Welcome to my brand new blog

I hope to give you helpful reviews of what’s being published in children’s literature.  I write reviews for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database www.CLCD.com and have read some amazing books amongst some mind-boggling clunkers.  But who’s to say that my idea of amazing isn’t your definition of a clunker and vice versa.  Please join in with your views.  I was thinking of trying to categorize the books in to areas such as Adventure–realistic; Adventure–supernatural; Historical; Chick Lit; Humorous; Pop Culture; Nonfiction.  Let me know if this works for you or would you rather an eclectic mix?  Broken down by age group?  But for the first reviews, I’m just going for some my  favorites.

I’m also going to add links to other blogs related to writing for children, so send me your blog name or those of your favorites, plus websites you find interesting or helpful. Here’s a few to start. www.SCBWI.org; www.InstituteChildrensLit.com; www.pubsubbers.yahoo.com ; www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com; www.joanyedwards.com;  http://irisinbloom.wordpress.com

I look forward to hearing from you.  Until next time, Sarah Maury Swan, author of “Horse Cuddling” in the Jan/Feb issue of Fun for Kidz magazine and “Wartime Memories of a Young Child,” Dec. 16, 2011 issue of the New Bern Sun Journalhttp://www.newbernsj.com/articles/father-102900-young-mother.html  Incoming President of Carteret Writers.

Forget Me Not: From the Life of Willa Havisham

Coleen Murtagh Paratore

      A nicely written installment on the ongoing life of Willa Havisham, where she learns about trust and loyalty, not to mention how to plan a wedding and make her mother and stepfather’s (Sam) inn and wedding destination facility more eco-friendly.  Her best friend, Tina Belle, is spending more time with Ruby Sivler, a snooty rich girl.  Willa is jealous of this, but at the same time she’s getting to know and like Mariel Sanchez better.  A Golden Retriever  swims in from the sea and  adopts Willa .  Willa’s mom likes things to be extra neat and tidy, so the idea of a dog does not appeal to her.  Willa plans her stepfather’s sister’s wedding to take place the same day as a huge wedding her mother is organizing.  But when the sister, Aunt Ruthie, comes with her fiancé, Spruce, things turn a bit sour.  Ruthie berates Willa’s mom for driving an SUV and Sam for using plastic bags to carry the groceries home with.  Willa’s boyfriend, Joseph, takes her sailing only to discover she’s terrified of being out on the ocean.  He gets angry with her for not trusting him enough to tell him about her fears.  There’s lots going on in this book, making for many changes in Willa and a surprise in the end; which will of course lead to the next installment.  I liked the inclusion of all the books Willa reads during the course of the story and the quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  One noticeable mistake for me is Willa’s continued reference to “stupid baseball” because Joseph is going to Miami, Florida, for a month to work at the Miami Dolphins’ training camp.  The Miami Dolphins are a football team. 

BIBLIO: 2009, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 14 +, $16.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-09401-6

ISBN: 0-545-09401-1


Kiera Stewart

      Olivia Albert, at thirteen, is tired of being bullied and shamed by the so-called cool kids in her middle school.  She lives with her grandmother, Corny, since her mother has run away, she thinks, and her father is still working where they used to live.  She worries that she’ll become “crazy” like her mother and she misses her dad.  As she begins helping Corny train dogs, Olivia realizes she can train people in the same way.  Ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior ought to do the trick, so she recruits her “loser” friends at school to help her retrain the bullies, especially the obnoxious ringleader, Brynne.  At first Olivia’s scheme works well, but soon she discovers power of any sort should be used gently and wisely.  She eventually reads the letters her mother has sent her from the mental hospital and feels the love in them.  This is a nice story with plenty of pith and lots of humor.  Figuring out one’s place in the world is always hard and even the bullies need to be understood, though their behavior should not be tolerated.

BIBLIO: 2011, Disney-Hyperion Books/Disney Book Group, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3845-7

ISBN: 1-4231-3845-7

Want to Go Private?

Sarah Darer Littman

      Abby isn’t looking forward to high school.  She just knows it’s going to be the same as middle school where she was the “smart girl” nerd.  But her best friend, Faith, embraces the changes and begins to branch out, making Abby feel more isolated.  Plus, at home, she doesn’t think her family cares about her.  She’s ripe fruit for an online sexual predator, “Luke,” who convinces Abby he alone loves and listens to her.  Even though a boy at school expresses interest in her, Abby doesn’t believe he could really be attracted to her.  And Luke warns her that he is the jealous type who might harm the school boy.  The more Luke isolates her emotionally, the more she’s willing to participate in his sexual games.  Eventually he convinces her to run away with him.  In the end, the FBI is able to track them down and rescue Abby.  Plan to stay up until you finish this book and make sure to have plenty of tissues on hand.  School internet safety classes should make this required reading.  It’s a compelling read and a horrifying story.

BIBLIO: 2011, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-15146-7