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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,254
26. #BookADay: MINRS by Kevin Sylvester (Simon & Schuster, Sept/2015)

Appropriately enough, I began and finished Kevin Sylvester's MiNRS underground. It was soOooOooOOoo good that I missed my subway stop. Twice.

MiNRS is Kevin's upcoming action-adventure sf book for middle grade ... though honestly, I believe older readers will enjoy it as well. The premise: A 12-year-old boy and his friends have to survive in the mining tunnels after their new space colony are attacked during an Earth communication blackout.

Love the unexpected plot twists.

Loved the action and adventure, sense of real danger. The darker bits are part of what helps set this sf middle grade apart from others.

Love the main character, Christopher, and how his character develops throughout the story. Love the fact that he's just an ordinary boy (no superpowers, etc.) who has to use resources available to him to figure things out and learn how to be a leader.

Loved the depth of the character interactions and complexity of some of the relationships.

Loved the strong female characters.

Loved the fascinating tech/science behind the asteroid mining process.

Just ***LOVED***.

Can't wait until MiNRS comes out this September from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster.

And Kevin: I want MORE, PLEASE.

Read about MiNRS on the Simon & Schuster website.

Find out more about Kevin and his work at KevinSylvesterBooks.com.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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27. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

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About the Book: Miles is not excited to be moving to Yawnee Valley-how exciting can a place be when there's a yawn right in the name? Miles was known as the best prankster in his old town, always pulling stunts on his friends. When he discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, Miles has to figure out who it is-and take the prankster down. Each one tries to one up each other, leading to more epic pranks and jokes in a hilarious prank war.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This book is sure to inspire tween pranksters everywhere! The Terrible Two is the hilarious tale of two epic pranksters had me cracking up. I listened to the audiobook, so while I'm sure the book itself is great (there are illustrations inside making a perfect book to give kids who are enjoying chapter books with illustrations) I loved the audiobook so very much. Adam Verner, the narrator, offers up a variety of voices for the characters and I laughed so much while I was listening-I especially loved his principal voice!

The pranks in this book are awesome and hysterical. These boys are not your average chalk in the eraser, whoopie cushion on the chair pranksters. They go above and beyond and their pranks are over the top that I know readers will get a kick of all their planning and pranking. The supporting characters are also very exaggerated, which adds to the humor. The principal comes from a long line of principals and he's a hapless leader. I loved the jokes about his speeches and principal lessons-I think adults would get a kick out of this book too.

The Terrible Two was a quick listen and a book I immediately went back to the library and started putting in the hands of my readers. It's perfect for readers who enjoy Jon Scieszka and when  kid asks for a funny book, I know exactly what to give them. But make sure you have your readers promise they won't pull any of the pranks they learn on you!

Full Disclosure: reviewed from audibook I checked out at my library

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28. Welcome to Atlantis…We’ve been expecting YOU!

Sweet Treats at my Book Launch
Hey everyone! I’m fresh off a seven day book blog tour and book launch, and want to express how grateful I am for all the support and kindness I’ve received in the last two weeks from family, friends, fellow authors, readers, and my publisher! I’ve had three incredible reviews ranging from 4 to 5 stars. Not bad for a re-release! If you’ve missed any of the reviews, check them out at BOOKAHOLIC FIX, BOOK BABBLE, and AUTHOR SANDRA LOVE. Thanks again to Amber Marr of Sapphyria’s Book Promotions for helping me garner those reviews and reaching new readers.

During the midst of all the craziness of launching a book, my new publishers at Mirror World Publishing, Justine and Murandy decided I should flex my acting wings and make a cameo appearance in the book trailer Murandy produced. Um. Who? Me act? Although it was fun, I think I’ll stick to writing and let the professionals handle the next book trailer. Kudos go to Brieanne, the young actress who shared the spotlight with me!

See what you think:



Okay, you can stop laughing now. No really. Stop…or I’ll send you to Atlantis. Wink. 

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29. Book Review 2015-001: Urgent, Unheard Stories by Roxane Gay

Gay - Unheard StoriesBook Review: 2015-001 Urgent, Unheard Stories by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial)

This review copy was purchased at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI

 

It seems odd to note that it's book review number 1 on June 28, but with the site pretty much being dormant for over a year, such is the case. I'm glad this is the first book though to get the treatment this year. While Roxane Gay is pretty well known, I'd suggest she is still an Emerging Writer. This title is a Limited Edition Autographed Copy, which is the type of thing we've always liked around the EWN. And it's really a great little (64 pages plus with no ruler in hand, I'd guess maybe 4.5 x 7") book with 5 essays and 2 interviews within. It's great because it's both well written AND it is a book that causes some thinking; I'd like to think especially so for a voracious reader.

It is set up very well too, with the end pieces both explaining something of Roxane's career to date as a published author in two very different ways. The interviews fit in nicely with a large part of what Roxane seems to want to say and the title essay, second to last piece in the book, really hammers home what I believe is the point of the book--as a publisher, as a reader, search for what Jynne Dilling Martin referred to in a conversation with Roxane as "urgent, unheard stories." Between the end cap essays and this one in particular, it's got me thinking about my own reading habits and how they've changed since 2000 and the inception of the EWN--these essays have me thinking that those changes have been in the right direction, just maybe not fast and harsh enough.

The first essay, "Two Damn Books: How I Got Here and Where I Want to Go," describes aspects of the publishing industry itself through Roxane's experiences publishing her first two books. One is with a smaller, independent publisher and the other with a much larger house. Working with both she notices their structure, who else they're publishing, who they have working for them--where there is diversity and where there isn't and how much more climbing still needs to be done. The last essay, "The Books That Made Me Who I Am: I Am the Product of Endless Books," goes through some of the books that have influenced Roxane as a writer. As she notes in the essay "A list could not contain me." While she's able to come up with many titles that had an effect on her, she's well aware that there are dozens, or probably hundreds, of others that did so as well. I love that she includes children's books on her list--something I don't think many other writers have been brave enough to do when asked to make up their own list.

Beyond giving her readers something to think about in regards to who and what they are reading and why, Roxane's essays and interviews also generously gives her readers dozens of authors and titles to read as suggestions. While I've enjoyed many of the authors or books named in these essays, there are many others that I'm now looking forward to--including more of Roxane's work.

4.5 stars

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30. Toon! Toon! TOON!

Bless you, TOON, for the lovely box of new graphic novels!  You publish some of the best highly illustrated kids' lit out there.

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, a TOON Book by LINIERS, is my favorite of this bunch.  "A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow", Henrietta tells her cat, Fellini.  Henrietta sits down to write and draw the amazing story of "The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats."  We see Henrietta's drawings and we see her reactions to her own imagination and the whole thing is fun and funny and delightful. 

Flop to the Top!, a TOON book by Eleanor Davis & Drew Weing.  Wanda is a Superstar and she knows it.  When she goes online and posts a picture with her floppy dog, Wilbur, the Internet goes crazy.  Wilbur is a HUGE hit.  Wanda is not happy for his fame.  Young readers will get a kick out of attention hog Wanda's disappointment and of Wilbur's response to fame and fortune.  The ending is super cool, too.

Check back soon for reviews of my other TOON swag.


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31. #BookADay: FAMILIES, FAMILIES, FAMILIES by Suzanne Lang & Max Lang (Random House Children's)

FAMILIES, FAMILIES, FAMILIES! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang is a wonderful celebration of family love, no matter what the size or type. Adorable and goofy family portraits included nontraditional as well as traditional families. Published by Random House Children's Books this year.

Suzanne produces, develops and writes for children's television. Max codirected the film adaptation of The Gruffalo (!) as well as the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Room On The Broom.

Excerpt from a School Library Journal review: "The loud-and-clear message is that “if you love each other, then you are a family.” And imagine the many children who will be reassured because they have found a portrait of a family they will recognize as their own. A solid choice for most libraries."

More about the book on the publisher website.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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32. A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

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About the Book: In 1909 London, girls are expected to follow the rules, behave, and marry well. But Victoria Darling wants none of those things-she wants to be an artist. Her passion for art takes a turn when she scandalizes her family by posing nude at her secret art class. She is pulled from her finishing school and returned home where her parents arrange a marriage for her to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky wants other things for her future-she wants to attend the Royal Academy of Art and she knows she can make it-but she has to finish her portfolio. She befriends a local policeman who becomes her muse and gets caught up in the burgeoning suffragette movement. Vicky wants to choose her own path and she is determined to make that happen.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I love historical drama set in this time period anyway, so I was sure to fall for this book, but there was so much happening and Vicky is such a fantastic strong character that I think I would have fallen head of heels for it anyway-even without the historical setting!

Vicky is a cross between Sybil Crowley and Arya Stark. She's passionate, she knows what she wants and she's not afraid to go after it herself. In a time where women were told to stay quiet and behave, Vicky doesn't listen. Instead she stays strong, follows her own path and makes her own way. It's not easy and she doesn't expect it to be, but that's also why she's incredibly tough. She knows what she's giving up to go after her dreams-she knows she's giving up a nice cozy future and while it takes her awhile to fully let it go, she comes to terms with it in the end and realizes that some dreams are worth working for.

I'll admit there were times I wanted to scream and Vicky and ask what she thought she was doing! While she eventually realizes that marriage to a stuffy rich boy is not the way to art filled future, she is somewhat naive about others. She thinks that she'll be able to fulfill her dream of attending art school once married and it took her a long time to figure out that wasn't going to happen! I saw that coming and would get frustrated with her, but I also had to remind myself that she was coming at it from a naive viewpoint and was acting exactly as I would expect her to-frustrating or not.

I adored the romance in this book and loved that Vicky wasn't all about focusing on Will, the policeman she befriends. There is romance in the book, but it's not the focus and it's not something Vicky spends a lot of time fretting about. Instead she is more concerned with her future and working with the suffragettes. I also loved the details and characters from Vicky's work with fighting for woman's rights. These women went through a lot to fight for equality and the author doesn't shy away from the way they were treated or the horrific things they experienced-from beatings to starving in prison and being force-fed. 

Vicky is an incredibly strong and thoughtful character and I loved her story. While the book dragged at times (which I think was especially noticeable while listening to it on audio) overall I really enjoyed it. Historical fiction readers, readers who enjoy strong female characters, and readers interested in women's rights are sure to enjoy this-and check it out on audio!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook I checked out from my library



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33. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy? 

This is another book I thought I'd reviewed when I first read it years ago. Upon discovering I hadn't, I started doubting whether I'd read it to begin with. (When I was a teenager I read so much half the books fell out of my head.) Once I started reading, my memory was jogged and I knew I had definitely read it: each scene was so vivid in my mind, and I started anticipating the unpleasant parts of the novel before they happened. I found Raw Blue incredibly realistic, uncomfortably so, and very visceral.

It frustrates me incredibly when some babe shows up in a YA novel and fixes the protagonist and their myriad problems, which I think is unrealistic (and doesn't really solve anything: the protagonist hasn't really grown or dealt with their problems). What is terrific about Raw Blue is that Carly very much saves herself. The blurb makes it sound a bit sappy, but it's entirely not; her depression and rage and self-loathing are all well-drawn, and her development as a character is gradual and convincing.

What I love best about this novel and what I think makes it so realistic is the cast of characters, all of whom are well-developed and authentic. They don't all necessarily serve the plot (a few of Carly's co-workers could easily have been merged together, for instance, without the story changing) but they make the world of the novel far more representative of real life, and the myriad people we encounter (sometimes unpleasant) and whose lives intersect ours. In Raw Blue, everyone has a story and a background and things going on in their life (often left unresolved) and the story often meanders as a result, but it's perfect for this book. Of all the characters, Danny is my favourite (a kid Carly meets surfing who has synesthesia and associates people with colours) but I also love Hannah (Carly's salsa-dancing Dutch neighbour).

Carly is a nineteen-year-old character and the novel centres around some very heavy content (always dealt with tactfully, but you may prefer not to read novels in which sexual assault occurs). I'd recommend it to older YA readers and adult readers of YA; this is a prime example of excellent, challenging Australian contemporary YA. (This is a big call, but I'd also say it's the Australian equivalent of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's that good.)

Raw Blue on the publisher's website

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34. #BookADay: THE BLACKTHORN KEY by Kevin Sands (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)

One of my favourite recent reads is THE BLACKTHORN KEY, a debut novel from Kevin Sands, coming out from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster this September. Wow. Really, REALLY loved this.

When people ask me for recommendations for good, new middle grade novels, I will not hesitate to list this book. It's a quick/easy read with suspense, humor, action and moving moments. Love the character relationships. PLUS there are secret codes, apothecaries and explosions. What's not to love?

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for the advance reader's copy.

You can read a synopsis of the book here

I couldn't find a regular website for the author but he's on Twitter at @kevinsandsbooks and has a FB Page.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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35. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

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About the Book: Nate is off to New York City to start auditions for E. T.: The Broadway Musical! The show is full of child actors, a director who no one thinks can actually pull this off, and understudies who are even crazier in person! Will the show make it to previews? Will Nate make his Broadway debut?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I adored Better Nate Than Ever  so very much. so I was thrilled to have Nate back and enjoy more of his naive optimism when it comes to show tunes, Broadway, and people and life in general.

As usual, Nate sees the good in everything around him and that makes him a very charming character. While the rest of the cast isn't sure this show is going to take off and just doing it for a job, Nate is there because he's living his dream and his belief that the show is magical makes it magical. He also could make Jordan, the lead child actor who is playing the role of Elliot into his nemesis, and while there is some early rivalry, Nate doesn't let that stop him from befriending Jordan-or the other kid actors. He even manages to make his way into the heart of one of the other E.T. understudies. Everyone who Nate comes in contact with really ends up falling for his charms-as do the readers, which makes this book so wonderful. Nate's optimism is infectious.

In addition to all the Broadway talk, show tunes references, and theater geek goodies galore, Tim Federle explores two tougher topics in a deftly and perfect way-the absence of Nate's parents and the topic of Nate's sexuality. While the topic of Nate's parents is hard to discuss in an otherwise happy-go-lucky feel of a book, but instead of getting too deep and bogged down, it's handled seamlessly in the story. Nate struggles with the absence of his parents, why they don't check in, why they don't seem happier for him, and why they don't share his passions and his dreams. But he finds comfort in his Aunt Heidi, who steps in as caretaker while he is in New York, and while I think it will take longer for Nate's dad to come around, I think there is hope for his mom to come visit him and see her son on stage someday.

Nate has a secret admirer in the book and he suspects it's one of the girls in the cast-and Nate isn't sure how he feels about that. And he's in for a surprise when he discovers who it is! The sweet, tender romance, of a gay boy isn't often explored in middle grade novels and again, the author does a great job fitting this into the story. Nate's romance is adorable and you just want to cheer him on throughout the entire book.

I listened the first book on audio and knew I had to listen to this one too. Tim Federle needs to narrate more audiobooks because he is awesome! Not only is his writing hilarious, but his narration is spot on. He nails the innocence of Nate, the overprotective stage parent, the tired (and a bit washed up) actors, the clueless director, the tough choreographer who rules the stage-they are all wonderfully created on audio via Federle's narration. I was so excited to see this auidobook win an Odyssey Honor!

While the book does have a bit of a 42nd Street ending, I thought it fit Nate's story well and loved seeing the world of Broadway through his eyes. I can't wait to read more from Tim Federle-my inner theater kid needs more!

Book Pairings: Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Weatherhead
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook sent by publisher

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36. Review: Me And Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

I’m the kind of bookworm that subscribes to “READ THE BOOK FIRST” when it comes to movie adaptions. Do I love movie adaptions? Oh definitely yes. But the original is first priority. So I had to read Me And Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews before the movie hit cinemas (which, actually, was just yesterday). The thing […]

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37. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

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About the Book: Felicity Pickle is tired of moving around is hoping that Midnight Gulch will finally be the place where her momma's wandering heart will settle down. Felicity is a word collector and she sees words floating all around the people and places of Midnight Gulch. It used to be a magical place, but the magic is long gone. But Felicity and her newfound friend Jonah just might be able to stir some of that magic back into Midnight Gulch-and into everyone who lives there.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says:  Sometimes a narrator and a book were just made for each other and I think that's the case of Cassandra Morris and A Snicker of Magic. I mean, there's a reason that this book is an Odyssey Honor Book! Just listen to the preview from Audible!

Natalie Lloyd's debut novel oozes charm in such a good way that you want to curl up with Snicker, a bowl of delicious ice cream and read (or listen) all night long. This book has magic in it and it's the kind of magic that makes your heart sing and you just have to smile after you put the book down.

Felicity is the type of person who I want to be friends with. She smart and has some spunk, but she's also a bit shy, as being moved around has made her grow more into herself. She's nervous to get close to those around her because she knows her family may just up and leave again so it's hard to make friends. But she can't resist Jonah-and really, who could? If I want Felicity to be my friend, then I want Jonah there with us leading the way. Jonah is wonderful and funny and is the perfect pull to Felicity's shyness and they compliment each other beautifully. It's a fantastic friendship and I loved every moment of it.

The rest of the cast of characters are eccentric and delightful and the town of Midnight Gulch is a character all its own. I wish Midnight Gulch was a real place because I would love to visit-especially for that ice cream! (Did I mention there was ice cream that sounds so good it will make you so mad that it's fictional in this book?) Felicity and Midnight Gulch are a wonderful next step for readers who are looking for something after Anne of Green Gables or The Penderwicks. I think if they could, Anne and Felicity would be great literary kindred spirits. Reading A Snicker of Magic brought me back to those books I grew up on with the characters I wanted to be and I can see a young reader out there hoping she can grow up and become just like Felicity.

Cassandra Morris has a sweet voice with the perfect southern accent to really bring Midnight Gulch to life and her slow deliberate narration and drawl add to the atmosphere of the book. I loved this one on audio! If you have families looking for a great listen on a car ride, I would give this one a try.

If you read it or listen to it, A Snicker of Magic is an adorable and a splindiddly turn of words and phrases. Felicity is a word collector and Natalie Lloyd is a master of words herself. I can't wait to get lost in her book.

Book Pairings: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook sent by publisher for review

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38. Glass bird


The Girl with the Glass Bird: A Knight's Haddon Boarding School MysteryIn The Girl with the Glass Bird, we meet Edie Wilson just as her awful cousins have caught the pet goldfish Edie brought with her to Folly Farm.  What they do to the goldfish and to Edie is gross and cruel.  But like many stereotypical upper class British parents, Edie's aunt writes it all off as "Boys will be boys".


Meanwhile, Edie's older cousin, Charles has been handed an assignment by one of his biggest clients and oldest friends.  Charles has to plant a girl in the client's daughter's boarding school to find out if the client's daughter IS being tormented as she claims she is.  Well, well, well, how convenient!  When he decides to drop in on Folly Farm, who should he find but an 11-year-old  girl whose aunt could care less what happens to her - as long as Edie is "safe", that is.

And Edie enters the world of Knight's Haddon.  No cell phones, no TV, very little computer usage -  the school is exactly as it was when Edie's mother went there.  From the start, Edie knows that Anastasia, her charge, is being manipulated.  But are the students behind the pranks or are the adults to blame?

Princesses and bullies, spies and secrets, The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr mixes all these things together to produce a page turner.  Is Anastasia crazy or is someone just trying to make her seem that way?  Who can Edie trust when her grandmother warns her away from everyone?  Little events build to a grand crisis.  And Edie may not be able to move fast enough. 


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39. Book Review: Calvin and Hobbes Exhibition Catalog

My first thought was: Do I really need another Calvin and Hobbes book?


Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue
I'm a fan of Bill Watterson's comic strip about the boy and his tiger friend, and I already have all the other books. So when I heard about the new exhibition catalogue, I wondered, does this book offer anything new?


Watterson created the strip in 1985. Wanting to keep his life private, and to maintain his relentless pace of dailies and Sunday strips, with a few exceptions, he has always been reticent about interviews.

So the mind behind the comics has always been a bit of a mystery. Who were his influences, and what was he thinking while he was writing and drawing?


Watterson retired the strip in 1995, after only 10 years. His art had kept getting better, and the quality of the strip was at its zenith when he ended it. Since then he hasn't done any new Calvin and Hobbes work.

Other than the Tenth Anniversary Book, there isn't much published about his life or choices or approach or philosophy. So without new cartoons, what could the new book possibly offer?


The book is an exhibition catalogue, instigated by Watterson's donation of 3,000 originals to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University. The book reproduces a lot of his artwork from the originals so that you can see the rare bits of white-out, pencil lines, and paste-up.


The book also includes a display of his tools, which were pretty simple and straightforward
1. Strathmore bristol board 3-ply
2. Circle template
3. Red mechanical pencil with 2H lead
4. Rapidograph #2
5. Ames lettering guide (which Watterson calls "clear plastic thing with holes")
6. Crow quill pen
7. Small sable brush
8. White-out

But the real core of the book is a 35-page interview with Watterson where he opens up about his beginnings as an artist, his influences, his travails with deadlines, his thinking about character and story, and his musings about comics on the Internet. This will surely stand as the definitive Watterson interview.

As an interviewee, he is everything you would have hoped for: funny, honest, self-deprecating, intelligent, and perceptive.

Here's just one example: Comparing doing coming strips and easel painting (which he has been pursuing in recent years for his own pleasure), he says:

"Since leaving the strip, it's been strange. In painting, there are virtually no constraints at all, and that leaves me completely flummoxed. I could paint something fifteen feet high or six inches high. I could blend and glaze and make it look like a photograph, or I could apply the paint with a trowel. I could work on a picture for a year, or I could finish it in two hours. I could paint what I see, or paint from my imagination, or paint abstractly. I can do anything I want, and the more I learn, the more possibilities I have. That much choice incapacitates me. Every option has some benefit and some drawback, and I change my mind every half hour. In hindsight, then, I have a lot more appreciation for the severe limitations of newspaper comics. It's going to be black and white, it's going to be ink on paper, it's all got to fit in this teeny little space, and it has to be done by yesterday. Okay, thank you, now I can get to work!"

Online article in the Washington Post with more quotes from the interview:
"Bill Watterson talks: This is why you must read the new ‘Exploring Calvin and Hobbes’ book"Book

Book on Amazon: Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue

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40. #BookADay: CITY OF SAVAGES by Lee Kelly (Saga Press, 2015)

#BookADay: CITY OF SAVAGES by Lee Kelly (Saga Press/Simon & Schuster, 2015). I just finished this strong debut from YA author Lee Kelly; I *loved* the focus and development of the sister relationship throughout, and the dual-narrative works really well. Add a suspenseful plot with some unexpected twists, and it's a book that would make an excellent summer read, especially for sf fans.

Synopsis:
"After the Red Allies turn New York City into a POW camp, two sisters must decipher the past in order to protect the future in this action-packed thriller with a dual narrative.

It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.

When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.

Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past."

 

 

 

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41.


The Unmapped Sea (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #5) 

Dear Maryrose Wood,
    I finished The Unmapped Sea, early Monday morning and I have just one or two little questions for you.

1.  WHAT!!!!????

2.  Are you kidding me?  Please, say you are kidding me!

Oh and this one.

3.  How could you do this to your loyal readers?

Sorry.  I do have another question.  It's actually the most important question.

4.  When is the next book coming out?  I hope it will arrive next week, because I can handle this sense of fraughtitude for maybe a week.  But not much longer than that.  Then I explode and start telling people what happened.  Or not.

The Incorrigible children and Miss Lumley accompany Sir Frederick and Lady Constance and the Ashton household to the beach at Brighton - in January.  The doctor ordered it.  But this works to Miss Lumley's advantage because the only person who has any clue as to the nature of the Ashton family curse lives in Brighton.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Time is running out.  Lady Constance will bring forth generation #5 of cursed Ashton's in May.  The curse must be dispelled before the baby arrives or..... (falls into a Lady Constance-ish swoon!!!)

Alexander, Beowulf and Casseiopeia meet the Babushnikov children.  Isn't that sweet?  (Simper and smile.)  They go skating and share dinners together and visit a most unusual Museum and it's like a walk in the sunshine... A very cold, argument-wracked walk in the winter blustery sunshine - with clouds.

And that is really all I can tell you.  Don't ask.  If you need to know more you can read the book yourself.  I am returning my copy to the Bethlehem Area Public Library this weekend.

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42. #BookADay: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood/House Of Anansi)

#BookADay: THIS ONE SUMMER written by Mariko Tamaki​, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki​ (Groundwood Books​/House Of Anansi, 2014). Bought this at The Beguiling Books & Art​ a while back after hearing it won the Governor General's Award for Children's Illustration. I found that the book perfectly captured the feeling of summer in both the text and illustration (the latter made me swoon) and there were so many "omigosh I have so felt like that" small and not-so-small moments of truth throughout.

From the publisher's synopsis:

"Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have visited Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this year is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis. From the creators of Skim comes an investigation into the mysterious world of adults.

"Sure, Rose’s dad is still making cheesy and embarrassing jokes, but her mother is acting like she doesn’t even want to be there. Plus, being at the cottage isn’t just about going to the beach anymore. Now Rose and Windy are spending a lot of their time renting scary movies and spying on the teenagers who work at the corner store, as well as learning stuff about sex no one mentioned in health class.

"Pretty soon everything is messed up. Rose’s father leaves the cottage and returns to the city, and her mother becomes more and more withdrawn. While her family is falling to pieces, Rose focuses her attention on Dunc, a teenager working at the local corner store. When Jenny, Dunc’s girlfriend, claims to be pregnant, the girls realize that the teenagers are keeping just as many secrets as the adults in their lives.

"No one seems to want to talk about the things that matter. When the tension between Dunc and Jenny boils over, Jenny makes a desperate and destructive move and Rose's mother is galvanized into action. In the aftermath, nothing is completely resolved, but secrets have been aired, which means that things are at least a bit better for everyone. For Rose and Windy, the end of summer brings the realization that, while Awago Beach might always be the same, they have both been changed forever.

From Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, creators of the multi-award-winning graphic novel Skim, comes a stunning and authentic story of friendship, illustrated with subtly heart-breaking moments and pure summer joy."

 

 

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43. #BookADay | THE YETI FILES: MEET THE BIGFEET by Kevin Sherry (Scholastic)

Yetis! In Canada! What's not to love?

More info about Kevin Sherry.

More info about the book.

---------------------
More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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44. Pulling a scam & learning to be Popular

Jackson Greene has spent four looooong months behaving like a model citizen since he was caught lip-locking Kelsey in front of the Principal's door. (He was trying to pick the lock.  The kiss was a cover-up.) BUT when he hears that Keith Sinclair is running for Student Council President against his ex-bet friend, Gaby de la Cruz, he assembles a team and gets to work.

Varian Johnson has written a guidebook to pulling scams in his book The Great Greene Heist.  Jackson's team of middle school nerds, techies, cheerleaders and chess champs manages to uncover a plot to fix the election so that Keith will win.  There are references to Jackson's older brother, Samuel, and a criminally inclined grandfather that makes ME hope for more about the Greene family of rapscallions.



Maya Van Wagenen was an 8th grade Social Outcast at her middle school.  Even the sixth graders insulted her.  When she found a copy of Betty Cornell's Teenager Popularity Guide circa 1951, her mom suggested that Maya follow the guide as an experiment and journal about it.  The result is Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, a clever, funny and moving adventure into the social jungle that is Middle School.  Maya followed advice that is timeless AND dated in her attempt to be popular.  And what Maya learned is a lesson we can all use.



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45. Listen!




   I rarely - if ever - email authors.  Today, I emailed Thanha Lai with a suggestion for a spin-off from her book  Listen, Slowly.  Before we go any further, I must apologize for not using diacritical marks in this review.  Diacritical marks are VERY important in Viet Namese, as Lai's book shows.

First, the review.  All the reviews tell you that 12-year-old Mai is a California girl through and through.  When she is chosen to go with her grandmother, or Ba (there should be an accent on that "a", slanting down from left to right, I think.) to Viet Nam to learn what happened to Mai's grandfather in THE WAR, Mai is furious.  She has a life, right there in Laguna, with a BFF and possible boyfriend.  Middle school rants ensue.

But Ba, quiet, peaceful, fragile Ba, how can Mai say no to Ba?  She can't.  The two of them travel to the village where Ong and Ba grew up; where Ong and Ba were betrothed, he only 7, she just 5; where they married and started a family; where Mai finds strangers who think of her as family.  It is all so odd.

The description of village life in North Viet Nam is delightfully confusing, full of details of what people eat, how they socialize, their dress, their formal and consistent good manners, even their fulsome speech.  The village seems to operate with one mind. Everyone is very careful of each other and of the things they use.  And they are curious about the larger world and about strangers and customs. 

This description led to my suggestion.  Lai describes a facial treatment that one of the Aunts forces Mai through and how it restores Mai's skin to beauty.  Then there is the lice treatment; and a potion to thwart intestinal microbes that Mai accidentally swallows.   Although Lai describes what Mai sees as these concoctions are made, wouldn't it be awesome if there was a book about these remedies?  I'd buy it.

Back to the book.  Ba's search takes so much longer than Mai hoped.  Her infrequent forays on the Internet make Mai more homesick than ever. (Is BFF Montana really making a move on the boy that Mai likes????)  One of Mai's big lessons is to learn not to worry about things she can't change.

I want to tell someone the whole plot - the trip to Ha Noi, with her new friend, Ut.; the HUGE frog that Ut totes with her; Anh Minh, the serious, hard-working, teen translator - and the two girls who compete for Anh Minh's attention.  The wordy detective, the reluctant guard, and Ba, strong Ba, who can not be at peace until she knows.  And then... and then...the ending, heart-breaking, calming and true.

Yep.  This book goes on my Best of the Best list for 2015.  Cheers for Mai, who grows so much in this book.  Cheers for Ba, who never wavers in her search for acceptance.  Cheers for the guard and the detective, who did their very best.  Cheers for Mom and Dad.  Cheers for Anh Minh and Ut and the whole village.  And cheers for Thanha Lai for such a wonderful book.









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46. Fog Diver Giveaway

This has been the Week of ARCs.  I received TWO copies of Fog Diver by Joel Ross and I'd love to gift one to somebody.

Chess is a tether diver.  He dives from an airborne salvage raft into the Fog that covers the earth. The Fog eventually poisons humans exposed to it, forcing people to live on the sides and tops of mountains.  The remains of human civilization lie beneath the Fog, just waiting to be retrieved by tether divers like Chess.  But Chess is different.  One of his eyes has Fog swirling inside it.  He hides this disfigurement the best he can with the help of the salvage raft's crew - Hazel, bossy, clever and brave; Swedish, the best pilot a raft could have but a wee bit paranoid; and Bea, the sweetest little gearhead around.  Chess's eye makes him the prey of the evil Lord Kodoc of the Roof-toppers and puts his crew mates and their foster mother, Mrs. E, in danger of capture, slavery or worse.

Set far in the future - the origin of the Fog is technical and strained this reader's credulity - the crew's conversation is peppered with pop culture references from the 20th and 21st centuries.  Ross mixes facts and fiction in these references in a humorous diversion from the fast paced action of the plot.

The crew flies, crashes and tumbles from one dangerous situation to another for the ENTIRE book.  And there are enough questions left at the end of the book to make a sequel, maybe more than, one a probability.  I say, a sequel is a necessity.

Ross designs a clever future world, laid waste by technology run amok.  Chess and his crew are a likeable close-knit family and Ross gives each character specific talents and personalities. 

Young readers won't care how the Fog began.  They WILL LOVE all the action and last-second escapes in this book.

If you'd like a copy of Fog Diver, which, alas, does not have any art or cover design on it, please comment below.   The book is due out on May 26th.  I will do my best to get it to you before then.

This giveaway offer ends on May 18th.  Remember, I choose the winner by putting your comments in the Oracular Yogurt Container and picking one.  So comment away!!

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47. Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

  Twig is an only child as far as the townspeople know.  They don't realize that her older brother James lives in the attic, out at Fowler Farm.  Twig's mother returned to the family farm late at night when Twig was small.  The rules were set right then and there.  The Fowlers kept to themselves; made no friends; excepted no visitors.  200 years before, Agnes Early, who lived in abandoned Mourning Dove Cottage, put a curse on all the men in the Fowler family.

The town of Sidwell accepts their own, no matter how strange they behave.  Besides, with a series of small thefts, reports of strange things flying at night and weird graffiti, the townsfolk can't worry about the Fowler women.

Then, one day, Mourning Dove Cottage is no longer abandoned.  Twig finds a friend.  James finds a reason to come out of hiding.  And the Fowler family finds themselves in the spotlight.

The story is compelling.  The characters well-drawn and sympathetic.  The dilemma faced by all the young people in this book is troublesome.  How do they protect James from people who might misunderstand his differences?  How can they break the curse?

I never felt that the book was written for young people.  There was a measured pace - not that things didn't happen quickly enough.  They did.  But the pace seemed better suited to more seasoned readers.  As things became complicated, though, I felt the author explained feelings too much.  I wasn't sure she trusted her audience.  These two things made a stellar book a little less starry.

The story is the kind we fall asleep dreaming of - possibilities, hopes and moonlight.  Enjoy.

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48. Just a Queen by Jane Caro

Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.

Not knowing whom she can trust, Elizabeth is surrounded by men who give her compliments and advice but may be hiding daggers and poison behind their backs. Elizabeth must use her head and ignore her heart to be the queen her people need. But what if that leads to doing the one thing she swore she would never do: betray a fellow queen, her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots? 

My entire knowledge of Tudor England has been sourced from two TV shows: The Tudors and Horrible Histories. Being that The Tudors ends pre-Mary's rule (and employs creative license pretty liberally), and Horrible Histories is a comedic kids' show (the best ever, but pretty light on for detail), I came to this novel knowing not very much at all about Elizabeth I. So I can't comment as to the historical accuracy of Just a Queen, but I can say it read as very authentic. I'm really interested in reading more about Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart - historical fiction, non-fiction, anything! - which hopefully conveys how much I enjoyed this novel, despite not being a great reader of historical fiction. (Lately, I am not a great reader of anything other than legal cases, unfortunately. I'm very much looking forward to binge-reading all the novels in my to-read pile over the summer.)

Just a Queen recounts events from Elizabeth's perspective in the aftermath of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, retelling her reign from her coronation through to her decision to have Mary executed thirty years later. Mary is a central focus for Elizabeth - her only real peer, but also someone she is forced to compete with and whom she felt threatened by - and the way she tells it, events conspired to lead inexorably to Mary's death, despite Elizabeth's desires to the contrary. The narration is at times unclear - jumping from the present, where Elizabeth is middle-aged and wracked with guilt over killing a fellow queen, to significant events in the past - but reflects her mindset from the point at which she's telling the story well, I think. The large time period being covered in a relatively short book means that there is depth and insight when significant events are retold, but other aspects can feel like they were covered in only a cursory fashion. The good thing about this is that it's inspired me to read more. I think it'll be great as a historical resource for young people to be introduced to this era.

Despite Elizabeth not always being a likeable character, she makes for an engaging narrator. She's nuanced: I love her aggressive independence, but not her narcissism. As I mentioned, it's told from the perspective of an ageing Elizabeth, and recounts her reign which began when she was twenty-five - so though the preceding novel, Just a Girl, is a YA title, I'm not sure the same can be said of Just a Queen. It's historical fiction that's accessible to young readers, but not exactly YA. It's a very interesting, thoughtful exploration of what it is to be a powerful woman in a sexist society. I would love to read Mary Stuart's version of events, as written by Jane Caro.

(Though I love the cover, the girl pictured seems a little too glam and blonde to be Elizabeth I, going by her Wikipedia page. And her depiction on Horrible Histories, obviously.)

Just a Queen on the publisher's website

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49. FLAVIA!!! and Giveaway deadline







Tomorrow is the last day for the Fog Diver giveaway.  Comment here or on the original post and your name goes in the Oracular Yogurt Cup from which a winner will emerge.   It's a fun Sci-Fi novel for middle grades with a steampunk edge.  I will announce the winner here by noon Eastern time tomorrow and it's up to you to email me at bookkm@gmail.com with your snail mail address.

And what have I been doing this past week?  Visiting with relatives and reading the latest adventures of pre-teen sleuth and chemist, Flavia De Luce.  When last seen, Flavia found out that she was to be sent off to boarding school in Toronto, CA of all places - far, far from the field of the ancestral De Luce home in merry old England.  Since then, she has starred in a short story - The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse - in which Flavia is called to the local boarding school to figure out what happened to the teacher found dead in a dorm bathtub and plated with copper.  

After that, she is banished to Toronto.  The very first night there, she is assaulted by a classmate and a dessicated corpse rolls out of the dorm room chimney. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is Flavia's most recent foray into detection.  Far from home, dealing with unfamiliar routines and unwritten rules, given contradictory directions at every turn, it is no wonder that Flavia is often close to tears.  WHAT!!!!???  Not redoubtable Flavia De Luce!  Scourge of older sisters!  Dissembler extraordinaire!  Yes, Flavia ends up sobbing in this novel and, personally, I would have been wailing before the 3rd page, if I was she.  (If there are tears can hormones be far behind?  Perish the thought!)


Luckily, for readers everywhere, I am NOT Flavia.  Flavia fans may have trouble following this book because no one is entirely trustworthy at Buncombe Academy - especially the staff.  There is a lot of cloak and dagger-y spyish stuff.  Flavia gets a little bit closer to what her mother might have been involved in before her disappearance and death.  Don't expect anything but hints and rumors though. 

The mystery at Buncombe involves disappearing students, suspicious Board members, a chemistry teacher suspected of murdering her husband - with poison to Flavia's delight.  That Academy is a hot mess, all the way around. 

The ending made me happy and that is all I will say here. 

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50. My Sister Sif by Ruth Parks

Fourteen-year-old Erika and her older sister Sif are desperately homesick and want to flee their life in the city. Their island home, Rongo, and their family are calling them. 

Arriving on Rongo, a green dot in the Pacific, they find the locals frightened by the changes to their world, and cracks forming in their once-perfect home. Even in this paradise, Erika and her family feel the threat of the encroaching world. And it isn't only Erika's home that needs her attention. Henry Jacka, a young American shell-collector, catches Sif 's eye and uncovers a long-guarded family secret. Only the determined Erika can prevent him from revealing it. 


Ruth Park's prophetic tale, My Sister Sif, is a distinctive, much-loved classic by one of Australia's most highly acclaimed authors. It will appeal to a whole new generation of young Australian readers.


My Sister Sif
is a beautiful, fable-like speculative story - a small, lovely novel that mixes fantasy into reality so well it feels like it really could have happened. 
I'm not going to give away what those fantasy aspects are, in case you decide to read it - I think it's nice to be surprised. I came to it not knowing very much about the story itself, and I was very quickly swept up in it. The magical aspects of the story are perfectly ordinary to the characters, making the story feel very much of our world.

I always love stories about the bonds between sisters.* Sif is my favourite - she's shy and a dreamer. Erika is more practical, and despite being the younger sister she feels she must look after Sif. Erika is so sure that she knows best she can be obnoxious, but she's ultimately an endearing character, despite her mistakes (she is fourteen, after all). Her relationship with Pig is adorable. Their island home of Rongo is well-drawn and realistic,** and I think the young narrator and the magical, childlike freedom of the story will appeal to younger readers (I would've loved this even more if I'd read it when I was ten or twelve), while the thoughtfulness and relevance of the issues raised in the story will interest adult readers of YA, too. It's easy to read and authentic and just the sort of book you want to hug.***

The issues raised in the novel are even more important now than when it was first published, but the story has a real timeless quality. There are parts of My Sister Sif which remind me that it was originally published in the 1980s, aspects of the story that speak of a different generation (things I can imagine in my parents' childhoods which don't exist in mine): Erika having a secret hideout that no grown-ups know about, the girls being able to just roam about and leave Australia on their own, Erika seeing adults as this entirely separate species who just don't understand kids. It adds to the charm. Despite the environmental protection message and fantastical creatures, the central themes of My Sister Sif are the same as a lot of YA: characters trying to become independent, relate to their family, figure out who they are and where they belong. It's a gorgeous little book.

My Sister Sif on the publisher's website

*I am the eldest of two! Sisters are the best! I really liked Frozen, like a lot, mainly because sisterly love saves the day.

**When I'm reading, I tend to fill in the detail places described with places from my own memory. I've been to Vanuatu a couple of times, and once swam in a very lovely lagoon on the island of Efate, so I kept imagining that. I don't think Rongo is a real place, but it'd be nice to visit if it were.

***You hug books you really love, right? Or is that just me?

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