Friday, May 31, 2013

A Rump Romp

RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPLESTILTSKIN by Liesl Shurtliff. Knopf, 2013.

Ever wonder about the story behind Rumplestiltskin? Why did the miller offer his daughter as one able to spin straw into gold? Why did Rumplestiltskin come to her rescue? Shurtliff provides a complicated back story that just might change readers' minds about the events of the fairy tale they think they know well. Meet Rump. His mother never had the chance to speak his full name when he was born. So, Rump he was and has been. The incomplete name basically makes him an incomplete person, too. And so Rump is always searching for his true name. In the meantime, Rump discovers that he has the ability to spin straw into gold. This is NOT a blessing, but a curse. He is beset upon my pixies who show up whenever there is gold nearby. And then there are those greedy individuals who would steal gold from him, too. Enter Red who is there to help him with a visit to her grandmother through the woods. Alert readers will see the roots of Rumplestiltskin as well as nods to other tales as Rump finds his identity and rescues a princess along the way.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Truth or Death?

THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu. Walden Pond Press, October 2013.

Order this one now, folks. Anne Ursu, who gave us BREADCRUMBS, now tackles Pinocchio on her splendid reimagining of the story. Throw away all your preconceptions, especially those that center on Jiminy Cricket and good old Walt Disney's adaptation. Suspend your disbelief, and enter the world of Oscar, a young boy in the employ of the local magician in the Barrows. Oscar is kept in the cellar. His task is to gather herbs and prepare them for various concoctions. The magician has an assistant who works in the shop. Well, until one day when the assistant and his tryst are found dead out in the woods that surround (and protect) the Barrows. Now Oscar must be upstairs, must deal with customers from the Barrows and from the shiny city. As Oscar interacts ore with other people, he begins to suspect all is not well in his world, and it all has to do with magic. Motifs, archetypes, magic, and more meet in this remarkable novel.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF MIDDLE SCHOOL: A NOVEL IN DOODLES by Karen Romano Young. Feiwel and Friends, 2013.

Doodlebug is back in a sequel to DOODLEBUG. The novel, told in narrative with large portions of text in doodles, drawings, rebuses, etc. follows Doodlebug into her second year in a new school. As this story opens, Doodlebug's mother has found success in advertising (tidy whiteys) but her father seems stymied by a lack of progress. Things are tense, and getting tenser as the family has to move from the apartment they have sub-let for a year. New home, new problems. Can Doodlebug manage to create some peace at home and convince her nemesis teacher at school that having karaoke at the school dance is a good idea? There are many complications as Doodlebug continues to navigate the halls of middle school and find a way to be a success.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In an electoral mood?

VOTE by Gary Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books, 2013.

Here is another chapter in the ongoing tale of Kevin from LIAR LIAR, FLAT BROKE, and CRUSH. Kevin has decided to run for Student Council President. His inspiration is not necessarily valiant. For one, he hopes to defeat the other candidate, Cash, who seems to have a rather swoony effect on the girls at Kevin's school. For another, perhaps demonstrating his leadership abilities might draw the perfect Tina Zabinski even closer (maybe even a second date?). Things get interesting as Kevin attempts to do all the things a good candidate should do including making alliances, knowing his electorate, and conducting an honest campaign. Will Kevin's past saddle him? Or can he convince everyone of his good intentions?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Anger Mismanagement

PIECES by Chris Lynch. Simon & Schuster, 2013.

This companion to ICEMAN will draw readers into the continuing story of Eric (though note that this book stands on its own. One does not have to have read ICEMAN first. I do think the reading would be enhanced, though, if one had read ICEMAN). As the novel opens, Eric's family has made the decision to turn off life support machines keeping Duane, Eric's older brother alive after Duane broke his neck. Eric is not at all at peace with this idea nor with the idea of his brother's organs being harvested. However, he is having to deal with the fact that he has no power in this situation. Eric decides to meet some of the recipients of his brother's organs. This meeting, which is not all sweetness and light, does lead, though, to some rather profound changes in Eric's life, a life he feels is in pieces. Lynch explores the inner turmoil of the adolescent male, one with huge anger issues, thoroughly. Eric is not evil nor is he a saint; there is no magical transformation. Instead, there is a growing awareness of others, perhaps the best lesson of all to be learned.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


FROGGED by Vivian Vande Velde. Harcourt, 2013.

Princess Imogene is approaching her thirteenth birthday. Her other has given her a book about how to be a good princess. Imogene must read it before her birthday, and finds it insufferable. However, when Imogene learns the plight of the frog before her, she knows it is her duty to kiss him and return him to his original human form. Problem is, the frog lied to her. He is not a prince. Worse, she is now a frog and will remain so until she convinces someone to kiss her and then take her place as a frog. How could she do that to another? And so Imogene is off on a journey, trying to figure out what she must do to return to her princess form. The journey will include a stint as a member of a travelling drama group where Imogene will learn some important lessons--better than the ones in her stuffy old book to be sure.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blood and Belly Laughs

THE VANISHING VAMPIRE by David Lubar. Starscape, 2013.

Sebastian is walking home from the movies when suddenly he feels a sharp pain and everything goes dark. Bit by bit, he begins to put the pieces together to discover he has been bitten by a vampire. While he is not fully vampiric, the "symptoms" are all there: desire for blood, burning in direct sunlight. Has he no hope of going back to his own boyhood? Will be become one of the undead? Lubar takes readers into the mind of a vampire, or at least a partial vampire. Mystery and humor make a powerful combination in this chapter book set at Washington Irving School.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Riff-ing about life between cultures

OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES edited by Mitali Perkins. Candlewick Press, September, 2013.

Humor can be such an effective tool for tackling tough issues. Growing up between cultures is the focus of this collection edited by Mitali Perkins. It features poems, stories, and cartoons from luminaries such as Gene Yang, Naomi Shihab Nye, G. Neri, and Varian Johnson as well as Mitali Perkins. Why humor? Perkins' introduction to this strong collection details how and why humor can be the perfect tool. Stereotypes, prejudices, family tension and more find their way into these stories from some of YA's pre-eminent authors.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lunch Lady returns

LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN by Jarrett Krosoczka. Knopf, 2013.

It seems as though things are normal at school for a change. it is time for Student Council elections. Hector is running. Campaign planning has begun. But, of course, things never stay normal for long. Suddenly, all the tech gadgets in the scool begin to disappear. Will Lunch Lady and Betty and the Breakfast Bunch be able to solve this one?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Splendid Splendors

SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS by Laura Amy Schlitz. Candlewick Press, 2012.

Gaspare Grisini and his two assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are called to the home of Clara Wintermute to perform a puppet show for her birthday. Lizzie Beth and Parsefall are about the same age as Clara, and the three spend some time together before the show begins. It is Gaspare who returns after the show, ostensibly for a watch he left behind. Then, Clara goes missing, perhaps kidnapped. Scholitz ha fashioned a gothic mystery with elements of dark magic certain to compel the turning of page after page.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


THE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER by Dan Krall. Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Once upon a time, there was a bitter and acidic caper who hated Lollipop. All the kids loved Lollipop, but not poor little Caper. So, one day Caper steals into the candy factory and adds caper flavoring to all the lollipops with expected results. Will this story end happily? Can sweet Lollipop and bitter Caper become friends?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Go, Speed Racer!

SPEED by Nathan Clement. Boyds Mills Press.

Simple text and bold illustrations put readers right there at the race track from the green flag to the checkered one. End papers (checkered) pull readers into the world of racing from the outset. Movement is certainly strongly suggested in a great read aloud that will have kids making their own racing engine noises in no time.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doggone it!

DOGGONE FEET by Leslie Helakoski. Boyds Mills Press, 2013.

Rollicking text with incredible rhyming patterns (end rhyme and internal rhyme) tell the story of a dog who loves the two feet he sees under the table. But 2 becomes 4 and then 4 becomes 6 and 6 becomes 8, etc. As each new member of the family comes into the world of our narrator, he talks about the from his unique vantage point. Perfect for reading aloud!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Animal Fare

UH-OH, DODO! by Jennifer Sattler. Boyds Mills Press, 2013.

Poor, Dodo is having a tough day. He keeps getting sidetracked and distracted by the things going on in the world around him. A run-in with a skunk is the last straw! Minimal text but plenty to read in the expressions of the baby Dodo, this is one young kids will appreciate as things go wrong in their world, too.

HOW MUCH DOES THE GRAY IN AN ELEPHANT WEIGHT? by Elle Van Lieshout and Erik Van Os with illustrations by Alice Hoogstad. Lemniscaat, 2013.

On a visit to a zoo, Grandpa and child wonder about the different animals. Do polar bears seek out frosty treat3es when the temps climb? How does someone tame a lion's mane? Lots of wondering questions will delight readers.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Eek! Bugs!

PRINCESS BUGS by David A. Carter. Little Simon, 2013.

A touch and feel book, young readers will love interacting with this news story about all manner of glittery and soft and sparkly bugs. Be sure to search for other books by this interactive picture book author.

YOO-HOO, LADYBUG! by Mem Fox with illustrations by Laura Ljungkvist. Beach Lane, 2013.

Can you spot the ladybug hiding in all of the illustrations? Simple rhyming text and bright illustrations make this a "where's Waldo?" for the younger crowd.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


How to do justice to this book? Very seldom do words fail me. Thankfully, they do not fail DiCamillo who gives readers an incredible story of Flora and the squirrel she rescues from a wayward vacuum cleaner, Ulysses. Who knows whether it was the ride into the vacuum cleaner or not, but Ulysses seems to understand everything going on around him, especially as it relates to Flora. Flora also feels the special new connection, and so Ulysses becomes a part of her life. It is not a simple transaction, this, because Flora's mother, a preoccupied writer, does not want a squirrel in her home. After all, they carry diseases, right? And then there is the matter of the neighbor and her great-nephew, William, who insists he is temporarily blind. from giant donuts (with sprinkles) to kind retired doctors, and an attack cat, DiCamillo has created a wonderful story about friendship, about finding one's way, and about poetry. MUST READ.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mine All Mine

THAT'S MINE! by Michel Van Zeveren. Gecko Press, 2013.

A frog finds an egg and announces, "That's mine!" Other, larger animals take issue with his statement and soon a brawl has broken out as each animal tries to claim ownership. A clever and unexpected ending will have kids laughing. Pair with THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK.

Monday, May 13, 2013



Wonderfully zany scenes with animals demonstrate the concept of opposites: hot and cold, naughty and nice, asleep and awake are just a handful of the opposites highlighted in the double page spread illustrations.

Anything you can do, I can do better

ANTON AND THE BATTLE by Ole Konnecke. Gecko Press, 2013.

Anton is fearless. Luke, even more so. The two begin to compete to see who is the bravest, the strongest, the most powerful until along comes something that makes them BOTH heads for the safety of a tree limb.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let's make some noise!

THE NOISY BOOK by Soledad Bravi. Gecko Press, 2013.

Sounds galore fill this board book which kids will love to have read to them and then read along with Mom and Dad. From animal noises, to the noises of animals and instruments, there is plenty of noise to be made here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Counting on it

1 2 3 LITTLE DONKEY by Rindert Kromhout and Annemarie van Haeringen. Gecko Press, 2013.

Count along with the donkey family as Mom brings home 1 bag from the store. Her two little donkeys begin to explore the loot. Along the way, of course, there will be 3, 4, 5, etc. Until we reach 10 soft kisses. Great bedtime or storytime books for the young.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Monstrous Love

FRIENDS by Mies van Hout. Lemniscaat, 2013. Two friends who are quite different (starting with size) do what all friends do: fight, play, laugh, and CUDDLE. The illustrations, done on a black background, are eye-catching to say the least.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Concept Book

WHO HAS THE BIGGEST BOTTOM? by Marijke ten Cate. Lemniscaat, 2013.

This clever concept book asks readers to locate the pointiest nose, skinniest legs, biggest bottom, etc. A backyard circus is the setting for this concept book that will provide kids plenty of fun time browsing all of the double page spread illustrations.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tender, True, Touching

LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN by Jo Knowles. Candlewick Press, September 2013.

The waiting list for my copy of the ARC is growing by the minute. Here is a companion book to JUMPING OFF SWINGS, but it is a book that will stand on its own two feet very well. This is the story of Josh who leaves his old school before senior year to go live with his Uncle Larry (may we all be fortunate to have an Uncle Larry in our lives). Josh needs a break from his family and friends and from the haunting memory at the hospital. Maybe time and distance will help him recover some sort of balance. Larry insists Josh join him in the evening karate class. There Josh gets to know his neighbor and fellow senior, Stella. But things are tense between them from time to time due to the secrets both of them are hiding. Knowles manages to let readers see the edges of the secrets, enough that they (if they are anything like me) will fret over the future of these two teens and the other folks involved in their lives. The book examines issues with care (tender) but honesty (true) and at an emotional depth (touching) that will keep readers turning the pages to see if all will be well.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sea this book!

POSEIDON:EARTH SHAKER by George O'Connor. First Second,2013.

O'Connor's Olympians series of GNs about the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus moves on to the god of the sea, Poseidon. Odysseus, the Minotaur, Theseus: the actions of an angry Poseidon are beautifully rendered in shades of green and blue with wild strokes of black. Poseidon himself is the narrator, giving readers deeper insights into the tormented mind of a brother jealous of what he thinks is the short straw in terms of kingdoms.

Monday, May 6, 2013

eating it all up

RELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN by Rita Knisley. First Second, 2013.

This nonfiction GN will make your mouth water with its praise of food and cooking not to mention all the recipes. Graphic novelist and food lover combine in this autobiography combined with commentary. This is s celebration of food, family, and much, much more. Pair with A TANGLE OF KNOTS, HOPE WAS HERE, PEELED, and other YA that celebrates the community created by a good meal and a good story.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Digital footprints

WHO IS AC? by Hope Larson with illustrations by Tintin Pantoja. Atheneum, 2013.

Lin is lonely after moving to a new town. She turns to her one comfort: writing. She creates her own books to sell at the bookstore. When she witnesses a robbery at the copy center, she somehow returns a call she had missed some time ago, a call from someone she does not know. She is suddenly transformed into a superhero and is able to stop the crime. But what exactly has happened? And why? Can she help a girl possessed by an evil troll? Larson once again explores familiar topics with a fresh approach. Illustrations in black and white with a few splashes if color are perfect.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


AGAIN! by Emily Gravett. Simon and Schuster, 2013.

It is bedtime for Cedric the Dragon. That means it is time for a story. But once Mother Dragon has finished a story, Cedric demands she read the book AGAIN! The story changes with each reading. Will Cedric ever get to bed? The double page spreads alternate between the book being read to Cedric and spreads simply featuring our young dragon demanding an encore until the very end. Kids will love the surprise in store. Team with MORE! MORE! MORE! SAID THE BABY for an interesting text set.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yes, Let's...

YES, LET'S by Galen Goodwin Longstreth and Maris Wicks. Tanglewood Press, 2013.

In a series of sentences beginning with "Yes, let's'" a family prepares for a day outdoors. Hiking, swimming, eating, and exploring are all part of a fun day that brings the family even closer together. Follow Mom and Dad and the 4 kids and a dog as they caper through the woods and back out again to a gently rhyming text. Illustrations tell even more of the story, so look carefully.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Won't you be my neighbor?

THE PATCHWORK GARDEN (PEDACITOS DE HUERTO) by Diane de Anda with illustrations by Oksana Kemarskaya. Pinata Books, 2013.

A girl and her grandmother decide to take a small patch of dirt behind the local church and plant a small garden. As the vegetables grow and attract the attention of other residents of the neighborhood, the idea of patches of gardens in empty places catches on. Soon, a patchwork garden thrives in the neighborhood. Text is in Spanish and in English. Great book to share with kids for Earth Day or to talk about communities.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


SING, FROGGIE, SING (CANTA, RANA, CANTA) by Carolyn Dee Flores, Pinata Books, 2013.

Pinata, a division of Arte Publico, gives readers a cumulative story/song reminiscent of "there's a hole in the bottom of the sea." There is a frog in the pond. When he croaks, a fly comes by to hush his mouth. When the fly buzzes, then, there is a spider to hush it, and so on. Eventually, a baby, mother, father, and grandmother round out the hushing. Music and lyrics are provided in the back mater of the book.