Friday, May 30, 2008

More on wolves

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. 2008. When the Wolves Returned: Restoring nature's balance in Yellowstone. New York: Walker.

I just recently reviewed Jean Craighead George's book, The Wolves are Back, and now along comes another great wolf book, When the Wolves Returned. This book tells the same story as George's, the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. This book succeeds on three levels. The Wolves are Back had beautiful and lifelike illustrations. This book has stunning photography by the father-daughter team of Dan and Cassie Hartman, with additional black and white photos from the National Park service of early days at the park. When the Wolves Returned is also a multi-use book. Text boxes with large font text are superimposed over the photographs, and offer a story in short sentences suitable for storytime, "Because wolves fed on the elk and deer that people liked, hunters were paid to kill the wolves. By 1926 the wolves were gone." Smaller text at the bottom of the pages gives a more detailed account of the program to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone.

A beautiful book for a range of ages - great for school reports, science class - even storytime.

The London Eye Mystery

Dowd, Siobhan. 2008. The London Eye Mystery. New York: David Fickling.

Just a quick review - a modern mystery with a twist. Salim, Ted and Kat's teen-aged cousin disappears from a sealed pod on London's famous tourist attraction, The London Eye. Ted, who has a spectrum disorder and a sometimes rocky relationship with his sister, Kat, works with her to solve the mystery that baffles both parents and police. The characters are engaging and believable, particularly Ted, who struggles with his brain's "unique operating system." There is some sibling humor, as when Kat heartily approves of the usually very honest and literal Ted's new found ability to lie, "Go, Ted, Kat whispered. She punched me in the arm so hard I nearly fell down the stairs. "Never thought I'd see the day. You lied.'"

The London Eye Mystery should be popular with 5th - 8th graders.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote

Stone, Tanya Lee. 2008. Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote. New York: Holt.

There are many books about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This one is a good choice for the youngest J readers. It has minimal text that is easy to understand but captures the essence of Cady Stanton's role in the Women's Suffrage movement, along with the more mundane details of her daily life. Tales of childhood inequities should be of particular interest to young readers. The illustrations are in folk art style to suggest the era. Short enough for a single-sitting read-aloud, best for 3rd-6th grade.

Because of her role as a wife and mother of seven children, I find Elizabeth Cady Stanton's life to be even more inspiring than that of her dear and more famous friend, Susan B. Anthony. I am pleased to see a new book about her life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Erie Canal

Kendall, Martha E. 2008. The Erie Canal. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

This brief, 128-page look at the Erie Canal chronicles the history as well as the impact of the Erie Canal on the United States and the world. Completed in 1825, the Erie Canal was known as the 8th wonder of the world. The 363 mile long canal was the largest in the world, contained 83 locks, and climbed 675 feet! Before the canal opened, a trip from Albany to Buffalo might take as long as six weeks. After the canal opened, the trip was pared down to one week.

The Erie Canal does more than present the facts, however. It places the Canal in the context of its time, explaining the difficulties and technology required to cut a 400 mile, 60 foot wide swath through virgin forests, swamps, and cliffs; the ingenuity needed to design a system of locks to carry the man-made river up a 66 foot escarpment before the era of concrete or dynamite; the reality of raising children on board a canal “line boat,” (mothers often tethered their toddlers to chains in case they fell in!) Kendall also includes broader topics in history and science by incorporating the canal’s impact on immigration, industrialism, westward expansion, invention, and slavery (the canal was used as part of the Underground Railroad system, bringing slaves closer to freedom in Canada).

The black and white illustrations are a mix of period photos, maps, line drawings, paintings, etchings and postcards, with a few modern photos in the “Wheels of Progress” chapter. This well-researched book is completed with Chronology, Glossary, and Resources pages, in addition to an extensive index.

The Erie Canal is a fascinating glimpse into one of the nations, and particularly New York’s, proudest achievements. Teachers should embrace this book for its cross-disciplinary possibilities. Best for 5th grade and up, teachers or history-loving librarians!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Kinney, Jeff. 2007. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York: Amulet.

I read these books in the wrong order (see earlier post on Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules), but it didn't matter. It's easy to see how this became #1 on the New York Times bestseller list! This book focuses on Greg's friendship with Rowley, while book two focuses on his relationship with his brother, Rodrick. Both books are laugh-out-loud funny! I can't wait to read the next installments, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw! Gregg Heffley is irresistable!

More info is available @

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

Birdsall, Jeanne. 2008. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. New York: Knopf.

In Jeanne Birdsall’s debut novel, the Penderwicks were spending their summer vacation in the Berkshires. Now they’re back at home in Massachusetts in their home on Gardam Street. This follow up to the National Book Award winner, The Penderwicks, continues the adventures of the Penderwick family- the Latin-spouting botanist, Mr. Penderwick, Rosalind, the responsible oldest sister, Skye, the pretty, practical and athletic one of the bunch, Jane, the dramatic and artistic author of many Sabrina Starr adventures, and Batty, the sweet and sensitive youngest of the clan.

Rosalind calls an emergency MOPS, or Meeting of the Penderwick Sisters. Mr. Penderwick is about to enter the dating pool, on the five year anniversary of his wife’s death from cancer. The girls decide to implement the Save-Daddy Plan and the adventures begin.

Although the plot contains common and modern family issues – a dating dad, cheating in school, lying, a first crush, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street reads like the fiction of bygone days. (think Little Women or Anne of Green Gables). When Skye is responsible for a melee on the soccer field, the official ends the game,

“The Penderwick’s ride home was an unhappy one. ‘The referee told me this league has never had a brawl of that magnitude,’ said Mr. Penderwick after a long, painful silence. “of course, at the time I was pretending to be a casual passerby and not a father at all…..The point is that perhaps the family honor need not be defended so vigorously.’ ‘I think Sky was wonderful,’ said Batty. ‘No, I wasn’t, you nincompoop,’ said Skye. ‘I’m the captain and I wrecked the game. But for the rest of the season I’ll be well behaved if it kills me.’ ‘Try not to take it that far.’ Mr. Penderwick sighed. ‘How I came to be surrounded by such warlike women is beyond me.’”

The story’s conclusion may be a bit too pat, and the surprise ending may stretch credibility (just a bit!), but the Penderwicks are too charming to resist.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Wolves are Back

George, Jean Craighead. 2008. The wolves are back. Ill. by Wendell Minor. New York: Dutton.

Famed author Jean Craighead George, (My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, and more) has written the story of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. The Wolves are Back flows like a storybook,

"The wolf pup with his father ate until his stomach was round and then followed his father back to their den. They walked through gardens of wildflowers. The wolves had scared the mountain sheep that chew the flowers to the ground up into the rocky cliffs."

The story follows the life of a pup and highlights the necessity of wolves to the complex ecosystem of Yellowstone Park. Wild wolves thin the coyote herds, provide meat for the bears, keep elk from destroying the grasslands, etc. Each of these actions benefits the wilderness, 'like pieces of a kaleidoscope...tumbling into place."

"Beavers built ponds. Birds sang. Flowers bloomed. The wilderness is in balance again. The wolves are back."

Paintings by landscape artist, Wendell Minor, showcase the graceful beauty of the the park and its inhabitants. Painted in both the brilliant and the soft colors of nature's flora and fauna, his illustrations impart serenity to the story, depicting the animals naturally, yet gently. Many are double spreads with minimal text.

Jean Craighead George continues her commitment to our wild places with this beautiful picture book.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One

Blume, Judy. 2007. Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One. Ill. by James Stevenson. New York: Delacorte Press.

Sometimes I like Judy Blume's books (Freckle Juice); sometimes I don't (Deenie). In this case, I'm ambivalent. Soupy Saturdays is a short (108 pages), illustrated chapter book. The Pain is 1st grader, Jacob Edward, Abigail's little brother. The Great One is, you guessed it, Abigail, Jake's 3rd grade sister.

After an initial introduction of the characters, the book settles in to seven short stories, told alternately by The Pain or The Great One. Obviously, each one presents their own viewpoint,

'..I say the Great One is lying!

That night I told her so. "Liar, liar, liar!" I sang while I jumped on her bed.

"Get off my bed, stick!" she yelled. "Get out of my room or you'll be very, very sorry!"

I could tell she meant it, so I took off.'


'"Then I heard the Pain call, "Who's that weirdo on wheels?" ... "My sister can't ride a bike," the Pain called.

I whizzed by the Pain, singing, "Oh yes, I can!"'

The cat, Fluzzy, writes the final chapter, offering commentary on the feuding siblings.

The simple gray scale, New Yorker-style drawings by James Stevenson, add interest and humor to the stories. (The cat is particularly cute, with a knowing look.)

Each story can stand alone, but they're meant to be read as a novel - a good choice for beginning chapter book readers. My favorite story is "Four: Party Girl." It is a variation on a story often played out in real life -

Abigail plans the perfect princess sleepover party. Jake is going to spend the night with Grandma; but instead, Jake gets sick. He can't go to Grandma's and only one of Abigail's friends is allowed to sleep over with a sick boy in the house. The friend becomes homesick, and by 9pm, the great princess sleepover is finished. This is the most touching of all the stories. The rest are mired in the unpleasantness between brother and sister, with little that passes for kindness. Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One may be a realistic portrayal of sibling rivalry, but I prefer mine tempered with compassion.

The Wall

Sis, Peter. 2007. The Wall. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

I originally read and reviewed this book in November of 2007. Since that time, The Wall was chosen as the 2008 Robert F. Sibert Medal winner and also as a Caldecott Honor book. My original review follows:

Peter Sis, author and illustrator of many children’s books, has written an autobiography, The Wall: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain. The story spans the years he spent growing up in Prague, Czechoslovakia from 1948 through 1986, recounting the end of WWII, the imposition of Communist rule, the Prague spring of 1968 and the brutal crackdown that followed, and eventual opening of the Iron Curtain .
His story is actually told in three formats. The storyline text is simple and can be read quickly and by younger readers; it is accompanied by simple line drawings of daily life in the former Czechoslovakia under Communism. The use of red symbolizes Communism, while the addition of color symbolizes Sis and his desire for freedom. The heart of the story, however, is in the double-spread journal pages interspersed throughout the book and his many drawings and sketches. The journal pages are diary entries from the period noting the mundane (a spat with his sister) to the horrific (a friend that sets himself afire to protest Communism) to the hopeful (the Beach Boys arrive in Prague, news of the Beatles filters in). A prolific artist from his earliest years, many of the drawings are from Sis’ early childhood, some are pop art from the 60s.
This is a picture book for older readers. With many of my relatives in what is now Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia), I grew up following this story through the eyes of my own relatives. This book is a fascinating look at the indoctrination of children into Communism and the inability of a repressive regime to suppress individuality and the desire for freedom. It will likely only have appeal to students interested in the Cold War era, fans of Peter Sis, and those with relatives or ancestors from the Czech Republic or Slovakia. I enjoyed it, but I doubt that it will have wide appeal.

The Get Rich Quick Club

Gutman, Dan. 2004. The Get Rich Quick Club. Read by Angela Goethals. Harper Children's Audio.

The Get Rich Quick Club, or GRQ as its members call it, is formed for the purpose of making a million dollars over the summer vacation. Friends Gina, Rob, and Quincy, with tag-alongs Eddie and Teddie make up the roster of the GRQ. (Eddie and Teddie, being only 8 years old, are assigned the role of company drones) The story of their hair-brained plan to sell a faked UFO photo is told in the first person by Gina, read by Angela Goethals. Goethals is the voice of all the characters and does a great job in making each one distinct. Quincy, from Australia, has a great Aussie accent, although the incessant explanation of Aussie terms becomes annoying, particularly when the context makes them unnecessary. In the print version, the Aussie terms are footnoted. In the audio version, each is added to the dialogue,

'"Oh choof off, Rob." Quincy smirked. "You're a fruitcake." or "Oh, get out of here, Rob. You're crazy."'

The children carry out their plan with amusing results and a surprise ending.

The overall message of this book is honesty; but the constant wise-cracking, clueless parenting, and Gina's "helpful" advice, (always assume that your parent's first offer is negotiable, always claim "I forgot" if you're caught in a lie, always get someone older than 10 to lie for you, etc.) makes the message hard to find until it's dropped in the reader's lap in the last chapter or two.

Kids should like it. It's short (only about 2 hours on audio) and funny, but not high on my recommended list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share

O'Malley, Kevin. 2007. Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share.

In a taste of the "corn" to follow, the front cover of Gimme Cracked Corn and I Will Share proclaims that it is, "egg-secuted by Kevin O'Malley." As a fan of all things "corny," I loved it, however, it may be another one of those children's books wasted on children! Only older children will get all of the "yolks', but younger ones may still find it "punny."

Monday, May 12, 2008


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2003. Locomotion. New York: Penguin.

I got to know this book better than I had planned. I was going to assist in a book discussion group for teens and young adults with varying and diverse abilities. They had chosen this book for their discussion and we were initially unable to secure enough copies. I showed up for the meeting without having ever read the book - as the group leader had our only copy.

Having read Jacqueline Woodson before, and being familiar with other books in verse gave me the confidence to proceed. I printed out some discussion questions from the author’s website and headed off to the meeting. It was decided that I would read the book aloud for the first week until we were able to procure enough copies. I read each poem slowly and deliberately, in what I hoped was the spirit of eleven-year-old, Lonnie Collins Motion, a young boy who has lost his parents in a fire and been separated from his younger sister – each sent to a different foster home. The book is written in verse, but is different that other free verse novels. Because of his fondness for poetry and his teacher, Miss Marcus, Lonnie tells his story in many types of verse – from haikus to sonnets. In addition to being an excellent YA novel, Locomotion is a study in verse and an introduction to the poet, Langston Hughes.

We read as far as the poem “How I Got My Name,” stopping to discuss each poem. I can’t say enough about what a perfect choice this book is for this type of group discussion! The teens were open and expressive and very receptive. Locomotion clearly speaks to young people. I had a vague idea that at a future meeting it might be fun to play the Little Eva song from which Lonnie, Locomotion, got his name. Surprisingly, the kids thought of the idea before I even mentioned it! By the end of the meeting, we were all singing the song together. It was a great evening!

I read the rest of the book at home, alone – and I missed the teens and young adults. Their insights and comments added to Woodson’s story in a way that was touching and uplifting. Later in the book, the story becomes more than just a boy struggling to overcome the loss of his parents. It becomes a story of the war, of Miss Edna’s true sons, of the new boy in Lonnie’s school struggling to fit in, of Eric’s sickle-cell anemia, of Lili’s search for God, of LaTenya’s disability, and on and on. At first, I resented the turn away from Lonnie’s story and introduction of so many tangential subplots; and then I realized that that is what makes Locomotion so real, so compelling. Life is not just about us, and it doesn’t go as planned, it just goes. And Lonnie goes along with it, spilling out his story in verse,

“and making the lines into pictures in your mind
And in the picture the people are
laughing and frowning and
eating and reading and
playing ball and skipping along and

spinning themselves into poetry.

This book was a National Book Award finalist, an ALA Notable Book, a Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book, and a Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Spinelli, Jerry. 2002. Loser. Read by Steve Buscemi. Harper Children's Audio.

Somehow, I've managed to live this long without having read Jerry Spinelli. This was my first encounter with his large body of work. I downloaded the mp3 version of Loser, read by Steve Buscemi. It took me some time to adapt to Spinelli's direct writing style,

"At exactly 10 A.M. Zinkoff bursts onto the playground with the other Satterfield first-, second- and third-graders. For the first minute he is disappointed. He expected recess to be something different, something new. It turns out to be simply free time. Recess turns out to be just another name for life as he has always known it. Only shorter. His first recess lasted six years. This one is fifteen minutes. He means to make the most of it."

After I got used to his unadorned, yet compelling prose, I realized how perfect it is for a story about a boy, Zinkoff, who is also simple, direct, unadorned and compelling. Zinkoff is the perfect hero. What may pass for simpleness to others is actually a buoyant, positive and uncomplicated disposition. No matter what befalls the sometimes hapless Zinkoff, he is never beaten - never the "loser."

Loser follows Zinkoff from his first day of school through his graduation from middle school with all the usual trials and tribulations that occur in grade school. Although I listened to this book, I later had to get a print copy to note two of the lines that most affected me. The listener can almost remember the first feeling of freedom that comes with being at school away from family and the first feeling of sadness in realizing that children are not always kind. When the children begin to discover that Zinkoff is perhaps not as smart or as athletically gifted as other students Spinelli writes, "as with all discoveries, it is the eye and not the object that changes." How true.

Later, when Zinkoff befriends a young child in the neighborhood, he comes to a conclusion,

"and Zinkoff saw in that moment something that he had no words for. He saw that a kid runs to be found and jumps to be caught. That's what being a kid is: found, caught,"

simple, yet profound.

I found myself rooting for Zinkoff every step of the way and he did not disappoint me. It is an honest story, one in which the hero can also be a misfit. Steve Buscemi's delivery of the book was excellent. I would recommend this book for boys from 4th to 6th grade.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mary Had a Little Lamp

Lechner, Jack. Mary had a little lamp. 2008. Ill. by Bob Staake. New York: Bloomsbury.

This is a short little spoof on Mary Had a Little Lamb. In this book, Mary takes her bendy, gooseneck lamp everywhere. The basis for this book does not sound particularly inspiring, but yet, it works and it's charming. "She loved its quiet company -- It never picked a fight. She loved its neck, she loved its cord, And most of all, its light." It's also quite amusing,
"She took it to the movies And her cousin Debbie's wedding. She took it out for Chinese food. She even took it sledding." There is a surprise ending that should give kids a big laugh.

The illustrations are also great - humorous, geometric, angular and brightly colored. I checked the front papers to read about the artwork. Unbelievably, it was "created digitally in Adobe Photoshop using nothing more than a mouse, some imagination, and a reasonable amount of coffee." Impressive!

Great fun for storytime!

Help Me, Mr. Mutt!

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. 2008. Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems. Orlando: Harcourt.

In the same vein as Dr. Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, Help Mr, Mr. Mutt! is hilarious and deserving of an older audience. Mr. Mutt has a humorous advice column for dogs with "people problems." The dog whose owner dresses him up complains,

"Dear Mr. Mutt,
It's ridiculous!Outrageous!Preposterous!Holidays are unbearable. First I'm a baby, next I'm a bunny, then I'm a bride, now I'm an angel....Where is my dignity?.....
--Overdressed in Oklahoma
P.S. My people never dress up the cantankerous cat!"

Mr. Mutt offers humorous advice to each writer and adds a "dig" at cats in each reply. The cat, known as The Queen, responds indignantly to each letter.

The illustrations alternate between depictions of letters from distressed pooches, answers on the official letterhead of Mr. Mutt, Canine Counselor, and irate responses from The Queen on her regal pink stationary, The Queen Speaks. Graphs, charts, "photos," and scenes from Mr. Mutt's studio will keep readers in stitches. The story ends with newspaper accounts, "DOGS INVADE DOGWOOD!" and "CATastrophe!"

This book is funny on many levels and deserves a second, third and even a fourth look. The dust jacket offers a list of things to look for in the book, including numeric palindromes, actual dog hair, and paper clips. Now I'm going to have to read it again!

You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

Stanton, Andy. 2008. You're a bad man, Mr. Gum! New York: Harper Collins.

Originally, published in the UK, this is a book that caught my eye because of its silly back cover.

The back cover includes a cast of characters including "Crafty Tom: A Tyrannosaurus rex with a heart of gold.*" The footnote reads, "* Actual book may not include Crafty Tom."
This is the sort of silliness that pervades this book.

As it turns out, Crafty Tom does not appear in this J novel for younger readers. Instead, the reader will meet the mean Mr. Gum, the frying pan wielding fairy, Jake the dog, and Polly, whose real name is - well, never mind - you'll have to read the book to find out.

You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum is full of the type of absurdity that young boys will find captivating, as is evidenced in this passage,

"Three weeks later Mr. Gum was covered in frying pan-shaped bruises and he had missed ten episodes of Bag of Sticks. It was time for action. nasty action.

'It's time for action,' said Mr. Gum to nobody in particular. 'Nasty action.'

Nobody in particular shrugged his shoulders and wandered off to eat his dinner. Mr. Gum went to the shed and got out his thinking cap. He put it on his knee (it was a kneecap) and started thinking about how to get rid of that dog."

It's interesting to read a book intended for a British audience. The premise of the book itself, a man trying to kill a dog with poison, (don't' worry - he doesn't!) is one that you probably wouldn't see here in the States. And I certainly can't remember that I've read any US books for young J readers that include the bad men going to the pub and falling down! Just in case the reader is unfamiliar with the word "pub," there is a humorous glossary of British terms including pub.

"Pub: Bar. This is where naughty people go to drink beer, and their faces turn red and then they are sick all over the place. But you are not allowed into pubs until you're all grown up, so don't even try it, kids, forget it!" Some of the items in the glossary are useful, duvet, dustbin, and Prime Minister, for example. Most are silly.

This book is certainly not quality literature, however, it was recommended to me by a young boy who actually gave me a written review, "The book was really funny! I also Got a A+ on my report. My Grandma helped me with it."

Probably best for boys ages 8-11.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Littlest Leaguer

Hoff, Syd. 1976, 2008. The Littlest Leaguer. New York: Harper Collins.

A reprint of an older book, The Littlest Leaguer, shows how constant the sport of baseball has remained over the years. The book is still relevant today, which is a blessing and a curse.

I am usually a fan of all things baseball and I love baseball titles to share with children. This book recounts the all-too-familiar story of Harold, the little little leaguer who spends his days "sitting the bench." Many children will likely identify with poor Harold.

I had great hopes for the ending. Harold realizes that if he crouches down, the pitcher has trouble finding the strike zone. In his one and only at bat for the season, with 2 strikes, Harold manages to get 3 balls called. In my mind, the greatest ending would be for Harold to get a base on balls - showing that his small size is a strong point, rather than a handicap. But alas, Harold closes his eyes and accidentally connects with the ball and scores a home run. An ending that emphasizes sports prowess over sports acumen. I would have liked the walk.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Secret Olivia Told Me

Joy, N. 2007. The Secret Olivia Told Me. Ill. by Nancy Devard. East Orange, NJ: Just Us Books.

Although some of the rhymes flow awkwardly,

"Tony leaked the secret to Jalen. Jalen's sister, Anita, overheard.
It didn't take long for Anita to start spreading the word,"

this book has more positives than negatives. The storyline is an age-old dilemma. Olivia tells a secret to her best friend on the playground. The story is told as a first person account by Olivia's friend. As much as she wants to keep the secret, it just slips out. The story follows the secret as it grows and spreads.

This is artist Nancy Devard's first picture book with Just Us Books, and her illustrations are compelling. Her previous career as an engineer is exhibited in the perfection of these dramatic illustrations, done primarily in white, black and red. To ensure the reader's focus , Devard chooses a red balloon to represent the secret while the children are all presented in exquisitely detailed silhouettes in black and white. The balloon grows ever larger and its string lengthens and twists as it passes from child to child.

In addition to the illustrations, the plot and its resolution are perfect for introducing the hazards of gossip and the concept of personal responsibility.

Library Mouse and more

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by author and illustrator, Daniel Kirk.

He read his book Library Mouse and walked us through the process of writing and illustrating and of course, publishing, a children's book. Library Mouse was written in response to his publishers request for a library-related picture book. It's a delightful book that tells the adventures of Sam, a mouse that lives behind the shelves of the children's reference department. Sam writes books at night and leaves them on the librarian's desk. When the stories become popular with the children at storytime, everyone wonders who the mysterious Sam might be. They don't find out in this book, but Daniel Kirk has a Library Mouse sequel in the works. He read the galley for our group. I like it even better than Library Mouse. Look for it soon!

Kirk also entertained us by performing poems from his poetry collections, Dogs Rule! and Cats Rule! He sang several poems and accompanied himself on the guitar. He could easily be a children's entertainer. After hearing the poems, it was difficult to believe that he's actually not a dog or a cat person and is allergic to both!

Finally, I received an advance copy of his new YA novel, Elf Realm: The Low Road. It will be the first in a trilogy, and I believe it's due out in September. More on that later.

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...