Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reviews: The Latest and/or Greatest in Children's Literature

"...The watercolors remain breathtaking, and there are moments of high invention."--Booklist


by Aaron Becker

Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Candlewick
ISBN: 9780763677305
Hardcover: $15.99

Completing the Journey trilogy (Journey (book one) and Quest (book two)), Becker takes us back to his intricate watercolor illustrations of a land created from a child's imagination. Ignored by her father (who remains upstairs working), a little girl draws a red door and enters the land of castles and dragons, an escape that a lot of children yearn for at some point in their lives. This time, her father follows her through the door and becomes part of her adventure. The contrast of the girl's red crayon door and Becker's extensive watercolor illustrations make the new adventure even more shocking to the father and the reader. In fact, the father must be a hero to a villain who threatens to take away his daughter's crayons. Readers don't need words to feel the child's loneliness and desire for adventure or to feel the father's curiosity and love for his daughter and her imagination. It's nice to escape, but it's even nicer to be found by someone who loves you.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey

by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee

Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545931908
Hardcover: $6.99

Perfect to read around Thanksgiving, we continue with the "There was an old lady who" saga as she swallows a turkey, a ball, a hat, a balloon, the moon, a boat, some wheels, and a horn of plenty before wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to the parade goers. Not to be taken too seriously, the old lady and her exaggerated are features are definitely meant to be silly and encourage kids to laugh at all of the strange things she will eat. For kindergarten to first grade teachers, the book could be used to teach basic introductory vocabulary and have children perform the actions as the teacher reads. Fun and lighthearted, a new Thanksgiving-themed classic.

Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs

by Eric Litwin, art by Tom Lichtenheld

Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545883788
Hardcover: $17.99

Who doesn't love a cute little dog who plays guitar and loves ice cream? Groovy Joe is so happy to have his Haagen Dogs (too cute!) ice cream and his best buddy (a sunglasses-wearing squirrel), but he is interrupted by a dinosaur who also wants some doggy-licious ice cream. Unafraid, Groovy Joe does what everyone should do: he shares his ice cream with the dinosaur. This pattern continues for several more (increasingly bigger) dinosaurs, reiterating the theme of sharing. When the ice cream is gone, Groovy Joe is creative and turns the empty ice cream container into a drum. Together, Joe, the squirrel, and the dinosaurs groove out to some awesome music (by the way, go to to hear the free songs!). The illustrations portray the scope and size of the dinosaurs against the tiny frames of Joe and his squirrel pal, making Joe's kindness even more impressive. A great lesson for children to learn early: "it's awesome to share!".

"...This wonderfully illustrated picture book will bring belly laughs from kids."--Booklist

Interrupting Chicken

by David Ezra Stein

Release Date: August 1, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
ISBN: 9780763641689
Hardcover: $16.99

Every child loves a good bedtime story, but the purpose of a bedtime story is for the child to actually go to sleep. But Chicken gets so excited about the fairy tales that his Papa tells that he keeps interrupting the story and finishing the tale. Beloved fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood appear in beautiful illustrated pages and are quickly interrupted by Chicken as he saves the day. The dichotomy of the illustrations, between Chicken's bedroom and the legendary fairy tales, create humor as Chicken appears in the middle of the classic pages. He's just too adorable, and his own father can't get mad at him as he promises not to interrupt the next story. Finally, Papa suggests that Chicken tell a story, which is so exciting to Chicken, but his story is interrupted by his father's snoring. Perfect for parents who love to read bedtime stories to their kids and hear a few giggles before they drift off to dream wonderful, innocent dreams.

"...A metafictive text introduces a bevy of exciting characters."--Kirkus Reviews

Whose Story is This, Anyway?

by Mike Flaherty, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sterling
ISBN: 9781454916086
Hardcover: $14.95

Continuing with the interrupting theme, the narrator of this book is very excited to tell you, yes, you, the reader, about his story that involves him and his cat Emperor Falafel. But just as he is about to begin his tale, he is interrupted by Salty Pete who wants to tell his story of life as a pirate. Before long, the little boy is further interrupted by a dragon, a knight, an alien, a horde of zombies, and robots! Everything that a little boy loves, except our narrator just wants the story to be about him. Essentially, the book is very "meta" in that in asks what a story is and can be, and who owns a story anyway? Definitely for an older child who may be interested in writing his/her own tales, but suitable for a younger child who loves pirates and aliens and knights as the illustrations seem to jump right off the page (much like a TV cartoon). I could see this book being used by middle and high school teachers in a storytelling unit or as a creative writing prompt. Many possibilities!

"...A handsome and rewarding picture book about the power of “'tiny creatures.'"--Booklist

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick
ISBN: 9780763673154
Hardcover: $15.99

There are few children's books out there that really dive into scientific topics for this age group, so it's pretty cool to see this one on the shelves. While children (and most adults) know a lot about science and the animals around us, they probably don't know about microbes. Other than making us sick, I don't know a lot about them either. Microbes can be helpful and keep our bodies healthy, but they can also make us sick. The book encourages children to wash their hands and maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle so that the good microbes can do their work. There are many advantages to the existence of microbes, and Davies provides a very professional outlook at a topic not many would care about (but should!). While the book is very educational, the illustrations are equally mesmerizing. Rich with color, the paintings portray microbes in a way that will interest a young reader. Great for future scientists out there!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

False Hearts Guest Post with Laura Lam

"...Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult. "--Goodreads

False Hearts

by Laura Lam

Release Date: July 16, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 9781447286424
Hardcover: Young Adult
$17.14 * 366 pages

Guest Post: The Connection of False Hearts by Laura Lam

Historically, female characters haven’t been given the same prominence as male-dominated stories in culture, especially in thrillers. They would be the victim at the start, the hysterical mother, the love interest. The hero would still be Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, or James Bond. Recently, female-led thrillers have been on the rise through stories like Gone Girl, The Girl on a Train, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Luckiest Girl Alive, and other titles with ‘Girl’ in it (even though all these books describe grown women, not girls, but hey ho). In YA, there’ve been lots of female-dominated narratives in the genre, which has been great. Yet the protagonists of my latest book, False Hearts, are a little different, as they were born conjoined twins in a reclusive cult set in the redwoods outside of a futuristic San Francisco.
False Hearts isn’t being marketed as YA, but I do think it also appeals to teen readers. In the main narrative, the twins have been separated for ten years after escaping the cult of Mana’s Hearth and are now fitted with false, mechanical hearts. Taema and Tila are in their mid-twenties. One night, Taema’s sister stumbles into her home, covered in blood and terrified. Moments later, she’s arrested for the first murder by a civilian in decades and taken away. Soon, Taema is given a proposition by SFPD: assume Tila’s identity, go into the deep underbelly of the Ratel mob that Tila has infiltrated, and find out what her sister has been up to. If Taema can help bring down the Ratel, she can save her sister’s life.
Interspersed with Taema desperately taking on her sister’s traits and falling down the rabbit hole is Tila writing about their past in the Hearth while in jail. When they are sixteen, they are still conjoined, but their shared heart is beginning to fail. The Hearth is a hippie commune turned sinister cult, completely cut off from the outside world. When the twins realise they need to escape, they know it won’t be easy, but it’s their only choice of survival. Once they escape, this city of San Francisco seems perfect and wonderful at first. Medical tech is advanced, people don’t age thanks to gene therapy and walk-in plastic surgery clinics, and things like war and poverty are things best left in the past. Scratch the surface, though, and the pretty exterior shows something uglier underneath.
Writing about twins was an interesting challenge, as it’s such a close bond. It’s even more so if the twins are conjoined. For the first sixteen years of their lives, Taema and Tila have never been alone, never been able to keep secrets. So Taema will do anything—anything—to find out what her sister has really been up to. That, I think, makes False Hearts pretty different from other books out there, and hopefully makes it fresh and interesting to read. It definitely made it fun to write.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Catching Up With Simon & Schuster: What's New and What's Still Awesome

July 2016 Releases: Pick these up now!
(Click the title for more information from the publisher)

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

For Ages: 14 and up
The New York Times bestselling “taut, sophisticated thriller” (BCCB, starred review) packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.
They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide. But June doesn’t believe it.

Secrets, Lies, and Scandals

For Ages: 14 and up
In the tradition of I Know What You Did Last Summer and How to Get Away with Murder, five teens must overcome their paranoia in order to keep their teacher’s death a secret in this fast-paced suspense thriller. Nothing ruins summer vacation like a secret…especially when it involves a dead teacher.


For Ages: 14 and up
A spine-tingling debut about the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse in reverse as a teen struggles to retain hope—and her sanity—while on the run from a cunning and determined killer.

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies

For Ages: 14 and up
The Devil Wears Prada meets Sex and the City in a wickedly funny debut novel about a girl who lands a dream internship at a magazine in New York City. If only she hadn’t lied about being a dating expert on her resume…


For Ages: 12 and up
This “romantic, hard-fought” (Kirkus Reviews) conclusion to the Nevermore trilogy takes one last trip to the dream world of Edgar Allan Poe to reveal the intertwined fates of Isobel and Varen.


For Ages: 14 and up
When seventeen-year-old Nine realizes that the promised freedom of Remake Day is a lie, her courage, heart, and beliefs are put to the test as she fights to regain control of her future.

Until Friday Night

(Part of Field Party)
For Ages: 14 and up
A #1 New York Times bestseller and the first novel in a brand-new series—from bestselling author Abbi Glines—about a small Southern town filled with cute boys in pickup trucks, Friday night football games, and crazy parties that stir up some major drama.

Favorites from 2015 (in case you're all caught up!)

The Girl Who Fell

For Ages: 16 and up
Why It's Awesome
Explores the darker side of relationships--vital for teen girls to read and understand that not every relationship will be the perfect YA one you see in other books. Gripping, doesn't hold back. 


For Ages: 12 and up
Why It's Awesome
Must read for any teen questioning his/her identity--inspirational and rare.

The Nest

Illustrated by: Jon Klassen
For Ages: 10 and up
Why It's Awesome
Otherworldly tale of dreams and hopes--a close-up of a family dealing with a sick baby and a teen who dreams of angels--strange and suspenseful.

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One

By Daniel Kraus

For Ages: 14 and up
Why It's Awesome
Lengthy (part two comes out in October 2016), but fascinating tale of horror.                                           Perfect read for October before the sequel publishes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blog Tour Review: Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch

“This layered, satisfying read brims with spine-tingling psychological suspense and plays on themes of identity, loyalty, and loss.”Booklist

Never Missing, Never Found
Amanda Panitch

Release Date: June 28, 2016 
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-553-50765-2
Hardcover: $17.99 * 320 pages
Ebook: $10.99  978-0-553-50765-2
Ages: 14+

Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she's starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a
normal life.
Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth . . . before it's too late?

With a to-die-for twist, fans of Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls, Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, and Pretty Little Liars will enjoy the this deliciously disturbing, heart-in-your-throat thriller NEVER MISSING, NEVER FOUND.

Hit the Jump for the Review

Review: Nerve (Movie Tie-In) by Jeanne Ryan

"...The commentary on today's life-as-public-spectacle society is both unsubtle and sound"--Kirkus Reviews


by Jeanne Ryan

Release Date: July 12, 2016 (movie tie-in edition)
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
ISBN: 9780142422830
Paperback: $10.99 * 320 pages
Ages: 14+

For fans of The Hunger Games

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the gameknows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating--Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they're directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they're playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?

Debut author Jeanne Ryan delivers an un-putdownable suspense thriller.

Hit the Jump for the Review

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: The Real Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon

"...fascinating...a valuable contribution to the Barrie literature"--Booklist

The Real Peter Pan

by Piers Dudgeon

Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1-250-087799
Hardcover: Biography & Autobiography
$27.95 * 416 pages

The world has long been captivated by the story of Peter Pan, and its popularity continues as evidenced by the hit Broadway show, Finding Neverland, and new television and film adaptations of the classic produced recently. But few know the real story behind Peter Pan, which is a different and darker version than the one portrayed in film and on stage. Now, in his revealing new book, THE REAL PETER PAN: THE TRAGIC LIFE OF MICHAEL LLEWELYN DAVIS, author Piers Dudgeon examines the fascinating and complex relationships between Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie, and the family of boys who inspired his work, particularly young Michael Llewelyn Davies. 

PIERS DUDGEON is a writer, editor, and photographer. He is the author of bestselling biographies of Catherine Cookson, Edward de Bono, the composer Sir John Tavener, and the novelists Barbara Taylor Bradford, Josephine Cox, J.M. Barrie, and Daphne du Maurier. He is the author of Maeve Binchy, a biography of the Irish writer

Hit the Jump for the Review

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: Running Girl by Simon Mason

When it comes to solving a crime, two brains and one incredibly high IQ are better than one.

Running Girl

by Simon Mason

Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher & ARC: David Fickling Books
ISBN: 9781338036428
Ages: 14+

From award-winning British author Simon Mason comes Running Girl a smart, engaging murder mystery filled with unexpected twists and turns perfect for Sherlock and CSI fans. Sixteen-year-old Garvie Smith is the smartest and laziest student at Marsh Academy. Constantly in trouble with his mother and school officials, Garvie finds little point to life and especially school. Garvie's aimless existence is challenged when news of the disappearance and murder of a fellow schoolmate and old girlfriend spreads. 

Garvie, known to his friends as "Sherlock" because of his ability to solve any puzzle, begins to piece together clues, leading him directly into the center of an intense murder investigation. He constantly interferes with police evidence, crime scenes, and Detective Inspector  Singh of the City Squad. Detective Inspector Singh is a serious man and finds no humor in Garvie's meddling or his know-it-all attitude, but when Singh is at the end of his rope, it's Garvie's photographic memory, keen eye, and knowledge that help him and the squad come closer to solving this unthinkable crime.

Simon Mason has written both children's and adult books. His first adult novel, a black comedy entitled The Great English Nude, won a Betty Trask Award, and his previous book for children, Moon Pie, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Running Girl is Simon's first story starring Garvie Smith. Smith lives in Oxford, England, with his wife and their two children.

Hit the Jump for the Review