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Results 1 - 25 of 178
1. Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship, written and illustrated by Henry Cole, 255 pp, RL 4



Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of many picture books and the superb, generously illustrated novel  A Nest for Celeste that features a young John Audubon as a character. Now, three years later, Cole is back with another illustrated novel, Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship.

The trim size of Brambleheart, small and almost square, is perfectly suited for the story inside, and there is an illustration on almost every page. And it is completely engaging - I read it in one sitting. Brambleheart feels a little familiar at the start, but it takes an unexpected and exciting turn almost a quarter of the way in. Twig lives on the Hill, a jumble of detritus that provides homes for the rodents and small animals who live there as well as parts for their creations. Young Twig attends classes where his skill (or lack thereof) will determine his future career, a career that will be bestowed on him at the Naming Ceremony. Unfortunately, it seems that every class is a challenge for Twig. In the Weaving Burrow, Professor Fern, a beaver, teaches knot tying. The Snape-like Professor Burdock teaches Metal Craft, where his nephew, Basil, is the star pupil, despite Twig's best friend, Lily, who seems to excel at everything she touches. Things take a very big turn for the worse when Twig almost burns down Professor Dunlin's welding class. Just when it looks like he is doomed to the lowliest position of Errand Runner, Twig decides to run away and this is where the story takes off.

************SPOILER ALERT************

Twig heads past the boundaries of the Hill and into the surrounding forest where he finds something that changes his life - an egg. The contents of this egg, seen in the illustration below, created all kinds of problems and opportunities for Twig. He discovers, with the help of the baby dragon, that his is a gifted welder and metal worker. But, it's hard to keep a baby dragon hidden - and fed - for long and soon questions are being asked. And, it seems, that Char, short for Charcoal, a name given to the dragon by Lily, is growing sicker by the day. The two decide that Char needs to return to the place where Twig found the egg and the adventure - and the next book - begin!






Source: Review Copy






A Nest for Celeste




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2. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 316 pp, RL4


The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley came out in January of 2015. In January of 2016 it won the Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award for the "artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences," and the Odyssey Award for best audio book, with narration by Jayne Entwistle. A couple of months back, Bradley's book came to my attention when I saw it on several end of the year "best of" lists and Newbery prediction lists. After fantasy, historical fiction a very close second favorite genre of mine and without a doubt, The War the Saved My Life is one of the best works of historical fiction I have ever read. In narrator Ada, Bradley has created powerful narrative voice, an unforgettable character and a deeply moving story of survival, both physical and emotional, during WWII England.

Ada is not sure how old she is. She has never been to school, in fact, she has not left the tiny apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, in ages. She is crippled by a club foot and a widowed mother who never wanted to be one. Deeply suspicious, ignorant and filled with anger and hatred, Ada's mother abuses her physically and emotionally, filling her with shame and fear. Ada's only pleasure comes from tending to her little brother Jamie. As he grows older and starts school, his independence leaves her feeling like she should get some of her own. Used to crawling on her hands and knees, Ada slowly, painfully teaches herself to walk. When she learns from Jamie that the children are being evacuated from the city - and that her mother has no intention of letting her go - she sneaks out of the house and joins the evacuees. Upon arriving in Kent, Ada and Jamie, filthy, louse ridden, sick with rickets and impetigo, find themselves unwanted once more. The iron faced Lady Thornton, head of the Women's Voluntary Service, packs the children into her car and takes them to the home of Susan Smith, who refuses to take them, saying she didn't even know there was a war on.

Susan is mourning the loss of her dear friend, Becky, and in her near catatonic state of grief she unthinkingly says that she never wanted children in front of Ada and Jamie. However, Ada catches sight of a pony in the field behind Susan's house and determines to stay. With Susan, Ada faces a new set of challenges, the biggest being trust. Even if she hadn't heard Susan say that she never wanted children, the task of being able to trust Susan would be overwhelming. And this is where Bradley's superior narrative skills shine. With Ada's voice, Bradley conveys the isolation, fear and ignorance that have been her life. So many of the words that Susan says to her mean nothing, from "soup," to "sheets," to "operate," the reader quickly gets a strong sense of disconnect with which Ada moves through the world. This disconnect is expressed most powerfully when Ada is in distress, when her foot hurts or when people are talking about her or touching her. When she was home with her Mam, Ada would retreat, mentally, when the agony of her physical situation - like being locked in a dank cabinet under the sink - was too much to bear. She relies on this relief with Susan, too, imagining herself with Butter, the pony she saw in the field that she teaches herself to ride.

While Ada is an incredible character, Susan Smith is also remarkable. Oxford educated, she herself is familiar with parental disapproval and rejection. Bradley never states it openly, but she weaves enough threads into the story to lead me to believe that Susan and Becky were in love and were ostracized for it. But, Susan exemplifies the motto from the morale boosting poster created during the war, "Keep calm and carry on." In fact, Bradley quotes another poster made by the Ministry of Information to boost morale in The War that Saved My Life. Seeing the poster in town, Susan reads to to Ada, "Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory." "That's stupid, it sounds like we're doing all the work," Ada replies, saying it should be, "Our courage, our cheerfulness, our resolution, will bring us victory." This is one of the first moments where Susan sees through Ada's defenses. Susan clothes, feeds and educates Jamie and Ada, persistently, but never forcefully. While she expresses frustration, and both children cringe or hide at times when they think they have truly angered her, she never hits them or raises her voice to them. Instead, she explains herself when called for and hugs them when words will not do. She somehow understands the depths of Ada's emotional wounds and is patient with her when she breaks down, wrapping her tightly in a blanket and hugging - or even sitting on her during their first air raid.

While Ada and Jamie's mother only appears in the first and last few pages of The War that Saved My Life, her presence is a constant throughout. Her abuse of Ada is sometimes horrific, but also sparsely and effectively employed by Bradley. Witnessing this abuse allows the reader to be patient with the often unlikable Ada and also helps the reader understand her decisions, like the choice not to learn how to read or write, and her reactions, like the catastrophic break down she has when, on Christmas Eve, Susan gives her a handmade, green velvet dress, telling her that she is beautiful when she tries it on. Her mother's words, "You ugly piece of rubbish! Filth and trash! No one wants you with that ugly foot!" run through Ada's head and her roaring screams and panic are more understandable. It is even almost understandable that, throughout most of the novel, Ada believes that all the new things she is learning, from walking to horseback riding to reading and writing, will prove her worth to her mother and make her love her. With this possibility always out there, letting herself get attached to Susan is almost impossible. Then, there is always the knowledge of what her mother has thought of her and how she has treated her. Halfway through the novel, Ada says, "I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn't really trust Susan not to be like Mam."

But, Ada does get attached and she does grow stronger, physically and emotionally, over the course of this very rich and detailed story. And, while at first it seems like the war is a far off thing, it does come to Kent in a shattering way. After the Battle of Dunkirk, Kent finds itself overwhelmed by injured and dying soldiers, Ada heading into the village to help where she can. There is even a triumphant moment where, following the government dictate to say something if you see something, Ada not only must assert herself, but also let a prejudiced, condescending adult know that her foot is very far away from her brain, something she has heard Susan say, in order to be taken seriously. As life grows more dangerous in Kent and Susan refuses to send Ada and Jamie away, Ada thinks to herself, "It was hard enough to cope with Susan. How would I ever cope without her?"

I was in tears and sobbing for the last half of The War that Saved My Life, especially the final pages. Bradley delivers a very satisfying ending to a deeply satisfying book, one that makes me want to turn around and read it all over again. I am so grateful that this book won a Newbery honor, among other well deserved awards, because it means that it's likely to fall into the hands of children over and over for decades to come. I can't wait to get a copy for my library - I usually donate books I buy for myself to read to my library, but I am keeping this one! - and see what my students think of it!

Source: Purchased


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3. The Doldrums, written and illustrated by Nicholas Gannon, 340 pp, RL 4

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon is rich with promise. The pages of this beautiful book are thick and creamy. Gannon, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, illustrates The Doldrums with characters and a palette that are ethereal, eccentric and inviting. The hero of The Doldrums, which will be followed by a sequel, is Archer B. Helmsley, one of the thousands of children born every day who

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4. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL 2




Last year I reviewed and loved Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale and superbly illustrated by LeUeyn Pham and I am so excited to be reviewing the second book in the series a year later, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess PartyThe way I see it, with Princess Magnolia, the Hales and Pham have created a character and series that hits all my literary sweet spots: a high interest chapter book that is a perfect bridge between leveled readers and chapter books, a character who is all things - a princess with her own unicorn and a secret double life fighting monsters. Magnolia can go from wearing a pouffy pink gown and tiara while having tea with the Duchess Wigtower to a black booted, masked and caped crusader with a scepter that turns into a staff for battle and Pham brings her to life with vivid, action filled panache. Best of all, the Princess in Black books are sweet and playful and not the least bit saccharine. 


In The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, Magnolia is preparing for her birthday party and the eleven princesses (and their steeds) who will be attending the party. Just as they begin to arrive, Magnolia's "glitter-stone ring rang." Monsters are leaving Monster Land, Duff the goat boy's flock is in danger and the Princess in Black needs to perform her signature moves, like the Tiara Trip and the Tentacle Tangle, on them to make everything right with the world again.
Just when Magnolia thinks she can get back to her guests, the party games, the cake and the presents, her glitter-stone ring goes off again. And again. Magnolia juggles her responsibilities admirably. Until she doesn't. My favorite part of The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party are the princesses themselves. Pham's illustrations of Princess Sneezewort, Princess Zinnia, Princess Honeysuckle, Princess Hyacinth, Princess Apple Blossom, Princess Bluebell, Princess Euphoria, Princess Tulip, Princess Crocus, Princess Snapdragon, and Princess Jasmine bring to mind an updated rendering of the singing dolls from the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland, in the best way possible, without the singing. I couldn't stop poring over the pages, taking in all the details. Now, I need to get this books onto the shelves of my library because students have been asking for it for weeks!
Coming February 2016!!!



Source: Review Copy


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5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, 527 pp, RL: Teen


A couple of years ago, Rainbow Rowell gutted me with her YA novel, Eleanor & Park, a powerful story of a relationship between outsiders growing up in Nebraska in the 1980s. Her next YA novel (Rowell also writes for adults, Attachments and Landline, both of which I've read but have not reviewed. Adults can be kind of boring) Fangirl was equally amazing and opened a window on (for adults, anyway) the world of fan fiction and "shipping." With Carry On, Rowell 's main character is Simon Snow, a "fictional fictional character," as she refers to him in her Author's Note, hero of his own series of Harry Potter-esque novels and subject of the fan fiction created by Cath, the main character in Fangirl. It probably sounds a little confusing if you haven't read Fangirl and/or know nothing about fan fiction. It's probably best if you dive into Carry On with dim-ish memories of Fangirl and almost no memories of Harry Potter. If, like me, you have pretty vivid memories of both, things could get tangled in your head and you just might start asking yourself questions like the one Rowell addresses on her website: did she write Carry On as Gemma T. Leslie, fictional author of the fictional eight-book-children's adventure series, did she write as Cath, the fanfic writing star of Fangirl, or did she write as Rainbow Rowell? Her answer is this, "I'm writing as me. . . I wanted to explore what I could do with this world and these characters. So, even though I'm writing a book that was inspired by fictional fanfiction of a fictional series . . . I think what I'm writing now is canon." If you are still confused, my best advice to you is this: keep calm and read on. 

For me, Carry On was most enjoyable when I was reading it for what it was - Rowell taking these two compelling characters, Simon and Baz, and letting them work things out over the course of their final year at Watford, a school for humans and other magical creatures. In Heather Schwedel's review, "Rainbow Rowell's New Book Is a Harry Potter Rip-Off That Proves How Great Fan Fiction Can Be," she writes, the "achievement of Carry On is that, even with a template more or less designed by someone else, Rowell has written a book that conjures Rowling-esque magic just as effectively as J.K. Rowling herself - and yet still feels like something new." While I admit to struggling, Rowell definitely does create something new in Carry On.  A couple of years ago I reviewed the first book in Lev Grossman's trilogy, The Magicians because I was deeply interested in seeing what an author could do with the concept of a school for magicians when the students were on the verge of adulthood. Grossman is a phenomenal writer and the characters and world he created have stayed with me, but my overall take-away was that the one defining factor that makes a book about magicians for adults is the presence of overwhelming depression and hopelessness felt by the characters. Grossman's book had a level of sadness that reminded me of why I stopped reading adult novels almost entirely. Rowell's books for adults, while presenting genuinely complex struggles, just don't get as deeply sad and this is true in Carry On as well. 

This isn't to imply in any way that the issues Simon and Baz grapple with in Carry On are superficial. In fact, I found Simon's storyline, his origin story and the climactic resolution, the most compelling, creative and philosophical aspect of Carry On. Rowell uses magical elements and circumstances to create tension between Simon and Baz, their relationship seamlessly flipping from antagonistic to amorous more than half way into the novel. Perhaps because I couldn't entirely quiet the Harry Potter voices in my head, waiting for this moment to arrive felt nearly interminable. But, once it did arrive (we all knew it would happen, right? And not just because Cath wrote it in her fanfic?) the pace and plot of Carry On poured out like a flood and I couldn't put the book down. While Rowell does a fine job establishing the wizarding world, the most rewarding moments in Carry On are the moments of personal interaction between the four main characters. Adults are off the page most of the time, even though, as in Harry Potter, it is the children dealing with the messes made by the adults. Rowell's take on the classicism of the wizarding world and the desire for revolution amongst the underrepresented and discriminated against magicians feels a little more American than Rowling's, despite the fact that Rowell has set Carry On squarely in England. And, knowing that Rowell is an American writing in a British voice, I sometimes found myself feeling that occasional Briticisms rang false. That said, Rowell did a superb job with her wizarding swears, my favorite being, "Nicks and Slick," uttered by Phoebe. "Crowley" and "Chomsky" were other swears that got me grinning. "Chomsky," especially, as Rowell's very cool rules for spells - words gain meaning through repeated use, therefore idioms and other phrases frequently uttered by a certain culture, are powerful spells when uttered (along with use of a wand) by magicians. Be Our Guest, Up, Up and Away, As You Were, and Scooby-Scooby Do, Where Are You? are just a few that are used to varying degrees of success over the course of Carry On

Everyone who loves Rainbow Rowell should and will read Carry On. For those who aren't familiar with her works, Carry On could be a pretty cool introduction to her work. It almost makes me wish that I could start with Carry On and read backwards, looking to see if the magic - the powerful relationships and moving characters -  that made me fall in love with her work the first time I read Eleanor & Park works both ways.



Source: Purchased




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6. Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead 287pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE



Rebecca Stead is the author of four books, two of which, Liar & Spy and the Newbery Medal winner, When You Reach Me, I have reviewed here. When You Reach Me is a book that will stay with me the rest of my life. I shy away from making Top 5 or Top 10 lists, but I know that every time I see the cover for this book I will feel a thud of emotion and recall what a powerful experience reading that book was. And I know that I will have the same experience in the future after reading Stead's new novel, Goodbye Stranger. Stead is a gifted writer and a masterful storyteller. She reminds me of one of the few novelists for adults I consistently read and always find gratifying, Kate Morton. Morton's novels, which are rich with compelling characters, weave stories from the past and present, revealing the connection between the two at the end of the story and always delivering an emotional punch, one that has made me gasp out loud before. While Morton - and Stead's - novels are anything but formulaic, they both employ similar formulas for storytelling that keep me engaged and guessing. Having read so many books, I can often see a plot twist pages in advance (and I am no fun to watch movies with) but I never see coming the surprises and rewards Stead (and Morton) always have in store.


Of course, this also makes writing a review a challenge. Goodbye, Stranger divides page time between Bridge, Sherm and an unknown, first person narrator. Bridge and Sherm's stories unfold at the same time, but the unknown narrator's story takes place on Valentine's Day, with Bridge and Sherm's storylines catching up by the end of the novel. Stead has the incredible ability to write a relatively short book that packs an amazing amount of detail and layers into the story. Bridget Barsamian is a seventh grader who is part of a tight trio of friends who have agreed never to fight and never to end their friendship after one of the three experiences the end of her parent's marriage. Bridge is also the survivor of a traumatic accident that took four surgeries and a year of recovery. When she was eight, Bridge was rollerskating with Tab, their mothers walking a few yards behind, and, distracted by a VW Bug and her version of the "Punch Buggy" game, she was hit by a car. Except for a recurring nightmare, Bridge is fully recovered, although something a nurse said to her on the day she was discharged changed the way she thought about herself. The nurse told her that she must have been put on earth for a reason, to survive that kind of accident.

Sherm is also in seventh grade. While he is part of Bridge's story, his narrative comes in the form of letters to his grandfather, Nonno Gio. Bridge and Sherm connect when they discover they are both signed up for Tech Crew with Mr. Partridge, who also leads the Banana Splits Book Club for kids of divorced parents. Emily, the third in Bridge's circle of friends, is in the Banana Splits club. She is also a star soccer player and a pretty girl who is hitting puberty harder than her best friends. Then there is Tab, little sister to Celeste and newly radicalized feminist, thanks to her English teacher, Ms. Berman, who prefers to be called "Berperson." Together, the three friends weather the challenges that are part of growing older, growing up and discovering who you are. Stead takes Goodbye, Stranger into the 21st century when she has Em become involved with a popular eighth grade boy who encourages her to text increasingly inappropriate pictures of herself to him. Talking to this boy, Bridge thinks to herself, "Patrick was only one grade above them, but something about him was older, as if he'd crossed a line Bridge couldn't even see yet."

I realize that at this point, I really haven't told you much about Goodbye, Stranger that might lead you to believe it's as amazing as I say it is, and that is in part because of what I can't say about it. But it's also because Stead takes threads of everyday life and weaves them together to make something larger and more meaningful, much like the Georges Seurat painting pointillist painting that was at the center of Liar & Spy. Small details like Hermey, a character from a television show that Bridge and her older brother Jamie quote to each other, Mr. P buying black and white cookies from Nussbaum's for the Banana Splits and a pair of cat ears that become a "comforting presence" add up to something bigger. But it is the emotional complexity of Stead's writing that is most powerful and unforgettable. While talking about the most moving storyline in the book would be too much of a reveal, there is another emotionally mighty moment that comes when a character reflects on a betrayal of trust, asking, "Who is the real you? The person who did something awful, or the one who's horrified by the awful thing you did? Is one part of you allowed to forgive the other?" The character does something I think suspect is universal among adolescent girls - sharing a secret you promised to keep. In Goodbye, Stranger, this sharing is done as a way to reconnect with a friend who has begun distancing herself, a friend who has also begun to reveal a deep, wide streak of meanness. Stead describes the momentary, euphoric connection that this sharing brings and also the anguish, with a clarity that brought me vividly back to my own adolescence and my own missteps.

In the end, as with all her books, Stead tells a story about connections between people, connections that ultimately are about love and compassion. The connections may be tenuous and strained and characters may find themselves alone and hurt, but they always find their way to each other.


Source: Purchased


Other books by Rebecca Stead:








Another example of masterful storytelling 
that will make you gasp:


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7. Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall, 96 pp, RL 4

The introduction for Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey begins by noting that Jane Goodall "has been chosen as the most recognized scientist in the Western world." Regardless of how accurate that statement is, the fact remains that Jane Goodall is still alive, has been working in her field for over 50 years and her subject is something that is almost universally appealing

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8. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon, 247 pp., RL 3

Ursula Vernon is the author of the excellent, comic hybrid Dragonbreath series (Book 11 comes out January, 2016!) and the superb stand alone novel, Castle Hangnail. Vernon is a triple threat when it comes to kid's books. She is a great illustrator who makes creepy cute on every page. She is an imaginative author, always adding to the fantasy genre. And, best of all, she is a very funny

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9. A Divided Night by Jennifer A. Nielsen, 317 pp, RL 4

Jennifer Nielsen is the author of the widely praised Ascendance Trilogy, set in a kingdom on the verge of civil war. Neilsen is also the author of the Mark of the Thief trilogy set in Ancient Rome that combines history, fantasy and fast paced action. Nielsen's newest book, A Night Divided, is a stand-alone work of historical fiction set in a time and place that is rarely visited in

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10. The Chronicles of the Black Tulip: The Vanishing Island, Book 1, by Barry Wolverton, 338 pp, RL 4

In 2012 I reviewed Neversink, a superb, Watership Down-esque tale of animals living in the Arctic Circle by Barry Wolverton. I've been waiting three years to see what he does next and The Vanishing Island, the first book in the Chronicles of the Black Tulip series is every bit as exciting as Neversink and inventively set in the alternate past of 1599! The town of Map is the "dirtiest,

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11. Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, 389 pp, RL 4

I read Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton almost from cover to cover and I still have a lump in my throat as I write this review. In the character of Mimi Yoshiko Oliver, not only has Hilton has created a twelve-year-old girl with an authentic voice, but, by making her a multicultural (Japanese and African American) girl with dreams of being an astronaut in a small, patriarchal Vermont town

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12. Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Racoon by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, 112 pp, RL 2

It's taken me a while to warm up to Kate DiCamillo, and I still haven't read her most popular books, Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux. But I do like her weird sense of humor and the curious characters she created in books like the Mercy Watson series, which I reviewed here in 2010. The Bink & Gollie trilogy, which she created with Alison McGhee and Tony Fucile, as an absolute

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13. The Yeti Files: Monsters on the Run by Kevin Sherry, 124 pp, RL 2.0

Last year I gleefully reviewed The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry. I am so thrilled to be reviewing Monsters on the Run, the second book in what I hope is a long running series about all kinds of cryptids! Besides the fact that The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet taught me the word "cryptid," which I work into conversations whenever I can now, I adore this book for its humor,

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14. The Marvels by Brian Selznick, 672 pp. RL 4

Books like The Marvels by Brian Selznick are why I read and books like The Marvels what keep me reading, in the hopes of recreating the magical experience of being completely immersed in another world, another time. If you have read The Invention of Hugo Cabret then you know the special gift and pleasure you are in for when you hold this gorgeous 672 page tome in your hands and prepare

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15. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Mihcael J. Rosen, illustrated by Lee White

I love cats and I love haiku, so it makes sense that I find The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Lee White absolutely charming and fascinating. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers consists of 20 poems, one each for a different breed of cat, divided into four sections that any cat owner will immediately recognize:

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16. The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke, 38 pp, RL 2

The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke is a fantastic new book from Creston Books, a homegrown publisher of books printed in America that launched in Fall of 2013. Of course I love a good story, but I also love a beautifully made book and all of Creston's books fit this bill, as you can glimpse in the photo below, and by taking a look inside The

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17. Amelia's Middle-School Graduation Yearbook by Marissa Moss (except for words and pictures by Amelia) 80pp. RL 5

Wow! It's hard to believe that Marissa Moss's creation, Amelia and her composition book/diary, first hit the shelves 20 years ago! Amelia was not new to me, having just started as a children's bookseller, and having a daughter and a collection of American Girl dolls. Amelia and her notebooks have had a variety of publishers, starting with Tricycle Press. After publishing an excerpt from

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18. Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon, 372 pp, RL 4

Castle Hangnail is the special treat that we get from Ursula Vernon that comes between the ending of her fantastic  Dragonbreath series and the start of her eagerly anticipated new series, Hamster Princess, featuring Harriet, a an extraordinary princess who excels at checkers and fractions, despite the curse that a wicked fairy god mouse cast, leaving her looking toward a Sleeping

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19. Ratscalibur written by Josh Lieb and illustrated by Tom Lintern, 171 pp. RL 4

Josh Lieb has a very impressive page on IMDB with some solid comedy credit, including several Emmys. His first book for kids, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to Be Your Class President, had hilarious blurbs from Judd Apatow and Jon Stewart, who likened to the book to the baby of War and Peace and The Breakfast Club that had been left to be raised by wolves. Writing funny kid's

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20. Undertow by Michael Buckley, 376 pp, RL: TEEN

Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series was one of the first books I reviewed when I started my blog in 2008 and four years later, with the publication of the ninth and final book in the series, it remains one of my all-time-favorite reads. If you, or anyone you know, loves fairy tales even the slightest bit, Sisters Grimm is a MUST read. Buckley is also author of another middle grade

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21. Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, 197 pp, RL 4

Alice Hoffman is the author of many books for adults, a few of which have been made into movies, and a handful of books for young readers. Her newest book, Nightbird, brings magical realism, a genre mastered by Gabriel García Márquez, to middle grade readers in a way that is compelling and appropriate. Magical realism, which presents magical or unreal elements in an otherwise mundane setting

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22. My Cousin Momo by Zachariah OHora

When I was a bookseller, I remember being so excited when I read Stop Snoring, Bernard! for the first time in 2011. It was a great hit at story time and I fell in love with Zachariah OHora's illustration style and his charming characters. Somehow I missed his next book, No Fits, Nilson, which I still need to get my hands on. Now, author of three books of his own, OHora has also illustrated

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23. Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

Bob Shea is a very funny guy. He is also a very funny guy who gets kids. Best of all, he can blend his humor with his  grasp of a child's psyche and translate it onto the page in pictures and words, which is not easy. Way back in 2010 I loved and reviewed Dinosaur vs. the Potty when it came out and read it over and over at story time. While I've been keeping up with reading Shea's books,

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24. Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley, 304 pp, RL 4

Art by Diana Sudyka Circus Mirandus is the debut novel by Cassie Beasley and it comes with a lot of advance excitement, a movie deal and praise, all of which are deserved. When I first read the blurb for Circus Mirandus, I was reminded of a book that made an impression on me when I was in junior high, Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. And, while both books are set at a

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25. The Trap by Steve Arnston, 245 pp, RL 4

I am so excited to read and review The Trap, Steve Arnston's third book! I loved his debut, the creepily marvelous post-apocalyptic tale, The Wikkeling, with amazing illustrations by the superb Daniela J. Terrazzini. His second book, The Wrap-Up List, is a YA novel in which a sixteen-year-old chooses the things she wants to do in the week before her scheduled "departure" from a world

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