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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,135
26. #NoiseforNess Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness Giveaway

It’s no surprise I’m a huge Patrick Ness fan. In the past I’ve written about how inspiring his work is as well as the time when I was actually able to meet him in person. I’ve also reviewed quite a few of his books:

The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men
A Monster Calls

I’ve also interviewed the narrator for the audiobooks, Nick Podehl, whom is a personal favorite of mine. The way that Nick narrates The Knife of Never Letting Go will turn any non-audiobook fan into a audiobook listener for life. He’s brilliant!

Chaos Walking paperback

So when the publisher, Candlewick Press, reached out to me to offer a giveaway featuring the newly designed paperback covers for The Chaos Walking series I couldn’t resist. Not only do I love the redesign, but it also reminds me a bit of the UK edition that I love. Also, they’ve added additional content to each book! Each paperback includes a short story that was only previously available in eBook format. Candlewick has really done an excellent job with this new edition and I’m thrilled to have a full set to giveaway to one There’s A Book reader!

Giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful people at Candlewick Press I have ONE FULL SET of this new edition of The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness which also includes a bonus short story within each book! Be sure to enter using the rafflecopter form below and be aware that this one is for US and Canadian residents only.

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Find the new paperback edition of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN10/ISBN13: 0763676187 / 9780763676186

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: #NoiseforNess Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness Giveaway

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

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27. review: Naughts and Crosses

+-+35697920_140Title: Naughts and Crosses

author: Malorie Blackman

date: 2001; Simon and Schuster

main character: Callum McGregor

 

 

Crosses and naughts. Blacks and whites.

Crosses and noughts is the British name for tic tac toe. Malorie Blackman uses the title to describe an alternative universe where Blacks are superior to Whites with Jim Crow type racism playing out in a contemporary setting. Callum is among a small group of naughts selected to attend a prestigious all Cross school. Sephy, a Cross, is Callum’s close friend and also attends this school.

At the same time, there’s espionage and tom foolery as the Cross dominated government works to maintain power. Things come to a head, people are killed and Callum becomes something we could not have predicted at the beginning of the book. He and Sephy begin as such naïve innocents so lacking in motivation that they do little to draw readers into the story. They somehow seem too old and too involved with the world to not understand how race is played out.

Blackman predicates her world on the racism that currently exists but in her world the privilege is reversed. Simple enough job of world building there! As mentioned, I didn’t care for the characters enough to invest in the story. The back and forth ‘lets be friends/lets not be friends’ was fickle and annoying. Labeled as a thriller, suspense was slow to boil. I was surprised that there were so many ‘Britishims’ in the book that left this American often wondering about the meaning. I wonder about the editing that changed the spelling in the title but left so much British in the books.

Naughts and Crosses is an award winning 5 books series that is extremely popular around the world. Malorie Blackman has written over 50 children’s and young adult books and currently serves as the United Kingdom’s Children’s Laureate 2013-15. Her most recent books is Noble Conflict (Doubleday).

Needless to say, I want to read more works by Ms. Blackman. While this book didn’t work well for me, there may be others that will.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: British, Mallory Blackmon, speculative fiction

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28. The Torchlighters Biography Series: Corrie ten Boom by Kaylena Radcliff

corrie

From the Christian History Institute comes a biography from their Heroes of the Faith line. Corrie ten Boom and her family are watchmakers in Holland. When World War II erupts, Hitler’s army takes over their country and begins rounding up their Jewish neighbors. Read the story of how one family stood strong in faith against a great evil.

Recommended for ages 8 – 12, this biography shares the life of Corrie ten Boom, her sister, Betsie, and their father who hid Jewish people from the Nazi army during World War II. They would end up arrested, some going to concentration camps, and Corrie struggled to hold onto her faith in such darkness. Her amazing story is shared in this biography that is accompanied by historical photographs, illustrations that match the artwork from the associated DVD, interesting facts about the Netherlands, a timeline and a glossary of terms.

My daughter and I watched the DVD together. In spots, I had some difficulty understanding what the characters were saying, but overall the sound quality is good. Some of the images–though animated–might be disturbing for the youngest viewers; like the scene of the Nazis banging on doors with the butts of their guns and yanking people out onto the streets. Betsie is beaten with a club by a German guard in the camp and an ill-mannered nurse informs Corrie when she comes to see her sister that she is “in there with the other dead bodies.” Female prisoners are seen being carted off in trucks to the gas chambers; but while Corrie looks upon the gas chambers, it is not made apparent to young viewers what is going on there. So there is definitely historical accuracy worked into this production.

This is a moving story that will remind readers/viewers of the power of forgiveness and how leaning on faith can bring you through adversity. I am glad to add this book and DVD to our home library. It would also make a fabulous addition to a church library.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)dvd

The Torchlighters Biography Series: Corrie ten Boom
Author: Kaylena Radcliff
Paperback: 85 pages
Publisher: Christian History Institute (May 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1563648733
ISBN-13: 978-1563648731
List price: $9.99

DVD

Format: Multiple Formats, Animated, Color, NTSC
Language: English
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Vision Video
DVD Release Date: October 25, 2013
Run Time: 34 minutes

I received a copy of this book and DVD from the Christian History Institute. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

 

This post first appeared at the Christian Children’s Authors blog.


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29. Writing Clementine by Kate Gordon

You said we could write anything we wanted. The first thing that came into our minds. Blue fish, red fish, green fish...

Clementine Darcy is floundering. She wants to be the kind of fish who swims to the swish of her own fins - upstream, not simply carried along by the current.

But she is finding the swirling waters of school and home difficult to navigate: her friendship group is splintering, her brother Fergus won't leave his room, her sister's life is not as perfect as Clem thought...and then there's the New Boy, who is dapper and intriguing, but hiding secrets of his own. Clem is desperate for everyone - including herself - to be happy, but she discovers that her idea of helping doesn't always work as well as she imagined.

Can Clem be the girl she wants to be? Will she learn to accept that there are things she can fix and things she cannot? Will she find a way to know the difference?

Writing Clementine is such a beautifully endearing story. I loved the use of Tasmania as a setting, as I have in Kate Gordon's other novels. Clementine has many of the aspects I love about contemporary Australian YA, including a very genuine voice and the multi-faceted issues of growing up being handled deftly, including Clementine dealing with her brother's mental illness, relationships with her long-time friends shifting, and romantic interests as well as super unpleasant advances. Clementine's friends Cleo and Chelsea-Grace I found to be unpleasantly realistic (I dug my fingernails into my palms a little bit, thinking I know these girls) but they, too, were shown to have depth - growing up and figuring it out, same as Clementine (it is so much easier to resort to 'the protagonist is righteous! these girls are just mean, two-dimensional bimbos!' None of that cliche business here).

I tend towards being an impatient reader these days, wishing for every author to be more concise (so many books to read! So little time!), and Clementine was short but still powerful. I loved that Clementine was a bigger girl without it being a thing - she is happy within herself. I loved that the truly creepy and gross Sam from Grade 10 wasn't allowed to get away with his awful behaviour. I loved the steampunk society, and that the love interest was so not traditional YA - he's odd and old-fashioned and adorable. Clementine is fourteen and tends towards naivete, and things are wrapped up very neatly and positively - if you like your endings happy with your protagonist's wishes being fulfilled, this is the book for you (is that a spoiler? I think you can tell it's an ultimately happy book from that pretty cover). It is realistic but mostly steers away from darkness (her brother's mental illness, for instance, is not dealt with in depth - it's an outsider's view). An easy read, in the form of a letter, with a very charming narrative voice.

Heart-warming and humorous, with a very sweet romance at the centre, Writing Clementine is a lovely read and one that I think preteens and younger teenage girls will love.

Writing Clementine on the publisher's website
Kate Gordon's website

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30. It’s a Gift! by Gabriela Keselman

giftTeaching the concepts of generosity and kindness just got easier with It’s a Gift! by Gabriela Keselman. The animals around Little Duck’s pool of water are all in a tizzy: Beaver hasn’t put on his hat, so the sun is burning his head; Squirrel has lost her nuts and has nothing to eat; Bear’s water jug tipped over and he has nothing to drink; and Mouse doesn’t have a pencil and can’t write down his poem. In a selfless act of friendship, Duck shares what he has with his friends, and they repay the favor when it’s time.

This is a lovely story that teaches children to think of others. Duck shares what he has even when it means his enjoyment is impacted. It’s an interesting concept that he shares to the point where he is left with absolutely nothing. I didn’t get why Duck couldn’t just share some of what he had or let the friend borrow something instead of giving it up entirely.

It’s still a nice story with a sweet message that is made even more meaningful by the delightful illustrations by Nora Hilb.

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Age Range: 3 and up
Grade Level: Preschool and up
Hardcover: 28 pages
Publisher: Cuento de Luz (May 13, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8415784929
ISBN-13: 978-8415784920

 

I received a copy of this book from the publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


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31. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 16

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an announcement about a post that I did at The Nerdy Book Club about the 8th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference (which I am co-organizing). Not included in the newsletter, I shared announcements about the KidLitCon Call for Proposals and Registration Form

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read four middle grade books, two young adult titles, and one adult book. I read:

  • Sharon M. Draper: Out of My Mind. Atheneum Books. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed July 5, 2014, on Kindle. Review to come.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 8, 2014, on MP3 (library copy). This is my first time listening to the Harry Potter books, and I am quite enjoyig the experience.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 12, on MP3 (library copy).
  • Betsy Byars: The Pinballs. Apple. Middle Grade. Completed July 14, 2014, on MP3. This was a re-read of a childhood favorite, and I was delighted to find that The Pinballs completely held up. 
  • Michele Weber Hurwitz: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days. Wendy Lamb Books. Middle School. Completed July 2, 2014. Review to come. 
  • Naomi Paul: Code Name Komiko. Scarlet Voyage. Young Adult. Completed July 13, 2014, on Kindle. I'm not planning to review this one. I finished it, but it didn't quite work for me overall. 
  • Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner. Adult Fiction. Completed July 3, 2014, on MP3. I enjoyed this novel, though it's a bit slower-paced than my usual reading diet of mysteries and children's books. It's about the lives of two teens (a radio-obsessed German boy and a blind French girl) leading up to events during World War II. 

Incidentally, I did not finish The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike novel) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) on Kindle. I had enjoyed the first book in this series, and continued to appreciate the relationship between Strike and his secretary, Robin. However, there were some aspects of the book that were just too dark for me. I put it aside about 1/3 of the way through, not wishing to subject myself to more. Other people report more appreciation for the book. 

I'm currently reading Rose by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater in print. I'm listening to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, while I await the third Harry Potter book (on request from my library). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. We're closing in on 1000 books read so far this year, though this is a lower bound. I'm not good about listing books that we read on vacation, nor about listing books that anyone else reads to her besides my husband and me.

One thing that I've particularly noticed about reading with my daughter lately is that she notices things in the pictures that I wouldn't necessarily notice myself. For example, she always points out the "L" knitted into "Little Louis'" sweater in Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. She is not good enough yet at observation to recognize the bear and other animals from Klassen's I Want My Hat Back making a cameo in Extra Yarn. But I'm working on her. 

I also love, love, love when a book makes her peal with laughter. The most recent standout in this arena was A Promise Is A Promise, by Florence Parry Heide & Tony Auth. This is the book that taught my daughter the word "Nincompoop", a new favorite. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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32. Chomping on the bit





Two sources have alerted me to some awesome soon-to-be-published books.  Over on Fuse#8, Betsy Bird mentioned titles from a librarian's preview from HarperCollins.  I am drooling.

And PW Children's gave stars to the books they reviewed in today's online edition.  Since I am receiving this e-newsletter after retirement, I won't link directly to the reviews.  I can tell you what the books are, though.

1.  Is this a dream?  I must pinch myself.  Jen Bryant teams up with Melissa Sweet to bring us a picture book biography of Peter Mark Roget, the creator of Roget's Thesaurus.  The book, The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus  is published by Eerdman's and will come out in September.  Bryant has authored some awesome non-fiction and Sweet's illustrations win me over every time.  But the subject matter, a man obsessed with words, a life-saver to writers and puzzle-solvers alike, is so mind-expanding.  Fascinating people don't just climb mountains and rescue tiger cubs.  They solve equations and explore words. 

2. Nuts to You by Lynn Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, 978-0-06-009275-7) comes out in August and it's about SQUIRRELS.  Yes!  Yes!  Squirrels are everywhere my friends.  When a squirrel is carried away by a hawk, his friends go on an adventure to find him.  Isn't that cover so pretty?

3. Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame is back with a Russian folktale styled story that features a futuristic Baba Yaga and a reversal of roles plot.  Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire will be published by Candlewick in September

4.  Last but not least is Meg Wolitzer's "debut" YA novel, Belzhar, brought to us by Dutton and due out in September.  (Wolitzer's The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, a masterpiece about Scrabble must have been meant for a younger audience.)  A broken-hearted teen who is incapable of recovering from her failed romance is sent to a special school where she is given a journal that takes her back in her own life to before her heartbreak.

There are so many books and there is so little time.  I think I ONLY have 24 ARCs to work through, along with the one library book on my bedside bookshelf.  I will tell you about that, later.



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33. review: Feral Nights

title: Feral NightsFeral+Nights+Final

author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

date: Candlewick; 2013

main character: Yoshi Kitihara

Yoshi is a high school senior being raised by his grandmother in Oklahoma well, until grams catches him with this girl he brought home for the night. Gram has a strict “No Company Allowed” policy that she enforces with a shotgun. Yoshi is given the boot and he decides to head to Texas in search of his sister, Ruby. Oh, they’re a werecat family.

Feral Nights is told in multiple voices. While I’ve had enough of multi voiced books to last me a lifetime, Leitich Smith carries it off quite well. The voices are unique and easy to distinguish.

There’s Clyde, a werepossum with 4 younger siblings. He sees ghosts.

Travis, whom Ruby is suspected of killing. He’s a ghost.

And there’s Aimee, a human who genuinely likes werepeople.

The witty dialog and use of present tense writing keep the story moving at a brisk pace. Leitich Smith smoothly packs in a unique, descriptive backstory as she builds an incredible world of werepeople, vampires, deities and humans. Wereanimals (werecats, wereorcas, werebears, werelions…) are at the core of the story with a werecat accused of killing a werearmadillo. More than that, they’re Ruby and Travis. While everyone has animal characteristics, they each also have fully developed human personalities. That Leitich Smith manages to do this all in 290 pages is amazing. Just as the reader has gotten familiar with the characters and the relationships they’re building, everything flips on its head. Needless to say, this is not a predictable story.

This review is really doing the book little justice because Leitich Smith so flawlessly weaves her tale. It’s like watching anyone who does something well: you don’t want to pick it apart because you just want to enjoy the artistry.

Feral Nights is the first book in the Feral Series. Feral Curse was released this past January and Feral Pride is forthcoming. All books are published by Candlewick. Cynthia Leitich Blogs at Cynsations. She’s the best selling author of the Tantalize series, Jingle Dancer (HarperCollins) and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins) and number other books.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: Cynthia Leitich Smith, native american, series

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34. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham


The Luck Uglies

I finished The Luck Uglies last night and I was satisfied to see that it promises a sequel.

When the (evil, disgusting, arrogant, cruel, etc.) Earl of Longchance captures a young Bog Noblin, he invites doom and terror to the village of Drowning.  Rye, her friends, Folly and Quinn, her mother, Abby and the mysterious tattooed man, known as Harmless, must save the village.  Spells, magical beasts, potions, and incredible escape acts, most occurring in the dark of night, keep the pages turning.

I admit I skimmed.  I often skim through battles because reading about swordplay and how the characters avoid decapitation or mangling makes me itchy.  (I am not an 11-year-old boy.)  I took the time to read one such scene and it was cinematically presented - the type of action/adventure sequence that the target readership will LOVE.

I love the cover and chapter illustrations.   I thought that one or two scenes were dragged out for suspense and action's sake.    Even the villains - except for the Earl, who is beyond the pale - have their not-so-awful moments.  So, yes, I think fantasy and adventure fans, boys and girls alike, will enjoy this book.

ASIDE:  Is there a running around the rooftops meme circulating through kids' fiction right now?  This is not the first, or even the second, book that I've read this year in which city rooftops are used as escape routes or roadways.  Just wondering.



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35. "Behind the Curtain" book review

red is Ingrid's favorite color

Hi everybody! I'm Louisa, Tatjana's daughter. I am 11 years old, almost 12. Today I am reviewing Behind the Curtain, a book by Peter Abrahams.

Behind the Curtain is a mystery novel full of excitement, suspense, and humor. It all
starts when Ingrid Levin-Hill, a spunky, curious 13 year old, gets kidnapped, and stuffed
into the trunk of a car. From there, Ingrid is launched straight into the middle of a ring of 
kidnappers and drug dealers. I really liked this book because it was so exciting. I didn't want
 to put it down. In fact, I was so captivated  by Abrahams' intriguing characters and complex 
plot, I ended up finishing it in an afternoon well spent. I recommend this 
book for teens, pre-teens, and even adults looking for a marvelous tale filled with 
ransom notes,  con artists, and soccer balls. Well done Peter Abrahams!

Thank you for reading, and I hope you  enjoyed it. Also, don't forget to check out the first book in this series, Down the Rabbit Hole, by Peter Abrahams. Look out for another review next week!

 ~Louisa

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36. heads up!


Tomorrow will be the start of a new regular feature: favorite book reviews. We will be profiling a favorite kids book every week, from picture book to young adult literature. 
Stop by and check out an exciting mystery series (with a strong female character), reviewed by Louisa (almost 12). We'd love to hear about your favorite books too, so leave us a note!

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37. The Cracks in the Kingdom

Late on Monday night, I finished The Cracks in the Kingdom with a loud moan.  How could Jaclyn Moriarty do this to her readers?  What about the Queen of Cello?  How can Elliot and his father return?  Is Belle really having a mental breakdown?  Will Madeline's mother be ok?  And is Princess Ko as unfeeling as she appears?


I mean, really!!!!  This wild, whimsical fantasy trilogy (I hope it's a trilogy because I want answers SOON if not immediately) keeps me guessing.

This second entry into The Colors of Madeleine series returns to the Kingdom of Cello - where colors can create havoc and the entire Royal Family except for Princess Ko has been abducted.  Elliot Baranski is on the Royal Youth Alliance, an initiative supposedly designed to find ways for the Provinces of Cello to better work together.  The RYA is really dedicated to finding the Royal Family and returning them to Cello before war breaks out.

Since the Royal Family is in the World (That's us, folks.  We are the World.), Elliot needs Madeleine. 

Madeleine in turn needs her Worldly friends, Jack and Belle.  And the reader needs a neck brace from swiveling back and forth from Cello to the World to Cello to the World.

And it all gets scientific, and romantic and then, just like in the first book, A Corner of White, incredibly suspenseful.  WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!  I can't take this.  I need to know.

Who are these Wandering Hostiles who besiege the government of Cello?  Where the heck is Madeleine's father?  Why is the WSU determined to keep traffic between Cello and the World closed?  Can Elliot ever return to Cello?  Will Samuel survive? 

This review does NOT do this book,- the writing, the research, the fitting together of the smallest puzzle pieces,- justice.  Not since the Chrestomanci books of Diana Wynne-Jones have I read fantasies as intricate as this series.  Moriarty's mood is so much lighter that Wynne-Jones, (whom I miss every passing day), that it is easy not to notice how every detail is necessary to tell this story.  WOW!  Just plain wow!  Read these books.

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38. Book review: Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In


Andrew Wyeth (1917 - 2009), Wind from the Sea, 1947, 18 1/2 x 27 9/16 in. 

Andrew Wyeth's tempera painting Wind from the Sea was a recent gift to the National Gallery of Art, and it's now the centerpiece of an exhibit at the National Gallery through November 30, 2014.

I haven't seen the exhibition, but I have a copy of the catalog, which is called Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In.


The book and the exhibit include some of Wyeth's landmark paintings, such as Spring Fed.


Back in 2010, I visited the barn at Kuerner's Farm, where he painted the studies for the painting in 1967. It was fun to compare the painting with reality. Wyeth had a way of starting with an ordinary motif and transforming it in little ways to make it more mysterious.


The book is 10 x 11 inches, and clocks in at 192 pages. It includes many paintings that I hadn't seen before, such as Quaker.


It also includes a lot of quicker sketches and studies in watercolor that haven't been exhibited or reproduced before. This collection excludes the figure, making it quite different from Wyeth's other themed show on his Helga works.


The text is what you would expect from two museum curators. They place his work in the context of his times, and make authoritative allusions to contemporaries like Charles Sheeler and Edward Hopper. But they also serve up a lot of of marshmallowy sentences, such as: "Like the windows that so often framed them, the figures that populate the worlds of their paintings were permeable thresholds where self and other converged and diverged." 

To get into Wyeth's head, I'd recommend Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait, which is made up of of Wyeth's own quizzical reflections about life and art, recorded over many years by his friend Richard Meryman.

Fortunately the second half of this new book reproduces all of the 60 paintings that are in the show, and they're reproduced full page and without verbal adornment.
-----
Book: Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In
Exhibition through Nov. 30 at the National Gallery: Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In

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39. Donalyn Miller's READING IN THE WILD and THE BOOK WHISPERER

A while back, I read Donalyn Miller's READING IN THE WILD: The Book Whisperer's Keys To Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. I enjoyed it so much that I just bought THE BOOK WHISPERER. The books are geared toward educators, but there is so much great info and inspiration for those who help create books for young people. I'm going to be gradually incorporating some of Donalyn's suggestions into activity sheets I create for my FOR THE LOVE OF READING page as well as bonus material for my book projects.

You can find more info about Donalyn Miller and her books at Bookwhisperer.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @donalynbooks.

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40. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 1

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (board book, picture book and young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and a tip for nurturing developing readers. Not included in the newsletter, I shared a news release about the Kate Greenway Medal win for Jon Klassen's This Is Not My Hat

Also, just so that it doesn't get lost amid the clutter of my Twitter links, I highly recommend a Summer Reading Tip a Day series that Ali Posner is running on her blog, Raising Great Readers with Great Books. These tips are well beyond your usual: take your kids to the library and participate in summer reading programs. For example, there's Tip #7: Make sure your kids have reading STARs – Space, Time, Access to books, and Rituals for summer reading. This one comes complete with a photo of kids quietly reading in a cozy, tent-like space. My daughter happened to see the photo, and immediately demanded her own reading tent. In short, if you are in need of detailed, out of the ordinary tips for engaging young readers this summer, you definitely won't want to miss Ali's series. 

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read two young adult and three adult books (helped out by a lot of time spent listening to books on MP3 while walking). I read:

  • Demitria Lunetta: In the After. Harper Teen. Young Adult. Completed June 18, 2014, on Kindle. Review to come. 
  • Charlie Higson: The Fallen (Enemy #5). Hyperion. Young Adult. Completed June 29, 2014. I enjoy the plot twists of this series, and the way the various books connect and overlap. But the violence and gore are starting to get to me ... 
  • Victoria Thompson: Murder in Murray Hills (A Gaslight Mystery). Berkley Hardcover. Adult Mystery. Completed June 21, 2014, on MP3. This series remains one of my favorites, though there is some particularly disturbing content in this installment. 
  • Elizabeth Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta: Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature. Candlewick. Nonfiction. Completed June 23, 2014, ARC. Review to come.
  • Janet Evanovich: Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum). Bantam. Adult Mystery. Completed June 24, 2014, on MP3. Must admit that I am getting a bit tired of the sameness of these books - I may stop here... 

I'm currently reading The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike novel) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) on Kindle, The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz in print, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr on MP3. Next up on MP3 is going to be the first Harry Potter book (with thanks to Maureen Kearney, who inspired me to try listening for the first time instead of re-reading this series). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. She's currently obsessed with an old childhood favorite of my husband's, rediscovered on a recent trip to Boston. It's Something Queer is Going On: A Mystery, by Elizabeth Levy & Mordicai Gerstein. She got quite upset when she was unable to find it one afternoon when she had friends over, because she wanted to show it to them. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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41. #BookADay: MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS by Eliza Wheeler @wheelerstudio, advice for picture book writers/illustrators

I've fallen a bit behind in my #BookADay posts because of my work schedule, but plan to catch up soon. Perfect for a relaxing Canada Day #BookADay: MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS by my friend Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2013). Eliza and I met when we were both picked for the 2010 SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program, and we've been friends ever since. I'm looking forward to rooming with Eliza next month at the SCBWI-LA convention!

Miss Maple's Seeds has absolutely gorgeous artwork, and such a comforting and inspiring story. My favourite quote: "...Even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds."

Synopsis:

"Fans of Miss Rumphius will adore this gorgeous picture book which introduces the kind, nature-loving Miss Maple, who celebrates the miracle in each seed. Miss Maple gathers lost seeds that haven’t yet found a place to sprout. She takes them on field trips to explore places to grow. In her cozy maple tree house, she nurtures them; keeping them safe and warm until it’s time for them to find roots of their own, and grow into the magnificent plants they’re destined to become. Eliza Wheeler’s luminous paintings feature gorgeous landscapes, lush foliage and charming details. Her tender story celebrates the potential found in each seed—since even the grandest tree and most brilliant flower had to grow from the smallest of seeds. Celebrate every season with Miss Maple, from Earth Day to graduations to harvest festivals. "

I interviewed Eliza last year on Inkygirl.com about MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS and her illustrations for Holly Black's DOLL BONES; do check it out for the story of how Eliza and I met, her work process, and advice for aspiring picture book writers and illustrators.

Some of Eliza's excellent advice:

1) Be patient while you build up your body of work. Just focus on your craft, and leave the business side of storytelling for later; for when your work is REALLY good.

2) Create the kind of work that your kid self would have loved. Be your own audience, and always ask yourself "If someone else made this, would I read it? Would I put it up on my wall?". It seems obvious, but more often than not when I ask myself this question, I'm surprised to think "no".

3) Read, read, read. Whenever I'm stuck with my storytelling I read. I get new ideas or answers to existing stories when I read. And don't just read in your genre. A friend lent me Aimee Bender's adult novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and I was distracted through the entire thing because every single time I sat down to read that book, a particular story I was working on would come to me in waves. I don't know why that was, but certain books will do that, and I've learned that it's a really great thing.

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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42. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in July

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief
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Fiction Books

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The Lie by Kestin Hesh

A complex political thriller full of suspense, set within the Israel security organisation. A rescue operation that will have you on the edge of your seats. So many lies, so many rationalisations for twisting the truth. But in the end what wins: love of country or family? Terror seems to have a certain equality. Chris

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Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice, but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one. Jon

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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

A Swedish crime book with a difference. Martha wants to rob a bank to escape her care home. Her team, the League of Pensioners want to get caught because they feel conditions are better in prison than where they are now. Very reminiscent of the wonderful One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Of course everything does not go to plan, a delightful and immensely entertaining novel which should be read with a glass of cloudberry wine. Chris

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Close Call by Stella Rimington

Liz Carlyle and her Counter Terrorism unit in MI5 have been charged with the task of watching the international under-the-counter arms trade. With the Arabic region in such a volatile state, the British Intelligence forces have become increasing concerned that extremist Al-Qaeda jihads are building their power base ready to launch another attack. As the pressure mounts, Liz and her team must intercept illegal weapons before they get into the wrong hands.

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The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

An absolutely hilarious romp, like a farce but instead of walking in and out of rooms the main character does the same with wardrobes. A fakir is on a journey to pick up a bed of nails from IKEA but ends up on a tour to many countries. However it wasn’t until I had finished that I realised the more serious side of the story as the Fakir meets many people seeking a better life but instead were shunted from country to country. Extremely entertaining but with an edge. Chris

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Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant

A story about an experimental university in the North of England which wanted to educate thinkers to prevent totalitarianism and future wars. Oh but they were just young people thinking about sex and parties. The experiment goes wrong with some awful consequences. A wonderful read about post war Britain that nobody would recognise now! No mobiles no internet. How did they communicate and it really wasn’t that long ago! Chris

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Non-Fiction Books

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Ten Conversations You Must Have With Your Son by Dr Tim Hawkes

Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son. But too often they put them off – or don’t have them at all – because they simply don’t know where to start. Internationally recognised in the field of raising and educating boys, Dr Tim Hawkes provides practical, accessible and invaluable about how to get these discussions started.

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City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

Reading this book reminded me of Stasiland and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, both wonderful examples of narrative non-fiction where the idea is conveyed to the reader in the style of personal stories. We get an understanding of modern Iran through the stories of young people living under repressive regimes. Reads like fiction, in fact at times I thought I was reading a really riveting crime novel! Chris

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Asia’s Cauldron by Robert D. Kaplan

For anyone interested in our region you will find this a very interesting read. Kaplan has been named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. He looks at the shift of power from Europe to Asia, particularly the South China Sea. He looks at the booming cities and the slums from Vietnam, to Malaysia, Singapore to the Philippines and of course China.  One of the questions that intrigued me was the contention that the conflicts of the future in this area will be driven by power and economics rather than humanitarian or ideological ideas. Intensely readable. Chris

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Last Days of the Bus Club by Chris Stewart

In this latest, typically hilarious dispatch from El Valero we find Chris, now a local literary celebrity, using his fame to help his old sheep-shearing partner find work on a raucous road trip; cooking a TV lunch for visiting British chef, Rick Stein; discovering the pitfalls of Spanish public speaking; and, most movingly, visiting famine-stricken Niger for Oxfam.

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Australian History in 7 Questions by John Hirst

From the author of The Shortest History of Europe, acclaimed historian John Hirst, comes this fresh and stimulating approach to understanding Australia’s past and present. Hirst asks and answers questions that get to the heart of Australia’s history. Engaging and enjoyable, and written for the novice and the expert alike, Australian History in Seven Questions explains how we became the nation we are today.

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Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant by Owen Beddall

Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

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Pink Sari Revolution by Amana Fontanella-Khan

This is the story of Sampat Pal and the Pink Gang’s fight against injustice and oppression in India. Amana Fontanella-Khan delivers a riveting, inspiring portrait of women grabbing fate with their own hands – and winning back their lives.

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Childrens’ Picture Books

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Mr Chicken Lands on London by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Chicken is excited! He can’t wait to get on the plane  and go to London. Join Mr Chicken as he takes a unique look at the sights of London. A great new picture  book from one our favourite authors. Ian

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Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

You may be surprised to hear that Pig is a pug not a pig, and he is the greediest pug in the world. MINE is his favourite word and he won’t share his toys with anyone. One day that all changes. Has Pig learned his lesson? Have a read and find out! Danica

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Books for First Readers

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Do You Dare? Fighting Bones by Sophie Laguna

Danny and Duncan are two young convict brothers, who are in jail in Tasmania in 1836. As if life is not tough enough, a new boy arrives who is a terrible bully. Is escape their only option? Will they dare? A great action series full of history for boys. Ian & Danica

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Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key by Jane O’Connor

The ever popular super sleuth Nancy Clancy returns in her fourth adventure. Nancy finds an old desk at a garage sale that leads her and Bree into another mystery that proves to much harder to solve than they expected. Ian

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Books for Young Readers

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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

If you loved ‘Wonder’ and ‘Out of My Mind’, then you have to read this book! Willow is a character unlike any other and she will capture your heart and not let go! We could not put it down! Danica & Jan

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Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt

Friday Barnes – girl detective, 11 years old. When Friday solves a bank robbery she decides to put herself through boarding school with the reward money. What surprises her is that Highcrest Academy has a high crime problem. While trying to solve these mysteries Friday also has to deal with Ian, the most gorgeous boy in school, who hates her and loves nasty pranks. What is the point of high school? Jan

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Books for Young Adults

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Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Set in Germany during the rise of Hitlers power, seventeen year old Gretchen Muller starts to question why Uncle Dolf (Hitler) has become her protector, father figure and taken her family under his wing. Desperate for answers and why her father took a bullet for Hitler, Gretchen embarks on a mission to uncover the truth. A mother who is very timid, a brother who can be cruel, and a forbidden love this book is an excellent historical fiction novel for young adults. Jan

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Spark by Rachael Craw

One day she’s an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she’s a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer. The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death. Jan

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43. Stuart Neville 3-for-2 offer

neville3for2banner

 

9780099535348The Twelve

I almost missed reading this book. Published in 2009 it has only just been releases here. I was reluctant to pick it up because “debut thriller of the year” gets thrown around a far bit and I am very skeptical. However in the case of THE TWELVE it is not marketing or publicity that has come up with the statement because it is more than true. This is not just one of the best thriller debuts of the last ten years; it is one of the best thrillers of the last ten years full stop.

THE TWELVE blends together seamlessly some of my favourite elements of crime fiction. It is political (without choosing sides), it is violent, it has heart and it is wickedly funny in places. It also reminds me of some of my favourite authors while being completely original. While reading the book Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen and the DEXTER series all came to mind as well as the film THE DEPARTED and the TV series RESCUE ME.

The main character of the book is Gerry Fegan, an ex-IRA hit man who has just done a 9 and a half year stretch in Maze prison. Prison has changed him but not like you would think. Gerry is haunted by the crimes he has committed, literally. He is followed by twelve ghosts of people he has killed. He can see, hear and feel the ghosts all the time and they will not let him sleep. Even whiskey doesn’t help and Gerry is seen as a crazy drunk who talk to himself all day.

Gerry tries confessing to one of his victim’s relatives in an effort to free himself from these unwanted spirits but that only get him into trouble with his old bosses. But that’s when he finds out what his ghost want him to do, they want revenge. As Gerry counts down his ghosts, his actions threaten to tear apart Northern Ireland’s new found peace. This means he must be stopped, making this one hell of an explosive thriller.

Collusion

9780099535355OK so I thought THE TWELVE was freakin’ awesome but COLLUSION takes it up another notch. The now ghost-less (but still haunted) Gerry Fegan has escaped Northern Ireland to New York but his trail of destruction and its consequences still reverberates around Belfast. Interestingly Gerry takes a backseat in this book.  We’re introduced to Detective Inspector Jack Lennon (who happens to be the briefly mentioned ex-girlfriend of one of THE TWELVE’s main characters) and we meet an even more twisted hitman known as The Traveller.

I love when a series follows a non- linear path and at first you think COLLUSION is a Jack Lennon novel. But one of Lennon’s cases has links to what happened in THE TWELVE and when he learns his ex-girlfriend and estranged daughter were somehow involved he is determined to find out what happened. When those that survived THE TWELVE start turning up dead Lennon is put on a collision course with The Traveller who has been cleaning up loose ends.

The action is again incredible and the twists are devilish. With a title like COLLUSION you have no idea which side anyone is really on. All the elements that made THE TWELVE great are still here and I am still trying to catch my breath after the ending. Seriously if you love action/thrillers you HAVE to read Stuart Neville.

Stolen Souls

9781846554520Stuart Neville is fast becoming one of my favourite crime writers. THE TWELVE blew me away and COLLUSION was an excellent follow-up and now he continues the brilliance with STOLEN SOULS.

Jack Lennon again features and he is trying to balance the pieces if his life that are left in the aftermath of the last book. But the central character is Galya, an illegal immigrant from The Ukraine who has been deceived into coming to Ireland for work but the job she has been ‘sold’ into is not what she signed up for.

STOLEN SOULS is in essence a chase novel. The book opens with Galya having just killed a ‘client’. Unfortunately the ‘client’ is the brother of a very important and ruthless man. She must now out run his revenge but ends up jumping out of the fry pan into a very vicious fire.

Meanwhile Jack is left to clean up the trail of destruction and try and figure out what is going on. Neville again mixes up unpredictable action with both flawed and despicable characters. Get on the Stuart Neville bandwagon now because this guy is going to be huge.

Grab all three books for $35.98 (rrp $19.95 each)

and don’t miss the new book in the series, The Final Silence out July 17

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44. #BookADay: SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! by Carter Goodrich, plus a peek into his illustration process

Catching up on my #BookADay: SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! by Carter Goodrich (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2011). The two dog characters in this story are soooooo adorable. And I was very excited to discover that MISTER BUD WEARS THE CONE just came out!

According to a Readeo.com interview, Zorro was apparently loosely based on his aunt's pug. The pug's name was Ozzie but Carter has dyslexia, so called him Zorro. Carter used watercolor for the illustrations, which was new for him.

"The best part of an image is the part I couldn’t control, the happy accident. When something strange would happen in a piece, it would always be better than something I might purposefully do. Like when Zorro is shifting position on the couch. I did a lot of takes on that. I was still working with pencil and trying to shape it and tone it. I thought, “I have to paint the couch really quickly, and it’s either going to hit or not.” There are little things where the paint did everything on its own,. But then I had to repeat it. And that was alright, too. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be."

Read more about Carter's process in Jenny Brown's interview with him on Readeo.

And check out the cover of the just-released Mister Bud Wears The Cone:

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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45. 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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46. #BookADay: ONE WORD PEARL by Nicole Groeneweg and Hazel Mitchell, plus advice for aspiring children's book illustrators

Today's #BookADay: ONE WORD PEARL written by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (Charlesbridge, 2013).

Synopsis:

Pearl loves words. All kinds of words. Words make up songs, stories, poems . . . and what does a lover of words do? She collects them, of course! But one day, most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest.

After that day, she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

One Word Pearl explores the power of words to transform, inspire, and cultivate imagination.

I was delighted to interview the illustrator of ONE WORD PEARL last year. Do check out Hazel Mitchell's interview for a great peek into her process (lots of photos) and advice for aspiring children's book illustrators.

HAZEL MITCHELL'S ADVICE:

Attend all the conferences/workshops you can afford (and some you can't) and absorb information.

Learn the craft. Children's book illustration is an art-unto-itself. Study the masters, attend workshops where great illustrators are teaching. Go back to college if you need to.

Draw. Draw. Draw. There is no substitute for drawing.

Read. Read. Read. Immerse yourself in discovering new and old picture books, illustrated middle grade, cover work, graphic novels.

Find your voice ... how do you do that? By drawing and learning and imitating and seeking critique and then finally becoming unconscious of your style. Then you have found your illustration voice.

Work on your portfolio. A portfolio for children's illustration! Creating a website portfolio is very important! Tell people you exist!

Mail out, submit, direct people to look at your work.

Be open. become proficient in social networking. It's free and it can benefit you in unbelievable ways. But always give back.

Seek out other illustrators and create a band of brothers.

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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47. #BookADay: HOORAY FOR HAT! by Brian Won, plus advice for children's book illustrators

HOORAY FOR HAT is Brian Won's debut picture book, and was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt earlier this year.

Synopsis:

"Elephant wakes up grumpy—until ding, dong! What’s in the surprise box at the front door? A hat! HOORAY FOR HAT! Elephant marches off to show Zebra, but Zebra is having a grumpy day, too—until Elephant shares his new hat and cheers up his friend. Off they march to show Turtle! The parade continues as every animal brightens the day of a grumpy friend. An irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing, and fabulous hats."

I wrote about Brian and HOORAY FOR HAT earlier this month

Three things children's book writer/illustrators can learn from Brian:

1. Understand the emotions behind the characters you are illustrating.

2. Don't compare yourself to others. Instead, compare where you are now to where you came from.

3. Join the SCBWI and attend conferences, enter the Portfolio Showcase. You never know what might happen!

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

0 Comments on #BookADay: HOORAY FOR HAT! by Brian Won, plus advice for children's book illustrators as of 6/27/2014 5:15:00 PM
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48. more thoughts on independent publishing platforms for books

Several earlier posts discussed independent self-publishing platforms (ISP) for both e-books and printed books.  My experience with Amazon in producing a Kindle edition and a print edition of a YA novel (the print edition with CreateSpace, an Amazon-owned company) was a very satisfying experience, and did not cost me anything.  Special support services (formatting, editing, cover design)were available for a fee, but are not necessary for most authors with average skills.

However, after creating and making the book available through an ISP company, the role of marketing the book seems to be left more or less to the author.  A wide gamut of on-line vendors, like Amazon Books, Google Books, Barnes & Noble, and others, can be selected to list the book and collect an agreed royalty amount on any sales; however, there may be very little effort by those vendors to find and direct readers to the book.  This had been one of the valuable services provided by traditional publishing companies.  Besides being gatekeepers of which books can be published, the traditional companies would generally send out copies of the finished book to their lists of nationwide book reviewers and media columnists to help generate an awareness and demand for the book.  They might also arrange book tours (one has to smile to think of them trying to get J. D. Salinger to do a book tour).  To some extent, the ISP author can do some of this work by searching  for independent or organizational reviewers on the Internet, and providing them with the necessary digital or print copies of the book.  Some reviews might be provided free, and others by prestigious organizations can cost up to a couple of hundred dollars.  The author has better prospects to enlist a reviewer if the book is newly published or has been published within the last two or three months.  Consequently, one can see from all this that it would be most effective if the ISP author had some sort of plan, and/or arrangements made, before he ever clicks on the 'publish' button with the ISP.

Some of the positives and drawbacks of the ISP option for an author are illustrated in an interview with author John Edgar Wideman, reported by Sejal Shah in The Writer's Chronicle of May/Summer 2014.  Wideman has a son, Danny, who worked for an ISP, named Lulu, and decided to publish a book titled Briefs with them.
Briefs was an experiment.  It got all the reviews you could want, under the circumstances.  And also because Danny worked there I got a lot of services that if you self-published in Lulu, you'd have to pay for.  For example, the expensive business of sending books to reviewers.  My self-published electronic book was treated a bit like the old way that my hard copy books had been.  A publicity service sent books to the media and tried to get me interviews.  A publicity person promoted and followed the book's progress.  Books were made available in conventional hard copy format, so that was cheating in a way.  The results don't tell a lot about self-publishing or electronic publishing per se.  My conclusion after the whole thing was that even with the extras I got, a self-publishing venture was premature.  It still is premature, for a person of my status, used to having a certain kind of attention.  You're taking a real leap of faith and financially, you're giving up, in my case, what might be a substantial advance. 
Not being on bookstore shelves killed Briefs.  Someone browsing in that nice bookstore ...is not going to see Briefs.  A bookstore has to pay for copies of Briefs, and then they own the copies, can't return them.  The other thing is the Times refused to review Briefs, because it was self-published ...They did run a story about the manner in which Briefs was published, but it was not a review.  Almost all the articles about the book were not reviews; they were general interest pieces about the publishing industry.  That meant no reviews of the book, and at the same time no one was going to trip over the book in a bookstore.  So why would anyone buy it?  Where would they find it?  As far as merchandising strategy, Briefs fell into very predictable cracks.  I was disappointed, but I'd do it again.  I liked the adventure; I liked working with Danny; and I learned a hell of a lot.
 As might be concluded from the foregoing discussions and interview excerpt, ISP is a works in progress.  There are pluses and minuses in it for most authors, but the business model of the traditional publisher has contemporary issues that need to be addressed, also.  One thinks of the music recording industry, which had a business model that served them handsomely for many years and did well for a relatively small number of artists, too.  However, the internet opened up possibilities for many more artists that had been shut out by the traditional gatekeepers' system,  and brought with it upheavals to the business model that are still ongoing.  Now, the book publishing model's turn may have come.

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49. #BookADay: SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson @morgan_m

Just finished reading SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2014). Loved this book, especially the main character, Emily. How I wish this book had been published years ago! I was very much like Emily when I was a teen: timid and insecure on my own, plus I spent a chunk of time in the shadow of a much more outgoing friend. Reading this book might have helped give me the courage to step out of my friend's shadow and find my own adventures.

Something else I loved: the twist on the stereotypical timid girl/outgoing or mean girl scenario. I won't go into details for fear of giving away spoilers. Read this book!

Synopsis:

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um...

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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50. Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater



It was Leon, really, who kept me reading.  This poor guy has to drive the returning rock star to the rock star's new gig and the rock star - Mercy Falls fans know that Cole St. Clair is the rock star - keeps asking for Leon's advice and input.  And Leon is so driver-ish-ly polite and even kind.  So for Leon I kept reading.

Because I never read the Mercy Falls books, I didn't know about the passion between Cole and Isabel Culpepper, or the tragedies that befell the Mercy Falls clan.  And I am grateful for Leon because I learned to like and respect Cole and Isabel. 

Here's the story, guys.  I will only take you so far, ok?  Cole is out of rehab.  He has been offered a chance to make a new album - as long as he does it on a reality tv show based in LA.  The band, Narkotika, is defunct.  Jeremy, the bass player, is in LA with a new band.  Mercy Falls readers know what happened to the drummer, Victor, and there's no return from that, alas.

But Cole's real goal is to find and win back Isabel.  Isabel lives in LA with her mother and aunt and cousin, Sophia.  Thanks, Sophia.  I liked YOU a lot, too.

The opening of this book let's you know that there is ACTION, DANGER and DRAMA involved in the book.  The setting of a reality show just pours lighter fluid on the blaze, so to speak.   And through it all, Cole tries to convince Isabel to trust him.  And Isabel tries to remain in control of circumstances that are beyond her reach.

In my opinion, this is not Maggie's best.  But I'm not all that fond of werewolves, either.  However, I am happy and relieved that the book was lively and full of good people behaving pretty ok, mostly, and ordinary people acting like jerks sometimes, and romance and action and love - and minor characters that I wanted to meet in person.


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