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1. Clifford The Big Red Dog Creator Norman Bridwell, RIP

Norman Bridwell, creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog, died last Friday at the age of 86.

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2. Five Family Favorites with Patricia Dunn, Author of Rebels by Accident

Patricia Dunn, author of Rebels by Accident, selected her family’s five favorite books with the help of her husband Allan Tepper. They are a beautiful collection of diverse characters and plots.

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3. 73% of Kids Would Read More If They Could Find Books They Like

scholasticA whopping 73 percent of kids report the they would read more if they could find more books that they liked, according to a new report by Scholastic.

The Kids & Family Reading Report: Fifth Edition, which comes out entirely in January, examines the reading habits of kids 6-17. The research reveals that  70 percent of kids want to read a book that will make them laugh when reading for fun and 54 percent like reading books that allow them to use their imagination.

Different age groups seek different types of stories. According to the report kids 6-8 like to read books with characters that look like them and kids 9-11 enjoy with a mystery or problem to solve, whereas 12-14 year olds look for books with smart, strong or brave characters and 15-17 year olds are looking for books that allow them to escape.

Follow this link to read more from the report.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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4. December musings and what kids want to read

I spent a glorious Thanksgiving break reading, thanks to Jenn's Bookshelves' brilliant idea to curl up with a book. I made my way through the better part of the pile of books I had waiting for me; some I read all the way, some I put aside to give away. Alas, the cupcake cozy just wasn't for me.

I've also been spending this past month or so thinking about what I want to write next. I've been reading middle-grade and YA, brainstorming ideas, and most of all...

I've been listening to kids. The ones who walk up to my signing table, and also the ones who don't. I watch to see what books they pick up, what books they take home. I've been listening to third, fourth--all the way to high school aged kids when they tell me what books they like, and why.

The younger kids like funny, fast, and some fantasy. Teens want to be swept away to a different place--they love those big, epic tales. Dystopian is still a favorite. Retellings of fairytales, too.

Scholastic did a quick study on what kids like; you can read all about it here. And one of my favorite MG reviewers Ms. Yingling has been talking (with exclamation marks, because this stuff is important) about how depressing recent books are that she reviews for her library. The study tells us kids want funny books, a whopping seventy percent.

So why the disconnect?

I don't know. If I can have a soapbox moment here... I think we should focus more on what kids want to read than on what we think they should read. In any case, I hope we'll see more funny books, don't you? We could all use a laugh.

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5. What Do Kids Want in Books?: INFOGRAPHIC

scholasticlogo082310Scholastic has created the “What Do Kids Want in Books?” infographic. The data was sourced from the research done for the “Kids & Family Reading Report: Fifth Edition.”

The full report will be published in January 2015. We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further.
(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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6. My Friend the Enemy (2014)

My Friend the Enemy. Dan Smith. 2014. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed reading Dan Smith's My Friend the Enemy. Give me a book set during this time period--World War II--and I'll most likely be eager to read it. This one happens to be set in England during the war! (It being set in England is an added bonus for me! Two reasons for me to be excited to pick it up!) I found My Friend the Enemy to be a quick read, and a compelling one. The premise is simple enough. Two twelve-year-olds, Peter and Kim, find a 'souvenir' in the woods after a German plane crashes near their village.

These two have just met. Kim isn't like any other girl he's known before. She dresses and acts differently. There is something about her that he's drawn to. I think they bring out the best in each other, in some ways, and I think together they are more likely to get into trouble! Kim is new to the community/village. Her parents wanted her to be safer, and they have sent her to live with an aunt. But she's seen more than Peter, perhaps, when it comes to the effect of the war. Her brother is a soldier. His father is a soldier. These two can relate well to one another. So. Back to the souvenir. These two break curfew and risk everyone's wrath by going where they technically have no business going at all. They go first to the scene of the crash, crawl into the plane itself, and then go exploring in the surrounding woods. What they find in the woods that night changes everything. For they find a near-dying German soldier, one of the plane's crew. He is--in German, of course--pleading for help, begging for mercy.

Before, if you'd asked either one, they most likely would have said Germans are the enemy, show no mercy, they're evil, they're killing monsters. But things change when they have 'the enemy' right in front of their eyes. He is young. He looks to be a teenager. To Kim's eyes, she's seeing someone just like her brother. He is not only young, but he's also weak and helpless. He is obviously in pain and very scared. They decide the right thing to do is to show him mercy, to treat him as they would want others--strangers--to treat his dad and her brother if their positions were reversed. They choose kindness. They give him water. They take him to a hiding place. They give him food and a blanket. Not right away, of course. They weren't walking around carrying provisions or anything. What they both struggle with in the next few days/weeks is keeping the secret. Is it right what they've done? They don't feel it is wrong to be merciful, of course, but is it wrong to lie and steal to cover up everything? They struggle with the ethics of it. In their minds, they see it as being a choice between life and death. They feel certain that soldiers would kill him, show no mercy or grace. (They are assuming this, of course. And adult readers might question their assumption.) But great risk and sacrifice is involved in keeping that secret, and it doesn't get any easier at all. It sounded good and right initially, but, what if the war lasts years?! How are they really going to pull this off? What will happen to Erik, the soldier? What will happen to them?! What is best for everyone?

Readers get to know Peter and Kim very well. And, to some extent, readers get to know Erik as well. Though perhaps limited since Kim and Peter don't speak much German, and Erik doesn't speak much English. Readers spend more time with Peter and his mother than with Kim and her aunt. Readers also get acquainted with the community, meeting various people. It has just enough detail to establish the setting. It isn't weighed down tediously by description. The plot moves quickly, and there is plenty of action.

I loved this one.
All those Germans we heard about on the wireless were different. They were not men, they were faceless, helmeted and armed, marching across places I knew the names of but had never seen. France, Norway, Africa. They were airplanes dogfighting over the English channel; they were bombers casting a shadow over our cities. They were the enemy. Our German was different. He was a real person. He was here, he had a face, and he was in trouble. (121)

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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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.

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8. 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.

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9. 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

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10. 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

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11. 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

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12. 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.

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13. 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

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14. The Right Fight (2014)

The Right Fight. Chris Lynch. 2014. Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

 I enjoyed Chris Lynch's The Right Fight. Roman, the protagonist, loves, loves, LOVES baseball. But he loves his country even more. That is why he enlisted even before America entered the war--the second world war. The book chronicles his early experiences in the war as a tank driver. Readers see him through training, war games, and going overseas, his various assignments and missions. (Most of the book sees him in North Africa). Readers experience it from his point of view and from a few letters as well. One sees how his fellow soldiers--the men in his tank specifically--form a family. One also sees the many (often-ugly) sides of war.

I enjoyed this one. I thought there was a good balance of action (war) and characterization. I liked getting to know Roman, his fiancee, his war buddies.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Five Holiday Board Books

Gobble, Gobble, Tucker! Leslie McGuirk. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Tucker is napping one fall day when he catches a whiff of something delicious. He knows that smell--it's turkey! And that means it must be Thanksgiving! 

I was not familiar with the character of Tucker before reading this board book. Tucker stars in several other books, mostly with a holiday theme (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, etc). I can't judge if this book is better or worse or about the same as the rest of the series. It is enjoyable enough for what it is: a story of a dog patiently and sometimes not so patiently waiting for a feast of his own to share with his visiting cousins.

Maisy's Christmas Tree. Lucy Cousins.  2014. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Maisy and her friends are decorating her Christmas tree. Cyril puts on the lights. Tallulah adds pretty ornaments.

If you have a little one who loves Maisy and her friends, this tree-shaped board book might make a good before-Christmas present. (I do not believe in giving Christmas books as presents ON Christmas day.) In this Maisy book, Maisy is celebrating Christmas with her closest friends: Cyril, Tallulah, Charley, and Eddie. The book is simple and short. By the end of the book, the tree is all decorated, and the presents are all wrapped. If you expect Maisy books to have an actual plot, you might be disappointed. But if you love her for her simplicity and familiarity, then you will enjoy this one too. It's a fine addition to a very long series.

Little Blue Truck's Christmas. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"Beep! Beep! Beep!" 
December's here! 
Little Blue Truck is full of cheer.
Every Christmas, Little Blue has a delivery job to do. 
Five trees ready to take ride. How many trees will fit inside?

I believe this is Little Blue Truck's third book. He was first introduced to readers in Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads The Way.

Little Blue Truck has a job to do. He is delivering Christmas trees. He has one tree for each of his friends. He delivers four trees to his friends. He keeps the last tree for himself. The last page of this book features colored twinkle lights on the tree.

It's enjoyable enough. I think the twinkle lights may appeal to some. If your little one loves Little Blue Truck already, then, this one may definitely be worth seeking out.

 Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel! A Sing-along book! Illustrated by Shahar Kober. 2014. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay. 
And when it's dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play!
My dreidel's always playful.
It loves to dance and spin!

A dreidel-shaped board book of the classic song. Each spread introduces readers to an animal family celebrating Hanukkah. Raccoons. Beavers. Mice. Owls. Bears. Various traditions are shown in the illustrations, but the text itself is just the song.

Eight Jolly Reindeer. Ilanit Oliver. Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. 2014. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]



Eight jolly reindeer stretching up to heaven.
Up goes Dasher and then there are....
Seven jolly reindeer start their kicks.
Up goes Dancer and then there are...
Six jolly reindeer learning how to drive.
Up goes Prancer and then there are...


Another shaped-board book. This one is all about Santa's reindeer. It's a counting book. Little Blue Truck's Christmas was a counting book also focused on subtraction. (Counting down from five to one). But. This book is much more entertaining, in my opinion. The rhythm and rhyme work well to make this a fun story to share with little ones. I will admit that this one does have glitter, a bit too much glitter. But despite the glitter, I found myself liking it.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Dead in the Water (2014)

Dead in the Water. (World War II #2) Chris Lynch. 2014. Scholastic. 188 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Dead in the Water is a companion book to the Right Fight. Both books are new 2014 releases. Both books feature baseball-loving heroes. In The Right Fight, readers meet oh-so-briefly two brothers: Hank and Theo.

The book opens with both brothers ready to join the Navy. However, only Hank ends up serving in the Navy. Their parents feel strongly that Theo should serve his country elsewhere. If both sons were stationed on the same ship, and it went down, they'd be devastated. That is their reasoning, for better or worse. So Theo enlists in the Army Air Service. This book barely mentions Theo again after the boys ship out. (We do get one letter from Theo, I believe.) This is Hank's story. (Will Theo get his own story later?)

Hank is assigned to the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier sailing in the Pacific. He is an airedale. The book chronicles his time on ship and off. He makes a few friends among the pilots. He makes one good friend among the mess attendants. He becomes close to a mess attendant named Bradford who played in the Negro League. He is a much better ball player than Hank, this is very hard for Hank to admit, and I'm not sure he ever does. But Bradford teaches or coaches him, and the two bond over the love of the game. Readers can also discern that life isn't easy for Bradford, that prejudice is a problem.

There is plenty of action in this one. If you know what happened to the real USS Yorktown, you can guess how this ends.

I liked this one. I think both books do a good job of balancing characterization with action. I feel Hank was fully developed. It was easy for me to care not only for Hank but for his whole family. I especially liked his sister, Susie.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Naughty Kitty!, by Adam Stower | Book Review

Adam Stower follows up his Silly Doggy! book with another winner, Naughty Kitty!

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18. A Snicker of Magic (2014)

A Snicker of Magic. Natalie Lloyd. 2014. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

A Snicker of Magic would be a great choice for fans of Wendy Mass' 11 Birthdays or Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie. It has that oh-so-magical-feel to it, a certain rightness somewhere between charm and sweetness.

Felicity Pickle is the heroine of Natalie Lloyd's Snicker of Magic. She is oh-so-easy to love. She's a word-collector. She's an awkward public speaker. She doesn't have the easiest time making friends. But she's a wonderful person, very lovely. I loved seeing her relationship with her sister. I did. But nearly as much as I loved her developing relationship (friendship) with Jonah. I loved, loved, loved every scene between Jonah and Felicity. Well, to be honest, I loved most of the scenes in general. I loved meeting so many characters, hearing so many stories, learning all about the town in the past and present. I cared. To sum it all up, this is a book where it is easy to CARE.

Felicity is tired of moving around. She wants to find a place for them all to settle down. And she's really, really hoping that that place to settle down will be Midnight Gulch, the place her mom grew up, the place her aunt still lives. The novel opens with Felicity, Franny Jo, and their mom arriving in town...

From start to finish, the book is lovely. One of those rare books where you could open it up to almost any page and find something to smile about or a quote to share. For example: "Making new friends, in a new place, when you're the new girl, is harder than fractions" (25). That being said, I could have done with a little less spindiddly vocabulary.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. 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.

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20. 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?

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10 Comments on Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?, last added: 8/26/2014
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21. 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.

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22. 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

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23. 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
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24. 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.

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25. 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.

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