Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Dealing with Dragons
Author: Patricia C. WredeDealing-with-dragons-first-edition
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Age Category: 10+

Fantasy for Young Female Readers

Sixteen-year-old Cimorene is tired of being a princess.  She is fed up with embroidery lessons and etiquette and arranged marriages, and would much rather study magic and sword fighting and Latin. So when a talking frog suggests that she run away from home, that’s just what Cimorene does.  Before long, she finds herself gainfully (albeit dangerously) employed as a dragon’s princess, sorting treasure and brushing up on her Latin and trying out spells to her heart’s content.  But life in the Mountains of Morning isn’t all fun and games–obnoxious, dimwitted knights keep trying to rescue Cimorene, and evil wizards have been popping up all sorts of places they’re not supposed to be.  Everyone knows wizards can’t be trusted; clearly, some sort of nefarious plot is afoot.  With the assistance of an amusingly down-to-earth witch, a rather timid princess, and a stone prince, Cimorene must figure out what the wizards are up to, and stop them, before it’s too late. Continue reading


The Aviary, by Kathleen O’Dell

Historical Fiction: The AviaryHistorical Fiction: The Aviary
Title: The Aviary
Author: Kathleen O’Dell
Genre: Historical Fiction (some Gothic/Fantasy elements)
Age Category: 8+

Historical Fiction: The Aviary

Clara Dooley leads a quiet, lonely life. A serious heart condition has kept her indoors for years, far away from other children who might excite her. Instead, she spends her days in the Glendoveer Mansion, where her mother works as a housekeeper for the frail (and ailing) Mrs. Glendoveer, an elderly widow who is still reeling from the sudden deaths of her five children decades before . . . and from the kidnapping of the sixth and youngest child, Elliot. Now all Mrs. Glendoveer has is a crumbling mansion filled with memories, and an aviary inhabited by a rather motley assortment of extremely long-lived birds. The birds scare Clara with their persistent screeching, and never more so than the fateful day when the mynah calls out to her and speaks one word: ‘Elliot.’ With that, Clara and her newfound (and secret) friend Daphne are off and running (so to speak) after the mystery of the Glendoveer children—the resolution of which may endanger Clara herself. Continue reading


Louis Sachar: The Cardturner

Louis Sachar: The CardturnerLouis Sachar: The Cardturner
Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Age Category: 14+

Louis Sachar: The Cardturner

High school junior Alton Richards is gearing up for a bummer summer. Dumped by his girlfriend (for his best friend, no less), with no money and no job on the horizon, he is bullied by his parents into driving his ailing (and extremely wealthy) great uncle Lester to his bridge club. Alton’s parents are determined to stay on dear old Uncle Lester’s good side in case he kicks the bucket any time soon. Alton is more than just a chauffeur, though Continue reading


Books for Boys: Legacy, by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Books for Boys: Legacy, by Thomas E. SniegoskiBooks for Boys: Legacy, by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Title: Legacy
Author: Thomas E. Sniegoski
Genre: Middle-grade fiction (Books for Boys)
Age Category: 12 years +

Books for Boys: Legacy

Eighteen-year old Lucas Moore hasn’t had the best life. He and his mother live in a beat-up trailer in the aptly-named nowhere town of Perdition, Arizona, where she waits tables in a diner and he works as an auto mechanic—when he’s not out drinking or getting into a fight. He never finished high school. He’s never known his father. Continue reading


Book for Teenage Girls: Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Books for Teenage Girls: Warped by Maurissa GuibordBooks for Teenage Girls: Warped by Maurissa Guibord
Title: Warped
Author: Maurissa Guibord
Genre: Fantasy/Romance Books for Teenage Girls
Age Category: 13+

Perfect Book for Teenage Girls: Warped

It was just a bit of tapestry. A very old tapestry, tucked into a crate of old books that Tessa’s dad bought at an auction. But Tessa is fascinated. The image—a wild, beautiful unicorn—is so vivid . . . and so are her dreams. Then, when Tessa pulls a loose thread on the tapestry, her whole world starts to unravel. Will, a handsome—if haughty—young nobleman, has been yanked out of the sixteenth century and plopped down in her room in the middle of modern day Portland, Maine. His fate is somehow tied to the tapestry, and he needs Tessa’s help. Continue reading


Horror Books: Rotters, by Daniel Kraus

Horror Books: Rotters, by Daniel KrausHorror Books: Rotters, by Daniel Kraus
Title: Rotters
Author: Daniel Kraus
Genre: Horror Books for Young Adults
Age Category: 16+

Horror Books: Rotters

Sixteen-year-old Joey Crouch used to be fairly happy. He and his mother enjoyed life in Chicago. He had a best friend. He played the trumpet. He wasn’t popular, but he wasn’t so unpopular as to be a target for abuse by those higher up the social ladder. All in all, life wasn’t bad. Then one day, everything changed. His mother dies, and Joey is uprooted from his life in Chicago and sent to live in rural Iowa with a father he’s never met. Continue reading


Fantasy Books: The Death of Yorik Mortwell

Fantasy Books: The Death of Yorik MortwellFantasy Books: The Death of Yorik Mortwell
Title: The Death of Yorik Mortwell
Author: Stephen Messer (illustrated by Gris Grimly)
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy Books
Age Category: 9 years +

Fantasy Book: The Death of Yorik Mortwell

It’s not every day you come across a book where the hero dies in the first chapter.  But in The Death of Yorik Mortwell, that’s exactly what happens to 12-year-old Yorik Mortwell, orphaned son of a gamekeeper at Ravenby Manor: he dies. Fortunately for the readers, Yorik does not pass quietly into the great beyond, but returns as a ghost.

Upon his return, he is greeted almost immediately by the spoiled and curiously powerful silver-haired Princess and her peculiar (and ailing) friend Erde, who live in an enchanted glade on the grounds.  After briefly considering exacting vengeance on his killer, Yorik  realizes that something dark and deadly is stalking the manor grounds and the house itself, while the Princess’s friend Erde seems to be wasting away into nothing.  Yorik quickly loses his taste for revenge, and is consumed with concern for Erde and for his still-living younger sister Susan, a servant in the Ravenby House.  He is determined to defeat the Dark Ones—but what are they?  Where did they come from?  Why are there so many?  And what is one little ghost boy to do against such dark forces? Continue reading


Free eBook: How to Choose Children’s Books

How to Choose Children's Books, eBook CoverWell, I’m happy to report that I finally finished my eBook, How to Choose Children’s Books, which I’ve been working on for the past year or so.  The download page is here and the book is free.  You can also get there by clicking the title page graphic to the right.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Practical tips on picking great books for kids of all ages—infant through young adult.
  • Guidance on what makes books attractive and developmentally valuable for children.
  • Analysis of themes, illustrations, stories, and the use of humor in children’s books.
  • Philosophical reflections on the role of children’s books in the development of character.
  • A comprehensive list of online resources for finding excellent children’s literature, including book lists, sources of professional book reviews, and children’s literature blogs.

Continue reading


Counting Book: One Moose, Twenty Mice by Clare Beaton

counting book, learning numbers for preschoolcounting book, learning numbers for preschool
Title: One Moose, Twenty Mice
Author: Clare Beaton
Genre: Toddler board book (Counting book)
Age Category: Infant to 2 years

Summary: A Children’s Counting Book

Clare Beaton’s One Moose, Twenty Mice is a counting book to help with learning numbers for preschool.  It begins with the following statement/question: “One moose, but where’s the cat?”  Each subsequent page continues the pattern established on the first page.  For example, the second and third pages say, “Two crabs, but where’s the cat?” and “Three ladybugs, but where’s the cat?”  The pages continue counting up in the same way until the last page, which says, “Twenty mice, and here’s the cat!”

The illustrations are scenes of colorful stitched fabrics (mostly felt), ribbons, buttons, sequins, and beads that depict the numbers and animals mentioned in the text.  Importantly, in each scene (except the last) the cat is hiding somewhere.  In the last scene the cat is finally in full view, chasing twenty white mice! Continue reading


Children’s Fantasy Novel: The Door in the Forest

Children's Fantasy Novels: The Door in the Forest by Roderick TownleyChildren's Fantasy Novels: The Door in the Forest by Roderick Townley
Title:  The Door in the Forest
Author: Roderick Townley
Genre:  Middle-grade Fiction (Children’s fantasy novels)
Age Category:  8 years +

Children’s Fantasy Novel: The Door in the Forest

Daniel Crowley cannot tell a lie.  For most of his life, this inability has been a fairly manageable annoyance.  Now, as soldiers move into the small town of Everwood, it’s become downright dangerous.  There’s a rebellion in the City, and the soldiers—especially the unsettling and erratic Captain Sloper—are determined to root out any sympathizers.

This is particularly bad news for Daniel’s friend Emily Byrdsong, a newcomer to Everwood and granddaughter of the town witch.  There’s something mysterious about the Byrdsong family—Emily’s parents haven’t been seen since their arrest for participating in the rebellion, Grandma Byrdsong has a curious fondness for bubble baths, and they live in a house where the rules of time and space don’t seem to work quite the way they do in the rest of Everwood.  Captain Sloper is suspicious of the Byrdsongs, and is determined to use Daniel’s honesty to expose them . . . and the rest of the town.

But the Byrdsongs aren’t the only mystery in Everwood.  There is an island on the edge of town Continue reading


Shakespeare for Children: The Last Synapsid, by Timothy Mason

Shakespeare for children: the last synapsid by timothy masonShakespeare for children: the last synapsid by timothy mason
Title: The Last Synapsid
Author: Timothy Mason
Genre: Middle-grade Fiction
Age Category: 9-12 years

Are you looking for a middle-grade novel with dinosaurs, time-travel, eco-responsibility, and Shakespeare for children?  If so, The Last Synapsid by Timothy Mason may be what you are looking for!

Summary: The Last Synapsid

Life in Faith, Colorado is fairly uneventful for best friends Rob and Phoebe. That is, until one day they come across a prehistoric creature so old, he makes dinosaurs look modern—a plant-eating synapsid they affectionately dub ‘Sid.’ Sid’s on an epic journey through time . . . and he needs Rob and Phoebe’s help! Another synapsid—an aptly-named Gorgon, and much less amiable than the kind-hearted Sid—has stumbled into the modern era via a ‘time snag’ and refuses to return to his native time. If this carnivorous monster remains in the present, the course of evolution will be changed forever, and humankind (and all other mammals) will never come into existence. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger by the name of Jenkins has been lurking around town, and he seems bound and determined to use the synapsids’ time-traveling abilities for his own selfish ends—no matter the cost… Continue reading


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Title: The Adventures of Tinitin: The Secret of the UnicornThe Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Author: Hergé (Georges Rémi)
Genre: Adventure comic book
Age category: 8-12 years

With the scheduled December 2011 release of Steven Spielberg’s movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I thought I would review the classic 1959 middle-grade comic with the same title by the Belgian artist Georges Rémi (1907-1983), who created under the name Hergé.  The Tintin comics were some of my favorites as a child, and my kids have now started enjoying them too.  If you would like to see the trailer for Spielberg’s upcoming movie, click here.

Summary: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tinitin: The Secret of the UnicornThe Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn opens with a news report that incidences of petty thievery are on the rise in London, and that the police are using their “best men to put a stop to this public scandal.”  It turns out that London’s “finest” include Thomson and Thompson, two identical-looking and identically incompetent detectives who sport black suits and bowlers.  On their patrol of the Old Street Market—during which both of their wallets are stolen—they bump into their friend Tintin (a brave, sharp reporter, the protagonist of the story) and his white fox terrier, Snowy.  As Tintin buys a model ship for his friend Captain Haddock—a retired old salt who struggles (sometimes not too hard) with his taste for liquor—two men appear beside him and express interest in the ship he has just bought.  They offer dueling bids, but Tintin refuses to sell it.

Tintin takes the model home, where Snowy accidentally breaks the mast.  Never mind: Tintin easily repairs it.  When Tintin shows the ship to Captain Haddock, the Captain notices that the ship is a scale model of the Unicorn, the ship sailed by his distant relative Sir Francis Haddock.  However, soon after the model is stolen from Tintin’s apartment, which is ransacked in the process.  In the wake of the break-in, Continue reading


Interview: Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Children's Picture Books: Mad Tea Party by Frank Dormer

Alice at the Mad Tea Party, by Frank Dormer

Today I continue my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers in an interview with Julie Danielson (abbreviated “JD” below), who blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, or “7-Imp” for short.  Jules  is an influential blogger in the kidlitosphere and is an aficionado of children’s picture books .  As you’ll see from the interview, she’s a wiz with American Sign Language and is also pretty darn funny.  Pithy enticing quote: “…very simply, I’m an Illustration Junkie and must feed my habit.”  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, if you are also a sucker for children’s picture books, after reading the interview I encourage you to check out Julie’s blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Click here for the previous interview in this series, with Jill Tullo of the Well-Read Child.

Q: When and how did you become interested in children’s picture books?

JD: I blame Eisha Prather, my best friend and fellow imp—and whom regular 7-Imp readers will recognize as my partner-in-crime in co-founding the blog. Not too terribly long after college and before each of us went off and got hitched, we were roommates in a lovely, if un-air-conditioned, old farmhouse in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee. That’s “Murvul,” by the way, if you’re a true East Tennessean. At the time, she was a public librarian and would bring home her favorite picture books and leave them on the dining room table for me to read. I’d wander off with them and explore. I fell for them. And fell hard. Continue reading


Interview: Jill Tullo, The Well-Read Child

Ways to help children read: On the Day You were Born, by Debra Frasier
Today I continue my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers in an interview with Jill Tullo (abbreviated “JT” below), who blogs at The Well-Read Child.  Jill is a veteran blogger in the kidlitosphere and cares a lot about children’s literacy .  As you’ll see from the interview, she suggests some great ways to help children read. She also has a soft spot for dystopian fiction. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Jill’s blog, The Well-Read ChildClick here for the previous interview in this series, with Sylvia Vardell of Poetry for Children.

Q: When and how did you become interested in children’s books?

JT: I’ve loved to read as long as I can remember, and in seventh grade I started a diary. Alongside the usual information you’d expect to find in a tween girl’s diary (boys, friends, school, etc.), are brief summaries and reaction to books I’d just finished. This was before the days of blogs and sites like Goodreads, so old-fashioned pen and paper had to do. Because I read so much, I’ve always wanted to keep records of what I’ve read and how I felt about the books when I finished them.  In 2007 when my little girl was just a few months, I had a very emotional experience reading a book to her – On the Day You Were BornWays to help children read: On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier by Debra Frasier – and decided that I wanted to document these experiences and keep track of the books I read with her. The Well-Read Child was born that night. Continue reading


Poetry for Children: Interview with Sylvia Vardell

Poetry for Children: Poetry Tag Time
Here’s another in my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers. Today I report my interview with Sylvia Vardell (abbreviated “SV” below), who blogs at Poetry for Children. As you will see from the interview, Sylvia is a professor at Texas Woman’s University , an author, and a strong advocate of poetry for children.  Choice quote: “Poetry is part music and part chocolate—delicious and unforgettable.”  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Sylvia’s blog, Poetry for Children, and the other useful resources she mentions. Click here for the previous interview in this series, with Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes.

Q: When and how did you become interested in poetry, and poetry for children in particular?

SV: I loved the rhythm and rhyme of poetry when I was a little girl and memorized a poem to perform for my Mom for her birthday when I was 7 or 8. Then came a long dormant period where poetry became more academic. I actually enjoyed analysis in college, but it wasn’t til I met a poet in graduate school that I came to see the passion BEHIND the creation of poetry and remembered how fun it could be. And that was when Shel Silverstein was a brand new voice (in the 1970’s) and his poetry persuaded my cranky sixth grade students to give the genre a chance. I used to say that Where the Sidewalk EndsPoetry for Children: Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein was the one book I would want with me if I were ever stranded on a desert island with sixth graders! Continue reading