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Results 1 - 25 of 149
1. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain - a review

Angleberger, Tom. 2014. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain! New York: Abrams.

(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

A bi-racial, Jehovah's Witness girl; a poor boy from the trailer park; a nerdy Jewish boyall victims of school bullying.

Sounds like a perfect trio of protagonists for a serious book of realistic fiction, doesn't it? But it's notnot really. These are the founding members of Tom Angleberger's hilarious new creation, the QwikPick Adventure Society, which makes its debut in a new series, The QwikPick Papers.

So, what do this Jehovah's Witness, Jew, and very poor kid have in common? At first, only that each has nothing to do on Christmas Day.  Marilla and Dave don't celebrate Christmas and don't enjoy spending time at home.  Lyle's parents have to work at the QwikPick convenience store all day. But don't feel sorry for them.  It's the perfect day for a secret mission to visit the Poop Fountain, an antiquated aeration device at the town's waste water treatment plant.

Written as an illustrated "report" by the QwikPick Adventure Society, this novel of only 135 pages, Poop Fountain! is stomach-churning disgusting at times, and hilariously funny at others.  That's why kids will love it, but it's not why you should.

You should love it because Angleberger has proved again (as in the Origami Yoda series) that he can tackle sensitive subjects with charm and  a good deal of humor.

     Everybody else was talking about the Super Bowl coming up that weekend, but we all agreed that it was stupid and football was stupid and the Redskins' mascot was stupid.
     Unfortunately, Jeremy heard me saying something and hollered down the table, "Hey, if we wanted any of your crap, I'd beat it out of you."
     "Shove it, Jeremy," said Dave, which was the nicest thing anyone had ever said in my honor.
     When it was time to go, Marilla said, "Hey, if you want, I'll save this seat for you tomorrow."
     That was when, without them even knowing it, Marilla and Dave became my best friends.

Other reasons for you to love Poop Fountain!, "shout-outs" to
  • The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
  • Fred Astaire
  • The Princess Bride (the movie)
  • the BBC
Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014.  Can't wait 'til May?  It's on NetGalley now.

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2. Molly Danger - comics in audiobook?

Recently, I reviewed an audiobook version of a comic book.  It sounded crazy to me, but it works!  Below is my review as it appeared in the April/May 2014, issue of AudioFile Magazine.


Jamal Igle

Read by Olivia DuFord, Robin Miles, Lance Roger Axt, and a Full Cast

Crunch! Kaboom! Pow! A superhero action comic in audiobook format? Yes! With sound effects including crashing cars, screaming citizens, beeping computers, and whirring helicopter rotors, AudioComics brings this new series to life with a full cast of narrators. Likable Molly Danger is a super strong, immortal 10-year-old alien who is never far from action. Orphaned when her parents' ship crashed to the earth, she was recruited by the Danger Action Response Team (D.A.R.T.) to fight the evil Supermechs, who threaten Earth. Quiet music accompanies Molly's sad and lonely backstory scenes, while techno pop and suspenseful music highlight battle and chase sequences. Multiple narrators and excellent special effects make it easy to follow this fast-moving audio comic. L.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

Children • 1 hr. • Audio Program • © 2013

Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.

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3. Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

I'm still working my way through all the books I picked up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  Lulu's Mysterious Mission is the third installment in this illustrated, chapter book series.  I don't know why I never got around to reading the first two, but I'm making it up with a booktalk and a book trailer.  Enjoy!

Viorst, Judith. 2014. Lulu's Mysterious Mission. New York: Atheneum.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher - artwork not final)

Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

Lulu's parents are going away on vacation, and they're doing the heretofore unthinkable, they're going without Lulu! When she meets her babysitter, the militant, Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, and eats her first bean-and-beet omelet (a "taste" of things to come), Lulu begins to hatch some desperate plans.

Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.
Sooner, not later,
Fast, not slow.
That babysitter's got to go.

Funny with frequent asides by the author, Lulu's Mysterious Mission will appeal to humor fans, ages 6-10. Oh, and, yes, there may be a mysterious mission.

On a bookshelf near you, beginning April, 2014.

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4. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace - a booktalk

Marino, Nan. 2013. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. New York: Roaring Brook.
(Advance Review Copy provide by NetGalley)

Due on shelves April 16, 2013

Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace 
(a booktalk)

Cecilia has no rhythm, and not too many friends; but she has something special - a story. A story of a song that connects her to New Jersey's wild Pine Barrens as firmly as the roots of its Pygmy Pines and Atlantic Cedars. Everyone in Wares Grove knows the story of the song played by the forest on the night of Cecilia's birth. Only the story of the Pineland's most famous inhabitant, the Jersey Devil, is known more widely.

But two unexpected things occur as Cecilia's 12th birthday approaches. Cecilia's mother begins to doubt the song, and a young boy, a boy who has perhaps lost a song of his own, has arrived in the middle of the night under suspicious circumstances - and he's hiding out at Piney Pete's Pancake Palace.

A song, a secret, and the legendary tale of the Jersey Devil are entwined in this imaginative story of discovery set on the fringes of New Jersey's Pine Barrens, a natural wonder.

Find out who's Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.


Lest you think that the Pine Barrens is a made-up place, or that New Jersey is nothing more than exits off the Turnpike or Parkway, be assured that the Pine Barrens are in fact, one of the world's most interesting places. The Pinelands cover 1.1 million acres, or 22 percent of New Jersey's land area. (from the official NJ tourism site - see below)

Learn more about the Pine Barrens and other locations in Nan Marino's new book at these sites:

If I didn't have a sore throat, this one would have been a podcast.  Look for a podcast or video booktalk for Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace soon.

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5. The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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6. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot - in color!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.

While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago!  Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.

All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015.  A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.

Read an excerpt and see the new illustrations on Scholastic's new Ricky Ricotta web page.

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 29, 2014.

BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)

The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children.  Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation.  Long live Dav Pilkey!

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7. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! a review

Remember when the Summer Reading theme was "Be Creative?" If you have an artistic inclination, those were the days - with painting, sculpture, and other creative arts in the forefront!  With the continued focus on the CCSS, and the upcoming science-driven theme of "Fizz, Boom, Read!", art runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle.  Thankfully, there is an effort to combine them - turning STEM into STEAM - adding Art to the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Here, however, is a book that's all art - specifically, painting.  Enjoy!

Kutschbach, Doris. 2014. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! New York: Prestel.

With the help of a cartoon dog named Charlie, readers explore famous paintings in an attempt to convict an art forger.

Hello! My name is Carl, but my friends call me Charlie the Sleuth.  I'm a detective who solves art crimes, and right now I'm working on a very difficult case.  It's about a shady artist and his forgeries - paintings he offers for sale that aren't really what they appear to be.   ...   Do you think you could help?  

... and with that, the reader (now an art detective) begins a page-by-page quest to spot the differences between famous paintings and forgeries.  Some are humorous.  In "The Sunday Stroll" by Carl Spitzweg, the portly father in the forgery sports a Pinocchio nose and a baseball cap.  Others are more subtle - the color of a parasol, insects in the tall grass.  In all, nineteen paintings (and their accompanying "forgeries") are presented, including VanGogh, Gaugin, Rousseau, and Cézanne. Each has 15-25 differences.

What makes this book so wonderful is that it invites a deep exploration of each painting.  Is greater realism produced by the blemish on a Cézanne melon?  Does the addition of a bird in Passarro's "Place du Théâtre" detract from the hustle and bustle of Parisian citizens? These are not questions that kids will answer, but subconsciously, they may begin to see them. The reader cannot simply flip through the pages.  If he does, the forger will not be found. By noting each mistake, he is compelled also to notice the aesthetic produced by the artist's choices.

The final pages offer thumbnails of each painting with the differences marked by X's.  A note is included about each painting, it's painter, and noting its current location.

Enjoy the search!

This book is marked with the seal of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), indicating that its paper was derived from "responsible sources."  This is the first time I've seen this logo.  I hope to see it more often!

Don't miss today's Nonfiction Monday postings, and be sure to catch up on all of the great posts on 
Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month

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8. I Even Funnier - an audiobook review

Below is my review of I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story, as it appeared in the March, 2014, edition of School Library Journal. I loved it!

PATTERSON, James & Chris Grabenstein. I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story. (I Funny Series, Bk. 2). 3 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2013. $18. ISBN 9781478925156.

Gr 3–7—Wheelchair-bound Jamie Grimm is working on new material for his upcoming entry in the regional finals of the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest. Patterson and Grabenstein pay homage to the timeless comedy of Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, and other greats, while introducing new jokes that speak directly to the middle school experience. Though it will date the series more quickly, references to trendy Vegas casinos and comedians such as Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Wright, and Chris Rock give the book an air of hip relevancy. Can Jamie find humor in his bullying cousin, Uncle Frankie's medical emergency, and confusing relationships with Gilda Gold and "Cool Girl?" Yes, he can. And if you're wondering if a heavily illustrated comedic novel can make it as an audiobook, that's a yes, too. Young Frankie Seratch is perfectly cast as the narrator of this heartfelt and very funny look at middle school and family relationships. Seratch ensures that the humor comes across as intended, without a hint of mockery or maliciousness. A PDF companion file of the book's illustrations is included on disc three.


Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

Note: I did not read or listen to the first book in the series, and had no trouble getting up to speed with the characters and story.

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9. The Mad Potter - a review

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. 2013. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. New York: Roaring Brook.

This book, recognized as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, one of 2013's most distinguished informational books, is a photo-filled biography of George E. Ohr, a master of art pottery. A colorful character and far cry from the reticent or taciturn artist stereotype, Ohr was a self-proclaimed,
 "rankey krankey solid individualist," the "Greatest Art Potter on Earth," and "born free and patriotic, blowing my own bugle."

George E. Ohr pottery workshopSadly, his bravado did not serve him well in his lifetime, as one fan wrote,

"Mr. Ohr is by no means a crank, but is a naturally bright, even brilliant man, who has been led into the belief that the way for him to attain publicity is through the channel of preposterous advertising, and the signs which he placed round Biloxi do him more harm than good."
Still, he was confident in his own mastery of his craft, and future generations came to recognize that he was indeed brilliant.  The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art was built in his honor, and houses a permanent exhibition of his work.

The Mad Potter is a narrative chronology and includes a history of the museum, instructions on how to create a clay pot, extensive Notes, Bibliography and Picture Credits, and my favorite - "How to Look at a Pot," a useful interpretation of the language and method used in describing and evaluating pottery.

A fascinating glimpse into an artist's life, the art of pottery, and the nature and mindset of the art-collecting world.

Want to see the works of George Ohr?  There is a Pinterest board titled, "George Ohr & His Biloxi Pottery," dedicated to displaying photos of George Ohr and his creations.  Be sure to take a gander.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, and also the final day of our KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Please be sure to catch up on all of the wonderful posts!


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10. The Giant and how he Humbugged America - a review

Murphy, Jim. 2012. The Giant and How he Humbugged America.  New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher)

While many of us are most familiar with Charles Dickens' use of the noun humbug as used by Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, "Bah! Humbug!" where it is used to mean "nonsense," humbug is also a verb.

humbug: (verb) deceive, hoax, to engage in a hoax or deception
First known use of humbug 1751
(from Merriam-Webster online)

The Giant is a story of how one man cooked up a scheme to humbug an entire nation.

By his own account, Jim Murphy originally toyed with the idea of telling the tale of the Bernie Madoff investment scandal, but decided that not enough time has passed to interpret the scandal objectively and completely.  How then to tell a true and cautionary story of greed, excess, and gullibility?  Why via the Cardiff Giant, of course!  The Giant hoax began in earnest on a morning in October, 1869, on "Stub" Newell's farm in the small New York hamlet of Cardiff, when workers digging a well uncovered a stone body.  Was it a petrified man, an ancient statue, proof of biblical giants?  Scientists, reporters, scholars and average citizens flocked to Cardiff in droves to decide for themselves. 

Demand was so great to see the statue while it was still in its hastily constructed home in upstate New York,
that the New York Central Railroad had trains stop for ten minutes near the hall so riders could run in for a quick view.
Eventually, the statue was moved in a specially-constructed wagon and toured the country.  Accounts of the Cardiff Giant appeared in newspapers throughout America.  Learned men debated competing theories about the giant's origin. 

An October 1869 photograph showing the Cardiff Giant being exhumed.
 This media file is in the public domain in the United States.
This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired,
 often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.
See this page for further explanation.

They need not have debated.  The truth of the giant's origin was already known, but known only to Stub Newell and his several accomplices.  It was a steadily growing hoax of gigantic proportions.

It is difficult today to understand the immensity of the "giant" hoax of 1869, but to place it in perspective, consider these numbers.  The US Census of 1870, (one year after the "giant" was first "found"), lists the population of the United States at just over 38 million. According to accounts in the book, an estimated six million people paid to view the famous Cardiff Giant, about one sixth of the entire population of the United States!  Add in visitors to the several "fake" giants that appeared later, and the number is likely even higher.  It is estimated that the architect of the scheme made the equivalent of nearly a quarter million dollars in today's money; and he owned only an "interest" in the Cardiff Giant.

So shady and complex were the financial machinations and deals involved with this deception, that "The Cast of Characters" which begins the book numbers sixty-six, and is peppered with names that will be familiar to many, including P.T. Barnum and "Boss" Tweed.  Most of the cast were unaware that theirs were just bit parts in a monumental drama.  In the end, fortunes were made and lost, lives were enriched and ruined, and in one tragic instance, a life was taken.  Jim Murphy takes the reader deftly through the biggest swindle of its time.

Interestingly, some of the repercussions from the great hoax were beneficial - the birth of  new professional associations including the American Medical Association, peer-reviewed journals, graduate programs to better train experts in various fields, and a reforming spirit in everyday Americans.

Told in twelve chapters from "The Discovery" to "The Final Resting Place," The Giant is a fascinating look at many aspects of history through the lens of one "giant" swindle.  Entertaining and impossible to put down, readers will be both impressed and apalled by the complex manuevers of the hoax's mastermind. (No spoilers here, you'll have to read it to find his identity.)  A large number of period photos, posters and handbills are included, adding much to the story.

Also included are meticulous Source Notes, a Selected Bibliography, and a summary of other famous hoaxes.  The Index and Photo Credits were not included in my Advance Reader Copy, but will be in the final version, due on shelves in October, 2012.

With many schools moving to a national core curriculum with a heavy focus on informational texts, The Giant should be on the "must buy" list of school media specialists.  What better way to teach critical thinking than to pore through the anatomy of one of America's most famous hoaxes!

Another review @
A Fuse 8 Production

I saw the Cardiff Giant at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, its final resting place, when I was visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I only wish I had read the book first!

Nonfiction Monday is at Books Together this week.  Stop by.

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11. The Council of Mirrors: The Sisters Grimm - a review

It's been years since I reviewed The Fairy Tale Detectives, the first book in The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley.

I've recently had the opportunity to review the audio book version of the ninth and final book in the series. It's been a good run.

Below is my review as it appeared it in the August 2012, edition of School Library Journal.

The Council of Mirrors: The Sisters Grimm, Book 9. By Michael Buckley. 6 cassettes or 6 CDs. 6:50 hrs. Recorded Books. 2012. cassette: ISBN 978-1-4640-3363-6, CD: ISBN 978-1-4640-3362-9. $66.75.

Gr 4-6--In the final book (Amulet Books, 2012) in Michael Buckley's series, the fate of Ferryport Landing, the Everafters, and the Grimm family are at stake as the Grimms join with former foes and gather a ragtag army of Everafters to face the nefarious Scarlet Hand led by Mirror, the evil looking glass who has taken human form and forcibly occupied the body of the Grimm Sisters' Granny Relda. The Hand, a group of malevolent fairy tale characters, including Prince Charming's brother Atticus, Mayor Heart, and Sheriff Nottingham, is intent on wreaking havoc and gaining freedom from the magical boundary that keeps Everafters imprisoned in Ferryport Landing. Magic mirrors loyal to the Grimms reveal in a prophecy that it is young Sabrina and Daphne Grimm who are destined to save the world from the rogue characters. Despite their friends' lack of confidence, Daphne and Sabrina lead Charming, Puck, Beauty, and the rest of the group into battle. The secret to winning the war will likely be a surprise. Like the finale of Harry Potter, Michael Buckley ends this popular series with a hint of romance and a peek at the future--a glimpse of the much older Daphne and Sabrina Grimm. L. J. Ganser, has been the voice of all nine books. What he lacks in adolescent feminine vocal range, he makes up for with superb diction and the ability to make clear distinctions between the dozens of characters. Overall, a satisfying listen.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Listen to a sample:

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12. A Street Through Time - a review

Millard, Anne. 2012. A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year Walk Through History. New York: DK. Illustrated by Steve Noon.

Though it was first published in 1998, this is the first time that I've seen A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year Walk Through History, and now that I've seen it, I wonder why DK waited so long to issue a revised edition.

A Street Through Time recounts the entire history of Western Civilization through a cross-section view of a single street along a river.  From the "Stone Age" through "The street today," double spread illustrations show a changing street through each major period of Western history. Measuring roughly 12" x 10", this is an over-sized book so packed full of information that it could take days to absorb everything.

The illustrations are replete with detailed  figures engaged from every walk of life engaged in every manner of activity. Because there is so much detail, important activities or information are enlarged with explanation in the white space margins, as in this example from "Iron Age (600BCE),"

After the warriors and the priests, the blacksmith is the most important man in the village.
The accompanying illustration may be found in smaller scale within the street's cross-section, offering the reader the opportunity to hunt (Where's Waldo-style) and find the highlighted people within the larger picture.  To add fun, a "time traveler" character is included on each spread.

It does not take a keen eye to see that the general landscape and the placement of important town features (places of worship, security and commerce or trade) change little over 12,000 years.  Modern buildings are often located in the exact same place as those from hundreds or even thousands of years earlier.  Churches are enlarged, amphitheaters decay, buildings are expanded and subdivided, but much remains from earlier days.

This is a fascinating way to look at history, and will make conceptual sense to children who are intensely familiar with their own streets.

I can't say that I know the proper audience for this book, but I loved it. The publisher suggests ages 10 and up, though I suspect some younger children will find it intriguing as well.

Includes prefatory information, contents, timeline, glossary, index, credits. One complaint - the descriptive phrases embedded within the illustrations are, given the small size and great detail of the artwork, extremely difficult to see.

Amazon.com offers its "Look Inside!" feature for A Street Through Time. Check it out.

It's Nonfiction Monday. Today's roundup is at Wrapped in Foil.

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13. Starry River of the Sky - a review

Lin, Grace. 2012. Starry River of the Sky. New York: Little Brown.

A companion book to Grace Lin's 2009, Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Starry River of the Sky is much the same and yet very different. Like the earlier book, Starry River of the Sky contains Grace Lin’s beautiful artwork (see note), features folktale vignettes, and revolves around a journey.  But while Minli’s journey in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is an actual journey full of obstacles to overcome, main character, Rendi’s journey, in Starry River of the Sky, is an introspective journey of understanding and self-discovery.

The story opens with a miserable and distressed Rendi traveling as a stowaway in a merchant’s cart,

Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing.  He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering.  At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant’s cart.  However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.
Rendi’s story is tied inexorably to that of the moon, though it will take some time for him to determine why the moon is missing and why he, and he alone hears the moaning of the sky each night.  He is discovered by the merchant and left in a dying town, the Village of Clear Sky.  With no other prospects, he becomes the chore boy for Master Chao, owner of the local inn.  Master Chao’s daughter,  Peiyi, takes an immediate dislike to the sullen young boy. It is not until the mysterious Madame Chang, the inn’s only guest, arrives, that fortunes begin to change.  Madame Chang is a beautiful and captivating storyteller, recounting age-old folktales that have particular significance to Rendi; the neighbor, Widow Yan, and her daughter; and Mr. Shan, an elderly, doddering dinner guest who frequents the Inn.  As Madame Chang shares her stories and encourages Rendi to do the same, his protective layer of insolence is removed like layers of skin from an onion.  Starry Village of the Sky is many-layered as well - each character has a hidden story that is coaxed out by the storytelling of Madame Chang.

This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.

Starry River of the Sky is another star-filled book for Grace Lin, already garnering three starred reviews and a Junior Library Guild selection.

Note: My Advance Reader Copy did not contain finished artwork, but I am confident that it will be both beautiful and magical.

Want a peek at the artwork?  Watch Grace Lin flip through her book!

“Behind Starry River of the Sky

More reviews @

Due on shelves in October, 2012.

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14. Surf Dog Miracles - a review

Goldish, Meish. 2013. Surf Dog Miracles. New York: Bearport.
Advance Review Copy
(This is my first review with a 2013 copyright date.  And just like that, another year has passed.)

Part of the Dog Heroes series, Surf Dog Miracles is more than just a book about surfing dogs, though they are some fine looking surfers! These dogs surf for fun with their owners, but they also assist people with disabilities and raise money for charities.  Ricochet, a Golden Retriever, surfs in tandem with people having special needs, riding the back of the board to stabilize it in the waves. She has raised a whopping $150,000 for charities that benefit both people and dogs.  Surfing dogs also compete against each other is contests like Del Mar, California's Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon.  In 2011,

The money raised at the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon went to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California.  This organization provides many services, including taking care of homeless animals, running a hospital for horses, and delivering pet food to animal owners who are too old or weak to leave their homes.
Surf Dog Miracles contains twelve short chapters which offer the history and particulars of the sport (dogs have been surfing since the 1920s, but the first known solo surfer did not appear until the 1980s) and an overview of what surfing dogs are accomplishing today.  As would be expected, photos are plentiful; they are accompanied by text box insets and captions.  Fun and informative, this slim, 32-page volume also contains a list of surf dog facts, a photo page of common surfing breeds, a glossary, bibliography, and sources for more information.

Like a viral YouTube video, kids will want to see this one again and again.

For teachers:
  • Dewey Decimal Number: 362
  • Lexile®: 1000
  • SRC Quiz Available: Yes

Browse Surf Dog Miracles on the publisher's site. Be sure to check out English Bulldog, Sir Hollywood, quite possibly the most unlikely surfer dog you'll ever see.

And here's "Wet and Woofy." According to the book, it's the video that Steve Jobs showed when introducing the iPad in 2010.  It features champion surf dog, Buddy.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at A Teaching Life
Next week's roundup is here at Shelf-employed.  See you next week!

1 Comments on Surf Dog Miracles - a review, last added: 9/25/2012
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15. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Well - a review

(My review from the November 2012 edition of School Library Journal)

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell. By Chris Colfer. 8 CDs. 8:59 hrs. Hachette Audio for AudioCo. 2012. ISBN 978-1-61969-125-4. $69.99.

Gr 4-7 - Like a kinder, gentler Inkheart, (Chicken House 2003), Chris Colfer's first novel (Little Brown, 2012) features a parallel world residing within the pages of a family book — a world whose inhabitants are, in general, ignorant of any world other than their own. Into this appropriately named "Land of Stories" fall 12-year-old twins, Alex and Connor. After the initial excitement of meeting the likes of Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, and other fairytale world denizens, the twins are anxious to return home. The way out, however, is not as simple as the way in. They must gather items from a cryptic riddle to perform the Wishing Spell, and soon discover they are not alone in seeking these items. A mysterious girl tracks them and perils await. The weighty danger and adventure is lightened by the wisecracking Connor, a perfect foil for Alex, his more serious sister. If the twins are a little too lucky and clueless at times (a well-read girl like Alex would surely know to avoid the gingerbread cottage in the woods), and phrasing is occasionally trite, it's a small price to pay for an otherwise satisfying adventure. As one might expect from Glee star, Chris Colfer, the narration is superb. His youthful voice is ideal for the roles of the young siblings as well as the large cast. He speaks conversationally in a pleasing voice, although the constant refrain of "he said," "she said," can become tiresome. Colfer's popularity and top-notch narration should ensure a fine reception for this first title in a projected series.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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16. Hokey Pokey - a review

Spinelli, Jerry. 2013. Hokey Pokey. New York: Knopf.
Advance reader copy provided by NetGalley

In the world of Hokey Pokey, populated by Snotsnipppers, Newbies, and Gappergums, and others, The Kid is king. In fact, kids are its only human inhabitants.

For Big Kid, Jack, days pass in a comfortable rhythm of regularity - hanging out with his Amigos, LaJo and Dusty, and riding his bike Scramjet, the envy of every kid in Hokey Pokey.  The rules are simple.  Just remember the Four Nevers:
Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl.
It's a simple life, a good life.  Until one morning, when things are not the same.  His bike is gone, and

Hokey Pokey is unusual fare for Jerry Spinelli.  It's an allegorical story of childhood delivered by a narrator following the escapades of several different children, and focusing primarily on Jack and his rival and antagonist - the girl, Jubilee.  It's recommended for ages 10 and up, but the beauty of  Hokey Pokey is that it may be read on several levels.  Though the symbolism may be somewhat obvious for older readers, younger readers may simply enjoy Hokey Pokey as a fantasy adventure in an alternate universe. Older readers will see beyond the obvious symbolism of the approaching train and will ponder the relationships between older kids and younger, boys and girls.  Short and thought-provoking. Recommended reading.

Hokey Pokey received starred reviews in School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews.

 Preview the book here:

Interesting note: This is the second book that I've read that features living bicycles. Anyone know the other one?

2 Comments on Hokey Pokey - a review, last added: 12/24/2012
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17. 2012 Fiction Favorites

Before the year 2012 slips away from me,I'd like to post my fiction favorites.

Two of the books that I was most looking forward to reading in 2012, did not disappoint me, and they are my 2012 favorites in fiction.

Starry River of the Sky

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Macmillan)  and in audio book by Brilliance Audio, is a follow-up to my favorite book of last year, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own MakingIn The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland, September returns to find and reunite with her shadow, Halloween, who has taken up residence in Fairyland Below as the Hollow Queen.  After having learned the complicated rules of Fairyland in her last journey, September must now learn to navigate by the rules of Fairyland-Below:
Beware of dog
Anything important comes in threes and sixes
Do not steal queens
A girl in the wild is worth two in chains
Necessity is the mother of temptation
Everything must be paid for sooner or later
What goes down must come up
 The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as good or better than its predecessor.  The levels of Fairyland and their inhabitants are rich and wonderful and magical and utterly satisfying.  I had the pleasure of alternately reading and listening to this one, and in an unusual occurrence, both versions were equally enjoyable.  The voice of S.J. Tucker is perfectly suited for the fantastic world of Fairyland.  Her voice has an unidentifiable quality which defies the listener's attempts to place a location on her accent.  Although she is American, she could just as easily be Fairylander.

My library system classifies this book as a young adult novel, however, as with the first in the series, I find it suitable for both younger and older audiences.

I can't wait to read the third book in the Fairyland series!

For a slightly younger audience (though also entertaining for all ages) is Grace Lin's,
  • Starry River of the Sky (title links to my earlier review) (Little Brown).  This is also a follow-up book, although in this case, Starry River is a stand-alone, "companion" book to the earlier Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009 Little Brown).  Grace Lin always shows herself to be a gentle and thoughtful writer, and never more so than in Starry River.
This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.

Enjoy them both!

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18. The Mark of Athena - this and that

Riordan, Rick. 2012. The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena. New York: Disney Hyperion.

Usually, I listen to Rick Riordan's books, but I read this one instead.  I think I prefer this series in print.

US trailer

UK trailer

The Mark of Athena, in which:

Percy and Annabeth are finally reunited
We don't see nearly enough of Ella (I love that harpy!)
Seven demigods set forth on a quest
Leo is odd man out
The end is a real cliffhanger

Here's the plot, according to Ella,

Wisdom’s daughter walks alone
The Mark of Athena burns through Rome,
Twin snuff out the angel’s breath,
Who holds the key to endless death.
Giant’s bane stands cold and pale,
Won through pain from a woven jail.

Some odds and ends:

Next up: The House of Hades, due out in October 2013.

1 Comments on The Mark of Athena - this and that, last added: 1/18/2013
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19. Hard Gold - an audiobook review

My review of Hard Gold as it appeared in the January 2013, issue of School Library Journal.

Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 (I Witness Series). By Avi. 4 CDs. 4:00 hrs. AudioGo. 2012. ISBN 978-1-935430-84-1. $49.95.

Gr 5-8--Early Whitcomb's family is in danger of losing their farm. They're behind in their payments, and a local banker is working with the railroad company to force them into selling. Early's young uncle, Jesse, thinks he has the answer. Handbills from the West indicate that gold has been found in Pike's Peak, Nebraska Territory, and it's there for the taking. Early's parents and older brother discount the reports, but Jesse and Early have the itch. Jesse soon sneaks off (under a cloud of suspicion due to a coincidentally timed bank robbery) to strike gold and save the farm. Early's family forbids him to follow, but when word arrives that Jesse has found gold and is in danger, he strikes out alone, joining a wagon train as a hired hand for a barber, his ailing wife, and feisty daughter. The grueling journey, a budding romance, and the possible ill intentions of fellow travelers add suspense and intrigue as Early learns how desperation and circumstances can change the course of one's life. The historical focus of Avi's novel (Hyperion, 2008) is broad. The endless wagon trains are likened to advancing lines of tiny white ants, but individual hardships are presented with considerably less detail. Dialogue and behaviors ring true, and the narration by Alston Brown is clear and pleasing. The diary style is well-suited for audio format. Similar to the "My Name Is America" series, Hard Gold brings history alive, particularly for boys.

Copyright © 2013 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


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20. The Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers - a review

Pilkey, Dav. 2013. Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers. New York: Scholastic.

Maybe you're not a fan of Captain Underpants, the superhero alter ego of mean, Jerome Horwitz Elementary School Principal, Mr. Krupp.  Maybe you're not a fan of the frequent misspellings of Mr. Krupp's troublesome 4th graders, George and Harold.  However, it's hard not to be a fan of one of the most wildly popular series for young and reluctant readers.  This goofy, irreverent series continues to gain new fans and flies off the shelf with as much regularity and enthusiasm as the flying Captain Underpants himself. "Tra la la!"

This latest adventure finds George and Harold travelling through time with pets Crackers and Sulu, to correct the events of an earlier time-travelling venture that had disastrous consequences for the future.  Pitted against Tippy Tinkletrousers, Tiny Tippy Tinkletrousers, and Slightly Younger Tiny Tippy Tinkletrousers and their Freezy-Beam 4000, George and Harold will have to use their wits if they are to save Captain Underpants and return to the future.  Six great Flip-O-Ramas are included (they make a fun art activity), as well as a 24-page wordless comic featuring Ook and Gluk.

Although the series is suggested for ages 7 and up, I find that much older kids will read Captain Underpants, too - and not just reluctant readers.  I know high-level readers that enjoy Dav Pilkey's Three Stooges brand of humor and art as well.  I'm not much for bathroom or pratfall humor, but Chapter 2, "Let's Get Serious, Folks," had me laughing out loud.   Explaining why we miserable, regretful and grumpy grownups discourage all kinds of fun, the narrator offers readers this bit of advice,

     Keeping this in mind, you might not want to smile or laugh while reading this book.  And when you get to the Flip-O-Rama parts, I suggest you flip with a bored, disinterested look on your face or some adult will probably take this book away from you and make you read Sarah, Plain and Tall instead.
     Don't say I didn't warn you.
When I checked today, Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers was ranked #213 on Amazon.com.  Not #213 in children's books, #213 in all books. Not too shabby.  And the reviews?  All 5 stars.

If you think kids are the only ones who follow the adventures of Captain Underpants, guess again. Captain Underpants was even featured on NPR's Morning Edition.  Read or listen to "Hold On To Your Tighty Whities, Captain Underpants is Back!" here.

DreamWorks Animation has the film rights to the Captain Underpants series, but no timeline for production has been announced yet.

Oh yes, and he's got an app, too. Preview the Adventures of Captain Underpants app here.

Update: Forgot to add that Advance Reader Copies were provided at my request by Scholastic and NetGalley.

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21. Bad Girls - a good review

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Guay
Yolen, Jane and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. 2013. Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and other Female Villains. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Just in time for Women's History Month, the mother-daughter duo of Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple has released a fun compendium of "bad" women in history.  From  Delilah, the stealthy hairstylist of the Bible (circa 110BC), to gangsters' gal, Virginia Hill (1916-1966), Yolen and Stemple highlight history's most rebellious, racy, raucous, reprehensible, and sometimes resourceful women.

The choice of subjects, twenty-six in all, isn't the only thing that makes Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and other Female Villains a unique addition to the collection of books on women in history. Illustrations are provided by Rebecca Guay. In addition to a comic portrait of each notorious woman,

Illustration copyright © 2013
 by Rebecca Guay
included after each chapter is a graphic novel-style panel featuring Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple.  Each panel is set in a new location (these ladies took their "research" to the ends of the earth - shopping, eating and sightseeing, in Egypt, London, Massachusetts, wherever this gallery of rogues led them!), where Yolen and Stemple debate history's treatment of each woman.  Clever and humorous, these panels remind readers that societal and personal circumstances often dictate behaviors.  With the exception of the truly bad, Elizabeth Báthory, Yolen makes a case for each woman.  No, they may not have all been innocent, but given their particular circumstances, some of these women may have been given a bad historical rap. Stemple provides the counterpoint - bad is bad, regardless of circumstance.  Readers will be left to decide for themselves, but regardless of conclusion, they will understand that the role of women throughout history has not been an easy one.

Despite the subject matter, Yolen and Stemple maintain a light-hearted tone in and Bad Girls, as evidenced by the chapter titles:  "Lizzie Borden (1860-1927): One Whacky Woman," "Anne Boleyn (1500-1536): She Lost Her Head for Love."

Resources are included, offering interested older readers a jump start on where to find further information. There is more than just fun to be had with Bad Girls; download these resources from the publisher's site:
Be sure to read the conversation between Heidi and Jane that appeared on KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month! 

It's Nonfiction Monday.  Today's roundup host is Supratentorial.

4 Comments on Bad Girls - a good review, last added: 3/4/2013
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22. Who's Looking at You? a review

Frattini, Stéphane. 2012. Who's Looking at You? New York: Sterling.

Eighteen 8"x8" pages feature eighteen different eyes peering out at the reader.  Each eye is on a flap nearly as big as the page with a narrow, brightly colored frame surrounding it.  Open the flap to see "who's looking at you," and learn a few facts, focused, not surprisingly, on the eye.
How did this hungry snail find the leaf? Snails can't see very well - they mostly depend on touch and smell to find their way.  But most snails do have eyes, right at the ends of two bendable tentacles called eyestalks.
The snail is actually one of the easier eyeballs to recognize.  Very young children won't find many easy guesses as it's surprisingly difficult to determine some animals from a single eye, but slightly older kids will have fun with Who's Looking at You?  Even the adults at the library were enjoying this one!  Some of the featured eyeballs are those of the gorilla, wolf, cuttlefish, chameleon, and blue-spotted grouper.  The butterfly is a bit of stretch - the photo features the "fake" eye that some butterflies sport on their wings to fool predators.  The inside back cover contains eight additional eyes for guessing, with small flaps hiding nothing more than the animal's name.

The photography is beautiful and the guessing is fun!

2 Comments on Who's Looking at You? a review, last added: 9/8/2012
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23. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau - a review

Markel, Michelle. 2012. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. Ill. by Amanda Hall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Review copies provided by LibraryThing and publisher.

I can't imagine many tasks more difficult than painting illustrations for a biography of a famous painter.  In a book for adults, the artist's actual work speak for itself, but in a picture book for children, the art must not only speak for its creator, but it must help to tell a story.  For The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, illustrator Amanda Hall eschewed her usual medium in favor of watercolor and acrylics, seeking to more closely mimic Rousseau's style in order to help tell his story.  More than mere imitations, however, she uses Rousseau's style and perspective as the medium to illustrate the time and place in which he lived, his joyous spirit, his famous contemporaries, his wonder at the natural world, and most of all, his complete commitment to his craft - regardless of how it is received by others.  Her illustrations are the perfect complement to Michelle Markel's prose, delivered in a present tense fashion that immediately engages the reader. In language that will speak clearly to children, Markel clearly conveys the transformative power of art,

By now Henri is used to the nasty critics.  He knows his shapes are simpler and flatter than everyone else's, but he thinks that makes them lovely.  He spends all he earns on art supplies, and pays for his bread and coal with landscapes and portraits.  In the afternoon he takes off his frayed smock and gives music lessons.  His home is a shabby little studio, where one pot of stew must last the whole week.  But every morning he wakes up and smiles at his pictures.
Poverty and rejection have never sound so appealing.  Henri Rousseau's life story is an inspiration. A toll collector who did not take up painting until his forties, Rousseau was untrained and largely unrecognized while living, but he was unfazed.  He later became "the first "naïve" artist to be recognized as a great master," and his works now hang in museums around the world.

Author's and Illustrator's Notes complete this stunning picture book biography for older readers.

Enjoy the book's trailer and "Spring," one of Rousseau's famous jungle paintings.

Painted by:Henri Julien Rousseau

Other reviews @

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at the Jean Little Library.

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24. Eighth Grade is Making me Sick - a review

I've been reading a slew of serious books lately for the mock Newbery group, Newbery Blueberry Mockery Pie, so I took a slight detour between The Lions of Little Rock and Wonder, to read the latest in the "Stuff" series.

Holm, Jennifer L. 2012. Ginny Davis's Year in Stuff: Eighth Grade is Making me Sick. New York: Random House. (Ill. by Elicia Castaldi)

Using an updated version of the wonderful format that served the Klise Sisters so well in the Regarding the ... and 43 Old Cemetery Road series,

Jennifer Holm has crafted a winning series consisting of a collection of correspondence and realia.  While the aformentioned series rely heavily upon letters, newsletters, newspaper clippings and such - all rendered in black and white sketches, the Stuff series is illustrated by Elicia Castaldi and is a wonderfully fun and colorful combination of collages created from sketches, artfully chosen backgrounds, Post-it notes, screen shots, cell phone messages, scribbled notes, a brother's cartoons - virtually anything that might convey information to or about Ginny Davis, 8th grader at Woodland Central Middle School.

Changes are coming to Ginny's financially struggling family.  The biggest change? Mom's pregnant.  Didn't notice the positive pregnancy test stick in the garbage? No worries, just check the IM window running next to spider solitaire,

OMG mi mom is pregnant! I though she was just getting fat!
OMG! OMG! She's a grannymom!
What's a grannymom?
an old mom!
She iz pretty old. She's 39!
Do u think shez having twins? Or 3lets? I love all those shows with multiples!
omg.  I hope not.
In addition to mom's pregnancy, Ginny has to worry about making the cheer squad and earning some new privileges, specifically, permission to bike to school and join an online movie fan group, "Vampire Vixens Den." Hopefully, persistent stomach trouble and a troubling family financial situation won't keep her from completing

Ginny's big To-Do List
  1. Try out for cheer
  2. Convince Mom to let me bike to school
  3. Fall in love
  4. Work on art (sketch every day)
  5. Save money
  6. Look good in family Christmas photo
  7. Join  Vampire Vixens Den
  8. Teach Grampa Joe how to email
  9. Have a cool Halloween costumer for once
  10. Ignore horoscopes!

There are so many reasons to like this book. It tackles the very real problem of declining middle-class income. It embraces modern culture. It's fun. It's funny. It's artistic. Ginny is a likable young girl.  Kids (especially girls) will love it.  Do I sound like a Jennifer Holm fan?  I am.

Want to see more of Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick
Watch a "behind the scenes" video on the author's webpage.

Another review @ Kirkus Reviews

If you're a teacher who shies away from assigning any form of illustrated novel, here's an idea for you - with the current focus on cross-curricular instruction, pair up with the art teacher, if you're lucky enough to still have one! Let students tell their own stories in this appealing mix of text, art, and reality.

Note: This post had been edited to correct an incorrect attribution that I realized after posting.  My apologies, LT

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25. The Lions of Little Rock - a review

Levine, Kristin. 2012. The Lions of Little Rock. New York: Putnam.

I talk a lot.  Just not out loud where anyone can hear.  At least I used to be that way.  I'm no chatterbox now, but if you stop me on the street and ask me directions to the zoo, I'll answer you.  Probably.  If you're nice, I might even tell you a couple of different ways to get there. I guess I've learned it's not enough to just think things.  You have to say them too.  Because all the words in the world won't do much good if they're just rattling around in your head.

The year is 1958, and 12-year-old Marlee is beginning West Side Junior High School.  An intelligent, but extremely quiet girl, Marlee is often at the mercy of her bossy and outspoken "friend," Sally.
    Judy sighed. "Why are you even friends with Sally McDaniels?"
      I shrugged.  Sally and I have been friends ever since were five and she pushed me off the slide at the park.
     "She likes to boss you around," Judy said.
     That was true.  But she was also familiar.  I like familiar.

So, when she is befriended by Liz, the affable newcomer to school, Marlee is most pleasantly surprised.  Marlee, who has a penchant for categorizing people as beverages, finally questions Liz as to why she is helping Marlee to overcome her debilitating shyness,

     For the first time, Liz was silent.  Behind her, the giraffes chewed their cud. "I thought it might be hard always being quiet," Liz said finally.  "I thought you needed a friend."
     She was right.  I did.
     "I needed a friend too," said Liz.
     And suddenly I knew what Liz was -- a cup of warm milk with a dash of cinnamon.
The two become inseparable.  But one day, after a chance encounter with Sally and her mother near the Baptist church in the "colored part of town," Liz stops coming to school.  Word leaks out that she's been "passing," pretending to be white, in order to attend a better school.  Central High may have been forcibly integrated last year, but change has not come to West Side Junior High, and Hall High remains closed, forcing Marlee's older sister to attend school out of town. The status quo sits well with Marlee's mother, but her father, a teacher in the district, is disturbed.  The tension in Marlee's household mirrors that of the town's.  Liz and Marlee's friendship is a cause for concern in Marlee's part of town and Liz's; the threat of violence looms ahead.

A stellar depiction of  "us vs. them" mentality, The Lions of Little Rock shows the awful consequences of race against race, neighbor against neighbor, even husband against wife. Betty Jean, the maid at Marlee's home and the wife of the pastor at Liz's church, creates the story's bridge between the two neighborhoods. The Lions of Little Rock offers no easy answers, no neatly wrapped happy endings.  Brave Marlee will risk anything to stand by her friend, but her brave actions do not right the wrongs of the world; rather, they place the life of her dear friend and others in grave danger.  Life is messy.  Neither life nor its people can be neatly separated into black and white.  There are always shades of gray.

Other reviews @

 An interview with Kristin Levine is at The Fourth Musketeer.

Note: The librarians of NJLA's Children's Services Section are discussing this book and others on their mock Newbery blog, Newbery Blueberry Mockery Pie. Please feel free to join them with your comments.

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