Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thanks to everyone who follows my blog throughout the year.  It is a labor of love, and I value each and every one of you who appreciates my efforts in promoting books and literacy for kids and teens via their parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians. I wish you all a healthy and joyous 2014!

 Enjoy this short performance by U.S. Navy Band Ceremonial Band
(in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

37 Auld Lang Syne

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome and  appreciated.

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Favorites

Another year has flown by.  I didn't post as much this year as in previous years, but a quick glance at my LibraryThing account tells me that I've read about the same number of books as usual (over 200).

There are many outstanding books published in 2013 that I'm sure I've missed. 
However, of the books I've read, 
these are my favorites:

(All book titles are linked to my reviews of same.)

  • Picture Book Nonfiction

Also wonderful:
How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook)
Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Atheneum)

  • Picture Book Fiction

I have great respect for librarian, Betsy Bird, and her blog Fuse 8 (where she took issue with this book), but I just have to disagree with her on this one.  Not only did I love it, I took it with me on numerous school visits where I read it to large and diverse groups of children; they loved it, too.

Also wonderful:
The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson (Annick Press)

  • Young Adult Fiction

  • Fallout by Todd Strasser (Candlewick)

Also wonderful: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (Amulet)

  • Juvenile Fiction

  • Juvenile Nonfiction

Also wonderful:
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (I "read" the audiobook version)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf - a review

If you check my LibraryThing account, you'll see that I have 15 books tagged "pigs," and those are just a few of my favorites.  Sometimes I even have a pig-themed storytime. Here's another book of preposterous porcine protagonists to add to my list of favorites!

Teague, Mark. 2013. The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf. New York: Scholastic.

(review copy provided by publisher)

The three comically large, anthropomorphic pigs are painted with Mark Teague's signature bold colors and droll style. They are as humorous as the story itself. The opening double-spread finds two pigs in their pen, playing basketball in a pile of mud, surrounded by empty soda bottles and scattered potato chips. A third pig, also in the pen, is seated in an armchair reading a book, a neatly chewed apple next to him on a smartly appointed white tablecloth.  All three pigs look toward the farmer,

Once there were three little pigs.  They lived on a farm, as most pigs do, and were happy, as most pigs are. Then one day the farmer told them that he and his wife were moving to Florida.  He paid the pigs for their good work and sent them on their way.

And so begins the familiar adventure with a comic twist.  One pig spends his wages on potato chips, one buys "sody-pop," and the third ("who was altogether un-pig-like"), buys building supplies. Teague's take on the story includes a hapless wolf who is very hungry and only somewhat bad.

The characters loom large on double-spread, full-bleed illustrations, making this a perfect book to share with a group. Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs may be the standard bearer for fractured folk tales, but The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf is a worthy addition to the canon of "Three Little Pig" tales. Great fun!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Free e-short stories for kids from author, Laura Sullivan

Just a reminder today, that author Laura L. Sullivan , (Under the Green Hill, 2010, Guardian of the Green Hill, 2011) is offering two short stories for free in Kindle e-book format now, for a limited time. While she has other short stories and books for adults and young adults, the following are written for young audiences. The links for free download from are below.  I became acquainted with Laura Sullivan online after reviewing her book, Under the Green Hill, back in 2010.  I will receive nothing if you download her free books (and neither will she), but if you enjoy them, I'm sure that will make her happy and she'd love to know about it.

"Clever Elody" is a feel-good fairytale about brains, love, and perseverance and is available for free until Saturday.  "Snake Plant" is a creepy tale (think "Little Shop of Horrors" creepy) and will appeal to every child who finds his mother overbearing (isn't that all of them?).  It's available for purchase at any time, but for free from December 15-19.

"Clever Elody"
 The romantic children's story Clever Elody features a poetic prince, and the poor girl who teaches him how to turn one borrowed chicken into perfect bliss.

"Snake Plant"
In the children's horror story Snake Plant, a young boy longs for a pet – any pet – but has to make due with an exotic vine that helps him battle his controlling mother.

About the author:
(from her website)

I am... hmmm...
A misanthrope who is full of hope?
A romantic who still can't quite manage to write an unequivocally happy ending?
This is what I look like, anyway, on a good day.

Laura Sullivan
©Laura Sullivan

I write everything, or if I haven't yet, I will. My published work includes middle grade fantasy; young adult fantasy, historical, and historical fantasy; and adult action/adventure/romance. Still waiting to find the perfect home are a YA contemporary with a male protagonist, and a flippantly literary adult comedy. I'll write everything else, eventually. 
I adore every single one of you who has ever read a word I've written.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Reason I Jump - a review

As you know, I usually feature children's book on Shelf-employed, however, this book, like Temple Grandin's, How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, should be a "must-read" for teachers and librarians, and anyone who would like to hear "The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year Old Boy with Autism."

Higashida, Naoki. 2013. The Reason I Jump. New York: Random House.
Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.

With help from a computer and an alphabet grid, Naoki Higashida wrote a book that opens a window into the workings of a child's autistic mind. Written as a series of answers to simple questions such as:

  • "Why do you ask the same question over and over?"
  • "Why can't you have a proper conversation?"
  • "Why do you move your arms and legs about in that awkward way?"

   Naoki explains, to the best of his ability, why he (and others like him), do the things that they do.  Of course, not all people with autism are the same, but many have similar behaviors, and we should jump at the chance to understand them a bit better.

You can read this heartfelt book on your lunch hour.  It will be well worth your time.

Click here for the "Look Inside" widget from Random House, which allows you to preview the first 29 pages of The Reason I Jump.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Read all of today's posts at our new location, Nonfiction Monday.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Short, funny, and illustrated - two chapter book reviews

I recently finished two short, easy-reading chapter books by two very popular authors - Kate DiCamillo and Jeff Kinney.

Kate DiCamillo is nothing if not unique.  Whether gifting us with the mystical, magical, Magician's Elephant, the breath of fresh air that was Mercy Watson, or the delightfully improbable hero, Despereaux, DiCamillo never shies away from a new horizon.  In fact, I feel as if she has as much fun writing her books as we have reading them.

How else, but in a spirit of fun and adventure, could she gather

  • Flora - a "natural-born cynic," and avid reader of The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto
  • Ulysses - a dreamy, poetic squirrel with a superpower (typing), garnered from the interior of a super-suction, multi-terrain vacuum
  • William Spiver - a temporarily blind boy who prefers to be known by his complete name, so as so distinguish himself "from the multiplicity of Williams in the world."
  • two loving, but flawed (aren't we/they all?) parents
  • delightful neighbors
  • Mary Ann - a lamp
Humorous comic panels and sketches by K.G. Campbell are the perfect complement to this warm and funny, impossible story of love and poetry, friendship and family.

Flora &Ulysses resources:

  • Kinney, Jeff. 2013. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8. New York: Amulet.

(Advance Reader Copy)

Download your own Hard Luck wallpaper here.
In Hard Luck, Greg Heffley finds himself temporarily friendless when Rowley gets a girlfriend and no longer has time to spend with Greg.  Since all of his previous life decisions have led to bad ends, Greg decides to trust his fate to chance, allowing an old Magic 8 Ball to make his choices.  How much worse can it get? (If you know Greg Heffley, you know it gets worse – much worse!)

This is not the funniest of the Wimpy Kid books, but abandonment and loneliness are not funny topics, and I give Jeff Kinney credit for tackling them, and doing it with  humor and hopefulness. Kids love the Wimpy Kid series, and they’ll love this one, too. Sure, it’s funny, but it may hit a bit closer to home than others in the series, and I don't think that's by chance.

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 ...