ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus: YA Thriller

March 15, 2018

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

The description in the “best book” award nomination tempted me; who isn’t interested in Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club“?  Five teens are sent to detention after school, all claiming they were innocent.  Only four leave the room alive. Who committed the murder–and why?  We hear the stories of the different characters through their own voices, creating of deepening of the facets of each of the characters, all suspects in the murder. I was sure I’d have a glimmer of the murdered, but though I carefully followed each clue, I never did guess until the last twisty turn.  The mystery and intrigue made this a real page-turner, though I admit it might not be the best writing I have read.  Still, it was strong and engaging and a lot of fun. And I’ll be on the lookout for this author’s next novel.


TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET by Karen McManus: YA Guilty Pleasure

March 17, 2019

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

Karen McManus follows up her best-selling YA Thriller One of Us Is Lying. It tells you quite a bit about the book to see on the cover that the subtitle is:  . . .If One is Dead!  In our recommendation for the first book, we found the writing to be fine, but not the best; nonetheless, the book was “strong and engaging and a lot of fun.”  This recommendation for her new book retains the same caveat, and the same endorsement.  For me, it was a kind of guilty pleasure to be caught up in the mystery and the characters and trying to guess what was going on. Definitely a page turner that kept my interest. Ellery and her twin are whisked away to their mother’s home town in small town Vermont to live with their grandmother when their mother enters rehab for an opioid addition. The mom had a twin sister who was homecoming queen in high school, and disappeared. Just five years ago the current homecoming queen was murdered.  And now that Ellery is in town, there is another threat centered around homecoming. Ellery and her brother Ezra may have success is finding out what ties the different crimes across the years together–if they can uncover the secrets at the heart of the town scandals. The story is told in alternating chapters by Ellery and Malcolm, whose brother was implicated in the murder of the homecoming queen a few years past.  Tension and mystery abound, and if you are looking for a light read and fast-pasted thriller experience (and don’t mind the lack of character development), I would recommend Two Can Keep a Secret.

August 26th is National Dog Day!

August 20, 2016

DogAugust 26th is National Dog Day!  Read all about it at the National Dog Day site. 

Here’s a brief description: “National Dog Day celebrates all dogs, mixed breed and pure. Our mission is to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.”

As dog lovers ourselves, we have dedicated posts to our furry friends in the past.  In case you missed them, you might check out:

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Dog Days:  A Book Flight

For some more fun with the toddlers and early readers in your life, we also present two new terrific picture books with enchanting dog characters.  Enjoy!

HudsonHudson in Provence by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Paris in August is as hot as well, Portland or LA in August.  So our friend Hudson, that adorable pup, is able to escape to the south of France–Provence, to be exact.  As a city dog, he is eager to be helpful, but he doesn’t seem suited to country work:  he fails to sniff out truffles, and isn’t able to herd sheep.  He even has difficulty pedaling a bike when he gets into the Tour de France!  But he remains a lovable and engaging hero. A charming story about a sweet ex-Pat dog.



MaxMax the Flying Sausage Dog: A Tail from London by Arthur Robins

A Magical, laugh-out loud book, fun for those being read to–and readers–alike. It’s a tough choice for Tom, when he can only choose one dog from the pound to bring home as a pet.  But he chooses well in Max, who turns out to have some let’s just say special talents that Tom must keep from his family.  Sweet illustrations that seem very British (think Quentin Blake).  In fact, a great book to invoke your British accent as you read.  Quirky and lovable characters, not to mention heart-warming moments. A wonderful celebration of dogs and their human families.


May 18th, National Museum Day

May 17, 2014

Brush-of-the-GodsNot that we need an excuse to celebrate museums, but isn’t it nice to have an official National Museum Day on May 18th?  Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look, illustrated by Meilo So is a wonderful book to kick off your celebration.  Wu Daozi (689-758) is still known as China’s greatest painter–but surprisingly, little has been written about him for children.  The team of Look and So create a vivid and intriguing picture about Wu Daozi’s life, his work, and his creativity.  As a young boy learning the art of calligraphy from a monk, Wu Daozi finds his brush simply won’t behave.  Instead of characters, his brush takes off on flights of fancy, drawing flying Buddhas and dancing peonies.  His hooks catch fish, and “his dots burst into eyes, then pigs and monkeys.”  Soon, his paintings are so realistic they come to life (though no one but the children believe it).  The emperor comes to appreciate Daozi’s work, though, and commissions him to paint a masterpiece on a wall of the palace. It becomes a mural that takes him the rest of his life to complete, a kind of museum in the palace. A beautifully illustrated book that children as young as three will enjoy poring over–and adults will want to keep on their coffee tables.  In addition to this picture book, you might also want to take a look at some of our other museum-themed recommendations, listed below with links to the posts.

Happy National Museum Day!

Museums:  A Book Flight

Bringing Kids to Museums:  Tips, Suggestions, Resources

Picture Books About Museums

All About Art Board Books

Literary Vacations:  Children’s Book Museums



Young Adults

June 8, 2007

From 13 to 18 years old; grades 8-12

We find young adult literature to be some of the best-written books by the most accomplished authors.  If this is a new area for you, and the teenager in your life, you are all in for a treat!  A wealth of books are written with the young adult reader in mind.  These texts confront issues about school life, relationships with parents, brothers and sisters, and friends.  Self-esteem, coming of age, and fitting in are themes that can prove to be powerful learning tools for what readers are experiencing.  We also recommend many books that are adult-themed that grab the interest and attention of the young adults we know and work with.  Quirky books, short story collections, and on-line essays are all possibilities to expand the reading horizons of teens on the verge of adulthood.  It’s a terrific time to share books as a family, with mother-daughter reads, for example, or investigations of places you might ultimately visit together.

Book Lists

A QUESTION OF HOLMES by Brittany Cavallero:  The Charlotte Holmes Series Conclusion


RESISTANCE! Part II:  Learning from Our Moral Ancestors, Recommended for Teens and Tweens

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and Other Sherlock Holmes Spin-Offs for Tweens and Teens

New Series for Tweens and Teens

Two More Recommended Graphic Novels for Tweens

Tweens and Teens Series Updates

New Books Make Great Holiday Gifts:  YA Series Edition

New this Spring:  Fantasy YA Heroines

YA Books for Sports-Loving Young Men

Graphic Novels for Teens and Young Adults

And the Series Continues. . .Terrific New YA Fiction

Young Adult Books for Feminist Readers

Spanish/English Novels for Tweens and Teens

Historical Fiction

Classics for Young Adults

Tellings and Retellings

Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks:  Novels for Young Adults

Contemporary Multicultural Novels & Memoirs for Young Adults

Beyond Nancy Drew

Middle East YA Recommendations

Middle East Books for Tweens and Teens

Picture Books:  Understanding the Middle East

More booklists for this age group are coming soon- please bear with us as we are adding content to the website daily!

Related Posts


THE FATES DIVIDE by Veronica Roth: A Sequel to CARVE THE MARK

TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET by Karen McManus:  YA Guilty Pleasure

ONCE AND FUTURE by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta:  A King Arthur Retelling

Other World

Other Earth



WAR STORM by Victoria Aveyard:  Final Book in THE RED QUEEN Series


The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo, illsutrated by Sara Kipin





One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

RENEGADES by Marissa Meyer




THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas


FIRSTBORN by Tor Seidler:  Must reading for Yellowstone Visitors



STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor:  Another New YA Series


CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth

IMPYRIUM by Henry H. Neff: New Series Recommendation for Tween and Teens


HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer:  Recommended!

Children’s Books About the Middle East

The Agency:  A Spy in the House:  Series Recommendation for Teens

February 20th is World Day for Social Justice


Rebels of the Kasbah by Joe O’Neill: A Review

Celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ Birthday with the Young Sherlock


MAGNUS CHASE by Rick Riordan: New Series!


MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers: A Review and Recommendation

Ms. Marvel: A Superhero for Today’s Teens–and Adults

YA Summer Reading: New and Intriguing


THE CROSS OVER by Kwami Alexander: Poetry in Motion


A YA Great Gatsby Retelling:  GREAT

Tweens and Teens Series Updates

YA Series Updates

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes:  Book Review

RED RISING:  Making YA Dystopia Fresh

Rapunzel Revisited:  CRESS:  A Review

Recommended:  The Raven Boys

Two YA Series:  Boys and Girls

Little Red Riding Hood Revisited:  SCARLET:  A Review

Two New YA Favorite Authors

Divergent:  A Converssation/Review

Since Charles Darwin

Great NEW Series (Tween and Teen)

A Whole World of Math Resources

Celebrating Our Teen Poets




Halloween Fun:  The Teen Edition

Favorite Series Endings-And New Beginnings

More NEW Books

Book Review:  Noah’s Castle

Magic for the 21st Century-  Review of Bran Hambric:  The Farfield Curse

Book Review:  The Frog Scientist

Book Review:  The Turning:  What Curiosity Kills

Book Review:  The School of Possibilities


August 10, 2019

Tangled in Time:  Book I:  The Portal by Kathryn Lasky

A trip to Powell’s Bookstore gave me the chance to roam the YA and Children’s Literature sections, and let my whims guide me as I chose new books to read.  I was drawn to a new book by a favorite author of mine, Kathryn Lasky, that is a mix of two genres I adore:  time travel and historical fiction.  Here’s the basic premise:  Rose is being raised by her single Mom, Rosemary, when tragedy strikes,  Her mother is killed in a car accident and Rose is sent to live with her somewhat peculiar grandmother, with a new school, a new home, new friends, and sadly, new enemies in the form of three mean girls who choose her as a new target for bullying.  Despite Gran’s memory issues and sometimes dementia, Rose is able to develop a bond with her especially when they work together in the greenhouse.  When she investigates a strange glow there one night, she is transported back to Hatfield Palace and the Court of Henry VIII.  In Rose’s adventures 500 years ago, she learns more about her mother and her own past and finds parallels between the mean bullying girls in her 21st-century world, and the mean court girls, including Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary.  These are just the bare bones of the story, though.  Other details include the blogging life of Rose, who designs her own clothes and writes about it.  The ideas she brings back from the 16th century are an intriguing element of the book.  Of course, there is also a mystery which takes the form of a rose locket found at court with a photo of Rose and her mother decked out in 21st century clothes!  I spent a full day immersing myself in the book–only to discover there is a sequel!  Thank heavens it is coming out this fall, so I don’t have to wait too long to learn what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.


February 9, 2019

Nevermoor:  The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Book I) by Jessica Townsend

Dare I say it?  I think this book may equal those in the Harry Potter series.  High praise indeed for this wonderful new series by Jessica Townsend.  Magic and learning, delight and whimsy, dark tidings and tension, wonderful teachers and mad professors.  Deep friendship and bullying enemies.  Where to begin  to describe the world of Nevermoor?

I’ll begin with Morrigan, an appealing protagonist to say the least.  Born on Eventide Night, she is doomed to die on her 11th birthday.  Since she was born, she has been cursed to be blamed for everything that goes wrong, every bit of bad luck and misfortune that plagues the residents of the town of Jackalfax in the Wintersea Republic.  Fortunately, just before early Eventide, Jupiter North arrives, to be her mentor and save her from Death.  He whisks her away to Nevermoor, escaping from the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow to arrive safely.  No longer considered a curse, Morrigan accepts Jupiter as her patron and begins a series of trials to become a member of the Wundrous Society. As readers, we are treated to Wonder on every page.  I love the setting of the Hotel Duecalion, where Morrigan, Jupiter and a host of fascinating characters live (including Frank, the vampire dwarf, and Fenestra, the Magnificat).  The details are simply astonishing.  One of my favorites is the way Morrigan’s bedroom adapts to what she needs and likes everyday–like the octopus armchair with cozy arms that wrap Morrigan in a hug as she settles in to read.  Adventure and excitement about, the good guys are delightful and the villains are super-bad.  The book has a satisfying conclusion, and points to way to Book II: The Wundersmith:  The Calling of Morrigan Crow.  You are set for a terrific read!

November 13th is World Kindness Day: Picture Books to Read and Share

November 5, 2017

World Kindness Day is approaching, and what could be more important to remember and celebrate than acts of kindness and compassion?  For special inspiration, you might turn to the World Kindness Day website.  And then, settle down with our list of picture books for all the members of your family and community to enjoy–and to take to heart.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

A picture book to spark deep conversations among a whole classroom or family.  In this poignant tale, a new girl to school, Maya, is introduced to the class, but she is not welcomed or talked to.  The story is told through the lens of Chloe, who is part of a clique who not only refuse to accept Maya, but call her “Never New” because of her hand-me-down clothes. Maya is cheerful and independent, but her offers to play are rebuffed by Chloe and her friends. The writing is subtle and provocative, rather than stereotypical bullying and good and bad guys.  No judgement is stated.  At the end of the book, the teacher invites the class to throw a pebble in the water and watch the ripples to symbolize an act of kindness they have shared wth the class. It is then that Chloe realizes that Maya is no longer there as her family has had to move again, and she ponders if she had ever been kind to the new girl.The watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to the writing, and show a rural diverse classroom.  I appreciate the attention to detail, especially the expressions on the faces of the children.


Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

The central theme of this book is an important one:  most people are kind.  Yes, it’s important to teach children to be careful in a sometimes scary world, but it’s also vital to believe in the kindness that most people harbor for others.  The book follows two families through their day, interacting with people in their community who show simple acts of kindness. The sense of community and messages of kindness embedded in the story are well-expressssed and never preachy.  The book also explains with simple reasoning that people who do bad things can change ― “there is a seed of goodness inside [each person] waiting to sprout.” The author’s note acknowledges that while children need to be careful of strangers, they also need to know that most people are good, kind, and helpful. Our children don’t deserve to be overly fearful of the world despite what they may see in the media. The illustrations celebrate a diversity of race, religion, gender, and class.


A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

This is one you probably know since it is a “new” classic and winner of the Caldecott Award. But it’s worth returning to on World Kindness Day.  Amos is such a caring zookeeper, truly friends with all the animals, showing them care and compassion.  When he is sick, they return the favor.  A lovely and heart-warming book of compassion, empathy, and the power of kind gestures of friendship.  The text is one kids are drawn to, noting patterns, and recurring objects and characters.  Some of the best artwork you’ll see, too.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson

We love this book and have declared it one of the very best picture books that came out in 2015.  Oh, and so did a lot of other people:

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015
A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of this fine book’s medals and awards. While it’s a simple plot line, it is so lyrically written and beautifully illustrated, I guarantee you’ll get goosebumps.  A young boy and his grandmother take the bus after church each week.  At the stops along the way, they meet people of different cultures and talk about noticing the world around and being thankful. I really love that it talks about looking  closely at what you have and opportunities to give to others in a world where it easy to focus on what we don’t have.



IMPYRIUM by Henry H. Neff: New Series Recommendation for Tweens and Teens

December 24, 2016

impyriumImpyrium by Henry H. Neff

Just out this fall, Impyrium ‘s first novel promises to be the beginning of a whole new world to delight tween, young adults, and older adults as well.  For those of us who have been lamenting the lack of fully realized fantasy worlds a la Harry Potter, this book is a dream come true, with the promise of at least two more books in the series.  In this magical world, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium for over three thousand years. They have held onto their power through use of their magic to hold the empire together, but it appears to be fading. Many factions–competing “houses” and outright rebels–are counting on just that.

But as the tale unfolds, it isn’t so easy to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Our intrepid–and fascinating–heroes are Hazel, youngest of the triplet princesses, and a powerful magician in her own right, and Hob, a brilliant commoner from an outlying province who cares deeply about saving the realm.  They must figure out who to trust to help them in their quest, and also forge an unlikely bond.  Magic and mystery abound, as well as an underlying theme of social activism.  Strong, interesting characters, lots of action and intrigue, court politics, scary myths…something for everyone. I am looking forward to the next installment–coming in 2017.

Hedgehogs: A Flight

March 4, 2016

hedgehogsHedgehogs!  Our whole family loves them (almost as much as those adorable sloths!)  Lisa re-invigorated our interest and we couldn’t resist dipping back into a favorite family readaloud from 30 years ago:  the delightful Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.  But as always, there are more books to engage the whole family in this flight about a curious and interesting creature.  Enjoy!

Family Readaloud:

Mrs.-TiggyThe Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter

If you haven’t read any of Beatrix Potters’ classics, none better to start with than this charming tale first published in 1905.  A little girl named Lucie has lost her pocket handkerchiefs, and wanders high into the hills, discovering a little hidden home.  When she knocks on the door, she finds a little woman who does all the laundry for the neighborhood animals, washing and ironing their “garments.” After spending a lovely day helping Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Lucie discovers that the laundress is indeed a hedgehog! But was it true–or was it all a dream?  Enjoy the lyrical text and beautiful illustrations Potter’s readers have come to love.  A fine introduction to the hedgehogs in literature for the whole family!


Infants and Toddlers:

New-ArrivalThe New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva

Sam the hedgehog is on a quest for two important things:  a home and a friend.  Home, a lovely hollow at the base of a tree, is discovered quickly, but a friend proves more difficult to find.  He looks everywhere, but can’t see the wealth of possibilities around him–though we as readers are treated to clues through the lovely illustrations.  After a bit, Sam decides to post notices reading “Wanted: A Friend. Hedgehog at the Hollow Tree,” using his quills to tack them to trees. Soon, not only is he still friendless, he is bald to boot.  Happily, the other animals welcome him to the woodland and give him a knitted pullover (called a jumper here) to keep him warm until his quills grow back.  Lots of cute animals and heart-warming moments in this sweet book.

Pre-K through Grade 2

Learn-hedgeHedgehogs:  Amazing Pictures and Facts About Hedgehogs by Breanne Sartori

Non-fiction books can be a great complement to the literary delights of any subject.  This slim book brings to light a lot of interesting information about the hedgehog, like:  how  many spines they have, where they live, what they eat, all about the hedgehogs snout, how they defend themselves–and from whom,  and more. . .  Dig in!


HedgieHedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett

Who doesn’t love Jan Brett’s picture books?  Her illustrations are charming without being sentimental, and her writing is appealing to readers and young audience alike.  This story, set in Denmark, is filled with needlepoint patterns of Scandinavian designs that frame the characters reacting from the borders.  Such a cool idea–and invites rereadings to pore over the pictures and meaning. Hedgie the hedgehog stars in this tale Hedgie stars  about a little Tomten (ancient gnome)  who gets tired of porridge for breakfast and starts stealing Henny’s eggs. But Henny wants a brood of chicks, so she enlists Hedgie’s help to trick the Tomten. She substitutes an acorn, a strawberry, a mushroom and finally a potato in her nest. But nothing stops that Tomten until the little hedgehog hides in Henny’s nest: when the Tomten reaches in to get his morning treat, all he gets is a handful of prickles!  This one is a great addition to your home library.


helpful-hedgehogThe Very Helpful Hedgehog by Rose Wellesley

Isaac is a sweet little hedgehog–and like Sam (above), doesn’t seem to have friends.  One day, an apple falls from a tree, and you guessed it–sticks in his prickles.  Alone, he can’t get the apple off–but help comes in the form of a donkey–who becomes a new friend. A delightful story about being open to surprising new friendships.


DarcyDarcy the Flying Hedgehog by Shota Tsukamoto

Darcy, named after the bassist for the The Smashing Pumkins, this cute and definitely, well, spiky, pet hedgehog became a genuine social media phenomenon.  The author/photographer/owner started photographing his little friend throughout her day–and night.  You’ll see Darcy basking in her owner’s hand, posing with a pineapple, pinecone or cactus, hiding from toy soldiers or snoozing fitfully. And readers of all ages will love the print, in both English and  (mostly) Japanese. For more information, you can check out the the Instagram photos.


hedgehog-fogHedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein, illustrated by Francesca Yarbusoba

This special book was created on the basis of a famous Russian cartoon by Norstein and Yarbusova. The film of this story came first–30 years ago. In 2003, an international film jury in Tokyo declared ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ to be the best animated film of all time. It is about the adventures of the philosophical little Hedgehog on his way to meet with his friend Bear.  Along the way Hedgehog enters into a mysterious fog in which he encounters a horse, a dog, an owl, and a fish. The illustrations are phenomenal: Francesca Yarbusoba is an award-winning artist, the wife and collaborator of Yuri Norstein. Exhibitions of her artworks successfully showed in museums in Russia, France, Japan, and beyond. She is the recipient of the Great Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Fine Art.  So enjoy hedgehogs through the artistic integrity of this fine little book.

Teens and Adults:

dilemmaThe Hedgehog’s Dilemma:  A Tale of Obsession, Nostalgia,and the World’s Most Charming Mammal by Hugh Warwick

Hugh Warwick is an environmental writer and photographer.  Readers are fortunate that he turned his considerable talents to an exploration of the relationship between the hedgehog and man, and how the hedgehog became so beloved.  It’s a combination of memoir, nature study, and environmental investigation, all written with fascinating details and philosophical thoughts on human’s relationship to the world of nature.  I found it a thoroughly enjoyable light and interesting read that was peppered with Warwick’s wry sense of humor as he described everything from chasing hedgehogs across the English countryside as an undergradute biologist to his introduction to the American Hedgehog Olympics. A perfect companion to the stunning array of available hedgehog picture books.  Enjoy!