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Children's books reviewed for grownups.
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Checking to see if new content gets rid of the 403 error. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2019 at
What's that coming through the water? Struck by the sun and reflections off the waves - what part of it is wake and what part ship? Which direction is it headed? Dazzle camouflage - the stripey, blocky, high-contrast brightly colored patterns designed to disrupt the visual processing of submarine crews - is one of the most improbable developments in the history of naval warfare. I mean, just look at this stuff: Naturally, it caught the eye of author Chris Barton, about whom more later. But since we're talking about perception, let's appreciate this book from first impression to last, and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2017 at
Guess what I'm doing? I'm kind of ridiculously excited - I'm participating in my first Mock Newbery! It's a bunch of grownups reading a whole bunch of kids' books that seem to be getting award buzz and then we're going to get together and eat snacks and argue about them! The books. Although maybe also the snacks. If you live in Baltimore and this sounds like fun, give me a jingle. We're well underway, but we haven't had our first meeting yet, and we might be able to squeeze you in ;) Some of the books on our list are... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2016 at
I haven't written a stand-alone book review on in a while - but for this book, the last in a series that I read start to finish, as soon as each book came out, I must. It has been quite a journey for the kids in these books, who have battled their way through swarms of diseased, cannibalistic adults and formed their own societies, legions, and alliances - and it's been a wild six years for me too. I reviewed the first book in this series in 2010, way before my sons were teenagers. I had a dim memory... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at
Hello dear neglected unadulterated! I love my little old blog, I really do, but man, life goes by so fast these days! I am not as good at posting here as I used to be - nowadays I am more likely to post reviewlets to Goodreads or Instagram. This summer I've been keeping up with #bookaday - and lots of others have too, it's a good hashtag to browse. What else is happening this summer? I've been pounding the kids' graphic novels (Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Graphic Novels Subcommittee REPRESENT!) and ferreting out new middle grade novels that would make... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2016 at
Finally - my BEA recap in words and pictures! What a mob, what a crowd, what a show! Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2016 at
Bit late to the party with my BEA recap this year, but I had a lot to think about. So just think of this post as the online equivalent of the relieved sigh that came from each seat on the shuttle bus as it was claimed by a footsore, shoulder-sore convention-goer at the end of the day. Ahhhhh.... School Library Journal's DAY OF DIALOG This annual one-day feast of author panels and publisher pitches was so full of talent and intelligence, and went off with so few hitches, and in such a nice, spacious space that organizer Luann Toth has... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2016 at
I am on a significant roll with my YA and adult reading lately. When's the last time you could say that? When's the last time every book you picked up knocked you on your butt and made you holler on Facebook or DM the author or, in once case because I don't have any access to the author - yell at the author's agent about how good the book was? I mean, who knows agents? Apparently, I do. Each and every one of these books deserves a thoughtful in-depth review. And I expect we will see those reviews in the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at
I know it's hard to write a picture book manuscript. Some of my favorite people do it, and it seems like a labor of love, with the emphasis on the labor. The very economy of the form means that every phrase, sometimes every word will be examined and held up to the light and chipped at like a tiny gem. Page breaks are a factor. Pace. There's space in a picture book - literally - page real estate, that lets you insert beats and pauses. It's probably more like writing music than it is like writing a book. But I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2016 at
Not bad - just drawn that way. You hear a lot, in some circles, about how difficult it is to teach children about values in the face of persuasive and abundant media depictions of violence, licentiousness and other bad crap, including sexual violence and predatory behavior toward women that is often dressed up as romance. I'm looking at you, Edward the vampire. What was that character's last name? Crap, now I have to go check. Aaaand I fell down a Renesmee rabbit hole. BOY is that character a mess. Talk about a plot Band-Aid, jeez. Need to tie something up?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2016 at
In her author's note, E. K. Johnston admits straight out that she wrote this book while very, very angry. I bet she did. This is a fucking great novel. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is about a teenage rape survivor. Hermione, a popular athlete - co-captain of her cheerleading team - is drugged, raped, and left half-submerged in a lake. She cannot remember the crime or identify her attacker. She is angry, hurt, and sad, but she and her team and her family tackle each step of her recovery process with courage, love, and determination. And there you have the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2016 at
Cheap shot? Maybe. But it's hard to resist a good cheap shot. Here's the story: I was in the auditorium for the live announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards this Monday morning. A huge crowd - HUGE - had assembled to hear the big news in person, to hug each other when our favorites win or to engage in wild speculative gossip about WHAT that committee could POSSIBLY have been thinking when they chose THAT book. It's so fun. My favorite part is when the number of honor titles for an award is announced, and you hear... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2016 at
Sometimes we read books, sometimes they're just scenery. Opened my email this morning to find an unusual year-end list from Kirkus: the Most Overlooked Books of 2015. I like that. That list made me think. Usually this time of year I have no time for thinking. Even as the holiday BS is winding down, I'm usually busy reading hard and arguing loudly as a judge in the Cybils Awards. The Cybils are publicly nominated, with the finalists and winner agreed upon by a panel of judges. Finalists are announced January 1st, and the winners are announced on Valentine's Day -... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2015 at
I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed... -- Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything It's not just me, is it? Faced with the task of buying one or more THINGS per family member or dear friend - determining what that THING shall be, finding it, pricing it, procuring, storing, sometimes hiding it, then processing it via gift wrap and tags - doesn't everyone get a little Doblery? After all, he gives her his... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2015 at
Say you've got a 14-year-old reader. A boy who is has started to welcome a sliver of romance into his postapocalyptic action novels, a girl who is beginning to find the Wings of Fire novels a little simplistic. Maybe you've got a formerly enthusiastic reader who is suddenly uncommunicative, a good student who is newly plagued by self-doubt, a pair of lovebirds who spend half their homework time texting each other emojis. I am trying - unsuccessfully - not to say 'ugh' to that last one. I mean, there's no harm in texting adorable tongue-stuck-out poofy pandabear hearts to your... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2015 at
I've been working on a list of great books to give kids this holiday season for the Baltimore Sun. Did you know I write for the Baltimore Sun? I always forget to link to those articles here. Anyway, I've been up to my armpits in beautifully printed picture books, factbooks, and pop-up books. I've even gone to the local independent bookstores to see items that the library doesn't buy - sticker books, activity books, books with storycubes . But I haven't been looking at gift books for grownups, not at all. That's because Quirk Books sent me this set of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2015 at
A picture book biography is more than the product of an author. You could safely say that the responsibility for its appeal is shared by the author, the illustrator, and the subject, especially when the subject is herself an artist. If you think of the recent picture book bio of Anna Pavlova, Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova , you quickly realize that some people will pick it up because it's about a marvelous ballerina, some will snatch it because they are fans of the author, Laurel Snyder, while still others will be drawn in by artist Julie... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2015 at
Wow, I am finally reclaiming my brain. For about two, maybe three months I have literally not had one unclaimed hour. Since September, I have co-hosted one conference, facilitated at another, spoken at a third - IN EGYPT - and presented at two events. And written three columns for the Baltimore Sun. You should see my house. But the smoke is clearing and I am getting my feet back under me. Today I finally put away all the Sharpies and Post-Its we took to KidLitCon. I have four tote bags and one box of books to go out the door... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2015 at
Yes yes, I know. I am the last children's lit professional on the planet to have read this book. You've all read it, and you've all loved it, and I am late to the Eleanor & Park Party. Oh my god. Think of it -- that would be the funniest party. We'd all have to wear plaid flannel and band t-shirts and stand around looking at the floor until we each stormed out of the room in tears. It would be like the parties at my college radio station in the 80's, come to think of it! Actually we didn't... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2015 at
Here is a thing that I am not: I am not a high school English teacher. But if I were... The kids and I all read Half Bad by Sally Green in the last couple of weeks. It's on the reading list for Books for the Beast, a one-day YA conference put on every other year by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. I'm a facilitator and Milo's a teen attendee and I think registration is still open. You should come! Anyway, the book is - I mean, not to put too fine a point on it - it's good. Characters... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2015 at
Readers of may be familiar with the twice-yearly festival of craft that happens at my house for about a month prior to my deadline for the biannual special issue of School Library Journal called Series Made Simple. For, like, one hundred years I have been writing the arts and crafts section of that special issue. I am a pretty good choice to test craft instructions meant for elementary school children, as I pretty much suck at crafts. Look at these things: Paper boat fail. Can tab bracelet fail Paper bauble fail - these are a lot harder to make... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2015 at
Last night, while strolling with my husband through one of the lovely, artful outdoor evening events that occur with some frequency in Baltimore, we were treated to a vocalist and a little combo absolutely butchering Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." "You take on Marvin Gaye," observed Bob, "you better be at the very top of your game." Why am I talking about Marvin Gaye? Because a) this post is about what's goin' on and b) you will be at the very top of your game once you avail yourself of all the exciting opportunities for professional and personal growth that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2015 at
Bunnies! Bears! A llama, a hamster, a couple of apes and holy crap I hope I am never face to face with a wolffish! And in the end, a little girl who just wants a giraffe for her birthday. Enjoy! from 8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper. If I end up with an iguana tattoo, you can blame this artist. Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood Just once I'd like to see a picture book about a grumpy old solitary fella who, when his cheerful new neighbors move in, does NOT soften like butter in the sun. But until... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2015 at
Let me be right up front about something: I couldn't wait to read this book. There aren't a whole ton of people writing literature - Literature with a capital L - for teens these days, and even fewer that I can stand to read. Not because they're bad, not at all - but because the truth of teens is so hard. If you write it well, it's going to hurt. Everybody Sees the Ants hurt. Reality Boy , that too. But after reading Glory O'Brien's History of the Future , which had pain but also love and humor and that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2015 at
I love helping kids find books. I mean, der, that's what is all about, that's why I work in the public library, etc. etc. But it bears saying. One of the things I love about it is surprising a kid. Say it's a kid who doesn't want a book. A kid who is reflexively embarrassed because his mom is insisting that he talk to the librarian. He just wants me to go away and stop asking him questions. Nicki Minaj wants nothing to do with this reader advisory nonsense. So I say, "What about a book where a bunch... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2015 at