Friday, June 16, 2017

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Laurel Snyder has written a middle grade novel that is equal parts mystery and coming-of-age story. Nine orphans live on the island. No more. No less. And they don't know how they came to be on this island, except for the changing ceremony once a year. The story follows Jinny, the eldest orphan on this idyllic island where food is plentiful and the snakes don’t bite. The only clue to an outside world is the library cabin, where Jinny reads books that used to be owned by a girl named Abigail. That, and the fact that each year, at the changing ceremony, a small child arrives in a boat to stay on the island, while the Elder steps into the boat to be whisked away over the horizon and into the unknown. Jinny knows she is supposed to leave, but she does not believe that Ess (the child she is charged to care for) is ready to be on her own. So when the boat arrives with a new child...Jinny doesn’t step into the boat. When she refuses to leave the island, there is no longer enough food, the snakes are no longer docile, and the cliffs and the calm water provide real danger.

How did these children come to be on this island? Who is controlling the mysterious boat? And why can there only be nine children, or the balance is upset? With gorgeous imagery and beautiful language, Snyder creates an atmosphere that is both enchanting and eerie. Part summer camp without adults, part survivor for kids, kids ages 10 and up will enjoy this read.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is one of the best Young Adult books I have read this year. Gorgeous prose, great characters, and an incredible setting, you will be unable to put this book down.
Before the opening of the novel, the reader is informed that three years prior, Rachel wrote a love letter to her best friend, Henry. And she put this love letter inside of a book inside Howling Books, in the Letter Library, where patrons of the secondhand bookshop write letters to each other, leaving them inside the books, or they underline favorite passages. That letter never got delivered. So she moved away to the coast of Australia. But when tragedy strikes her family, and she loses her brother Cal, she fails her 12th year, and instead of going to college, moves to the city to live with her aunt and work. She finds herself, after three years of silence between her and Henry, her former best friend, back at Howling Books, which is the bookshop that Henry’s family owns. What happened to the letter she wrote all those years ago? What will happen to Henry and his family, and the patrons of the Letter Library, if the bookshop goes out of business?
Words in Deep Blue is an ode to the written word, to books, to everything people who are a little book crazy (like you and me) love.

When you love a story, you return to the lines that you love, to the well-worn pages that hold your heart. This book will hold the hearts of its readers. For the readers who underline, highlight, write notes, and pass along their favorite books--this story is for you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Willy Wonka is Searching for FIVE New Golden Ticket Winners!

What’s that, you say? A chance to win a WILLY WONKA GOLDEN TICKET?? A trip to New York City or London? A chance for YOUR story idea to be made into a book, written by Adam Gidwitz, author of THE INQUISITOR'S TALE, a play, a movie, a candy, or a minecraft game?? How do you win this elusive ticket? By using your imagination through the Roald Dahl Imaginormous Challenge.  See below for details.

The Roald Dahl Imaginormous Challenge is a golden ticket challenge for kids all over the US!
It's geared towards ages 5-12 and the idea is to get kids to think of a story they would love to write. It doesn’t have to be a complete idea—just the beginning of a story. Kids can submit their ideas (with parental/guardian help and approval) online at: (Also check out the website for inspirations and ideas!)
They'll be entered to win prizes for their classrooms, a trip to a Broadway showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or even a trip to London or New York City for them and their family. The key thing to know about timing here is that the contest runs until THE END OF THIS MONTH, May 31st. So get those ticket-winning ideas in ASAP!

**Challenge is for US only, ages 5-12, but anyone can help spread the word/share with the kids in their lives!

**Contest ends May 31st!

**Idea can be up to 100 words max. 

**Idea doesn’t have to be a whole story but enough to give a good idea about where the story would go. 

**Everyone should check out for contest rules, examples and resources for parents and teachers.

**Kids can submit as many times as they want, to the various categories. 

**There will be FIVE winners chosen—one winner for each of the five categories. 

**Children will obviously need adult help entering and resources for adults can be found on the Imaginormous website. 

**It’s important to the Roald Dahl Literary Estate that kids of all levels/walks of life are encouraged to enter. The idea will not be judged on spelling or grammar, just the idea itself.

**The challenge is not just for writers/artists—the challenge prizes are for kids interested in music, video games, candy, and more!

**Kids should be encouraged to use post-its (dark blue, light blue and yellow colors encouraged), as well as an easy to create idea book (can be created with a folded piece of printer paper) to come up with ideas and brainstorm. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, pictures by Adam Rex

Rock, paper, scissors, go! How many children have settled disputes with a simple round of rock, paper, scissors? Rock beats scissors, but paper beats rock. And scissors can beat paper. It’s a game that teaches that a simple sheet of paper can cover the brute force of rock, but that even paper isn’t invulnerable to the swift slice of scissors. But where did this game originate? Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex have teamed up to give readers the answer in a picture book called The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It begins “long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard,” where a warrior named ROCK looks for a challenger. He battles a clothespin, yelling, “drop that underwear and battle me, you ridiculous wooden clip-man!” Of course, Clothespin is no match for Rock, and Rock is victorious. Next, Rock challenges an apricot, and of course, apricot gets smooshed. Beating these opponents brings Rock no joy, so he journeys on his way.

The point of view switches from Rock to the “Empire of Mom’s Home Office, [where] on a lonely and windswept Desk Mountain, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle. And his name was Paper.” The reader is introduced to paper (a sticky-note with eyes and a nose drawn on him), who is the “smartest warrior” in the land, and like Rock, Paper is also sad that nobody can outwit him. Paper fights computer printer, who cries, “Noooo! Not a Paper Jam!” And Paper battles a half-eaten bag of trail mix in the trash, and no surprise, Paper wins. But, lonely and still undefeated, Paper leaves the Empire of Mom’s Home Office in search of another battle.

Lastly, in the “Kitchen realm in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, there lived a third great warrior. They called her Scissors.” Scissors defeats tape, she climbs up to the freezer and defeats dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and afterwards, she wonders, “Am I so good that not even Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets can beat me?”

What will happen when the three warriors meet in the “great cavern of Two-Car Garage”? Will they find happiness in remaining undefeated? I think you know the answer, but, as always, it’s still epic to watch a battle of ROCK! PAPER! SCISSORS! unfold.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

By just glancing at the cover of ROUND by Joyce Sidman, the reader is in for a treat. This picture book is particularly wonderful for small children who may be learning their shapes! In particular, ROUND things. Joyce Sidman is an expert at writing about the natural world in a lyrical way. In addition to the plethora of picture books she has written, her book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, was awarded a Newbery Honor Medal in 2011.

This whole book will help children look at the world around them and start thinking about the different shapes in nature. As the reader discovers by following a little girl in green, polka-dotted overalls, there are quite a lot of round things to be found in nature. She notices the roundness of an egg, the swirls on a turtle’s back, the spots on a mushroom, the shape of sunflowers, that are round. One of the most beautiful lines is when the child’s father carries her on his shoulders, and the little girl points at the moon, hanging yellow in the blue sky. The lines read:

“Or show themselves,
night after night,
rounder and rounder,
until the whole sky holds its breath.”

But roundness is not limited to physical objects in the natural world. The little girl discovers that a circle of friends is round, and a hug can be round, too.

Taeeun Yoo’s illustrations go perfectly with Sidman’s words. The bright colors and simple shapes that she chooses to illustrate make this book perfect for a young child.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca

From the moment she was born, Princess Cora’s parents have been training her how to be a Queen. The nanny makes sure that she takes baths so regularly that there is no dirt in sight. Cora’s mother, the Queen, makes sure that Cora studies so that she will be wise. But the books are so boring, Cora finds herself yawning. Her father, the King, makes sure that Cora grows into a strong queen, so he trains her to skip rope. Between the nanny, the Queen, and the King, Cora life is scheduled to the minute and no fun at all. So when Cora thinks that a family dog will help liven things up, she writes to her fairy godmother.
Dear Godmother,
Nobody listens to me. My mother and father won’t let me have a pet and Nanny says I don’t even want one. But I do. And I’m sick and tired of everything.
Please help me.
Princess Cora

What her Fairy Godmother sends isn't any old golden retriever...Cora gets a crocodile. And since Cora has had enough with the bathing, boring lessons, and rigorous exercise, the Crocodile so kindly offers to dress as Princess Cora for a that the real Cora can have the day off from “Queen training” that she’s always wanted.
Hilarious, fun and charming, Princess Cora and the Crocodile is an early chapter book that makes a wonderful read aloud for the whole family. This is a book that might be read a chapter a night over the course of a week.

Author Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrator Brian Floca are a heavyweight team. Schlitz won a Newbery Award in 2008 for her book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, as well as a Newbery Honor in 2013 for her book Splendors and Glooms. Brian Floca won the Caldecott Medal in 2014 for his picture book about trains entitled Locomotive. With Schlitz’s words and Floca’s illustrations, Princess Cora and the Crocodile will become a classic.

Flora and the Chicks A Counting Book by Molly Idle

Has spring fever hit? For Flora, it means that her chicks have hatched! When she goes to feed the mother hen, the hen walks off the page...leaving Flora to count the newly hatched chicks! This counting book is full of exciting surprises behind every flap. From 1 to 10, Flora must take care of the little chicks as they hatch, but it gets harder to hold all the chicks in one place! When the 10th chick hatches, the mother hen returns, and all the chicks, and Flora, are happy to see her. Molly Idle’s character, the little girl Flora, has several other wordless picture books, including Flora and the Flamingo, Flora and the Penguins, and Flora and the Peacocks. The illustrations are so expressive that the reader has no trouble understanding Flora’s thoughts. In Flora and the Chicks, Flora will help children learn to count with the help of ten fluffy chicks!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offerman

M.T. Anderson’s take on Athurian legend in Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is magnificently illustrated by Andrea Offerman in a most stunning graphic novels. Chrétien de Troyes is the original author of Yvain, le chevalier au lion, written in the 13th century. Most of the stories that readers associate with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stem from the epic poems of Chrétien de Troyes.
Sir Yvain is a knight in King Arthur’s Court, and when Sir Calogrenant returns from the enchanted forest of Brocéliande gravely injured by wounds from a mysterious Red Knight, Yvain quietly leave Arthur’s castle to avenge his cousin, Calogrenant. Yvain, too, pours water over a stone in the enchanted pool in the forest of Brocéliande. Amidst a turbulent swirling storm, the Red Knight emerges to challenge Yvain for disturbing his dukedom. Yvain, defending himself and avenging his cousin, delivers some fatal sword blows to the Red Knight, and he chases the Red Knight on horseback as he rides into his own castle. The Red Knight, it turns out, is the Lord Esclados, and Yvain is now trapped in his enemy’s castle with many who are looking for the man who killed their lord.
The sorceress Lunette takes pity on Yvain, and to hide him from those who would want him dead, turns him invisible. It is while invisible that Yvain falls in love with the Lady Laudine, the widow of Lord Esclados. She is a commanding presence, with fiery red eyes and a mane of red hair. Laudine wishes to avenge the man that killed her husband, but Lunette poses the question of who is the better knight--the one who died or the one who did not? Laudine has to concede that Yvain is the better knight, and since her castle is now unprotected, she must consent to marry Yvain, even though everything shown through the illustrations indicates that it is a marriage of political necessity.
When Gawain, another knight and cousin of Yvain, comes to visit Yvain, he challenges Yvain’s knighthood, saying, “Throw off your harness, old man, spit out your bit, and prove you’re still a warrior, not a dreamer.” Yvain, feeling pressured to prove himself, begs for Laudine to allow him to travel and compete to defend his knighthood. Laudine, disdainful, agrees, saying, “I grant you permission to leave, but there’s a time limit: one year to the day. Understand? If you come back after that, my love will absolutely turn to hatred.”
Yvain sets out to prove his valor among the other bumbling knights. And when he is fool enough to not return in the time limit set by his wife...that’s when things get interesting.
For fans of Arthurian lore and legend, M.T. Anderson’s Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is a masterpiece with Yvain, Laudine, and Lunette as a compelling cast of characters. Offerman’s striking illustrations bring this ancient story into the 21st century, making it appropriate for the modern young reader.