Friday, August 29, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Dreamwood by Heather Mackey


Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving, she learns her father is missing: Rumor has it he’s gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that’s ravaging the forests of Saarthe.

Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and her vexingly stubborn friend Pete follow William Darrington’s trail to the deadly woods on Devil’s Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn’t reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all.


Another great middle grade fantasy, Dreamwood takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the heart of a most unusual forest.  Lucy makes for quite a character, she's strong-willed, courageous, and loyal.  She's also a bit of a know-it-all and her pride and impulsivity causes problems all over the place.  Once Lucy determines where her father has gone, she will stop at nothing to get him back, even facing the unknown terrors of Devil's Thumb, a peninsula that no one has come back from in years.  But Lucy refuses to accept that her father might be gone for good and an encounter with a local eccentric leads her to believe that dreamwood might be the cure to the blight destroying the local forests.  With the help of her father's inventions and her new found friend Peter, she sets out to determine her destiny.

The intensity and mystery of this story make it a compelling read.  The character interactions were fascinating and enjoyable with plenty of tension.  They felt very real.  All the characters had mixed motivations for doing what they did and it all came together in a believable way, very important in a book with fantastic elements like this one.  The world building that the author does comes together is some very intriguing ways, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the world the characters live in with each of their actions leading to future events. With themes of friendship, greed, nature, and morality all playing a strong role, Dreamwood is a wonderful addition to middle grade speculative fiction.  However, there is enough violence (including several deaths) that make it more appropriate for slightly older readers. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

EARLY READER SERIES: Boris by Andrew Joyner




Meet Boris! He lives with his mom and dad in Hogg Bay. Their home is a van that once traveled all over the world. Then one morning, Boris feels a jolt. Could it be? Is the van really moving? Is Boris on an adventure at last?

But when Boris ends up on a trip to a wildlife refuge instead of the jungle safari he'd imagined, he ends up having an adventure he'll never forget. Because for this little warthog, life never quite turns out as he plans.


Boris loves pets! And he already has lots of them. All he's missing is his favorite animal, a Komodo dragon--the biggest lizard in the world!

When Boris brags to the kids in his class that he's getting one, everyone wants to see it. Boris needs to come up with a Luckily, he's got his friends by his side and a lizard up his sleeve!



It's Sports Day and Boris is ready to run like he's never run before. He wants to beat Eddie, who always wins everything. All Frederick wants is not to come last—again. Who will make it across the finish line first? Ready, set . . .


Boris is having a sleepover.

He's camping in the backyard with Frederick and Alice. They are not one bit scared of the dark. No way . . . But what is that strange light moving around outside the tent?


This is part of a new program by Scholastic called Branches.  These books are for early readers but they look and feel like chapter books.  So while there are only a few sentences per double page spread, they feel like a longer read.  The stories are cute and fun and the fully colored illustrations are great.  The challenges that Boris faces are all ones that children can relate to, things such as competition, friendship, fears, and dreams.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

EARLY CHAPTER BOOK: The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane


Want to see something cool?
I can make that quarter vanish.
All it takes is a little magic…

Fourth grade was supposed to be a fresh start, but Mike’s already back in the principal’s office. He’s not a bad kid. He just can’t sit still. And now, his parents won’t let him play soccer anymore; instead he has to hang out with his new neighbor Nora, who is good at everything!

Then, Mike and Nora discover the White Rabbit. It’s an odd shop—with a special secret inside. Its owner, Mr. Zerlin, is a magician, and, amazingly, he believes Mike could be a magician, too. Has Mike finally found something he’s good at?


Mike makes for a fun character, one I think kids will be able to relate to easily.  Mike doesn't mean to get in trouble all the time but he has a hard time focusing and sitting still in class.  He and his parents have tried a number of different strategies to try to overcome this problem but without lasting success.  Even worse, he has to spend his afternoons with Nora, the girl who can do everything well (at least in Mike's opinion).  His frustration boils over in the dentist's office and he and Nora go for a walk where they discover The White Rabbit.  On first glance the store appears to sell antiques but with closer examination its clear that there is more to the store than there appears.

When Mike discovers that he may have a knack for doing magic he throws himself into it whole-heartedly and discovers that maybe, just maybe, he has more magic inside of him than he ever knew.  The inclusion of magic tricks and the fun illustrations make this quite appealing to the target audience.  The way Mike uses his new found magic skills to face the boy who likes to torment him is a nice touch, but what I like the best is how Mike discovers that he too can do something well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Cleopatra in Space #1 by Mike Maihack


When a young Cleopatra (yes, THAT Cleopatra) finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her to the far, REALLY far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. She enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, and alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo's style). With help from her teacher Khensu, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader, while trying to figure out how she's going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!


I can practically guarantee that this graphic novel is a winner.  It's perfect for elementary age students who like lots of action with fun characters.  The idea of putting one of the most famous female rulers in history into the future and space is a clever one.  Cleopatra reminds me of many children, fiery and impulsive but bored with school.  Her skill with a slingshot transfers nicely into skill with a raygun but her problems with school carry over into her new school as well.  She just doesn't see the value, except in her target practice class and her combat class.  But with the help of her history professor (who happens to be a cat), her awesome sphinx space ship, and her fighting skills she may find a way to fulfill the prophecy that seems to have brought her to the future in the first place.

The bright, colorful illustrations are very appealing and expressive.  While there are some intense fighting sequences, they involve robots and are not graphic at all.  Readers who have enjoyed the Lunch Lady series, the Zita the Spacegirl series, and Babymouse are sure to like this fun new series.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

MMGM: A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck


An intrepid boy teams up with Alfred Hitchcock himself in this rollicking mystery rife with action, adventure, intrigue, and all the flavor of film noir.

After the mysterious death of his mother, eleven-year-old Jack Fair is whisked away to San Francisco's swanky Fairmont Hotel by his wicked Aunt Edith. There, he seems doomed to a life of fetching chocolates for his aunt and her pet chinchilla. Until one night, when Aunt Edith disappears, and the only clue is a ransom note written... in chocolate?

Suddenly, Jack finds himself all alone on a quest to discover who kidnapped Aunt Edith and what happened to his mother. Alone, that is, until he meets an unlikely accomplice: Alfred Hitchcock himself! The two embark on a madcap journey full of hidden doorways, secret societies, cryptic clues, sinister villains, and cinematic flair.


Jim Averbeck is the author and illustrator of the picture books Oh NO, Little Dragon! and Except If.  A Hitch at the Fairmont is his first novel.  He studied Children's Book Writing and Illustration at the University of California Berkeley and now makes his home in San Francisco.  You can visit him at


I've read many children's mystery books in my time and unfortunately many of them start to blur together after a while because so many of the elements are similar.  I always love it when I come across one that is different enough to stand out.  A Hitch at the Fairmont is different enough to stand out. 

The book starts with Jack attending his mother's funeral at a funeral home, but their's no body to bury. After getting caught checking out the dead bodies in the basement, Jack is whisked away to the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco by his Aunt Edith.  Unfortunately for Jack, his Aunt Edith is not at all a nice person and she keeps hounding him about a code or series of numbers that he knows nothing about.  All he has left of his old life is his ability to remember everything he sees and draw it accurately and the dog tags and coffin necklace from the father he never knew.

Everything changes when Aunt Edith disappears and Jack must find her quickly before he ends up in an orphanage.  The inclusion of Alfred Hitchcock in the book creates a really interesting subplot, especially with each chapter named after one of Hitchcock's movies (it took me a while to notice this).  I developed a sudden urge to watch some of Hitchcock's movies.  The inclusion of storyboard illustrations at the beginning of each chapter was another clever touch that I enjoyed.  I also learned a lot about Hitchcock and how he made such successful movies.  It was also nice to read Averbeck's notes at the end about what he fictionalized and what he didn't.

The Fairmont Hotel was a great setting for a mystery and Averbeck takes every advantage of it.  I would love to visit the place.  

As I read the book I quickly figured some things out before the characters did, it made me want to leap into the book and show Jack some things he's missed (luckily he does eventually figure it out).  And so I thought I knew where the book was going until, BANG, the author through in some very unexpected twists that changed the direction of the story altogether.  The best mysteries do this, creating an enjoyable story that still manages to surprise you without leaving you completely in the dark.

A great book for readers who like longer more involved mysteries with lots of intrigue and humor.

Be sure to check out Shannon Messenger's blog for more great Middle Grade recommendations.

Friday, August 22, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson



Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Photo: Mark Jones

Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy author born and raised in the Midwest. Her novels for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line include The Howling Delve, Mistshore, Unbroken Chain, Unbroken Chain: The Darker Road, and Spider and Stone. Her first book for middle grade readers is The Mark of the Dragonfly, from Delacorte Press.  In her spare time, she enjoys gaming, gardening, and going to movies with her husband.  Visit her online at  


I'll just say upfront that I really enjoyed this book, in pretty much every way. The cover is gorgeous, the characters intriguing, the plot action-packed, and the setting well-presented. Sometimes in these plot-driven middle grade fantasy novels it's easy for the character development to get lost in all the action, but in this one the character development blends in beautifully with all the action.  

There are three main characters, starting with Piper, a thirteen-year old girl living by herself in Scrap Town 16, just scraping by.  But everything changes when she discovers an unconscious girl in the Meteor Fields. But it turns out that Anna, the girl Piper found, not only has an unusual tattoo on her arm, but she loves to talk about stuff she knows and she remembers little of her life prior to meeting Piper.  When they hop the 401 train to escape the man that is after Anna they meet Gee who is an interesting character in his own right. 

I loved the setting of the train (most of the story takes place on the train).  It works well to move the plot along. Frankly, I'd love to hop on the train and explore its intricacies.  To me that is sign of a well-designed book.

All in all a fun read with plenty of secrets, lots of action, and some interesting surprises along the way. Fantasy lovers are sure to fly through this one. Definitely going on my favorites shelf.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka


Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions—the robots Klink and Klank—to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! Using real science, Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction—an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers.


One always knows that a book with the name Scieszka on is bound to be entertaining.  And Frank Einstein is no exception.  The boy scientist/inventor and his grandfather have much in common with their namesake Albert Einstein, including their love of science (not to mention the wild hair).  Frank and his best friend, Watson, are determined to win the Midville Science Prize in order to save Grandpa Al's house/lab.  After inadvertently creating a couple of robots it seems that the Prize may just be within reach.  But unbeknownst to Frank, his rival T. Edison is determined to thwart his efforts and take the prize for himself and Frank's project could change both their worlds in the process.

There is a lot of science mixed in with the story and that could have bogged the story down, but thanks to Scieszka's explanations and Bigg's diagrams, it doesn't.  In fact, I learned some things I didn't know, even after all my schooling.  This book is perfect for budding scientists and for all readers just starting to realize that one doesn't need big muscles to be a hero.  Recommended.

Monday, August 18, 2014

NONFICTION MONDAY: Master of Deceit by Marc Aronson


A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist.

"King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation."

Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit suicide. Who wrote this anonymous letter? The FBI. And the man behind it all was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director. In this unsparing exploration of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century, accomplished historian Marc Aronson unmasks the man behind the Bureau- his tangled family history and personal relationships; his own need for secrecy, deceit, and control; and the broad trends in American society that shaped his world. Hoover may have given America the security it wanted, but the secrets he knew gave him— and the Bureau — all the power he wanted. Using photographs, cartoons, movie posters, and FBI transcripts, Master of Deceit gives readers the necessary evidence to make their own conclusions. Here is a book about the twentieth century that blazes with questions and insights about our choices in the twenty-first.


Before reading this book I had heard of J. Edgar Hoover and the control he wielded over the FBI as well as the illegal activities he and his agency engaged in in their pursuit of 'justice.'  But after reading this book I now have a much better understanding of exactly the sort of things Hoover and the FBI accomplished, both good and bad.  Aronson does a great job of showing that while Hoover went too far in many cases the threats he feared were all too real. As I read this, the question that presented itself to me over and over was, Do the ends justify the means?  In my opinion, the answer is no.  If we use the same methods that our enemies use then we become just like them. But Hoover didn't agree and it shows in the atmosphere of secrecy and illegal procedures that Hoover created.

One thing that I really liked about Aronson's presentation was his detailed presentation of the environment in which Hoover lived.  The gangster era, the Depression, World War II, and the anti-Communist era all helped create Hoover and the other men in power.  That does not of course justify the often illegal means they used to get their way or the lives they ruined along the way, it just creates a clearer picture of the time period.

Interestingly enough, Hoover himself generated numerous rumors and secrets that even today don't have definitive answers. Aronson does not shy away from these issues that would have been very scandalous during Hoover's time.  This creates a book that presents many issues that would make for some very interesting discussions.  As always, I appreciated the author's note at the end that explained the approach the author took in researching and presenting his subject.

For other nonfiction recommendations check out the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY: Double Reverse by Fred Bowen


Freshman wide receiver Jesse realizes that although their team quarterback looks the part, his throws are wild. Jesse knows the plays, but he feels he is too small to play quarterback. Jesse's brother Jay has a problem of his own: his coach wants him to switch from quarterback to safety. The brothers agree on a deal: Jesse will try out for quarterback, and Jay will try playing safety. Meanwhile, Jesse and his teammates recruit an unlikely kicker for their team a girl named Savannah. Can Jesse, Jay, and Savannah overcome others' expectations and succeed in playing against type?


Fred Bowen is the author of Peachtree’s popular Fred Bowen Sports Story and All-Star Sport Story series. A lifelong sports fanatic, he has coached youth league baseball, basketball, and soccer. His kids’ sports column “The Score” appears each week in the KidsPost section of the Washington Post. Bowen lives in Maryland.
You can visit Fred Bowen’s website here.

While I'm not a huge sports fiction fan I have students who are so I decided to give this a try.  I'm glad I did, I found myself quite enjoying it, especially all the football action.  The free flowing text works well for a quick read that focuses on the game of football. I can see this being a great book for reluctant readers who love sports.  The interactions between the kids, especially the addition of a girl playing football was very welcome. Positive relationships, overcoming long odds, and trying new things are all great themes that shine through the book.  I also appreciated the diagrams showing some of the different football plays.  Overall, a great addition to a sports fiction collection and especially appropriate for reluctant or low readers.


Monday 8/11 The Write Path
Tuesday 8/12 Kid Lit Reviews and Geo Librarian
Wednesday 8/13 Librarian in Cute Shoes

Publishers Blog


1 print copy of Double Reverse
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Friday, August 8, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud



When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .


I am not generally speaking a huge fan of scary, gruesome books, which this book very much is, but I have to say that I loved it.  The characters, plot, setting, everything came together in just the right way to create a thoroughly enjoyable story.  And I just have to say this, Lockwood, the head of the agency, reminded me so much of Sherlock Holmes, his dismissal of emotion, his moodiness, his enthusiasm when an intriguing case presents itself, his tendency to not share everything with his companions.  Since I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan I enjoyed that characterization.  And Lucy, who tells the story, is a fascinating person with some unusual talents that its clear have not fully developed.  I look forward to reading further stories to discover how she continues to develop.  And George, I had to appreciate his thoroughness in researching each of the places they would be going and what possible difficulties they might be facing.

The plot had more than enough twists and turns some quite unexpected to satisfy readers, including myself. Stroud does a great job of creating a spooky, creepy atmosphere and his setting descriptions made me want to see the places he described (only in daylight of course). The only thing that baffled me a bit was the time period.  The atmosphere made me think it was taking place in the past.  It took me a while to figure out that it was taking place in the modern age (modern library, computers, cars, etc.)  I think maybe it was how the characters dressed with rapiers, and long mysterious coats and the creepy atmosphere. But regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed how the different elements came together to create a great story. I would recommend this for students who can handle the creepy, gruesome elements. To say more would be to spoil the story but this has horror elements that not all young readers can handle.

Overall, a book I really enjoyed and I am anxious to read the next book in the series.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: The Berenson Schemes by Lisa Doan


Jack's parents have been chased out of Tokyo, gone broke in Greece, and hosted Nairobi's least successful safari. Next they're taking Jack on a Caribbean vacation,whether Jack wants to go or not. The Berensons are about to start a snorkeling business. It's their latest get-rich-quick scheme. With these experienced world travelers at the helm, what could go wrong? Jack is used to staying indoors and not taking chances. When his parents take him out on the water, he ends up shipwrecked. Now Jack has to survive on a tropical island...and avoid a whale shark that's cruising along his beach.


When Jack's parents decide to take him to a Caribbean island to start a new business Jack is far from happy. Especially since he is well aware that his parents are seriously lacking in common sense.  He dreads the possible consequences of being dragged with them on one of their 'adventures' which are more like disasters.  And unfortunately for him, he's right.  I think what I found so funny about this book was the fact that Jack was more parent-like than his parents and his parents more childlike.  The adventure side of things was surprisingly believable for such a quick read. I especially enjoyed the well-presented setting.  For an survival adventure like this the setting is very important.  But a book this short and for such a young audience also needs to be careful not to get bogged down in the details.  I thought the book found a good balance between setting details and keeping the plot moving, especially since Jack is alone for a good chunk of the book.  A fun adventure story that blends humor and excitement in a way that will appeal to reluctant readers.


In number 2 of The Berenson Schemes series, the Berensons arrive in Kenya for their latest get-rich-quick scheme, building a Maasai warrior camp for tourists. Sadly, Jack is accidentally left stranded in the Masai Mara. 

Jack homesteads on the African plains, surviving on Chips Ahoy cookies and instant coffee. He spends his days fighting off the local wildlife, attempting to home-school himself with his only text book (‘Seventh Grade in an Hour’) and working on a plan to get out of the Masai Mara alive.


Another funny adventure for Jack Berenson, facing off this time with the African savanna. When Jack's parents drag him off to Kenya to create a model Maasai village for tourists, Jack is inadvertently left in an acacia tree alone with only a few supplies, waiting once again to be rescued.  Once again I found myself laughing and rolling my eyes, especially at the parts involving Jack's parents.  Jack, himself, is a brave if cautious adventurer.  Luckily for him, he is also rather adaptable, which is good because he keeps getting thrown into difficult situations and he can't exactly rely on his parents.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the only problem I had was something that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine and that is illustrations that don't match the text.  This happened in several spots, however, I am well aware that illustrators have a fairly limited amount of space and so I've learned to let this go if I like the story and I did like this story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: About Parrots by Cathryn Sill


In this appealing addition to the acclaimed About series, educator and author Cathryn Sill uses simple, easy-to-understand language to teach children what parrots are, how they look, how they move, what they eat, and where they live. Illustrator John Sill introduces readers to a variety of parrots, from the colorful Blue Lorikeets of the Polynesian Islands to the Rosy-faced Lovebirds of southwestern Africa. An afterword provides details on the parrots featured and inspires readers to learn more.


Cathryn Sill, a graduate of Western Carolina University, was an elementary school teacher for thirty years. She lives in North Carolina.

John Sill holds a BS in wildlife biology from North Carolina State University. Combining his knowledge of wildlife and artistic skill, John has achieved an impressive reputation as a wildlife artist and received several awards. He lives in North Carolina.


Another fabulous book by the Sills. I'm not sure what I can say about this one that I haven't said about previous books.  I learned a lot about parrots, where and how they live, and why so many species are in danger.  Each page has one or two sentences accompanied by a beautiful illustration.  There is a section at the end of the book that gives more information about parrots in general as well as about each of the highlighted species.  A great book for young bird lovers.



1 print copy of About Parrots
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Ends 8/13/2014

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Monday 8/4- Jean Little Library
Tuesday 8/5- Geo Librarian and Kid Lit Reviews
Wednesday 8/6- Chat with Vera
Thursday 8/7- Blue Owl and Kid Lit Frenzy
Friday 8/8- The Fourth Musketeer

Monday, August 4, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/ Giveaway: You are (Not) Small by Anna Kang


Two fuzzy creatures can't agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all!

The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size it all depends on who's standing next to you.


Christopher Weyant’s work has been published worldwide in books, newspapers, magazines, and online. His cartoons are in permanent collection at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

Anna Kang received her MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL is their first children’s book; they are currently at work on a sequel. They live with their children in New Jersey.


Not only is this a fun book about opposites, but the illustrations are adorable.  When two fuzzy creatures get into an argument about size they drag their fellow fuzzy critters into it.  It appears the argument will continue for some time until the arrival of some visitors.  It always delights me when such seemingly simple books reveal themes and ideas that aren't so simple.  Here the seemingly simple idea of big versus small translates into a variety of size comparisons.  Not only is it a delightfully funny book, but it's a great way to introduce young children to size comparisons. Highly recommended.


1 print copy of You Are (Not) Small
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Ends 8/12/2014

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Be sure to follow all the stops on their blog tour!

Mon, Jul 28
Cracking the Cover
Tues, Jul 29
As They Grow Up
Wed, July 30
Susan Heim on Parenting
Thurs, July 31
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Aug 1
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Aug 4
Geo Librarian
Tues, Aug 5
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Aug 6
Children's Book Review
Thurs, Aug 7
Children's Book Review
Fri, Aug 8
Once Upon a Story

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fantastic Friday: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier


This much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a Victorian ghost story with shades of Washington Irving and Henry James. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling.

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.


I've been hearing lots of good things about this book so I've been looking forward to reading it.  I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed.  With strong themes of family and greed, The Night Gardener is a unique story about good and evil.  And yet I didn't find it as creepy as I expected, mostly because of Molly and Kip the two main characters, a brother and sister.  Their relationship and the courage they exhibit during some pretty scary experiences made the book a compelling read.  That and the mystery surrounding the manor house, property and the family that lives there made me keep turning the pages.

The minute Molly and Kip cross the bridge onto the island where the Windsor manor lies they know something isn't right, but because they don't have anywhere else to go they decide to stay anyway.  They notice quickly that something isn't right about the family and the dark stranger roaming the house and grounds at night confirms it. And the secret locked room in the house, along with the tree that's part of the house add to the mystery. But as each day passes, the kids slowly realize that things might be even more serious than they realized.  And a grim discovery makes it clear that lives are at risk.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was that it was different than anything I've read before.  I mean the good versus evil battle is a common one so it takes some creativity to present it in a new way. Auxier does that here in spades.  The book is both creepy and mysterious which makes it all the more compelling. While there were some things I figured out along the way there were still plenty of surprises both good and bad. Overall, a great read with interesting characters, fascinating themes, and plenty of twists and turns.
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