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<<August 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,395
26. Lowriders in Space - a review

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign points out many reasons why it's important to have diversity in books. One of the reasons is that people like/want/need to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. Another is that people like/want/need to see the world through the eyes of people other than themselves. Whatever your reason for seeking diversity in books, I hope you find it in Lowriders in Space.

Camper, Cathy. 2014. Lowriders in Space. New York: Chronicle.
Illustrated by Raul the Third.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Quirky and unique, Lowriders in Space is a graphic, sci-fi novel that extols the virtues of working hard, working together for a common goal, and striving for success despite the odds of achieving it. It's also funny and stylish, and peppered with Mexican-American slang as it shines a rare spotlight on "lowrider" culture.

The cast of characters includes an impala, an octopus, and a mosquito:

  • "Lupe Impala was the finest mechanic south of Vacaville.  She could rescue a dropped gasket, notch a belt, or electrocharge a sparkplug, swish a swashplate or wrangle a manifold with a twist of her wrench a flick of her wrist."
  • El Chavo "Flapjack Octopus wielded the wettest washcloth North of the Salton Sea. When he polished a car, he spun over the paint job like an eight-pointed ninja star flying through the night."
  • "Elirio was the best detail artist around. People were a little afraid of Elirio Malaria."

They're best friends. They work together. They can count on each other.  But can they build a lowrider to win the Universal Car Competition?  They can when they accidentally use rocket parts and get a truly cosmic makeover!

Besides its truly unique and fun characters, I like that Lowriders in Space features adults. The general rule is that books for kids will be about kids. That's fine as a general rule, but a quality children's book about adults is a breath of fresh air.  When I was a very young kid, my favorite things to read were Archie and Veronica comic books and Nancy Drew mysteries.  They had cars and boyfriends and nary a parent in sight (unless you count Nancy's father, who was more like an early version of an ATM than a parent).

Humor?  Lowriders has that, too. My favorite panels?

El Chavo (the octopus) sitting in his new bucket seat (a bucket!). "¡Que suave!"
Elario rescuing the group from a black hole with ... Wite Out!

What else do I like about Lowriders in Space?  The subtitle is "Book 1." I sure had fun reviewing this one. I look forward to seeing more of this unconventional trio.

Back matter includes a dictionary of the Mexican-American slang and scientific terms used throughout the book (it is a sci-fi novel, after all).

My advance copy was in black and white, with only a small sampling in color. See full color pages on the book's FB page. [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Low-Riders-in-Space/487615068027769?sk=photos_stream] 

Though I'm a Jersey Girl now, I lived for many years in Southern California. If you've never been stopped at a red light next to one of these bouncing babies, you're really missing something!  Want to see some lowrider action?  Check out this YouTube video, "60 Seconds of Low Riders."

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27. Rain Reign

As all good Girls Scouts know (and I was one),
their motto is:

when you read Rain Reign by Ann Martin

which (witch) you must (mussed)...

Be prepared....

...to love a character (or 2) with all your heart

...to hate a character (and maybe understand him a teeny bit but still hate him)

...to have your heart broken

...to ride an emotional roller coaster

...to have more understanding of Asperger's syndrome

...to have more empathy for children with Asperger's syndrome

...to love this book

Trust (trussed) me 

(Coming October 2014 from Feiwel and Friends)

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28. Book Review: The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Book: The Fire Horse Girl
Author: Kay Honeyman
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Jade Moon is the unluckiest zodiac combination for a Chinese girl: a Fire Horse. Stubborn, argumentative, hot-tempered, a Fire Horse girl is a curse on her family because she can never conform to the ideals of Chinese womanhood. And nobody in Jade Moon's household or village will ever let her forget it.

When a handsome young man named Sterling Promise offers her and her father the chance to go to America, Jade Moon thinks it's a new chance at a life she never could have lived in China. But a long sea voyage ends in detainment at Angel Island. The promise of freedom seems further away than ever. To get to America, to find a place that will allow her to truly be herself, Jade Moon is going to have to embrace all the things that make her a Fire Horse girl.

So, we've all heard about Ellis Island, which was often no picnic for the European immigrants who funneled through there. Angel Island was a lot worse - Jade Moon is held for long, dull, dehumanizing weeks before she finds her way to San Francisco. The picture of Chinatown, too, isn't pretty. Jade Moon finds herself in the midst of the tong underworld, working as a bullyboy (literally; she disguises herself as a boy) for a Chinese crime boss.

While I liked the different immigration story, and (oh, let's be honest) the love story, what I loved best about this book was Jade Moon herself. She's definitely a Fire Horse girl, and often immature and impulsive along with all her other flaws. It's only when she learns to channel her fiery nature that she's able to control it, and find places and people who will not only accept her, but value her too.

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29. Absolutely Almost

Hey y'all.

Remember that Disney movie, The Shaggy Dog, where a kid turned into a dog? 

Well, guess what?

Lisa Graff has turned into a fifth grade boy!


She must have.

Because how else could she have NAILED the main character in her amazing new book, Absolutely Almost?

How else could she have written such an absolutely perfect fifth grade story?




Read it.

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30. Book Review: The Young Avengers: The Children's Crusade by Allan Heinberg

Title: Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
 Author: Allan Heinberg
Series:   Young Avengers, Avengers,
Published:  March 28 2012 by Marvel
Length: 248 pages
Source: library
Summary : The Young Avengers return in an epic saga by series creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. When Wiccan's reality-altering powers begin to rival those of the Scarlet Witch, the young hero sets out on a quest to find her that spans the Marvel Universe and pits Wiccan against both the Avengers and the Young Avengers. But will Wiccan's desire to solve the mystery of his parentage be his salvation or his undoing? With three words, the Scarlet Witch changed the world forever...and now with her return, nothing will ever be the same for the Marvel Universe. This self-contained Marvel event reintroduces and redefines the Young Avengers and the Scarlet Witch for the Heroic Age, and is essential reading for any Avengers fan. COLLECTING:UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) 526 (B STORY); AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE 1-9; AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE - YOUNG AVENGERS 1
Review: The Scarlet Witch, who once cast a spell that took powers from millions of mutants, is wanted by the Avengers and the X Men. To find her, they decide to use Wiccan and Speed, who they believe are her sons. This results in a clash with a lot of groups from the Marvel universe.
I wanted to read this because I really enjoyed most of Marvel's cinematic universe, wanted to read the comics, and the general consensus of the internet on where to start in the wide world of Marvel is pick up any book and roll with it. But, among other things recommended by Georgia(The Bibliomaniac) and Cicely (Loves Books), I was recommended Young Avengers and this was all my library had in that respect so I started with this.
It had short character introductions for each of the Young Avengers, which was useful. It also told us simply or let us easily infer the past events of the Marvel timeline.
I liked all the characters. Wiccan, aka Billy, is the main one for this storyline, and you got to know him quite well. Also features heavily was Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. I liked her story. I think some of the characters came in a bit too late in the story to knoew them in this one, but I suppose it matters les when they have extensive stories of their own. The team of the Young Avengers I liked, and I'd like to see more of them, especially Kate Bishop/Hawkeye.
The plot brings in a lot of characters from the Marvel universe. There's also a bit randomly in a future timestream, which I had to go over a few times to understand. Otherwise, it was easy to follow, and quite quick.
The art was consistently good. I liked the fact it was all in full colour (I'm used to black and white manga where colour story pages are rare) and the action pages looked really good.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast story that made a great introduction to the Marvel comics universe.

Links: Amazon| Goodreads

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31. Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2014: July part 1

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher or Netgalley for this honest review.

About the Book


Millionaire ad executive Landon Downey has a policy: no romantic relationships allowed. So when he's saddled with his six-year-old nephew for a week, he doesn't think twice about asking Kimber Reynolds to act as live-in nanny. What he doesn't expect is the undeniable attraction to the woman he hasn't seen since they were kids. And not only does she like him back-she suggests they work their way down a list of extracurricular activities in the bedroom. How can he resist?

Kimber wants to prove once and for all that she can love 'em and leave 'em with the best of them. All she has to do is keep her sixteen-year crush on Landon out of the equation. No problem . . . until she realizes she may not be the only one whose heart has gotten completely tangled up in their no-strings agreement.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars

Here's why:

I've been on a romance kick lately and reading books in the genre has been an interesting experience in variety. Some books I've enjoyed more than others and, since I'm venturing outside of just the paranormal/urban fantasy sub-genres of romance, I've found great little gems.

This story is one of them. Landon and Kimber are two very real and very vulnerable characters for different reasons. What they do have in common are pasts that continuously haunt their present and makes them both guarded and unsure of their futures.

Watching the two of them work through various small (and some major) issues kept me glued to this book which I finished in one sitting. I like this author and will gladly read other books in the "Love in the Balance" series.

Would I recommend? Yes!

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32. Book Review: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler

Book: Revenge of the Flower Girls
Author: Jennifer Ziegler
Published: 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley.com

Triplets Dawn, Delaney, and Darby are shocked to learn that their adored big sister, Lily, is getting married to her dull, allergy-ridden, armadillo-looking boyfriend, Burton. Disaster! Calamity! Unthinkable! They just know that it will be the biggest mistake of Lily's life.

Burton is booooring. His favorite president is Franklin Pierce. He got them sparkly buzzing toy cats meant for six-year-olds. He looks like an armadillo. Worst of all, he doesn't make Lily happy, they just know he doesn't. Not like her old boyfriend, Alex, did.

Somehow they've got to stop this wedding. By hook, by crook, by schemes and plots and plans, inopportune sprinklers and pirated USB sticks and faked phone calls, these redoutable triplets are going to stop this wedding. And when all else fails, they'll bring in the big guns: Alex himself.

Ever had a day where you just needed a book that made you smile? Yeah, so do I, and this book filled that bill,. It's nonstop fun. Not only the crazy schemes they get up to (one involves Darby being held out the window by her ankles, and taking the inevitable tumble), but the narration made me laugh out loud. I also really enjoyed that the girls are obsessed with politics and the US presidents, just as a facet of their characters.

Plotwise, it doesn't hold up particularly well, but this is such a romp of a book, I was mostly able to switch off my nitpicks. If there's one complaint I have, it's that it was awfully hard to tell the difference between Darby, Dawn, and Delaney. Yes, they each had their little quirks (one is the ball of energy, one is super-shy, one is the yakker) but the first-person narration and the focus of the story being on someone other than the narrators made them all blend together. It didn't really detract from the story that much. The effect was mostly of one girl who managed to be everywhere and do everything.

I'll be watching for more of these triplets, and more of Jennifer Ziegler.

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33. Kishaz Reading Corner: Beauty Dates the Beast

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Single human female to join charming, wealthy, single male were-cougar for a night of romantic fun—and maybe more.

Me: The tall, sensuous, open-minded leader of my clan.

You: A deliciously curvy virgin who’s intimately familiar with what goes bump in the night. Must not be afraid of a little tail. Prefer a woman who’s open to exploring her animal nature. Interest in nighttime walks through the woods a plus.

My turn-ons include protecting you from the worst the supernatural world has to offer. Ready for an adventure? Give me a call.

Vampires and doppelgangers need not apply.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 3 stars

Here's why:

I picked up this title because I thought it might be a retelling and/or new version of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. Sadly, I was in for a little disappointment but that didn't deter me from reading this paranormal romance.

I think what I liked the most was Bathsheba's and Beau's wit. They played well off each other, even when Bathsheba was being guarded. I also liked the fact that Bathsheba was protective of her sibling and wanted what was best for her.

Some things that drove me nuts about the story was the first-person viewpoint. I'm not a fan of this style but I will read them when they are done well. The approach for this story was just okay for me. I did get tired of reading the story from Bathsheba's point of view the entire time.

Also the ending was a bit of a letdown along with some confusion as to how they arrived at the conclusion that they did to take care of some of the problems that popped up during the story.

Would I recommend this? Perhaps to those who are already readers of the genre.

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34. Review – The Damned Utd by David Peace

9780571224333I have tried and failed at reading David Peace before. I’ve have always wanted to get into his books in particular The Red Riding Quartet (which I cheated and watched the films instead, which were superb). For some reason I have never been able to get into the rhythm of his writing and with a writer like David Peace if you don’t have the rhythm you are lost.

A couple of readers, who I really respect their taste, have been going nuts for David Peace’s Red Or Dead and with it being World Cup time I decided I would check out one of David Peace’s football novels.

I have been attempting to get into poetry this year and one of the ways I have found that has made poetry most accessible to me as a reader has been via audio. A poem read aloud brings the words to life which sadly I am unable to do reading them. So when I spotted an audio version of The Damned United I jumped at the opportunity to listen to it. (The fact it was read by John Simm from Life On Mars was icing on the cake.)

9780571239139From the opening lines I was entranced. David Peace is utterly hypnotic. The repetition, the short, sharp visceral use of language had me utterly enthralled. It was like a chant that just swept me up into the turmoil that was the life of football manager Brian Clough.

Brian Clough became manager of Leeds United in 1974 and only lasted 44 days in the job. Peace tells the story of his tumultuous 44 days in charge interspersed with flashback to Clough’s early days as a football manager and the success (and havoc) he wrought up until landing the Leeds United job.

This was one of those absolutely amazing book experiences. David Peace’s novels are often described as streams of consciousness but after listening to The Damned United I would describe his work more as verse novels. The imagery he conjurors, the sounds and atmosphere he recreates through words is my definition of poetry. I’m going to listen to as many of his novels on audio now that I can find and wish to the book gods that someone records an audio version of Red Or Dead (or maybe have a crack at it myself to see if I now have David Peace’s rhythm).

Buy the book here…

Buy the audio book here…..

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35. Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2014: June part 2

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher or Netgalley for this honest review.

About the Book

In this Bolton Brothers book, first comes the baby…and maybe then comes marriage? 

He'd never expected to see Stella Caine again. After one wild night, she'd walked away—right after revealing that her father was the one man who could threaten the biggest business deal of Bobby Bolton's career. So Bobby left her alone.

Until now.

Now Stella is pregnant and staying in his condo. This is a complication that can be solved only one way: marriage. Bobby wants to do the right thing. Hell, he wants her—has never stopped wanting her. Surely he can convince her to say yes, even without those three little words….

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating:  4 stars

Here's why:

I've done very little reading this year because I've been so busy but when I find a quick, yet very enjoyable read, it always makes my day.

This is the only book I've read in the Boltons' series and it will not be the last.

The main characters, as well as the secondary characters, kept me entertained and invested in the story of Bolton brother, Bobby, and the one who got away, Stella.

There are several roadblocks to this couple's happiness as well as, you guessed it, a baby.

The emotions and actions of the characters were believable and even had me yelling at them a couple of times to get it together.

I would definitely recommend this book to others.

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36. Book Review: Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui

Before AfterBefore After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 176
Ages: 4-8
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 0763676217 / 9780763676216
Publishers Summary:

Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it’s also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in a jungle may become an urban King Kong. Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece. With simple, graphic illustrations sure to appeal to even the youngest of children, this beautiful rumination on the passage of time will please the most discerning adult readers, too.

TurkeybirdTurkeybird Giggles and Gawks: This is such a cool book! I really like learning about how things work. I ask my mom and dad lots and lots and lots of questions, so this was so neat! Even if I did have to keep asking my mom to explain some of the pictures it was really fun to hear about how things got from little tiny things to big big things and the cook-coo clock was the coolest. I’ve never seen one of those before! Some of it was super silly though, like the statue and the cake that gets eaten. I think I will keep reading and reading this book, it’s so neat.

Before After Interior

Mom’s Two Cents: Earlier this week we received out copy of Before After and since that time it’s been in someone in our families hands. Not only the kiddos have been drawn to it, but myself and my husband haven’t stopped riffling through it. Each turn of the page presents a new question, a new thought or feeling. For myself, it evokes memories of seasons changing and Turkeybird getting stuck in the snow one winter in Virginia. It also leads to thoughts of how to explain the process from one beginning image to the next evolution, in part because both kiddos have been asking non-stop how it’s all connected.

Turkeybird is just the right age for this book, the one where every new discovery leads to another question. And while Littlebug enjoys the beautiful illustrations and love to know that one is connected to the other she doesn’t inquire about the process as much. I’m sure the day will come, too soon, when she’s begging to know just how the electricity surges through wiring to turn a room from dark to light with the flip of a switch. For now, she’s content with knowing it works. What I love though is that this book, while completely wordless, has captured everyone in our homes attention regardless of their age or interest.

Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui is a beautiful addition to any library. Its wordless pages come to life as you watch a caterpillar hatch into a beautiful flying butterfly while imagining the step in between, cultivating curiosity in youth and bringing to light memories in adults. This will be a book discussed for many many months and years to come, and certainly one that I’d recommend again and again.

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 5 to 10. Before After takes the simplest of childhood questions and brings them to life in beautiful illustrations that readers of all ages will be fascinated by.

Find Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui at the following spots:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 0763676217 / 9780763676216

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing a copy of this book for review! Connect with them on Twitter, Google+ and on Facebook!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our various affiliate relationships.

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Original article: Book Review: Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui

©2014 There's A Book. All Rights Reserved.

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37. Loot: How to Steal a Fortune - a review

Watson, Jude. 2014. Loot: How to Steal a Fortune. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

After my book club meets tomorrow, my Loot will be long gone. Here's a quick preview before it's snatched up.

It begins with a foreboding prophecy regarding stolen semiprecious moonstones:

You will be caught tonight and made to pay.
Death by water, before the moon is set.
Before the passage of thirteen years, the two birthed together will die together.

Two of the prophecies have already come true. Two thieves are dead.

Now, 12-year-old March, son of a thief, must figure out the mystery with no other assets than a getaway bag, some cryptic clues, and remembered advice from his deceased father,

Never trust a guy who says, "Trust me."
Never give your real name to a cop.
Never let someone steal your getaway car.
If you think nothing can go wrong, you'd better think again.

March, his twin sister, and fellow foster home escapees, Izzy and Darius, will match wits with jewel thieves, fences, cops, and millionaires in a desperate search for answers and the mysterious moonstones. This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller with plenty of plot twists and intrigue—a globe-trotting trek with its roots in the underbelly of New York City.

Due on a shelf near you June 24, 2014.
For grades 3-7
272 pages

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38. How to keep the Reader on the edge of his Seat…

  The Silence of Herondale was Joan Aiken’s first thriller, published in 1964, and set the style, if not the form, for another dozen or so adult novels which were to follow, alternating with her now better known children’s books.  Initially published by Gollancz in their famous Yellow Jacket editions, the books were covered in […]

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39. Book Review: Picasso-ville: An Imaginary Place Consisting of the Visions of Pablo Picasso by Pat Luttrell

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Author and Illustrator: Pat Luttrell                   
Paperback: 26 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; First Edition
Published: (February 28, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1494319969
ISBN-13: 978-1494319960

Come along for an artistic adventure like no other. Pat Luttrell’s, Picasso-ville: An Imaginary Place Consisting of the Visions of Pablo Picasso explores the world of Pablo Picasso through a young boy’s dream. Instilling the love of art is essential in teaching our young muses to think outside the box.  Pablo Picasso was a visionary who thrived in creating his art through his minds eye and not by just what he saw before him.

Pat Luttrell’s mastery of fine art and her expert story-telling skills shouts from the pages of an adventure to be shared over and over again. Looking forward to the next book in the series, van Gogh’s Fallen Star.

Connect with Pat at

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Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multiple Award-winning Children's Author

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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40. The Star-Spangled Banner and We the People for kids

Just in time for Independence Day, Doubleday Books for Young Readers (Random House Kids) has released two new titles by Caldecott Medalist, Peter Spier. He has taken the words of two of our nation's greatest symbols, the Constitution and "The Star-Spangled Banner," and created two sprightly illustrated, perusable picture books,

We the People: The Constitution of the United States and The Star-Spangled Banner.

In We the People, it is the preamble to the Constitution that creates the story.  Short phrases ("We the people of the United States") appear on each double-spread page, accompanied by many small pen and watercolor vignettes relating to the phrase.  On many pages, such as "promote the general Welfare," the small paintings contrast our past and future.  One set of images shows a man with a three-cornered hat delivering the post on horseback.  The facing image is that of a U.S. mail truck stopping at a line of rural mailboxes.We the People has a copy of the original document as its endpapers, and contains a brief history of the Constitution and its entire text in the back matter. Names and images of the Constitution's signers are also featured.

The Star-Spangled Banner features large, often double-spread paintings for each line in our national anthem. The illustrations depict the 1814 Battle of Baltimore which inspired the lyrics.  The first two verses comprise the illustrated story, while the remaining two verses, along with the sheet music are included in the back matter.  Also included is an image of the original hand-written poem, a receipt for the 30' x 40' flag that flew over Fort McHenry (made and sold by Mary Young Pickersgill for the sum $405.90), a photograph of the battered Fort McHenry flag when it arrived at the Smithsonian Museum in 1907, and of course, historical information regarding the flag and battle.  The endpapers feature "A Collection of Flags of the American Revolution and Those of the United States of America, Its Government, and Its Armed Forces."

At 48 pages each, and a sizeable 12.5" x 9", these books offer young readers plenty of opportunity to peruse their many small characters and details. Both books should have a place in every school.

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41. The Leftovers Audiobook Review

Title: The Leftovers Author: Tom Perrotta Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris Publisher: Macmillan Audio Publication Date: August 30, 2011 Listening copy via library This isn't YA by any means, although older teens might be interested in it because of the upcoming HBO television series. I was interested in it because I grew up in a house where the Rapture was a given and I wanted to see what

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42. I Pledge Allegiance

Today’s guest blog post is by Libby Martinez, co-author of the new children’s book “I Pledge Allegiance,” on teaching kids to be proud of the place they were born while being a proud American.

Libby’s book is available at deeply discounted prices on the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children in need.

MoraMartinez-7502“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America….” Every time I say those twelve simple words, I smile because of all the unspoken things they represent—abstract concepts like community, safety, freedom and the American Dream. But how do you explain these concepts to a child who is five or six years old? How do you explain what it means to be an American in a concrete and real sense?

IPledgeAllegianceMy mother and I felt that the answer to these questions was through story—in this case, the story of our aunt who came to the United States during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.  By putting a name and face to the Pledge of Allegiance and by talking about words and phrases like “indivisible” and “liberty and justice for all” in simple and kid-friendly terms, we hope that children will understand more fully this special promise we make as Americans.

We hope they will also understand that they can be proud of the place they were born (even if that place is not the United States) and still proud to be an American at the same time. One of the wonders of picture books is that they allow for the creation of a rich, visual narrative to accompany sometimes complicated and complex topics.

As July 4th approaches and flags are raised across our nation, we are called to ponder what individually and collectively we can all do to continue to “lift [our] lamp beside the golden door“—our enduring legacy as Americans.

If you work with kids in need, sign up with First Book by June 27 and you’ll be eligible to receive a free classroom set (25 copies) of “I Pledge Allegiance” for your students.

Click here to sign up*All educators at Title I or Title I eligible schools, and program leaders serving 70% or more of children in need are eligible to sign up. The recipient of the  classroom set will be notified the week of June 30th.

The post I Pledge Allegiance appeared first on First Book Blog.

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43. Book Review- Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Title: Grasshopper Jungle
 Author: Andrew Smith
Series:  N/A
Published:  27 February 2014 by Electric Monkey
Length: 394 pages
Source: won from FictionThirst
Summary : In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things. This is the truth. This is history. It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
Review: Austin and Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant praying mantises. They also find somewhere where they might be able to survive the end of the world.
I wanted to read this because I was told queer protagonist plus laughs plus weird stuff and this looked right up my street.
It started with one of my favourite ever opening passages. Then an introduction to Robby and Austin, and the people in their town. Then lots of weird weird things.
A lot of things happen in Grasshopper Jungle, which would seem crazy on their own, but just about work when combined into the story.
This is definitely funny in places. Austin is a sex obsessed teenager questioning his sexuality and other things in life. He's also attempting to record everything as a historian. This makes for a unique writing style, with many funny parts such as “Even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we've ever done, we’ve also managed to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit” and the chapter titles. However, this also comes with a lot of annoying things. We are told every time  he gets horny, and we also get repeated things like names and histories of people which he's already explained. Both these things get irritating after the first few instances, and  they carry on throughout the entire book.
I like the fact we get a lot of information about everything, which I think works because 1)it's interesting and 2)some things are so bizarre that not knowing as much as we can about a thing can make it impossible to understand. It felt like I was reading slower than usual, maybe to make sure I caught everything, maybe because the of the style. I don't know.
The characters are well fleshed out, though I felt I didn't really get to get close to them, maybe because of the blunt writing style. Also, regarding Austin's sexual confusion: this is why bisexuality and options of nonmonogamy need to be openly offered. (I might do a post on bisexuality and nonmonogamy and why that would solve so many problems in literature and life. More on that later maybe).
The plot developed slowly, which meant we got a chance to take it in. we also got a full history of each generation of Austin's family from leaving Poland down to Austin, which I liked.
Andrew Smith's imagination is wonderful.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book which was weird in an awesome way, but not entirely my thing.

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44. The Bambino and Me - an audiobook review

Hyman, Zachary. 2014. The Bambino and Me. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra.  Read by Jason Alexander.
(Advance Listener Copy)

Huge baseball fan, Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), reads this fictional memoir of 10-yr-old Yankee fan,George Henry Alexander, in The Bambino and Me. The story simply begs to be read by Jason Alexander who certainly needs no accent coaching to create this believable boy from the Bronx in the summer of 1927.

Babe Ruth has been sold to the Yankees and George is his biggest fan.  When he gets a ticket to a Yankees/Red Sox game for his birthday, he couldn't be more excited! But then comes the error - his Uncle Alvin has given him a Red Sox jersey to wear to the game! His mother insists that he wear it. Enemy colors! What could be worse?

The audio version is filled with the wonderful sounds of baseball and summer - jazz music, the chatter of kids on the street, the crack of a bat, the roar of a crowd. If this audio book were a baseball game, it would be a perfect one.

Recommended for ages 6-9, and unabashed lovers of America's Pastime.

This is "hands-down" the best audio book that I've listened to since Three Times Lucky.
"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."
From Field of Dreams, 1989. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based upon the book Shoeless Joe (1982) by W. P. Kinsella

 Although it looks wonderful, I can't offer comment on the printed version of The Bambino and Me. I picked up the CD at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, and asked if I could have the accompanying book. I was told that I could only have the CD, which I tossed in my bag where it sat unnoticed and unremembered until this week when I had a lull between audio book reviewing assignments. I'm so glad I remembered it!

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45. Book Review: Chorus by Emma Trevayne

(Sequel to Coda)
by Emma Trevayne
Note: Chorus is the sequel to Coda, and this review will contain spoilers for Coda. If you haven't read Coda and want to avoid spoilers, you might not want to read this review. If you're looking for an awesome YA dystopian novel with a unique premise (controlling the population with addictive music) and a diverse cast, go forth and read Coda! You won't be sorry.
Eight years have passed since Anthem led the movement to defeat the Corp and stop their use of mind-controlling music tracks on the population of the Web. During the battle, the Corp used Anthem's own younger sister and brother, Alpha and Omega, as pawns to try to stop him, and exposed them to the addictive music while they were too young for their minds to be able to handle it.

As a result, Alpha, known to her friends as Al, still has flashbacks of that day, flashbacks which incapacitate her in a seizure-like state. Determined to find a cure, Al is in Los Angeles studying neuroscience. She loves her life in L.A., and other than the flashbacks, life is good, until a message comes in from the Web that Anthem is dying. Those who lived under the Corp's mind control tend to have short lives anyway, and Anthem's years as an energy source for the Corp have shortened his life even more. Al has to leave L.A. behind to rush home to be with him. And something else is not right; Al is getting anonymous messages, and someone is stalking her. Someone who knows too much about her.

Coda was an excellent, unique, and suspenseful dystopian story. Chorus is no less gripping, but for different reasons. Chorus is much more a personal journey of addiction and love and loss. Oh, don't worry: Chorus does have its share of danger and suspense, but Al is not Anthem. She doesn't want to lead a fight; she just wants to go back to L.A. and work on her cure.

It's Al's poignant personal journey that really makes this a book you can't put down. She struggles with addiction, and every day, every minute, she resists using the tracks, for fear that if she tracks she'll damage her brain beyond her ability to find a cure. Being back in the Web exacerbates the addictive urges, and also stirs up old feelings that increase the flashbacks. Al's boyfriend from Los Angeles, Jonas, accompanies her to the Web, along with two other friends. Al's relationship with Jonas is sweet, but there's a tension there, too, from the secrets that Al's been keeping from him, including her flashbacks.

The second half of the book becomes much more externally suspenseful, as both L.A. and the Web are in danger from an unexpected threat. And when bad things do start happening, when it becomes clear that something is seriously wrong, Al must find within herself the strength to fight to save the people she loves.


Coda did a good job with diversity. Anthem, the main protagonist, was bisexual, and there were other diverse characters, including some people of color, although both of the ones I noticed were minor, if important, characters. Overall, Coda gave a sense of a diverse society where things like sexuality and race weren't issues.

Chorus seems to have fewer characters who are from groups under-represented in YA fiction. There is one same-sex couple who are minor but important characters, and a couple of characters from Coda that I'm pretty sure I remember are dark skinned — Mage and Iris — although I didn't see any physical descriptions of them in this book. If you come to Chorus after reading Coda, as I did, you'll probably read into it the same sense of a diverse society, but if you read Chorus without having read Coda, I suspect you won't come away with quite the same impression.

Who would like this book:

Dystopian book readers, fans of Coda, and anyone who likes a good character-driven story. 

Buy Chorus from Powell's Books

Note: I decided to give the Powell's affiliate program a try. I've been an Amazon affiliate since the 90s, but I've become increasingly concerned about their market share and dominance in the industry. I don't think that Amazon is a demon, but I also don't think it's good for one company to have so much power and influence. I've heard good things about Powell's (even long before it got the Colbert Bump) so it seemed like a good way to go.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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46. Book Review: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Book: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel
Author: Diana Lopez
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Erica is a regular girl dealing with regular problems like annoying siblings, struggling with school, and wondering whether any boy, ever, will notice her. Then her mom drops a bomb on the family: she has breast cancer.

Suddenly, Erica has a whole host of new problems on top of her old ones. She has to step up and take on more responsibility for her younger brother and sister. She's scrambling to fulfill a promesa made to La Virgen - five hundred names on her sponsor list for Race for the Cure. Her friends are all acting different around her and don't seem to understand any of her worries. With all this weight on her shoulders and all the confusing emotions piling up inside of her, even the best mood ring could get confused.

I have to say, this book hit me where I live. Like Erica, I had a mom who got breast cancer. (She's fine now.) I also grew up Latina, with Spanish and English in my ears and Tex-Mex cooking in my home. And of course, no matter what your ethnicity, everybody can relate to the agonizing experience of being a middle-schooler.

Erica is a Latina girl, but not one who emigrated from another country or suffers from prejudice or poverty. Like millions of American girls, her background is simply there, in family traditions like the promesas, the bits of Spanish floating around her house and neighborhood, and even dishes like migas (eggs scrambled with fried tortillas and salsa, nom nom nom!) It's refreshing after many books that are about being Not White.

For a book with a cancer theme, this was surprisingly light and sweet. Even though her mom is in treatment, Erica is still a preteen with all the usual preteen problems. Though her mom's fate is left somewhat up in the air (she's still doing radiation as the book ends), you have the feeling everything is going to be okay.

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47. Save the Enemy Book Review

Title: Save the Enemy Author: Arin Greenwood Publisher: Soho Teen Publication Date: November 12, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-1616952594 288 pp. ARC provided by publisher I think the marketing department got this one wrong. If you look at the cover, you'd think it's an intense thriller. But, really, it's a comedy. Zoey Trask is a senior at a private school in Washington, D.C., but she's the New Girl,

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48. Stink and the Shark Sleepover - an audiobook review

I don't feature many early chapter books here, but I had the opportunity to review this one for the June, 2014, issue of School Library Journal.  An excerpt of my review is below.

McDonald, Megan. 2014. Stink and the Shark Sleepover. 2 CDs.  Brilliance Audio.
Read by Barbara Rosenblat. About 1 hour on CD or mp3 download.

Stink's family and several of his friends have won a sleepover at the local aquarium. Everything is going swimmingly until the aquarium guide tells the story of "Bloody Mary," the undead vampire squid locked behind the door marked "Do Not Enter." Between worrying about Bloody Mary and the fact that his best friend Sophie's hermit crab is missing, Stink may never fall asleep!

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Interspersed throughout are facts on sharks and other aquatic creatures, and a brief history of the "Bloody Mary" ghost story featured in the book.

The first few books in the Stink series were narrated by Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson).  Barbara Rosenblat is the current narrator.
Listen to an excerpt here.
Read a sample here.

There are now seventeen books in the Stink series, and he even has his own website, Stink Moody. Both are testament to the popularity of the fictional Judy Moody's little brother.

I don't have a Nonfiction Monday post today, but you can check out all of today's offerings at the Nonfiction Monday blog, always a great resource for the latest in children's nonfiction.

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49. Book Review: Bedtime Kisses by Karin Larson - A Different

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Karin Larson’s debut children’s book is sure to delight your young muses from the onset. The whimsical connection many toddlers have with their stuffed animals is endearing to not only themselves, but to the adults in their lives. The simplicity of loving their stuffed animals as if they are real pulls at the heartstrings. Come along for a unique bedtime counting ritual that will soon become a classic routine in your home.

The illustrations by Ginger Nielson provided a rich backdrop to Larson’s clever counting story.

To learn more about Karin Larson’s writing career visit, www.karinlarson.com and www.karin-larson.blogspot.com.

Visit Ginger Nielson’s colorful world at www.gingernielson.com.


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multiple Award-winning Children's Author

Connect with
A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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50. The Change Your Name Store


Title: The Change Your Name Store

Author: Leanne Shirtliffe

Illustrator: Tina Kugler

Publisher/Year: Sky Pony Press/2014

Summary: Wilma Lee Wu doesn’t like her name anymore, so she decides to try on some new names at the Change Your Name Store and is transported all over the world to new cultures.

The Change Your Name Store is a fantastic first introduction to new cultures for the youngest armchair travelers. It’s super fun to read aloud, which is good because you may be reading it over and over again. Its rhyming text not only rolls off the tongue, but also presents some rather unusual names  from around the world that kids will find fascinating. 

The energetic illustrations perfectly depict a precocious little girl, Wilma Lee Wu, as she imagines herself with a new name and experiences life in new cultures. I especially like how her dog accompanies her to all the new places and even becomes a poodle when they arrive in Paris. I also like the wraparound cover with the beautifully detailed buildings. There’s a library on the back!

I can relate a bit to Wilma. When I was growing up, I didn’t like my name either. I even approached my mother once about changing it to Lorraine or Lorena (I know, they’re not that much different from my name, silly me.). It was, of course, a phase I was going through, and it didn’t take long for me to appreciate and embrace my name, just as Wilma does.

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