spirit.” In her case it has taken her spirit and “has so horribly scarred it, condensing and strengthening and dishing out the same hatred that it has experienced.” But for some the opposite is true, hence the Madman. Two humans who have seen the worst of humanity. Two different reactions. And as with Elijah, where Curtis tackled slavery not through a slave but through a slave’s freeborn child, we hear about these things through kids who are “close enough to hear the echoes of the screams in [the adults’] nightmarish memories.” Certainly it rubs off onto the younger characters in different ways. In one chapter Benji wonders why the original settlers of Buxton, all ex-slaves, can’t just relax. Fear has shaped them so distinctly that he figures a town of “nervous old people” has raised him. Adversity can either build or destroy character, Curtis says. This book is the story of precisely that.

Don’t be surprised if, after finishing this book, you find yourself reaching for your copy of Elijah of Buxton so as to remember some of these characters when they were young. Reaching deep, Curtis puts soul into the pages of its companion novel. In my more dreamy-eyed moments I fantasize about Curtis continuing the stories of Buxton every 40 years until he gets to the present day. It could be his equivalent of Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House chronicles. Imagine if we shot forward another 40 years to 1941 and encountered a grown Benji and Red with their own families and fears. I doubt Curtis is planning on going that route, but whether or not this is the end of Buxton’s tales or just the beginning, The Madman of Piney Woods will leave child readers questioning what true trauma can do to a soul, and what they would do if it happened to them. Heady stuff. Funny stuff. Smart stuff. Good stuff. Better get your hands on this stuff.

On shelves September 30th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

First Sentence: “The old soldiers say you never hear the bullet that kills you.”

Like This? Then Try:

Notes on the Cover:  As many of us are aware, in the past historical novels starring African-American boys have often consisted of silhouettes or dull brown sepia-toned tomes.  Christopher Paul Curtis’s books tend to be the exception to the rule, and this is clearly the most lively of his covers so far.  Two boys running in period clothing through the titular “piney woods”?  That kind of thing is rare as a peacock these days.  It’s still a little brown, but maybe I can sell it on the authors name and the fact that the books look like they’re running to/from trouble.  All in all, I like it.

Professional Reviews:

share save 171 16 Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

4 Comments on Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, last added: 7/26/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
24. Revolution, by Deborah Wiles | Book Review

Revolution, Deborah Wiles’ second novel in The Sixties Trilogy, sends readers on a journey to Greenwood, Mississippi in the summer of 1964, also known as “Freedom Summer."

Add a Comment
25. Scholastic to Shutter Storia

Scholastic is closing its children’s book platform app Storia in favor of pushing its subscription model reading platform Storia School Edition. Essentially the publisher will no longer be selling eBooks, and will instead offer access to its collection of 2000 books for an annual subscription price that costs $2000 (based on school size). There will also be a family plan available next year.

“With the launch of Storia School Edition on September 1, Scholastic will transition to a streaming model for children’s eBook delivery,” the publisher explained on its website. “The switch to streaming means that eBooks you’ve previously purchased may soon no longer be accessible.You may be able to continue using your eBooks by making sure to open them on a bookshelf at least once by October 15.” (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts