Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Fuse#8 Production

GIANT DANCE PARTY by Betsy Bird with illustrations by Brandon Dorman. Greenwillow, 2013.

Betsy Bird is probably better known for her blogs and writings about books. But here is her debut picture book: Giant Dance Party. Lexy decides to quit dance even though she loves it and is quite good at dancing, too. Lexy's trouble comes when she steps onto the stage for a program and freezes (like an ice pop). Instead, she will offer lessons to others. That way she can stay connected to dance without the terrible stage fright business or so she thinks. A group of giants (big, blue, fuzzy giants who want to learn how to dance) might just change her mind.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tea Rex

TEA REX by Molly Idle. Viking, 2013.

Manners are so important. Cordelia decides to host a tea party for Mr. Rex (as in T-rex), and wants everything to be just so. The text decrees the proper manners for an event such as this (greet your guest at the door, give him a confortable seat) while the illustrations demonstrate just how difficult it is sometimes to be the perfect host or hostess. Warm gentle humor pervades the story with endpapers that include a formal invitation and a formal thank you note as well. Dee-lightful!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Beholding Bee

BEHOLDING BEE by Kimberly Newton Fusco. Knopf, 2013 (Listening Library audiobook)

Bee always takes care to cover her "diamond," the birthmark on her cheek that causes folks to stop and stare and make rude comments. This is not easy when she has to work at the hot dog stand of a traveling carnival. Her guardian, Pauline, does what she can to protect Bee. But, one day, Bee and Pauline are separated. Bee is left to deal with Ellis, the cruel owner of the carnival. Before long, Bee is heading out, running away accompanied only by a dog and a tiny pig. Somehow, Bee manages to find her way to a house, a place where she is welcomed by two elderly women, women no one else seems able to see. This coming of age story, set during WW II, is about acceptance, about love, and about family.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Foiled Again!

CURSES, FOILED AGAIN! by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mike Cavallaro. First Second, 2013.

Aliera is back and still fighting trolls in this sequel to FOILED, picking up where the first book left off (though it is possible to read the sequel as a stand alone). Aliera is accompanied by Avery, her sidekick who happens to be--a troll himself and now bound in service to her. They must find and defeat the Dark Lord in order to not only survive the Underworld, but to rescue Aliera's cousin Caroline. Yolen's heroine is, no surprise to those who know her work, spirited and sardonic and sarcastic in turns. Mood and tone are conveyed effortlessly through the color palette of Cavallaro.

Friday, April 26, 2013


FERAL NIGHTS by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Candlewick Press, 2013.

Fans of the TANTALIZE books (TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, DIABOLICAL) will appreciate this book which picks up the stories of some of the minor characters from those books. Told from alternating perspectives, Yoshi, Aimee, and Clyde continue to investigate the murders that haunted Sanguini's a restaurant for predator and prey in Austin. Fast paced, filled with adventure, and satisfying in the backstories of the sidekicks, Feral Nights will be wildly popular with fans of the quartet of Tantalize books. It will also lead new fans to the four books.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Usual Suspects

WHO DONE IT? INVESTIGATION OF MURDER MOST FOUL. Edited by Jon Scieszka. Soho Teen, 2013

Eighty, yes 80, of some of the top names in children's and YA literature offer their alibis for "Who done it?" Who killed the Honorable (maybe not so honorable or beloved, come to think of it), Herman Q. Mildew. As it turns out, the suspect pool is Olympic size. Authors and illustrators offer alibis for where they were at the time of the dastardly crime. Where was Libba Bray? Would David Levithan's alibi stand up under close scrutiny? How about Lemony Snicket? John Green? Rebecca Stead? And doesn't Maureen Johnson look suspicious? This book would be ideal for reading aloud a bit at a time over weeks (nay, months). I have already marked my favorite responses. Invite readers to do the same.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

At the center

THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING by Linda Urban. Harcourt, 2013.

From the opening paragraph to the final pages of the last, Linda Urban charms readers with a trio of characters: Ruby, her best friend, Lucy, and her maybe new friend Nero. At the center of the story of the doughnut, the reason that the town of Bunning even exists. When Ruby's grandmother Gigi dies, Ruby regrets that she failed to listen to her grandmother one last time. Maybe what she was saying was so important, maybe it was something Ruby needs to know. And so there is a special wish, a speech at the annual parade, and some research into physics that need to be conducted. Maybe it is possible to make sense of Gigi's last words after all.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Trevor Project

TREVOR by James Lecesne. Seven Stories Press, 2012.

This novella is based on the play and movie THE TREVOR PROJECT developed by Lecesne. Trevor is a teen struggling against the perceptions of others. His parents seem to have become inured against his sometimes dramatic faking of his death. His friends split into two camps. One camp tells him not to be so "gay," while another group urge him to come out and admit his homosexuality. School is torture after his best friend Pinky no longer wants to have anything to do with Trevor. Now someone has etched the word "faggot" into his locker. This brief glimpse into the heart and mind of Trevor offers no easy answers. Instead, it demonstrates the concerns, hopes, and thoughts of one young man facing the prejudices of others. An appendix lists resources for LGBTQ teens.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The return of Moose

AL CAPONE DOES MY HOMEWORK by Gennifer Choldenko. August, 2013.

Moose and his mates are back in another adventure mystery set on Alcatraz in the 1930s, the days of Al Capone’s imprisonment there. When Moose’s dad is promoted, there are hard feelings among both the guards and the inmates. So, when the family’s apartment catches fire, Moose is certain it is the fault of someone upset with the promotion. Unfortunately, there are other residents of the Alcatraz employee housing that believe the fire is the fault of Moose’s sister, Natalie, a young woman who today would be diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, but then was just seen as someone dangerous. In order to clear his sister’s name, Moose must enlist the help of the other kids who live on Alcatraz. And a cryptic note, ostensibly from Al himself, might just be the pivotal clue in this mystery. Though the book is third in the series, it will stand alone. However, the reading is so much richer if you have read the other two titles. Choldenko combines mystery with a good helping of humor.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tragic life

THE TRAGEDY PAPER by Elizabeth Laban.

Duncan is a senior. That means he, along with his classmates, have some perks: they are each given a room in the senior wing. The previous occupant leaves behind something for the new occupant. Sometimes it is liquor, sometimes tickets to a concert. Duncan’s room belonged to Tim MacBeth (yes, he has heard all the jokes already, thank you), an albino teen whose first and only year at the boarding school ended in tragedy. Tim has left Duncan a series of CDs on which he has recorded the events that led to the tragedy. Of course Duncan in immediately drawn into the story that tracks back and forth in time from Tim’s senior year to Duncan’s.

As students enter into the Irving School, they walk under the school’s motto: “Enter here to be and find a friend.” For Tim, the first friend was actually made before his arrival at the school when he and the incredibly beautiful and self assured Vanessa are stuck in an airport with now cancellations. Tim ends up inviting Vanessa (or did she invite herself?) to stay with him in the hotel room he manages to get once their flights are cancelled. When he finds out she, too, is headed to the Irving School where he boyfriend is also a BMOC, Tim knows that his immediate attraction to her will be one way. However, Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Damocles Sword called The Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher. This same sword now hangs over Duncan who, as he listens to Tim’s story, knows quite a bit about tragedy.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Rapunzel by any other name

TOWERING by Alex Flinn. HarperCollins, 2013.

Flinn offers another take on traditional stories in this version of Rapunzel. Alternating narrators, Rachel and Wyatt, are two teens, one whose guardian has locked her away in a tower to protect her from men who would want to see her dead. Wyatt comes to stay with a woman whose daughter was his mother’s high school friend. Wyatt is running from a traumatic event in his own life. He feels that perhaps he can begin to deal with his tragic loss if he simply escapes from his usual haunts. Wyatt soon discovers a secret that leads him ultimately to the imprisoned Rachel. While TOWERING is set in a very real world, there are many elements of the fairy world that heighten the suspense and take the story on lots of twists and turns. Romance, ghosts, and of course, the hair. Teens will welcome this reconsideration of Rapunzel.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homework Help

AL CAPONE DOES MY HOMEWORK: A TALE FROM ALCATRAZ by Gennifer Choldenko. Dial, August 2013.

Moose is back. No, not back on Alcatraz. He never left there. But back in another mystery set on Alcatraz in the 1930s during the reign of Al Capone in the prison. Now that his father has been promoted to Associate Warden, there are many on the island who are not happy, prisoners and other workers included. When the family's apartment catches fire, Moose believes it might have been set by someone with an ax to grind. But there are others who think Moose's sister, Natalie, is to blame. Moose must clear his sister's name. Can he get some help from Mr. Capone? While this third installment of the Al Capone stories stands on its own, readers will enjoy reading the other two: AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES and AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

White Fur Flying

WHITE FUR FLYING by Patricia MacLachlan. McElderry Books, 2013.

Zoe and her family rescue dogs, mostly big dogs, especially Great Pyrenees. That means that a trip into the house means visitors will encounter lots of fur and mountainous mounds of dogs. Zoe loves the dogs and her family. When a family moves into the empty house next door, the dogs are among the first to greet the silent young boy who moves in with them. Phillip seems to connect immediately to dogs, but is still quiet among the humans in his life. Can a dog change Phillip's life? This slender chapter book contains warm humor, caring families, and a heaping helping of canine capers. too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Head to toes

I LOVE YOU, NOSE! I LOVE YOU, TOES! by Linda Davick. Beach Lane, 2013.

From the top of the head to the tips of the toe, this book features children who love their bodies. Different hair, skin, sizes, shapes: all are happy for all their body parts. Gently rhyming text conveys an important message about self acceptance without being didactic in the least.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Count on it!

CHICKA CHICKA 1-2-3 by Bill Martin Jr, Michael Sampson with illustrations by Lois Ehlert. Little Simon, 2013.

This new book is a board book version of an older title. Count to 20 and then by tens to 100 and then back down again with a special surprise to the long-suffering zero.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Clip, Clop!

THE THREE TRICERATOPS TUFF by Stephen Shaskan. Beach Lane, 2013.

This parody of The Three Billy Goats Gruff should appeal to all those dinosaur lovers in your class. They clip clop down into a valley where they encounter a T-rex. How the three triceratops get the better of the T-rex is perfect. This might become a mentor text for older readers and also an introduction to the traditional tale for those who have not yet encountered it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Pet Project

THE PET PROJECT: CUTE AND CUDDLY VICIOUS VERSES by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Zachariah Ohora. Atheneum, 2013.

A young girl wants a pet. Her parents advise her to look at his scientifically, to observe, record, and then make a request based on what she has learned. In a series of humorous poems, the young girl observes and rejects all manner of pets including: cows, skunks, monkeys, mice, and a host of others. Pair with "Mother Doesn't Want a Dog" by Judith Viorst. And don't forget to point out the end papers and the reader warning as well.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pictures telling stories

THE BOY AND THE AIRPLANE by Mark Pett. Simon and Schuster, 2013.

Without words, Pett tells the story of a young boy and his toy airplane. Playing with the plane is a source of great pleasure until the plane becomes lodged on a rooftop. It is too high for a ladder to reach, a lasso does not work either. The solution will surprise readers of all ages. The old time quality of the illustrations emphasizes the timeless nature of this story about determination and patience.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Knotty but nice, really nice

A TANGLE OF KNOTS by Lisa Graff. Philomel, 2013.

It is a world where people have TALENTS. Some might have a talent for baking, some for knitting, some for writing. But when you are still searching for your own talent, life can be tough. The story is revealed in a series of episodes that introduce the seemingly random group of characters, but while their relationships might seem tangled at first, there are ties that bind them all together, knots that will keep them together despite efforts to tear them apart. Graff has constructed a wonderful puzzle of a novel that will keep readers turning page after page to discover the next twist of the tale. Humor, magic, and wonderful recipes await between the covers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Catching Up and Falling Behind

LAIKA ASTRONAUT DOG by Owen Davey. Templar, 2013.

Join abandoned Laika as she is adopted, trained, and launched into space. Based on the story of the first dog in space, this story ends much more happily for Laika.

MITCHELL GOES BOWLING by Hallie Durand with illustrations by Tony Fucile.

Mitchell loves to knock things (and people) over. How can his parents channel all that energy? BOWLING! Before long, Mitchell is heaving his ball down the alley. But why don't the pins fall like they do when Dad bowls? Mitchell is frustrated until Dad comes up with a solution.

CAPTAIN CAT by Inga Moore. Candlewick Press, 2013.

When a ship full of cats reaches an island full of mice, it seems a match made in Heaven. Captain Cat reluctantly leaves his friends the cats behind but returns to his home much richer. Still, jewels cannot compete with his furry friends. Captain Cat must return.

MAPS by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski. BIG Picture Press, 2013.

Fifty-two maps contain tons of information about the countries, information beyond the usual to the quite unusual.

PECK PECK PECK by Lucy Cousins.

A father woodpecker instructs his son on the family business. Before long, holes are being bored everywhere. Die cuts lead from one page to the next and the next.

WHIZZ! POP! GRANNY, STOP by Tracey Corderoy with illustrations by Joe Berger. Nosy Crow, 2013.

Granny has some unusual, er, talents. But more often than not, her magical goes awry. So, her granddaughter begs for just one day without spells and wands, an ordinary birthday.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bad boy, good boy

BAD BOY, GOOD BIY by Kay Chorao. Abrams, 2013.

Sam tiers hard to be a good boy, but sometimes it just does not work out that way. In four short stories, this picture book shows the heart (a good one) of Sam and how it triumphs.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Got to have Hope

HOPE'S GIFT by Kelly Starling Lyons with illustrations by Don Tate. Putnam, 2013.

Hope's father steals away one night to join in the war. He hands Hope a conch shell, has her listen, tells her that this is the sound of hope. She must hold on to the hope that her father will return once the war is over, that the family will be reunited. New of the Emancipation reaches Hope and her family, but still her father has not returned. It is harder and harder to hold onto that elusive hope.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Welcome, Mrs. Jollybones!

IT'S MONDAY, MRS. JOLLYBONES! by Warren Hanson with illustrations by Tricia Tusa. Beach Lane, 2013.

Mrs. Jollybones has a tight schedule when it comes to her chores. Mondays are for laundry. Weeding is reserved for Tuesdays and Wednesday means cleaning the house. Of course, she does have her own peculiar way of accomplishing each task (see DPS below). Lots of good fun and perhaps a nice pairing with Amelia Bedelia?

Saturday, April 6, 2013


CLAUDE IN THE CITY by Alex T. Smith. Peachtree, 2013.

Meet Claude, the bon vivant dog about town. His best friend is Sir Bobbysock. One day, Claude and Sir Bobbysock decide to head into the city for the day. There is shopping for berets and a trip to the Art Museum among other adventures before the pair head back home. I adore Claude and love that there is much humor in the illustrations as well as the text. Join Claude on some of his other adventures as well in this series.

Friday, April 5, 2013

chapter books and more

CAPTAIN AWESOME AND THE ULTIMATE SPELLING BEE by Stan Kirby with illustrations by George O'Connor. Little Simon, 2013.

Captain Awesome, aka Eugene is back in another story where his alter ego, Captain Awesome, just might have to come to the rescue. Faithful sidekick, Nacho Cheese Man aka Charlie, is on hand to provide help as Eugene prepares for the spelling bee.

PAULA DANZIGER'S AMBER BROWN IS TICKLED PINK by Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy with illustrations by Tony Ross. Putnam, 2013.

Two of Paula Danziger's friends have teamed up to bring back one of Paula's favorite characters, the indomitable Amber Brown. Amber's mom is getting married, and Amber is worried about all of the fussing and disagreement going on about the ceremony and reception. Coville and Levy have remained totally faithful to Danziger's creation, to her humor, and to her understanding about how the minds of kids work.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blurring Lines

AFRICA IS MY HOME: A CHILD OF THE AMISTAD by Monica Edinger with illustrations by Robert Byrd. Candlewick, 2013.

Here is a book, based squarely on much detail and research and fact, that takes readers into a story of one of the children transported aboard the Amistad. Part history, part nonfiction part story, readers will meet Margru, a young girl who is transported to America as a slave and who manages to return to Africa eventually as a teacher. Edinger has fashioned a story that reminds us all of the squallid conditions and harsh treatment of those captured and held as slaves. The lines between genres and forms and formats are creating wonderfully new books for readers of all ages; this is certainly one to share aloud with students. Robert Byrd's illustrations, soft and pastel, reveal yet another story underneath the traditional narrative, too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

plethora of picture books

PLEASE, PAPA by Kate Banks with illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. FSG, 2013.

Alice is making a farm in her room. When she asks politely, she is given some animals for her farm. But no one seems able to give her the horse she desires. Maybe Papa could stand in?

PATCH by David Slonim. Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

A boy and his dog enjoy each other in this book containing several short chapters/stories. Patch is willing to do almost anything for his owner.

A member of the folk band, the Roches talks about what it takes to become part of a band.

There are all kinds of things even a young boy can do if he is determined to do so. He can dress himself, pour himself a drink, and tell a story for starters.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

quick takes

BEN RIDES ON by Matt Davies. Roaring Brook Press, 20113.

When Ben's new bike is taken away by a bully, all Ben can think of is revenge. But Ben must make a difficult decision when the bully gets into danger.

GIDDY-UP, DADDY! by Troy Cummongs. RANDOM HOUSE, 2013.

Dad is so good at giving horse back rides that he and the kids are suddenly transported to all manner of adventures including the Wild West and a circus. Giddy Up!

I HAIKU YOU by Betsy Snyder. Random House, 2013.

Simple haikus show the different ways we show one another our love. Whether it is friend to friend or owner to dog ot some other combination, the haiku can express our feelings.

WHO NEEDS LOVE? by Elise Primavera with illustrations by Laura Park. Robin Corey Books, 2013.

When a tree loses his magic coin, he offers the finder something that lasts forever. No one can think of the value of giving the coin back to the tree. Two alligators find, however, that something like love that lasts is more precious than any money.

Pretty Penny, she the guru of spending money wisely, comes to the aid of Bunny when a burst pipe means they might not have enough money to make ends meet.

THIS IS OUR HOUSE by Hyweon Yum. FSG, 2013.

All the memories of a house are presented in simple text. From stoops to stairs to windows and doors, there is much to be cherished in this place the family calls HOME.

IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Erin Stead. Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

A boy and is dog dream of one day seeing a whale. How might they accomplish this rather fantastic feat?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Move over, Lunch Lady

PLATYPUS POLICS SQAUD: THE FROG WHO CROAKED by Jarrett Krosoczka. Walden Pond Press, May 2013.

The creator of the LUNCH LADY series of graphic novels now gives readers a new treat: a mystery set in Kalamazoo City featuring the Platypus Police Squad. Meet Rick Zengo, the rookie, and his partner, the veteran office Corey O'Malley. There is a mystery to be solved, of course, this one centering around illegal fish. Zengo and O'Malley follow leads. Most of them end up with the two platypus cops up to their bills in hot water. However, they are determined to bring the culprit to justice. Humor, adventure, and a few red herrings (pun intended) add up to a book that kids who grew up reading LUNCH LADY will welcome as the next step in their reading. New fans are sure to find this book just as fun to read.