Changing Seasons

The weather may still be warm in your neck of the woods, but we are in November already. Which means winter is on the way. I thought you might like a little hint of what can happen in the cold months. I’m not a big fan of the cold, it makes my hands and feet hurt, but looking out at a snowy day when you know you can stay warm by the fire, is a thing of beauty. I love the quiet, gentle to feel of snow falling around me. And how sparkly clean the sky is after a storm. Anyway, hope you enjoy the books I’ve chosen.

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The Big Dark

Rodman Philbrick

Charlie Cobb lives in Harmony, New Hampshire, which becomes less harmonious after a massive solar flare knocks all electrical connections. Not just the lights are affected, but cars, generators and anything with some kind of electrical impulse is rendered useless. It happens during a spectacular showing of the aurora borealis which all 857 residents watch from a snowy and beyond cold baseball field. The assumption at first is that the power will come back on in a matter of hours, well maybe days, or perhaps weeks. People cooperate at first, but soon the camaraderie is lost and survivalist crazies try to take over. The town elects the part-time volunteer police officer and full-time school janitor, Mr. Kingman, to keep order and run the town. The longer the power outage lasts, the more Charlie’s sister worries their mother will run out of her insulin pills. The only way to get help is for Charlie to borrow his friend’s cross-country skis and head down the mountain to the nearest large town, Concord. He has to sneak out because his mother banned him from skiing after his father died in a skiing accident. What is a twenty-minute car ride takes Charlie two days skiing and he has to ward off very hungry coyotes that smell the venison jerky he’s surviving on. He does get help from an elderly couple after rescuing the husband from under his collapsed wood pile. Concord is in chaos when Charlie finally gets there, but he does find help and the medicine his mom needs. This book is a good jumping off point for many discussions on making a better world, survival and astrophysics, among other things. It is a compelling read.

BIBLIO: 2016, The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $??.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-78975-2

ISBN: 978-0-545-78977-6

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Having grown up seeing well done drawings in books—think of the original drawings in Winnie-the-Pooh or Wind in the Willows—cutesy Disney style illustrations irritate me. But this book does have merit to it.

Winter’s Flurry Adventure

Elise Allen and Halle Stanford

Illustrated by Paige Pooler

This the second of four stories in a series created to tie in with the TV “Enchanted Sisters” series developed by Mike Moon of the Jim Henson Company. Winter lives in a snowy realm with Fluffy the Polar Bear as her constant companion and best friend until Fluffy gets jealous of a baby fox and runs off. Winter calls her sisters, Spring, Summer and Autumn, to help get the bear back. In their efforts to find Fluffy, the girls go into the “Weeds’” territory where everything is dark and dirty. Eventually they find the beloved bear happily playing with some of the Weeds. Fluffy pays no attention to Winter, but he’s been telling the boys about her. After saving a moat monster, the four sisters figure out a way to entice Fluffy back to Winter’s realm where their mother, Mother Nature, joins them. Winter apologizes to Fluffy for making him feel unloved and the bear and fox become friends. The drawings are ever so cutesy, but the messages of caring about one’s friends and this planet we live on, give the book some merit.

BIBLIO: 2014, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., Ages 7 to 9, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-61963-267-7

ISBN: 978-1-61963-267-4

ISBN: 978-1-61963-268-4

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The last book in this week’s blog is, in some ways, a sad book, though the reader is endeared to the main character. I thought it was a good read.

Winter Sky

Patricia Reilly Giff

Siria, named by her mother for the bright star in the Canis Major constellation, lives on the seventh floor of an apartment building in one of New York City’s boroughs. She treasurers her memories of her deceased mother and dotes on her father. Pop is a firefighter and Siria worries he will get hurt or killed on the job. She feels she must follow him to nighttime fires near their apartment. Then she stumbles across several suspicious fires in the neighborhood and starts her own investigation to find the culprit. At first she assumes it’s her best friend, Douglas, because he has a green jacket that matches the scrap of fabric she finds at a fire scene. She keeps feeling the presence of someone lurking around the various scenes and she cautiously befriends a stray dog with a matted coat that shows up around the fires also. Douglas is angry with her for mistrusting him, but she learns her evidence against him is flawed. She does find the fire starter eventually, who turns out to be a runaway from Pennsylvania. She doesn’t turn him into the authorities because the fires were accidental as he tried to keep warm. Her father is hurt on the job, but survives and his injuries heal quickly. Her friends, Douglas and Laila, build her a star-gazing shelter on their apartment building’s roof as a present for her twelfth birthday. Along the way Siria learns to trust the people she loves and to believe in her own strengths. Ms. Giff has a lovely way of endearing her reader to her protagonists. This is, in some ways, a simple telling of Siria’s story, but in some ways complex. The reader will have much to ponder.

BIBLIO: 2014, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Children’s Books/Random House LLC/ Penguin Random House Company, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-375-83892-7

ISBN: 978-0-385-37192-6

ISBN: 978-0-375-37193-3

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Enjoy the beauty of fall weather and leaf colors and slowly get yourself ready for the winter months when you can sit by a fire and read a good book.

Happy Halloween

Oh boy, Halloween is here again! Do you remember planning your costume and going door to door with your friends? How much candy you got! Since my mother decided we got too much candy, she told us we could come back half way through our rounds of our small town and leave what we’d collected so our sacks wouldn’t get too heavy. Innocents that we were, we’d come back and unload. Mother, of course, would give out that candy to kids visiting our house. We never missed the candy. This was back in the 1950s when it was safe to accept homemade goodies. Perhaps it still is, but we’ve lost our faith in each other’s goodness.

The boys in our town, when they got too old to dress up and collect candy would make mischievous instead. A favorite was to see who could ring the town hall bell without getting caught.

My husband and his friends, being farm boys, one time dismantled a neighbor’s hay wagon and reassembled it on his roof. Strangely enough they didn’t wake him up. Of course the neighbor did discover the culprits who then had to take the wagon off the roof.

Still, most of us learned our lessons and survived our brashness to become useful members of society.

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Of course if it’s a Kate DiCamillo book it’s going to be good. This one is quite amusing.

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon

Kate DiCamillo

Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Francine Poulet comes from a long line of animal control officers. The forty-seven awards she’s won prove how good she is at her job. She knows no fear whether confronting a bear or a mouse. When she gets a call about a “ghost” raccoon, with great confidence she sets out to round the critter up. Alas Francine meets her match! The raccoon screams her name. Not her usual name, Francine, but the pet name her father called her, Franny. How does that coon know her seldom-used nickname? At first Francine doesn’t realize she feels fear thumping in her heart. But when she does recognize fear, she is mortified. She grabs the raccoon, slips on her ladder and plummets three stories down to the ground and wakes up in the hospital with a broken arm and a broken leg. Eventually she recovers, promptly quits her animal control officer job and takes a job as a cashier at a bait and tackle store. One day a boy named Frank and his sister Stella come in looking for sweets to buy. Well, any knowledgeable person knows a store named Clyde’s Bait, Feed, Tackle and Animal Necessities doesn’t carry sweets, but Stella wants to be sure. Frank recognizes Francine and encourages her to get her courage back by capturing the raccoon. Ms. DiCamillo’s writing is always full of wry humor which inspires illustrators to go for the funny. This is Volume 2 of the “Tales from Deckawoo Drive.”

BIBLIO: 2015, Candlewick Press, Ages 6 to 9, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6886-0

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Did you ever carve a pumpkin? Or draw a scary face on one? It takes a while, but that’s what happens to this pumpkin.

Little Boo

Stephen Wunderli

Illustrated by Tim Zeltner

A seed wants to be scary, but when he says Boo to a falling leaf, the leaf tells him he’s not scary at all. A grub is too busy to pay attention to the seed and when the snow flakes silently settle around him, they ask why the many of them should be afraid of the one of him. The wind comforts him, telling him to be patient, and covers him with soil to keep him warm. So Little Boo sleeps through the winter dreaming of saying Boo. Finally, the air and soil warm up and the seed sends up green shoots to feel the warmth. As he grows, he tries to scare an old boot and then a shovel and finally a watering can, but they all ignore him. So the sprout keeps growing and the wind encourages him, though the water bucket, the bees and the grasshopper blink not an eye when our growing sprout says boo. The not so little sprout grows floppy orange flowers which turn into fruit. The fruit all start small and green, but one swells much bigger than the others and is picked by hands which carry Little Boo into a house where the once seed becomes a jack o’lantern. Then his BOO is big enough to scare the cat and the ghosts and goblins. This is a nicely told story about waiting for your dreams to come true and it’s a clever way to introduce children to the cycle of life for plants.

BIBLIO: 2014, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, Ages 3 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9708-5

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9709-2

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I’m a firm believer in ghosts having felt them around me. “Yeah, sure Sarah,” you say with a snort and snigger. It’s true. Last winter I was in an old building that is now a restaurant, waiting for the rest of our group to join me and my friend. The door to the room was on my left and the windows looking over the street were to my right. My friend was sitting at right angles to me so she could see behind me. I felt a man come in through the doorway, walk behind me—the sound of his hurrying foot steps thumping in my ears—and then I saw him walk to the windows, do something and then head back out the door. He had on dark trousers and a yellow plaid vest. After he was gone, I asked my friend if a man had just been in the room. With a frown on her face, she said, “No, it’s only the two of us.” When I told our waiter what I’d seen, he said, “Oh yes, we have several ghosts.”

The Unsolved Mystery of Haunted Houses

Katherine Krohn

Are the noises and electrical glitches in old houses caused by ghosts? The little boy who fell down the well two hundred years ago wants to get out? The murdered grandfather who left his wealth to a library seeks revenge on his heirs? Maybe the old woman whose only happiness was as a small child living in the house? Or could it be the house is just old and its bones creak the way an old person’s do? Or perhaps the electrical system needs updating? The author touches very briefly on such phenomena and also points out that not all “haunted” houses are old. One of the old ones—old for the United States—is the President’s home, the White House in Washington, DC. Ghost and haunted houses have been a topic of conversation for centuries. The ones mentioned in this book are the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and the Borley Rectory in England. There are actually people who, with many gadgets like thermometers and tape recorders, research instances of haunting. Most of the time the researchers find natural causes such as the inherent creakiness of a house contracting in the winter. The book has a number of interesting facts, but the “True or False?” sidebars are confusing in many instances. The introduction of vocabulary words is done nicely and the book makes for a fun Halloween discussion of scary things.

BIBLIO: 2014, Capstone Press/Capstone, Ages 6 to 8, $24.65.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4765-3097-0

ISBN: 978-1-4765-3428-2

ISBN: 978-1-4765-3442-8

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Happy Halloween to you all and don’t eat too much candy.

The next day, November 1st, which some people call “All Saints Day,” was my brother Bill’s birthday and, being the obnoxious younger sister, I would always say he should have been born the day before because he was most decidedly not a saint.

Hot off the Presses

I thought I’d give you some hot off the presses books to read about this week. I just sent in these reviews of three different books. All of which were enjoyable reads. The first one is a very amusing picture book, but the second and third ones are heart wrenchers. Hope you enjoy them.

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Anybody who has ever taken a small child somewhere in public will most decidedly relate to this story. Stories like this always remind me of the meltdown I had when I was 8 years old and had to go for what eventually turned out not to be a painful shot at all. But I had just come off a month of having penicillin shots in my butt. And on the bus ride to National Institutes of Health to get said Rocky Mountain Fever shot, my older siblings had of course made the most of the ordeal. Well, we got to the line to get the shot and I was fine until it was my turn. No siree, no way was I going to have another shot. I lay on the floor and kicked my heels. I ran out of the room and onto an elevator with my mother right behind me. I bit her and kicked her and eventually got the shot that didn’t hurt a bit. Then my mother told me I had to tell my grandmother what I’d done when we got home. So I can relate to meltdowns.

Meltdown

Jill Murphy

Illustrated by Jill Murphy

Roxy and Mommy go grocery shopping and Roxy is very excited to help. Perhaps a bit too excited since she has to be reminded to not crush the chips or the bread or race down the aisle with the cart. But she pretty much behaves until she and Mommy pick out a cake with a piggy face, which Roxy wants to hold. Look out, here comes MELTDOWN! Roxy wants to eat the cake now! And boy does she let the world know. ALL THE WAY HOME. Unrepentant even when scolded, Roxy asks in her quietest voice and with her smarmiest smile to have piggy cake now. Everyone who has ever taken a screaming child some where in public will cringe and laugh throughout the story, though the child probably won’t understand what the problem is. The story prompts a good discussion about proper behavior in public. Though rabbits and other animals are used instead of children, the illustrations surely do depict a young child in a store. This book is definitely worth a read.

BIBLIO: 2016, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 6, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8926-1

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Life isn’t always a walk in the park for people. Those of us who live in our almost safe enclaves tend to forget how much darkness and sadness there is around us. Being strong is sometimes not easy.

On Guard

Patrick Jones

This book is a stellar addition to the “Bounce” series which seems to focus on kids playing basketball in school and how it can help them through the rocky rapids of high school. Mercedes Morgan is an outstanding point guard for her team on her way to breaking state records for shooting three-point baskets, but family life gets in the way. Mercy was able to shift focus when her family moved away from the rougher parts of Birmingham, Alabama, and is headed towards a full ride at the University of Alabama. But her older sister, Callie, is still pulled in by the “corner” and her boyfriend. The girls’ younger brother, Lincoln, is heading in the same direction until Callie is murdered by her gang. She lingers in a coma as the family tries to carry on and Mercy tries to concentrate on winning the three-point record and a scholarship to college. Mercy’s girlfriend, Jade, who came from the same rough neighborhood, gives support as best she can, but Mercedes loses focus as she watches Callie die and feels she losing Lincoln to the old neighborhood. With Jade’s help and support from her teammates and coach, Mercy saves her brother, at least for the time being, and ends up with her full ride. The though all of the characters are seen only through Mercedes’ eyes and feelings, the reader gets a real feel for them and Mercy’s helplessness in making things right. All kinds of school room discussions emanate from this book and writing is concise. This book is a winner.

BIBLIO: 2016, Darby Creek/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 14 +, $26.65.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-51241-123-2

ISBN: 978-1-51241-207-9

ISBN: 978-1-51241-134-8

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Sometimes I get to read a book that stays with me for a long time because of how nicely it’s written, but also because of the story’s essence. This is one of those books.

The Memory Book

Lara Avery

Samantha Agatha McCoy, a.k.a. Sammie, has an incurable disease that is killing her as it steals her brain. She writes a journal to her future self so that she’ll remember her past. The disease is called Niemann-Pick Type C and it usually attacks children much younger than high school senior, Sammie. She is partner in a winning debate team that’s on its way to winning the National Debate Championship. She has a crush on Stuart Shah, a super hot guy who’s now studying in New York City. But, just as things are going well for Sammie, her disease worsens. She has seizures and blanks out. Her speech slurs and her memory worsens. She tries to have a normal life and looks forward to her plans for her future. She never does make it to college, but she does make the best of the time she has left. The story could break the reader’s heart except for all the hope and love Sammie and her family have for each other. In addition to the story being about Sammy dealing with her disease, the author also neatly folds in the usual trials and tribulations of a nerdy teenager. It could lead to interesting classroom discussions on relationships and diseases. This book is definitely worth reading.

BIBLIO: 2016, Poppy/Little, Brown and Company/Alloy Entertainment/Hachette Book Group, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-31628-374-8

ISBN: 978-0-31628-377-9

ISBN: 978-1-47890-971-2

It’s Magic!

Who’s up for some magic? I love magic and the endless possibilities it suggests. So we’re doing magical today.

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Frankie vs. the Cowboy’s Crew

Frank Lampard

Illustrated by Frank Lampard

“Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball” leads Frankie, Louise, Kobe and Max-the-talking-dog on exotic soccer trips, this time to the Wild West to play a game of soccer against the fearsome Cowboy Crew at high noon—only an hour away! The Crew has robbed all the towns of all sweets, including sugar, and is gunning for Sweetsville. Frankie’s team must defeat them before the next shipment of sweets arrives in town. To make matters worse, Louise is the spitting image of Sue-Ann, a member of the Cowboy Crew. Sue-Ann is wanted all over the place for her nefarious deeds. The town sheriff hauls Louise off to jail in red liquorish handcuffs. And already it’s 11:20. In ride the Cowboy Crew, led by Tex on a brown stallion. The leader is extremely fond of his lariat. Next in line is the dastardly Sue-Ann, and bringing up the rear is an enormously fat varmint named Sandy, formerly Deputy Sheriff Sandy. Then Tex hollers for his last player to show up—Spike, a tall cactus. The soccer match is delayed when the express train arrives early and Tex plans to rob it of its cargo, enough candy to supply towns for miles around. But Frankie and his team are now locked in a jail cell along with the sheriff. No problem, Frankie knocks the keys of the wall and frees them. The team beats the bad guys at a soccer game and ride the train magically to their home. The good thing about this story is it might encourage boys to read.

BIBLIO: 2014 (Orig. 2013,) Scholastic, Inc., Ages 6 to 8, $4.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-66616-9

Who wouldn’t want to have a treehouse that grows to fit your needs?

The 52-Story Treehouse

Andy Griffiths

Illustrated by Terry Denton

Andy and Terry live in a gigantic and convoluted tree house with, at the moment, fifty-two stories, occupied by all kinds of games and gadgets with which to amuse themselves. But, at the moment, they are supposed to be finishing work on their latest novel. Usually their editor, Mr. Big Nose, starts nagging them about the deadline, but they haven’t heard a word from him. So they go to his office to see why he hasn’t nagged them. Well, no wonder! He isn’t there and his office is a mess, with lots of broken things, not to mention all the vegetable leaves strewn about. Turns out he’s been kidnapped. Terry and Andy must find him so he can remind them to finish their novel. As the story progresses, they of course end up in one pickle after another. They do, however, solve many mysteries and eventually save Mr. Big Nose, along with discovering they’ve just written their novel. Middle-grade boys in particular will get a huge chortle out of this book and there is enough going on to keep teachers in classroom discussion material having to do with physics, chemistry and other physical sciences. The story is simplistic enough to appeal to reluctant readers, but amusing enough to hold better readers’ interest.

BIBLIO: 2016, (org. 2014,) Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan/Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd., Ages 8 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Graphic Novel

ISBN: 978-1-250-0269-3-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-08023-3

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This last story has all kinds of appeal, what with the magic and taking place in Ireland and a bit of mystery and a bit of Irish folklore.

The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox

Nigel Quinlan

The Maloneys have a secret, they think. Mr. Maloney is the Weatherman, in charge of keeping the changing of the seasons orderly. Except this year, the magical weatherbox, which, to the untutored eye, looks rather like a phone booth, doesn’t ring for the changing of the seasons. So Summer hangs around not letting Autumn cool off Ireland and other northern hemisphere countries. Then Neil, the heir apparent, still learning the ways of being a weatherman, rescues a baby season, imprisoned by the evil witch, Mrs. Fitzgerald, who wishes to be the Weatherman. Chaos ensues and Neil must save the day. He gets lots of assistance from his family, especially his sister Liz, though younger brother Owen helps in his way by befriending a bog beast. A stranger comes to stay and becomes part of the saving team. In the end it looks as if Mrs. Fitzgerald will win out and the Maloney family will lose the right to be the Weatherman. Liz saves the day by giving the baby season back to its family—the four seasons. She becomes the next Weatherman and the Fitzgeralds are sent far away. Lovers of magic, adventure and utter chaos in stories will get quite a kick out of this story. The characters are well drawn and the plot is fast moving. Though not even close to the realm of reality, this book could lead to classroom discussions about weather, magic and Ireland. It’s a thoroughly likeable read.

BIBLIO: 2015, Roaring Brook Press/Holzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-62672-033-6

ISBN: 978-1-62672-034-3

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So here’s hoping magically good things happened to and for you.

Silliness, Sweetness, Magic and Math

I felt like talking about silliness, sweetness—in more ways than one—and magic. So I’ve included three diverse books, all of them with a lighthearted twist. They all subtly teach the reader something. Hope you enjoy them.

The first one is the most didactic, but still is a good adventure story, and if it encourages the reader to try a bit harder to understand math and physics, that’s a good thing.

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Bringing Down the Mouse

Ben Mezrich

Charlie Lewis, a.k.a. Numbers, the smartest kid in his six-grade class, is part of a scheme to beat the carnival games at Incredo Land to garner enough points for a chance at spinning the lottery wheel and winning the big prize–$50,000! Using basic laws of physics and mathematics, that’s exactly what he does with the help of his friends, new and old. Mathematics rule Numbers’ life; it’s how he views the world. The new friends are in a secret club run by the exotic Miranda, supposedly a teaching student at a local Boston university. They call themselves the Carnival Killers and swear Charlie to secrecy. This causes problems between Numbers and his best friend, Jeremy. In the end, Charlie does figure out how to beat the wheel, but he also figures out how to keep Miranda from running off with the money—her ultimate goal. The story is fun, but the author gets bogged down in explaining the math and physics, which continually disrupts the flow. It’s hard to keep track of who is doing what and where Charlie is. When, out of the blue, other characters are the focus it’s hard to know where they are. A few more dialog attributions would keep the characters straight in the reader’s mind. Still, the book makes a good teaching tool for discussing the relevance of science for all kids.

BIBLIO: 2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9626-2

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9632-3

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I love stories told in foreign countries. They tickle my interest in exotic, at least to me, places. The illustrations are delightful and the story is sweet.

Red Panda’s Candy Apples

Ruth Paul

Illustrated by Ruth Paul

This sweet story has lovely illustrations which the illustrator produced with pencil drawings and digital finishing so they look like watercolors. Red Panda sells candy apples to his forest friends, but he’s sad to see each apple go. He’d like to eat them all himself. After he has sold off many apples and mostly filled up his coin jar, he treats himself to one. But then duckling and Bushbaby fight over the one remaining apple, spilling the coins. Red Panda picks up the coins and Duckling gives Bushbaby the last apple. But…it turns out there is one more apple. And Red Panda sells the candy apple he’d saved for himself. Everybody’s happy and Red Panda has a jar full of sticky coins. The story introduces children to the concept of marketing and the moral of sharing, in a playful and easy to understand fashion. Red Pandas and Bushbabies are not normally found running around in the United States, but this story is a good way to show children that there are other creatures sharing our world.

BIBLIO: 2014 (orig. 2013,) Candlewick Press, Age 4 to 6, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6758-0

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I was tempted to try this trick, but I was afraid of damaging my old lady bones. Still, it’s a good trick to fool your friends with.

The Incredible Twisting Arm

Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane

Illustrated by Eric Wight

Mike loves magic and he loves the White Rabbit Magic Shop, but he goes only when his mother can take him. He’s not a good student and he’s forever getting in trouble. Maybe he can show his parents that he can ride to the magic shop by himself. With encouragement from his neighbor and best friend Nora, Mike decides to show how responsible he can be. He tries harder in school and works on not getting into trouble. For an extra credit science project, decides to show how to look double jointed and what that really means. He learns from his friend at the White Rabbit how make it look as if his arm can twist into a complete circle. He does so well with his project, his parents agree to let him go to the store. During the course of the story, the reader learns several magic tricks. The moral of the story isn’t too blatantly presented and most children can relate to a less than perfect person. Plus, aspiring magicians get some new tricks to practice.

BIBLIO: 2014, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 6 to 9, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-250-02915-7

ISBN: 978-1-250-04044-2

ISBN: 978-1-250-06027-3

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I believe today is the first day of autumn, so I hope you’re looking forward to hot cider spiced with cinnamon and accompanied by a slice of pumpkin pie. Be sure, before or after, to rake up some leaves and leap into them. Please tell me a memory of something special to you about fall weather or activities. Thanks for reading, Sarah.

Seeing Reality Is Hard

As you know, I usually review three books each week on my blog, but this book of short stories deserves its own post. Do find a copy of this book to read.

I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories about Real Life

Compiled by Grace Kendall

It’s hard enough to break up with someone you’ve been dating, but when the boyfriend threatens to commit suicide or convinces you to stay together just for one more year until he graduates from high school or uses equally debilitating arguments, what is a person to do? “Three Imaginary Conversations with You,” by Heather Demetrios, drags a bit, but gets the point across that the boyfriend is obnoxious and manipulative.

The Downside of Fabulous,” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, brings in to sharp focus trying to connect with a boyfriend when you’re gay, with well fleshed out characters are and gentle humor. And how does the main character, Chris, deal with the rejection by his heart throb, Tom? Chris owns up to his mistakes and to his being gay.

Skittles, the black cat, keeps the reader guessing as he tells “The Night of the Living Creeper,” by Stephen Emond, about a group of kids talking about who might a “creeper” in their group, looking for someone to sexually assault. When the party breaks up, the creeper makes himself known to the hostess, but she doesn’t take any of his nonsense.

Kekla Magoon’s entry is “Makeshift,” about a mixed-race girl, which focuses on the boxes we put people in. Her father beats her mother one time too many and so Kayse and her mom leave their nice suburban house for a cheap apartment in the heart of Harlem. Kayse’s mom is black and her biological dad is white, as is the man she calls Dad. But Kayse doesn’t like being called “Blanca” or white even though she never much thought about her race before. In Harlem, being white is bad.

Things You Get Over, Things You Don’t,” by Jason Schmidt, is a very powerful story about a school shooting, told from the viewpoint of Caleb who tries to help his gravely wounded girlfriend. When he does save her only discover she’ll probably be a paraplegic for the rest of her life, he thinks it’s all his fault. That he did the wrong thing by moving her to stop the bleeding from the exit wound in her back.

In the end, they are able to tell each other their true feelings.

The message of “Coffee Chameleon,” by Jay Clark, is that recovering from addictions of any kind is hard, but probably the hardest is the addiction to love, especially if it’s commingled with an addiction to prescription drugs is concisely told with good use of humor. Matt was introduced to prescription medication pills by his girlfriend Andi, but got so hooked on them he got his own prescription. Then Andi dumps him and he has to detox himself all alone. But he ends up going to a local coffee shop to get himself out of his head and meets a girl there who helps him recover.

Marcella Pixley’s “Hush,” is the story of a girl and her mother dealing with the death of the father/husband’s from AIDS. This story of the misguided lengths we go to in keeping loved ones safe from our fears and grief is crisply told. June ends up being the grown up when her mother becomes obsessed with keeping her daughter safe.

Can you imagine having to face the world knowing they know your brother took a gun to school and shot students to death? So Lily’s parents move to a new town to start a new life, but Lily is sure everyone will learn about the truth. Rather than try for the leading role in the school musical, Lily hides behind the stage curtain until a new guy in school won’t let her stay hide her talents in Trisha Leaver’s “Blackbird.”

Gone from this Place,” by Faith Erin Hicks, deals, in a graphic story format, with acknowledging one’s sexuality. A boy and girl have made it through high school by being the perfect couple, only now that they’re heading off the different colleges breaking up. They figure in college they can come out and be accepted for who they really are. It’s a good plan except for one detail. It never occurred to them there might be other homosexual kids in their high school and it’s only at the last minute they discover they’ve missing out on real love.

You know the girl or boy you’ve always had a crush on, but didn’t know how to approach and when you do finally get together, you both mess it up? That’s what Jordan Sonnenblick’s “The Sweeter the Sin” is about. The girl has a saying that the sweeter the sin the better the taste. Unfortunately, David and Elizabeth discover that “t’aint necessarily so.”

But the strongest story is simply called “Mistake” and tells the story of a teen couple having to deal with an abortion. Malcolm supports Angela when she makes the decision to abort and at first he doesn’t feel anything one way or another. Then he goes with her to the abortion clinic and begins to think about the baby. A part of him regrets their decision and he wonders if Angela can actually have the procedure.

The last story is about Jose, an illegal immigrant whose twin brother, Javier, switches places with him to save him from deportation. “The Good Brother” is written by Patrick Flores-Scott and will make you want to find a solution to the immigration problems this country is facing.

This book is a keeper.

BIBLIO: 2016, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $ 17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-374-30258-0

ISBN: 978-0-374-30259-7

Love, Does It Conquer All?

Love comes in many forms and our actions/reactions to the feelings are complex, to say the least. So let’s review three books that show different reactions to love. One of the stories is indeed adorable and makes me wish I had a baby to cuddle. To smell the sweet and sour aromas of one so young and listen to the gentle breathing sounds of a baby paying attention and feel the softness of a baby’s skin and hair. Or to feel the squirmy attention of a toddler who wants to hear the story, but has a hard time sitting still.

Another of the stories has to do with trying for redemption and righting past wrongs.

And the third story is about finding love and forgivness as a teenager. I think most of us have experienced all three types of love. Enjoy.

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Some of the books I review leave me pretty much cold, but they all have some merit to them, especially the message of being careful what you wish for. This isn’t one of my favorites. Still, it is worth a mention.

Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend

Katie Finn

Gemma Tucker did horrible things to Hallie, a girl her age, when she spent the summer of her eleventh year with her father in the Hamptons. Now sixteen, she has regretted her behavior ever since, but doesn’t know what to do to make amends. She thinks she has her summer plans in place to go to South America to help her boyfriend do good deeds in Columbia. But then her boyfriend breaks up with her and her mother and stepfather have already made plans to go to salmon spawning grounds in Scotland and will stay with a laird in his castle. Now her options are to go with Mom and Walter or brave the Hamptons with her dad in hopes that Hallie and family are not there. Of course, they are and she masquerades as her best friend, Sophie, thinking she can show how sorry she is. She falls for Hallie’s brother, Josh. But things start to go wrong almost immediately and when the real Sophie shows up during a party at Hallie’s house, Gemma is in a pickle. She and Hallie have a huge fight in which Hallie triumphantly announces her involvement in all of Gemma’s problems that summer. The crowning glory is Hallie’s having snagged Gemma’s boyfriend. This book doesn’t gel well. Although, there is much interaction between Gemma and her dad, the reader never hears much about Hallie and Josh’s mother. Last Gemma had known, their mother was in total disgrace from Gemma’s actions five years earlier, but now the family is living high on the hog. No explanation is ever given. The good news is not all the kids drink and there don’t seem to be wild sex orgies.

BIBLIO: 2014, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-250-04524-9

ISBN: 978-1-250-06057-0

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This picture book, googly eyes and all, will have you giggling, along with oohing and aahing, all the way through. Though more realistic drawings would me happy. I not the biggest fan of Disney heavy reliance on cutesy.  I, for instance, find the original drawings in Winnie the Poo, much more appealing.  But, hey, I’m an elderly lady who was raised by a wonderful snob.

Next to You

Lori Haskins Houran

Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The subtitle of this book, “A Book of Adorableness,” gives the reader a clue to the googley-eyed cuteness of the illustrations. The animals are recognizable as what species they belong to, though drawing smaller eyes would work just as well. But the message of the story is sweet and sure to make any child feel special and loved. Generally speaking, baby animals are cute and look oh so cuddly. Have you ever seen a new born lamb? How cute can cute be? Have you ever watched a puppy play with her brother? Or a giraffe baby trying to get to his feet? It’s hard enough for a human baby to stand up, but try standing up when you don’t even really know how and you’re only an hour old. But the babies’ mommas are there to help and to feed them. And it is tempting to want to pet any baby. However, the best baby to pet and cuddle is your baby. The author singles out puppies, kitty cats, ducklings, squirrels, chicks, a piglet and a monkey, along with the giraffe and agrees they’re all beyond adorable, but they don’t hold a candle to the child who’s having the book read to her. Children will want to have this book read to them over and over, just so they can giggle and feel safe when their mommas or daddies give them big hugs at the end.

BIBLIO: 2016, Albert Whitman and Company, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5600-9

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The final book of my reviews is a knock-out. There is a bit of mystery in it and the characters are very believable. The main character has a lot growing to do and she succeeds well, learning many life lessons along the way.

Tell Me Three Things

Julie Buxbaum

Jessie A. Holmes moves to Los Angeles because her widowed father marries a rich woman, also widowed, who lives there with her son, Theo. Not only has Jessie now lost her mother, she’s lost all she’s known her whole life. Of course she finds her new “parent” to be impossible and calls her the “stepmonster.” To make matters worse, she is enrolled in a very ritzy, pretentious school full of snobby kids. And the “Queen Bees” are out to get her, especially when she becomes friends with the main Bee’s boyfriend. But then an anonymous person starts emailing her using the screen name of Somebody/Nobody or SN for short. He becomes her refuge and helps her find friends at the new school. She resists adapting to her new life and is not on speaking terms with her dad, much less the step members of her supposed family. Slowly, she makes her way into her new situation and begins find things in common with Theo. But she keeps wondering who SN really is and becomes closer and closer to him through their email exchanges. Of course to make things more complex, she falls for Ethan who is mysterious and her English class partner on writing a paper about an epic poem. In the end, she realizes that the “stepmonster” really isn’t all that bad and she does make friends with at least two girls. You’ll have to read the book to figure out who SN really is. The book is nicely written and the suspense of finding out who SN is keeps the reader going. In addition to the usual themes of bullying and adjusting to new places, the book lends itself to discussions of literature and poetry.

BIBLIO: 2016, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

ISBN: 978-0-553-53565-5

ISBN: 978-0-553-53566-2

ISBN: 978-0-399-55293-9

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I hope you enjoy my choices and comments.  Please tell me love stories from your life. I’d love to read them.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity

What’s Your Favorite Olympic Sport?

The Summer Olympics are now in progress in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I know, I know, in the U. S. of A, we spell it with Z, but in Portuguese it’s spelled with an S. Anyway, I thought I’d focus on sports that are featured in the games. Swimming and diving are, of course, featured, as are track and field sports, and soccer, a.k.a, futebol. In Brasilian Portuguese it’s pronounced “foot Che bol,” at least in northeastern Brasil.

My favorite sports category is Equestrian, which is actually several disciplines rolled into one group.  I love watching the power and grace of a horse take a jump–a five foot high solid looking wall–or gallop pell-mell down a slope or through water. http://useventing.com   But my most favorite horse sport is Dressage, the French word for training.  The rider must be quiet and relaxed on her horse, but also in control asking the horse to stretch out its stride or collect its body enough to move in place.  If you can get that much into harmony with your horse, your soul will soar.  And the training you have to do is mind boggling, because you’re not only controlling your body, you’re also controlling another sentient being. For more information on dressage go to http://usdf.org/.

But I digress, so back to our book collection for this week.  Enjoy.

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Though I’m pretty sure Free Diving is not an Olympic sport, swimming and diving certainly are. And my Scottish ancestry always demands I include any story that has anything to do with Scotland. To clinch my decision to include this book, it’s very well written.

The Art of not Breathing

Sarah Alexander

Elsie and her family live on Black Isle in the North Sea end of Scotland. She and her family are not a happy lot since the death of Elsie’s twin brother five years earlier. Eddie was a bit on the slow side and had always to be in someone’s care. That fateful day at the beach he was wading with Elsie, but he wanted to swim to where their older brother, Dillon, was swimming. Finally Elsie got tired of Eddie’s whining and told him to swim off. That’s the last she ever saw of him. So, of course, she blames herself and is sure her family hates her for it. Now at sixteen, Elsie acts out her problems by shoplifting, lying and not participating in school and Eddie talks to her in her head. She has a very low opinion of herself, exasperated by being overweight. Though the family does still go to the beach, no one is allowed to swim, nor even wade in the surf. Elsie discovers that the long shuttered clubhouse is now being renovated and will open as a hangout and diving school. She has her own private hiding spot in the old boathouse, or at least she thinks it’s her private space until she meets Tay. He says he has hidden there longer than she has, but they agree to share. He entices her to try free diving—that is diving as deep as she can with no equipment, just the air in her lungs. She finds memories of the day Eddie drowned coming back and she begins to piece together what really happened and who was involved. This is a well told story of family dynamics, dealing with grief, and love. There are many teachable moments in it.

BIBLIO: 2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-544-63388-9

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Competition is sometimes healthy and is natural to our animal natures. Plus this is a sweet story.

Hoppelpopp and the Best Bunny

Mira Lobe

Illustrated by Angelika Kaufmann

Translated by Cäcilie Kovács

Five little rabbits—Binnie, Benny, Bernie, Bonnie and Buddy—are best of friends who share everything, and cuddle into one furry ball when they sleep. That way they can shoo away Buddy’s bad dreams. They give no thoughts as to who is better than whom while they play their games. The best buddies share everything, whether it is a pile of leaves to jump in or some yummy clover to eat. That is how it always has been and how it always will be. That is until a very big rabbit named Hoppelpopp comes to visit and asks who’s the fastest. He set the friends against each other on different tasks. Soon Binny proves to be the fastest, Benny the strongest, Bernie the smartest and Bonnie the bravest, so the bunnies no longer play or sleep or eat together. Buddy feels left out because he isn’t the best at anything. As he sits feeling sorry for himself, he smells danger. A badger is coming! Buddy thumps his leg until his friends come. Together they chase the badger away and go back to being best friends, which is the most important thing to be best at, anyway. A sweet story about sharing, this book was originally written in German. This is the first American edition.

BIBLIO: 2015 (orig. ?,) Holiday House, Inc., Ages 3 to 6, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3287-5

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This is a very encouraging book for kids who don’t like to be forced into niches that are not for them. I remember my English teacher in my senior year of high school pulled me aside to scold me. She had taught my brother Bill the year before, when she was being a student teacher. So she said to me that she expected more of me because of my brother. When you’re the youngest of four kids, you get tired of being compared. I said to her, “If you ever want me to turn in any assignment, you won’t ever compare me to my brother again.” She pretty much left me alone for the rest of the year.

Losers Take All

David Klass

      Jack Logan is the youngest son of a local high school football hero, who was destined for professional football fame until he wiped out his knee in college. But his town still worships him and expects his sons to keep up the family tradition. The older two boys did, but Jack’s not interested. He’d rather hang out with the computer geeks. When the school principal dies of a heart attack during the beginning-of-the-year sports rally, and the school gets a new principal, sports are all that matter. The new principal is the football coach and insists Jack play football. Unfortunately, during the first practice, the biggest jock on the team gets bent out of shape when he can’t stop Jack from running past him and scoring. So the jock does what jocks do best—grabs Jack from behind and smashes him face first into ground. Jack wakes up in the hospital with a broken nose and his jaw wired shut. That’s enough football for him, so he starts a soccer team featuring his non-athletic friends all bent on losing every game. They convince the Latin teacher to be their coach because he’s British, and therefore, should know something about soccer, a.k.a. football. They set about to quietly lose their eight games and go back to their real lives. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—the media gets wind of what’s going on and the Losers become world-wide celebrities. Things compound from there, but in the end Jack and the rest of his team learn things about themselves and life in general. In particular, even supposed absent-minded Latin teachers have seamy secrets. The book is amusing and, for the most part, well-written. The book will stimulate classroom discussion of what role sports should play in school.

BIBLIO: 2015, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-374-30136-1

ISBN: 978-0-374-30137-8

The colors I use to separate the three reviews have some connection–in my mind, at least–to what the story is about.  See if you can see the connection. And please let me know.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Sarah

No-one Is an Island

“No Man is an Island,” John Dunne’s poem is about humankind being better when working together, but what does that mean?  That we’re all social beings and need to interact? But how about the person suffering from severe autism.  Still, even an autistic person does need some kind of human interaction. And I expect we all feel isolated, whether we’re really alone on a deserted island or just new to a situation.  I hope the three books I’ve selected for this post confer that notion.

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The first one has to do with feeling unloved because of a perceived physical flaw.  We all feel that way at some point, don’t we?

A Different Me

Deborah Blumenthal

Allie Johnston is obsessed with the bump on her nose, which makes her feel ugly and hence unlovable.  She is smart and has some friends in school, but envies, Amber, the prettiest girl in the school, who seems to have the perfect life.  Allie sneers at camera-freak David Craig, who wears heavy eyeliner to school and she laughs about nerdy Florence.  She meets two girls on a plastic surgery website.  They live close to Manhattan and begin to spend time together, acting as a support group for planning their nose jobs.  Allie is required to mentor students in her English class and discovers that perfect Amber’s mother is suicidal and her father stays on the road for business because he can’t deal with his wife’s problems—so much for having the perfect life. Allie and Amber become friends, but then Amber goes to stay with her older sister when her mother is hospitalized, so Allie mentors David.  He, of course, has a very poignant reason for his eyeliner and paparazzi-like intrusions into other people’s lives.  Allie learns more and more about other people, discovering along the way that people admire her for the things she does and aren’t as bothered by the bump on her nose as she is.  She spends less and less time with her close friend, Jen, and in the end rather rudely tells her off.  This is a good read with quite a powerful message about believing in oneself.  There are lots of points in this book for classroom discussion.

BIBLIO: 2014, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 13 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1573-0

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The second book is about learning to accept not just yourself, but those around you.  Life would be boring if we were all the same, wouldn’t it?  The thing is to accept other people’s differences.

First Day at Zoo School

Sarah Dillard

Illustrated by Sarah Dillard

Amanda, the panda, is very excited about starting school, but Alfred, the alligator, is not.  Unfortunately, Amanda changes her tune when she gets to the school yard.  Except for her, everyone has a best friend.  She’s sad until she sees Alfred standing by himself.  Ah ha!  A best friend for the panda.  Alfred is not quite as happy about the whole thing, in part because Amanda calls him Gator, instead of Alfred, and in part because Amanda is very bossy.  She loves to sit up front, but the alligator is sure he’s going to be called on by the teacher.  At lunch he tries to hide, but Amanda finds him.  The panda bosses Alfred all day long, but when she announces at the end of the school day that best friends always walk home together, the alligator yells at her.  He tells her he’s not walking from school with her and he’s not her best friend and his name is Alfred.  Amanda is crushed and Alfred feels awful.  The next day our panda friend is downhearted. Amanda tells the teacher she’s lost her spark. She and Alfred don’t speak all day long, until the alligator worries about the panda hurting herself while hanging upside down from a tree.  He tells her to come down because they can’t be best friends if her head bursts.  And the two are best friends again, but good ones. The illustrations are funny in the right parts, especially when Amanda’s question while she’s hanging from the tree is written upside down.  A good story to encourage children to be polite, caring and not bossy which children will want to read or hear over and over.

BIBLIO: 2014, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 4 to 6, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-5836-890-7

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This third book may be a bit of a stretch, but it seems to me to about accepting oneself, but also accepting those around you.

Whatever After: Fairest of All

Sarah Mlynowski

Eleven-year-old Abby and her seven-year-old brother, Jonah, are living in a new neighborhood and going to a new school which is fine with Jonah.   Abby, on the other hand, is not happy about the changes.  For starters, the kids in her class don’t play tag the way she does. They play “Freeze Tag” instead.  Shortly after their move, Jonah wakes Abby up to tell her about the strange mirror in their basement.  In the hopes of getting Jonah to quit talking about the mirror, Abby follows him into the basement only to discover he’s right.  The mirror sucks them, some furniture and lots of law books into a different world.  Snow White’s world; where they stop her from eating the poisoned apple.  Ooops, realizes Abby, now Snow won’t be rescued by Prince Charming and won’t live “happily ever after.” So Abby and Jonah set about to correct their blunder, but Snow, of course, is confused and not of much help to begin with.  The tension ratchets up when Abby catches on that time in Fairy Book Land is faster than real time.  They have only so much time to fix Snow’s story and get home before their parents discover they’re missing.  Naturally, every plan they try goes awry, but eventually the siblings straighten out the story and connect Snow White and Prince Charming.  Best yet, they get back to their house before Mom and Dad notice they’ve been missing.  Abby also learns that life does have a way of changing, whether you want it to or not.  She decides that Freeze Tag might not be that bad.  Fun read, full of lots of humor.

BIBLIO: 2012, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-40330-6

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Please let me know what you think.  Much as I like having time to myself, I most decidedly don’t want to live on a deserted island.

 

Selling my Book and Dealing with Amazon

Okay, I’m trying to do all the right things to make my book a success, but it ain’t easy.

I signed up with the Advantage Amazon program, where I can have Amazon list my book and give me a Author’s page.  Fine.  Then I got my first order for a book, but the way the order graph is formatted, I couldn’t tell whether they wanted me to send them a carton of 20 books, or just one book.  Since Amazon takes 55% of the book’s price, it seemed to me more cost effective to send them a carton of books.  Then they’d have some in stock and I would have paid only 1 shipping fee for 20 books.

Nope, they want me to store the books at my house and send them 1 at time.  Seriously?  That means I would get $2.83 total for each of my books priced at $12.95.  Hardly worth the effort. So I’m going to quit Advantage Amazon and go for a different marketing strategy they have.  If only I could find how to get access to it.

Anyway, enough whining. I also am developing an Author’s page at Goodreads.  We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I did sell some books during our musical house concert last night.  Better than nothing, huh?

Okay, so this post is about getting from point A to point Z.

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Adele! Singing Sensation

Ally Azzarelli

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is living proof to believe your mother when she says you can be whatever you want to be.  Born into a poor family in a not-so-nice part of London, England, the aspiring singer grew up knowing that singing was her thing.  She listened to musicians as diverse as the Spice Girls, Etta James, Pink, and Shingai Shoniwa.  By the time Adele was fourteen, she knew that singing and performing were what she’d do as her career.  Her big break came when she was still in school.  A friend posted on MySpace three songs Adele had recorded for a class project. About a year later a big U.K. record label signed her as a client. Her music career was quickly on its way.  She’s won many awards in her young life, including an Academy Award for the theme song for the recent James Bond movie, Skyfall.  It’s hard to tell for what age range this book is intended, because the language reads like a chapter book, but the discussion of Adele’s private life and loves seems to target middle-graders.  Though it’s a bit pricey, teachers may find it a good beginning for discussing careers and passions.  It does appear to be the first of a series entitled “Sizzling Celebrities.”

BIBLIO: 2014, Enslow Publishers, Inc., Ages ?, $23.93

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-7660-4172-1

ISBN: 978-0-4644-0283-8

ISBN: 978-0-4645-1178-0

ISBN: 978-0-7660-5807-1

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PB & J Hooray!

Janet Nolan

Illustrated by Julia Patton

Unless you come up from another country, you’ve probably had at least a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during your life.  But where did the ingredients come from?  The grocery store, yes, but how did they get there?  By truck, yes, but where did the trucks get them?  From bakeries and factories, of course, but how did they get there?  From farms, naturally, but how did they get there? Farmers grew the crops that give us peanuts, grain for flour, and vines with grapes to make the jelly.  After all that time and effort, what do you get?  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made with stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth smooth or crunch-with-your-teeth chunky p b and sweet jelly, is just the best, especially with a cold glass of milk.  Told with simple, but fun, language this is a good book for introducing children to where we get our food from.  And the illustrations add to the cheeriness.  Teachers could use this book to discuss what goes into growing and processing food.

BIBLIO:  2014, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 5 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6397-7

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Unleashed

Gordon Korman

Griffin Bing, The Man with the Plan, and his buddies have yet another problem to solve, well make that at least three problems to solve.  But they’ve solved other problems which are told in other volumes of this series, “The Swindle Mysteries.” This time they must figure out how to sneak around their snarly new neighbor’s fence that blocks off their shortcut to school.  Then they need to help friend Savannah stop her Doberman, Luther, from chasing a backfiring truck that makes it’s rounds two or three times a week.  Finally, they need to come up with a science project for school.  Griffin usually comes up with the ideas for the group, but this time shy Melissa comes up with her own plan.  Melissa’s plan successfully stops Luther from running after the truck, but Griffin’s plan continually has a troublesome side effect. As intended it does dampen the noise of a vacuum cleaner, but it also shuts down the power for all nearby machinery.  In the meantime, Griffin’s arch rival has come up with a foolproof device to continually supply prepared food.  Along the way, the friends discover their new neighbor is afraid the Government is after him and when he learns Melissa’s device is missing, he becomes an ally. Lots of silly fun in this book as it shows that cooperation is a good thing.  At the end of the book everybody discovers that Luther is not chasing the truck, just the mouse hood ornament.

BIBLIO: 2015, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 10, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-70935-4

So follow your dreams and eventually the right things will happen.  Or at least we all hope so.