April Fool’s Surprise!

March 28, 2015

April Fool’s Day is coming up this week.  Interested in a little history and a few recommendations?  You might start by checking out  April 1st-April Fool’s Day

And to add to the list, we are also recommending a new “twins book “for early readers that celebrates the fun of good-natured April Fool’s tricks.  Perfect for early readers.

AprilDouble Trouble #2:  April Fool’s Surprise by Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley

Twin sisters Kelly and Kasey are the stars of this series for early readers.  They are always getting into trouble, so of course, April Fool’s Day is a favorite celebration for them.  They hope to succeed with an “ultimate” prank that will fool their whole second-grade class.  Kids love this Scholastic series as a quick but enjoyable read.  Perfect for April Fool’s Day!

Downton Abbey for Children’s Literature Fans

March 21, 2015

Downton-Abbey ~posted by Ruth Are you a fan of the BBC series Downton Abbey?  Are you, in fact, addicted to it?  Do you take part in the knitting challenges, knitting special creations while watching the series, like Lady Violet’s Dinner Gauntlets?  Or Edith’s Secret shawl?  Oops, that would be me, a diehard fan of both Downton Abbey and knitting.  Well, now you can share your love of Downton Abbey (and who knows?  Maybe knitting?) with the younger members of your family.

Mouseton-bbeyMouseton Abbey by Nick Page

Imagine adorable mouse faces taking the place of well-loved Downton Abbey characters.  My favorite, of course, is the mouse version of  Lady Violet, who retains her wit, her British nobility, as well as her sometimes deafness.  The characters are all amazing in their knitted splendor (wish they included the knitting patterns!), and the tale of Cheesemas and the missing Great Big Cheesy Diamond is both fun and well-told.  These whimsical upper-crust mice are a treat for young readers.  And for adult fans of Downton Abbey, too.


 CheesyMouseton Abbey:  The Cheesy Treasure Hunt by Hayley Down

And if you liked Mouseton Abbey, you might also enjoy the follow-up board book for the littlest readers (and their older siblings).  The knitted mice characters of Mouseton Abbey are back with another mystery:  Who stole the cheesecake?  Silly, but fun–and with the added enticement of flaps to open.  Just what little fingers itch to do!


Downton-TabbyDownton Tabby by Chris Kelly

If your animal preference runs to cats rather than mice, we have the right book for Downton Abbey fans.  Cats are the perfect characters to portray the upper crust, not to mention, the downstairs working class cats that groom, feed, and care for their aristocratic fellow cats.  This retelling and re-imagining is more a satire for the Downton Abbey aficianado, but children love the dressed-up period cats. Downtown Tabby is the stately Yorkshire home of the Earl and Catness of Grimalkin, their three kittens – the pretty one, the prettier one and the other one – their kittens’ kittens, their servants, and, of course, the Dowager Catness, Vibrissa.  (Trust me, her claws really come out!)  Lots of fun, especially for cat lovers.


Tweens and Teens Series Updates!

March 14, 2015

~ posted by Ruth

As soon as we begin our posts updating the series we love, other titles are published.  We already have a second list of “must-read” latest-in-the-series, so stay tuned for another edition soon.  In the meantime, feast your eyes on these new titles:

FairestFairest: The Lunar Chronicles:  Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles have topped our YA Recommended list since Meyer first published Cinder.  This shorter novel tells the story behind the evil lunar Queen Levana before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress (heroines of the other novels in the series). It helps to have the backstory to this fascinating villain, though it doesn’t help explain why she is so evil.  This prequel does help set up the next tale to come:  Winter.  I was intrigued with the way Meyer was able to create this retelling of Snow White; the glamour spell that Levana is able to create and uphold is an interesting twist.  And she certainly does become an evil stepmother!  No spoilers here–just an invitation to dig in and enjoy.


AtlantisAtlantis in Peril by T. A. Barron

Coming this spring, the second novel in a planned trilogy about the fantasy world of Atlantis.  We loved the first one, Atlantis Rising.  And Barron sustains his magical writing and wonderful characters in the sequel.  The evil Narkazan is back, plotting to take over the land of Atlantis as well as the spirit realm.  Fortunately, our heroes Promi and Atlanta are in on the adventure, working to save the mysterious island, and the natural world.  Their relationship is growing and deepening, though they must contend with the veil between the worlds that separates them in both time and space.  Fantasy-loving teens, tweens, and the adults in their lives will enjoy this read, and look forward to the final book in the series.


 Golden-SonGolden Sun:  Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

Yes, it’s another dystopian future YA series. (The first in the series is Red Rising. You can tell we loved it from our post! )  But with enough sci-fi (such as genetically altered “golds”, truth-telling scorpions, elements of special and dangerous “games”) to keep readers intrigued and guessing about what will happen next.  I appreciate the continuing character development of our hero, Darrow, as well as the others who people the novel.  Lots of growing and changing, shifting alliances, continuing romance, and spectacular challenges.  Darrow, you recall, is a lowly Red at the start of the first novel, whose young wife is killed for her rebellion.  Saved by the rebels, he is altered to become a Gold and lead the revolution from the inside.  The second novel is, if possible, even better, as the characters are engaged in further challenges.  The ending is a cliff-hanger, so you ‘ll be anxiously waiting  for the 3rd novel!


National Pi Day is March 14th

March 7, 2015

~posted by Ruth

What could be more fun than celebrating the mathematical elegance of pi–and eating its homophone (aka pie)?   For nerdy readers (like me), here’s the reason why Pi DayPi:

“Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.”  For more information and Pi Day trivia, check out the Pi Day site.

To learn more about pi  (and pie) through cool children’s literature, browse the following list:

Dragon-of-PiSir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geean

I love the mathematical plays on words for the characters’ names in this book.  Not only Sir Cumference, but of course the Lady Di of Ameter, not to mention the young boy at the center of the story, Radius.  Radius must use math to save his father.  It’s a great introduction to the concept of pi for younger students, and I know oh high school math teachers who use the whole Sir Cumference series with their students as a fun diversion and review.  Slightly silly, but entertaining and educational.


Pi-in-the-skyPi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

Here’s a science fiction book to intrigue science enthusiasts, from a well-loved author for tweens, Wendy Maas.  This time, her hero is Josh, 7th son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe.  While Josh’s brothers have important jobs, he finds his own to be quite menial:  delivering pies for his father. Living in the Realms, locked inside dark matter, it feels to Josh like “nothing elver happens.,”   Until an Earth girl, Annika, exploring the skies with her telescope, spies the Realms, and is transported there.  Turns out Earth has been removed from the space-time continuum!  Josh must fix things by rebuilding the entire solar system.  As usual, Wendy Maas brings us to new worlds through a great read.


PiePie by Sarah Weeks

How do you leave a pie recipe to a cat?  And why is it such a coveted recipe in the first place?  Well, Alice’s Aunt Polly is the Pie Queen of Ipswich, and everyone want to be able to win the pie contests with her award-winning recipes.   Here’s a book for Pi Day that celebrates that glorious circle, the dessert of champions:  Pie!  Filled with recipes, engaging characters, and sweet themes of friendship and family, Pie is a winner to read aloud on Pi Day–or anytime!



A YA Great Gatsby Retelling: GREAT

March 1, 2015


~posted by Ruth

Great by Sara Benincasa

We love retellings, especially when there is a twist in the new version that highlights the themes in a different voice.  And that’s the case here, in the YA contemporary version of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great GatsbyThe original is a big favorite of mine; my intrepid Book Club decided to read a “classic” for a change last year and chose The Great Gatsby.  Though we had all read it at least once (several English teachers. . .), we found ourselves marveling at the language, deep themes, and compelling voices.

Fresh from that rereading, I was delighted to see Sara Bencasa had taken on the challenge of updating this classic–especially with the gender-switching roles she crafts while keeping so many of the original themes and personalities. Instead if the Jazz age, the time is “now” in the rich Hamptons of New York, complete with jet-setting and mega-rich socialites, decadent over-the-top parties, and faux friends who change sides.

At the heart of the story is the narrator, teen-ager Naomi, who befriends Jacinta, the Gatsby character.  While certainly not the literary level of the original, Great gets high marks from me for reinterpreting the major plot line of the book into today’s teen world.  I’d use this as a pre-read to The Great Gatsby, noting similarities and differences.  The gender-bending elements are ripe for discussion, as well as the variation in the endings.

What do you and the teen readers in your life think of this YA novel?  We’d love to hear!

CLEOPATRA IN SPACE: Recommended Graphic Novel for Young Readers

February 21, 2015

CleoCleopatra in Space #1:  Target Practice by Mike Maihack

What does it take to be a great leader?  Well, Cleopatra finds out in this new graphic novel series starring the original Cleopatra.  Well, sort of. . .The difference is that this Cleopatra, while she comes from ancient Egypt, finds herself in the very far future, preparing to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. At the high-tech school of the future, Cleopatra makes friends and works to fulfill her destiny.  Our hero Cleo is a bit of a trouble-maker (no surprise) who takes more quickly to her ray-gun practice than her academic studies.  Love the attitude, adventure, and her delightful side-kick, a talking cat.  The art style is a treat, with lots of expressive touches, and added details to pore over.  The next in the series is out later this spring, so stay tuned.

If your readers enjoyed this, they’ll surely love our list of Graphic novels for tweensZita the Space Girl is a special favorite from this list, and there are now 3 books in the series!

RAIN, REIGN by Ann Martin: A Review

February 14, 2015

RainRain, Reign by Ann Martin

I am always intrigued by novels that allow me to step inside the minds of people who approach the world in very different ways from me.  The character Rose puzzles, delights, and intrigues me.  She glories in homonyms, and given her obsession, loves that her own name is one.  She  purposely gives her dog a very special name–a double homonym:  Rain (Rein, Reign).

The story of her beloved dog going missing during a powerful storm is told through Rose’s eyes and with her own unique voice and vision.  We learn of her other obsessions–prime numbers, the need for order and rituals–all common symptoms of high-functioning autism.  But this novel is beyond a card-board story built around a perceived disability; it is raw, emotional, and riveting.  Middle-schoolers I know are loving it–and so do I.  A great book for stopping after chapters and discussing, whether it’s read at home or school.

We recently reviewed another book with a main character with Asberger’s Syndrome.  If the teen in your life enjoyed Rain, Reign, you might recommend The White Bicycle:

The-White-BicycleThe White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna

Taylor Jane travels to France for the summer and chronicles her trip in her journal.  Since her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome at age 11, she has learned to use her writing as a tool to help her process her experiences, and as readers, we are able to eavesdrop on her thinking as we read those journal entries.  The White Bicycle figures prominently in her dreams, where the “the speed and wind on my face as I ride is exhilarating.”  The book is the third novel about Taylor Jane, and in my mind, the most compelling.  The respect for the gifts as well as challenges of autism is refreshing and informative.


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