Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bobby The Brave (Sometimes) Lisa Yee - Dan Santat

Bobby The Brave (Sometimes) by Lisa Yee, illus by Dan Santat
This is the second book in the Bobby Ellis- Chan series. Bobby's still in the fourth grade. In the first book, at a time when boys and girls shouldn't be friends, Bobby comes to terms with having a best friend who is a girl. Now Bobby and Holly's friendship is as strong as ever.

This time Bobby worries what is ex pro football father (aka the Freezer) thinks of him, when over hears him say "He's not like me" Annie, his older sister, is the football star. Bobby is into skateboarding. I love the time the author spends developing Ellis -Chan family. It adds so much to the story. We know Casey, the younger sister likes making up silly names, like wormy worm worm for her pet worm. Annie, the older sister is the star QB on her high school football time. Bobby mother goes to work and his father looks after the kids. (making uneatable food)

The fourth grade class is putting on Annie. Bobby is happy to play Sandy, the dog, so he won't have to learn any lines. Bobby loves dog but can't have one because of his asthma. Unfortunately, his costume is too close to the real thing. The new gym teacher assumes Bobby can play football when he finds out who is father his. Bobby must also contend with a scary cat with 27 toes, being picked last in gym class and Jillian Zarr.

Bobby's voice is perfect as is Yee's dialogue. As popular as skateboarding is there aren't many books with a main character that skateboards. Bobby is very good and loves the sport. Troy Eagle is his idol.

"Bobby was a good solid skate boarder. Not showy, but not a wimp either. He'd study the bigger kids and then start off slow, working his way up to the trick, whether it was as simple as a nosegrind or as hard as an aerial. Though he still had trouble grabbing his board while flying though the air, he was getting better. "

Dan Santat's illustrations are great. My favorite is of Bobby and Casey coming face to face with the neighborhood cat with 27 toes. The picture of Bobby's gym teacher breaking out the classic Freezer move in front of the entire class was a close second.

It very difficult to find books with male protagonist for ages 9 and up. This entertaining, well written and funny series helps fill that void. Book one Bobby vs the Girls (Accidentally) is out in paperback

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art & Max David Wiesner

Art & Max by David Wiesner
I loved this book at first glance. Arthur is the bigger of the two and Max is the excited one with the yellow paint. Art knows how to paint now he's trying to teach Max.

I love Wiesner's imagination, detail, and use of color. This is going to be a go to picture book for me this holiday season. I don't have words to do Art & Max justice, so check out the excerpt and watch Wiesner's video.

Calvin Coconut - Graham Salisbury- Jacqueline Rogers

Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven by Graham Salisbury illus by Jacqueline Rogers
This is the third Calvin Coconut book. This is a great early chapter series that features a diverse cast of characters. Calvin lives in Hawaii with his mother and younger sister Darci. Stella, the teenage daughter of his mother's best friend is staying with them.

At school Calvin's class is given an assignment to write a persuasive letter. Calvin decides to write about wanting a dog. With the help of his mother's boyfriend, Ledward, Calvin eventually gets the dog he really wants.

This works well as stand alone. Though it's best read in order, since Salisbury does a great job of developing the characters and their relationships.

Jacqueline Rogers illustrations are great. I especially like the ones with Stella and Calvin. Rogers also show off Calvin's active imagination.

An excerpt from the first book. Just in case book four, Calvin Coconut: Zoo Breath is already out

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases (take a guess)

ABC, Baby Me by Susan Katz, illus by Alicia Padron (new release)

Grandma's Pear Tree/El Peral De Abuela by Suzanne Santillan

Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkey (new release)

Number One Kid by Patricia Reilly Giff

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston (new release)

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey -This is one of my favorite YA novels of the year. The author embracing diversity made me love it that much more. My interview with Healey

Saltypie by Tim Tingle - I still plan on reading this one. It will be nice to read a story about an American Indian that is actually written by an American Indian. I loved Crossing Bok Chitto by Tingle.

This must be the time of year to look at statistics. Over at her blog American Indian's in Children's Literature, Debbie Reese shares the number of books about American Indians and by Americans Indians as complied by CCBC

Author Zetta Elliott list all the MG/YA books published by African American authors this year. Many people help put the list together, including me. In the end there were only 50 titles for the whole calender year. A few titles may have been missed but not enough to make this to make this list respectable.

Elliott goes a step farther and breaks down who published what.

In case you haven't since it, check out author Mayra Lazara Dole's - Authentic Latino Voices in Hunger Mountain.

How many Latino MG/YA authors do you think were published in 2010?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Doodlebug - Karen Romano Young

Doodlebug: A novel in Doodles by Karen Romano Young
Doreen's family, (parents and Momo, younger sister) are moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. On the drive there Doreen discovers that she loves to doodle, it also calm her down so she can focus. At her old school Doreen was diagnosed with ADD and put on Ritalin. Doreen got in trouble at her old school, she didn't like being on Ritalin. With her journal and pens Doreen doesn't need it any more.

Before the move Doreen went by Dodo. When they make it to their home she's Doodle. The author did a wonderful job with Doreen's voice. I loved it. Doreen is a smart girl, that worries a mistake she made will follow her to another city. The younger sister, Momo has a storyline of her own. The parents are actively involved, encouraging and supporting their daughters. I loved Doodlebug. Its entertaining, creative, serious and funny.

A few reviews (including a starred Kirkus review) via the author's site
Also like most graphic novels, Doodlebug is something you have to see for yourself to get the full effect. So do check out these samples pages from the author's site
Finally check out the author's youtube tutorial on doodling

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Cybils Awards ( Get Ready to Nominate)

This is the 5 year of The Cybils or the Children's Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards. I love The Cybils awards.

Last year, I was so excited to see that my middle grade fantasy novel pick -

Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott. Its nice knowing because of that nomination, at least five more people read a book I loved. I do remember seeing morereviews. From those 5 people word of book will continue to spread and so on.

If there's a children's or young adult book you love that was released in 2010, nominate it between Oct 1st and Oct 15th. Its a great oppurtunity to give a book that moved you a little more exposure.

This is will be the first year that I will be a panelist. I am on the 2010 Nonfiction Picture Book Panel Round I

2010 Nonfiction Picture Book Panel

Panelist (Round I Judges)

Shirley Duke, Simply Science
Amanda Goldfuss, ACPL Mock Sibert
Abby Johnson, Abby (the) Librarian
Jone MacCulloch Category Organizer
Karen Terlecky, Literate Lives
Carol Wilcox - Carol's Corner
and me

Judges (Round II):

Kara Dean, Not Just for Kids
Roberta Gibson, Wrapped in Foil
Deb Nance, Readerbuzz
Carol Rasco, Rasco from RIF
Franki Sibberson, A Year of Reading

There are some nice Cybils T-shirts and other items for sale at Cafe Press My favorite

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You - Charles Benoit

You by Charles Benoit
15 yr old Kyle Chase is a sophomore, is one the wrong track. He tries to figure out how he got there. What decision or non act lead him to a be an under achiever at a low rated High School. Kyle traces the steps of his choices.

When I picked up You, my plan was to read a few pages and get back to it later. I could not put it down. Kyle Chase is as real as they come. Benoit uses the second person narrative to tell the story, adding another level of intensity.

"Mr. Nagle asked you to stick around a moment after the bell. "I'll admit, you have been working harder in class, and when you've done the lab work it's always been very good, and I haven't had to speak to you about not paying attention in quite a while. But. "

There's always a but. Its a magical word. You can say anything you want, go on for as long as you want, and then all you have to do is add the magic word and instantly everything you said is erased, turned meaningless, just like that.

You're a really nice guy. Your mother thinks you need a new computer. You've been working harder in class. But.

Benoit opens with a scene from the end. - You're surprised at all the blood. He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt. He's surprised"

The ending comes full circle with the beginning. We learn what's going on with all the blood. The author pulls this off very well. You is a very well written and intense read. I loved it.

I've already added it to my great suggestion for teen boys repertoire. To be sure teen girls will love it too. But its nice to have another realistic YA novel featuring a male protagonist. Ages 12 up

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Fast and the Furriest - Andy Behrens

The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens
12 yr old Kevin Pugh spends a lot of his time in the basement, playing Madden Football and watching television. Kevin's dad, Howie used to play for the Bears. The Pugh's love in Chicago and the fans still love Howie. Kevin's younger sister Izzy is a soccer star, be he' s no athlete.

At an annual charity kickball game between two news station, Kevin is hit in the head twice.

Izzy was idly juggling a balled up sock. "It's just too bad you didn't stay in Kevin. We totally coulda won." "I was wounded," said Kevin. "Had to come out" Izzy threw her sock ball at Kevin, who lunged out of the way. "Where were those reflexes earlier, Kev?" Howie asked. "Not funny," snapped Kevin, adjusting his bag of ice. "I could have been killed today. Or braindamaged. I could be in a vegetative state right now because of a kickball." Howie rolled his eyes. "That was pretty impressive actually getting hit in the face twice by the same kick. Is there somebody at Guiness Book we could call? "

Kevin's dog Cromwell used to lay around all day doing nothing until he an sees* an agility dog competition on Animal Planet. Out of shape Cromwell wants to be an agility dog. Kevin doesn't know want to make of the change is once inactive dog. With some financial help from his best friend Zach, Kevin and Cromwell enroll in agility classes. Elka the trainer has a special way with dogs. Kevin is convinced Elka speaks dog. Elka takes a special liking to Kevin and Cromwell.

I loved The Fast and the Furriest. Behren's writing and characters are great. I laughed out loud a lot. I read the last scene over several times, and belly laughed each time. This book has much more to offer then laughs. Kevin has finally committed to something and grows more confident. For much of the summer Kevin keeps his where abouts a secret, knowing his football star father won't approve. When the truth is comes out Howie, isn't too happy at first but with the help of wife and daughter, he comes around.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. I know I didn't do it justice so please check out the excerpt . Ages 11up. Very reluctant reader friendly.

Another great 2010 middle grade book that features a boy and his dog is How I, Nicky Flynn Finally Get a Life (and a dog) by Art Corriveau

*Cromwell is not like that dog from the Art of Racing in the Rain. He doesn't normally watch or respond to television. Kevin just happened to point out the agility competition. Cromwell doesn't speak (except bark)

Justin Fisher Declares War! - James Preller

Justin Fisher Declares War! by James Preller
Justin Fisher is in the fifth grade at Spiro Agnew Elementary School. This has a great first chapter. Justin is remembering a lunch room incident from the third grade. Justin wonders if it never happened would he still be the class clown?

" So there he was, moving precariously forward with his tray, when things began sliding. The Jell-O shivered, slipping toward the edge. When Justin tipped the tray up, the three meatballs began to tumble, rumble, and roll in the other direction. To make things worse, Justin had a paperback book tucked under his arm and an apple wedged between his chin and neck. As he tried to stop the sliding, slipping meatballs with a minor tray adjustment, the daredevil Jell-O tried to make a leap for it. Look out below! It splattered on the floor, a splotch of green goo. As if that wasn't bad enough - Justin wondered what dessert could survive such a fall - a chunk of Jello-O slithered under his next footstep. And that was when the cardboard tray, complete with spaghetti worms and meatlike balls, flew toward the ceiling. Justin left knee buckled. His right foot slipped and kicked out making him look like a backward - falling punter on a football field. Shoulders tipped back, and back and back. At that moment, Justin Fisher had a pretty amazing view of the spaghetti as it soared up and up, like a flying snakes but without wings or feathers, magical airborne spaghetti right out of some crazy sci fi adventure movie"

I wish I could share the entire first chapter but I am pretty sure that's illegal. Preller writes Justin's "uh oh" moment so well. Readers will easily sympathize with Justin as his accidental fall plays out step by step. I am not one to make playlist for books. Though if I did "Tears of the Clown" by Smokey Robinson and the Mircles would be track one.

After his public fall Justin decides to be in on the laugh, making himself the class clown. Fast forward to the fifth grade, Justin's still playing the same part, but his classmates are tired of it. His teacher Mr. Tripp has rules he expects to be followed. Justin doesn't like these rules. He decides to fight back, declaring war and acting out as much as he can.

Justin gets himself into more trouble. In class he interrupts. Outside Justin sometimes tells mean jokes about other kids. Justin isn't a bad kid, he simply doesn't know where to draw the line. Part of me thinks Justin believes peoples feelings can be hurt if it leads to laugh because of what happened in the third grade. The fifth grade is getting ready for a talent show. Justin wants to be the MC but the other students think he'll ruin it for the entire grade. After the tryouts, Tori, a quiet call with a great voice calls Justin out. She tells Justin everyone thinks he's a jerk.

When, I first read this scene, I wished it was longer. After, I looked back on it, I realized it was good as is. A shy girl confronting a boy who acted like a jerk is huge. As is the boys willingness to listen and not deny, laugh away or try to defend prior bad acts.

Slowy Justin learns when to stop trying to be funny all the time and to be careful of other peoples feelings. Somewhere along the way Mr. Tripp and Justin both give a little and meet in the middle. Justin calls a truce. I thought it is was very cool that Justin's was a reader. At one point teacher and student start talking about books. Justin lends Mr. Tripp his copy of Bone* by Smith. In turn the Mr. Tripp shares some of his favorites with Justin, including Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Sachar

I really enjoyed Justin Fisher Declares War. Preller's has a created a character in Justin, that isn't all good or bad. The author previous novel Along Came Spider , is also set at Spiro Agew Elementary School. Anyone who has read it, will like being able to see how best friends Trey and Spider are doing. I don't know if the author plans to set anymore novels at this school. But I hope so. Justin Fisher Declares War is a great suggestion for fans of Andrew Clements or Dan Gutman.

This is legal- read the excerpt

*Smith's Bone series is very popular. Some young readers may like the fact that Justin is reading the same series as them.

Preller was kind enough to participate in my 9 authors 12 questions feature to kick off the baseball season this year. I suppose I should do one of those, oh by the way I kind of cyber know the author but this is my honest opinion declarations, since I slipped in that feature in. So here goes, Justin Fisher Declares War is a really good book. That statement was not given under duress and there is no check the mail. I borrowed Justin Fisher Declares War! from my local library.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interview with Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes is an awarding winning fiction author best known for her Marie Laveau trilogy, which is set in New Orleans. I had high expectations for Ninth Ward and I was not disappointed. Its one of my favorite middle grade novels of the year. My review. The author was kind enough to agree to an interview.

Hello Jewell Parker Rhodes, Please tell us a little about Ninth Ward?

Ninth Ward is a coming of age story. Using perseverance and inner strength, my characters become heroic. In the face of tragedy, they are able to triumph through faith, friendship, and

This is your middle grade debut. When I heard about it I was so excited, it felt right. When I think of novel's set in New Orleans, you are one of the first authors that comes to mind.

How did this project come about?

All my life, I’ve wanted to write for young readers. I never doubted that it was going to be a challenge to write a good book for children. So, for decades, I’ve been practicing my craft and searching for the right story to tell. In 2008, when Hurricane Ike threatened New Orleans, I thought, “oh, no, not again,” and I went to sleep. I must’ve been dreaming, feeling anxious for Louisiana’s children, for when I woke, Lanesha’s voice was inside my head.

Ninth Ward was worth the wait. Lanesha’s voice was perfect. Many adult authors who crossover into children's literature, have a difficult time creating realistic children's voices. Smart, strong, level headed Lanesha, came across as the 12 yr old she was suppose to be.

How did you approach crafting Lanesha's voice?

Lanesha’s voice was a gift. When I woke, the first few lines were full-blown. It was if Lanesha was guiding me to tell her story. More than any character that I’ve ever written, Lanesha is her own unique self. I never had a problem with her voice, it was just there, inside my head. All I had to do was listen.

Lanesha picked the right person to tell her story. I loved the opening lines "They say I was born with a caul, a skin netting covering my face like a glove. My mother died birthing me. I would've died too, if Mama Ya-Ya hadn't sliced the bloody membrane from my face."

Since Lanesha can see ghost from birth and there's a reason for this ability, it doesn't seem so strange or improbable. The gift of sight is very fitting for a novel set in New Orleans.

Many of your novels feature a little magical element. What came first your love of New Orleans or
magical realism?

Literary people love the term “magical realism.” My grandmother would’ve said, “It isn’t magic, it’s just real.” I think, particularly in the south, folklore is alive and deeply connected to our relationships and family history. So, there’s always an acceptance of the “magical” as a reality. So, as a little girl my grandmother raised me to believe that everything in the world has a spiritual essence to be respected and that the world is filled with symbols that can be interpreted. As a writer, I’m a magical realist; as, Jewell, I’m writing about life as grandmother taught me.

Lanesha and Mama Ya Ya relationship was simply wow. You really make the reader feel their connection. Can you tell us a little about it?

Mama Ya Ya is based upon my grandmother, Ernestine, who raised me. But Mama Ya Ya is older and has the opportunity to share all her love and knowledge with Lanesha. (My grand-mother died unexpectedly when I was in college.) Mama Ya Ya is representative of how elders (and I include teachers and librarians, too!) can be so important raising a child. Lanesha and Mama Ya Ya might not have much in terms of material wealth, but they are rich in love. They create a family even, though legally they aren’t recognized as relatives.

This is a very visual read, especially after the hurricane hits. I could clearly see Lanesha using an ax so they could escape onto the roof. While I was reading this scene, I pictured Strickland's illustrations for A Place Where Hurricanes Happen.
That visual was much easier on me then remembering the real thing. When you were writing Ninth Ward did you ever feel the need to disconnect yourself from memories of Hurricane Katrina? Was that even possible?

I do not think I could’ve written Ninth Ward immediately following Hurricane Katrina. It took three years for me to process the devastation, then another year of writing about Lanesha. But I always knew that Louisianans would endure with love, faith, and fortitude. It will be the Lanesha’s of the world—our young people—who will shape a better future.

The fifth year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has recently past. How do you think New Orleans is recovering? And what about the Ninth Ward?

New Orleans’s spirit is electric. But I am dismayed at how long it takes to demolish decrepit buildings and how long it takes to rebuild. When I last walked the Ninth Ward, I was thrilled to see the new energy efficient and flood-safe housing. “More, more, more, please” and “faster, faster, faster.”

I love Ninth Ward’s cover. Customers are responding very well to the cover art and the overall design of the book.

Who is the artist behind the cover? And who is responsible for the books design?

Shino Arihara, a Los Angeles based artist, created the cover art. She captured beautifully the spiritual peace and loveliness that can still exist in a world ravaged by storm. I love how Lanesha looks straight ahead, unafraid of the future, and using a magnolia, a flower symbolizing dignity and beauty, as her umbrella.

Alison Impey, Senior Designer at Little Brown Books for Young Readers, designed the jacket art and the visual look of the overall book and its' pages. It's Alison's vision and attention to aesthetic detail that makes Ninth Ward so stunning. I think Alison understood the book perfectly and she helped me, too, in her splendid visuals, to understand the calming power of the tale.

Please send along my thanks to Shino Arihara and Alison Impey for such beautiful work. The cover is the customer’s first impression of a book. As a bookseller it makes my job easier when it's not only good but memorable.

Do you plan on writing any more children's books?

I have written a draft of a YA book and I’m just starting a new middle grade book. If I could write just one book that touches a child’s heart and mind, just when they need it most, I would be ecstatic. Growing up, books were vital to my life. Though I didn’t experience a hurricane, I experienced other kinds of emotional storms. Reading always helped me believe in my own possibilities, other imaginative and concrete horizons, and that there were good people in the world ready to help a child grow.

I am so happy to hear the answer is yes. Ninth Ward was such a beautiful book. Though this is a story about a tragic event, Lanesha, Mama Ya Ya, and Ta Shon are at its core. That's one of the many reasons why I loved it. There's so much beauty, possibly, strength and love to take away from it.

Ninth Ward's only been out since August but is already 2010 Parents Choice Gold Medal Winner. Congratulations, I hope its the first of many wins.

Thank you so much for letting me do this interview. I feel very honored.

Thank you for sharing a little of your time with me, and for writing such a wonderful story. The honor is all mine.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases

Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim illus. by LeUyen Pham - A very cute board book that came out earlier in the year

I'm So Not Wearing a Dress by Mai S. Kemble - I really enjoyed this story about a tomboy who agrees to be a flower girl under a few conditions. The cover really pops in person.

Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson illus. by R.G. Roth - I know about this one thanks to Carol, a follow Round 1 Cybils judge for Non Fiction Picture books

Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin - Since no one called me out for missing this release last week, I am convinced no one actually reads this feature.

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia

Wonder Women Classics by Erin K. Stein illus. by Rick Farley - This is the only book on here that doesn't feature any kids of color. As far as I know this is the first time Wonder Woman has a learning to read book all to herself. Female superheroes for young readers are underrepresented as well. So it made the list

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman illus. by Rob Shepperson - You can't tell from this picture but its a diverse cover.

Violet in Bloom by Lauren Myracle - I love this middle grade series. This was as good as the first one. Will review soon. My review of book one.

Along the River by Adeline Yen Mah - This is a Chinese Cinderella story

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Winner, Interviews and The Cybils Awards

Nerds Heart YA. The tournament to highlight under represented literature, has a winner
Last Night I Sang to The Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz.
I let out a little squeal of happiness with I discovered who won. Benjamin Alire Saenz is such a talented writer and deserves a lot more attention then he gets.

On Wednesday, I will be posting an interview with Jewell Parker Rhodes. I loved Ninth Ward. When I finished it my first thought was "I want to interview the author" But I was hesitant to ask. It was Jewell Parker Rhodes after all. Ninth Ward is her first children's novel but she has an extensive body of work. When, I finally did ask, Rhodes was kind enough to say yes.

If you missed it do check out my recent interview with Jen Cullerton Johnson the author of Seeds of Change. I had difficult time coming up with questions. I had some serious question block ( is that a real thing? If not it should be.) Finally it hit me, with the exception of a group G. Neri interview with Edi and Ari about Yummy , this would be the only other time I would be asking an author questions about a non fiction book. Once I knew what the problem was, it got easier.

This is the fifth year of the Cybils awards or Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Award. I love this award, it gives some well deserved attention to some great books. Anyone is free to nominate a 2010 release. The Cybils site is very easy to browse and the organizer's make everyone feel welcome. I say the same thing about Cybils award every year. Though this the first year, I put my name in to be a judge. I will be on one of the panels but I won't say which one until the full panel is released on the site. I am very happy with my placement and to have the opportunity to participate in the Cybils awards.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saving Sky Diane Stanley

Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
13 yr old Sky lives in New Mexico with her parents and younger sister, Mouse. Sky's parents have protected them from the outside violence that continues since the first attack on 9/11, when a bridge was taken out. The attacks are so frequent there are instructions to follow. Sky lives on a ranch, they don't have a TV or internet. If something happens there aunt will tell them. Soon after, Dr Khalid ( a new colleague of Sky's mom) and Kareem move to New Mexico things escalate for the worse. Oil lines are targeted, showing the countries dependence on gas.

Soon everyone from Middle East is rounded up and detained by President's orders. Simliar to what happen to Japanese Americans during WWII. Though Kareem is only in the seventh, he is still on the list. Sky's family comes together to hide him.

When I started reading, I didn't want to stop. Sky's family pretty much keeps to themselves on their ranch. They live off the land, using solar power. Stanley doesn't make a lesson out of the families green living it simply is. I love the families interaction. Sky is a very realistic and likable character. The author does an excellent job of showing how hate comes from fear. Saving Sky moves at a great pace. I wish I could've have connected with Kareem more. I also wish the author would've taken more time to distingush between Middle Eastern countries.

The ending was great though I felt the author rushed getting there. I liked how everything wasn't wrapped up and perfect. Saving Sky is very good and well worth reading. There's a lot to take away from it. It would me an excellent book club selection. ages 12 up

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Clemente! Willie Perdomo - Bryan Collier

Clemente! by Willie Perdomo illus. by Bryan Collier
The boy in the story is named after Clemente. His parents tell him about his namesake. The family lives in The Bronx where Roberto Clemente was rey. His father is president of the greatest fans of Roberto Clemente club.

"He'll take out his baseball card collection
and pull all his mint condition Clementes,
and then he'll start calling Clemente,
I mean really calling him,
like he was try like he was trying to talk
to the ghost of Roberto Clemente."

"Clemente! Clemente!
It's us, tu gente!
Clemente! Clemente!
Prince of the baseball diamante,
Canon-arm Clemente,
Puerto Rican prince Clemente,
Hall of fame Clemente"

Perdomo text is informative, lyrical, visual and fun. Sometimes a little flair is expected when talking about great baseball players or plays. Perdomo gives the reader exactly that.

He also lets the reader see all sides of Clemente - the player, the son who when interviewed after winning the World Series spoke Spanish first for his parents, and the man who tried to help Nicaraqua after an earthquake. The author inculdes a great Roberto Clemente timeline in the back

I love Robert Collier's artistic style. It was a perfect fit for this biography. In his notes Collier mentions the medium he used.

"I created the watercolor and collage images of Roberto in action in multiple repeated layers to express the speed, power, impact, and sound he embodied when playing baseball"

Perdomo and Collier have come together to create wonderful biography on Roberto Clemente. Baseball fans of all ages will love it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol - Jim Krieg

Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg
This is one of the funniest middle grade novels I've read all year. 12 yr old Griff Carver is no ordinary seventh grader. He has been a member of school saftey patrol since he was six years old. Griff Carver is the first saftey patrol officer ever to be kicked out of school, while on the job.

"It wasn't ugly. At first blush, all you'd see is squeaky clean kids playing and killing time till the bell rings. Big lawn. Nice clothes. First-hand bikes. Right out of the school brochure. Maybe that's all you'd ever see. 'Cause you never wore a badge. Me? I carried that piece of tin for six years. Almost half my life. Started in first grade. Typical wet-behind-the-ears rookie. Made all the rookie mistakes. Thought I was God's gift to Safety Patrol. In retrospect, maybe I came on a little too strong. Like I was trying too hard. Like I could do it all myself. Maybe I was asking for it. Maybe not.

Griff's mother wants him to start fresh at Rampart Middle School, no safety patrol. He tries but it's in his blood. Delane, Rampart's safety patrol captain assigns the reckless Griff a partner. Thomas, the new partner is a straight by the book patrol officer. He has won a merit badge for almost everything.

Rampart's safety patrol team believe they have a tight lock on the hallways. Griff proves them wrong the first day on the job. There's something illegal going on and it leads back to Marcus, one of the most popular kid in school.

Krieg has written a great noir mystery for middle graders. There's Griff unwillingly being interviewed by his guidance counselor regrading a recent incident. It's being recorded and will be passed up the chain of command.

There's Griff the reckless, dot every i Thomas and there working relationship as partners. Can the captain be trusted?, and of course there's a girl. Verity runs the school newspapers, and is one of the few students unimpressed by Marcus.

I loved this debut and hope its the first of many. Krieg's writing and dialogue are spot on good. Griff Carver is one of my favorite male protagonist of the year. ages 10 up

Another great middle grade novel in this style is Big Splash by Ferraiolo

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tortilla Sun - Jennifer Cervantes

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
12yr old Isadora (Izzy) and her mom are always moving. When the novel opens, the two are unpacking in their new apartment. Izzy finds a baseball that belonged to her dad, who died before she was born. The baseball has the words because and magic written on it. There's a space between the two, where another word should be.

Izzy can't stop thinking about the missing word and what it might mean. She claims the baseball, even when her mom tries to take it away. Izzy will be spending a few weeks in New Mexico with her grandmother, while her mom works on a research project.

This is the first time Izzy will be meeting her grandmother and visiting the village her mom grew up in. While she's there, Izzy is touched by magic and gets closer to her parents and figures out the missing word.

I loved Izzy's voice. The author surrounded Izzy with some great characters. Including her grandmother, Mateo (a new friend and possible crush) and Maggie, ( a cute six year old, who refers to her cat Frida as doggie). Everyone played off of each other very well.

The writing is colorful, magical,beautiful and perfectly in tune to a young readers sensibility.

"I felt as though melted chocolate had oozed its way from my heart to my toes, coating me with comfort on its way down."

After I read that line, I quickly re-read it. Its visually gorgeous and very fitting for a middle grade novel. The author had some more scenes, that made me stop and take notice. I am looking forward to reading more books by Cervantes.

I enjoyed watching Izzy discover the magic of her mom's village. This was a wonderful debut. Tortilla Sun was such a pleasure to read. age 10 up

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-Wiener

Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-Wiener by Urusla Vernon
When, I saw Curse of the Were-Wiener on the new release cart the other day I squealed with happiness. I love this series.

Danny and Wendell's school served a bad batch of Were Wieners. Danny's hot dog bites Wendell. The two only have a day and half to track down and kill the pack leader to save Wendell and the other students.

"This is useless! Danny wanted to yell as Mr. Snaug droned on about something - the stratosphere or adding factions or something. Don't you see the class has lycanthro - lycatrop- lyka- werewolfism!? The only thing that kept him from leaping onto his chair and shouting that out loud - other than the fact that he couldn't pronounce the word, even inside his head- was that if he did, he'd probably get after-school detention. And tonight of all nights, he couldn't afford to be late, or have his mom get wind of any trouble. She'd agreed to let him spend the night at Wendell's , but if he came home with notes about yelling gibberish in class, she might reconsider. "

Like the first two , the friendship chemistry and dialogue between Danny and Wendell are very good. Though this time Danny and Wendell are on their own. Before I started, I thought it was a given that Danny and Wendell would get on the bus to visit one of Danny's many relatives.

When this didn't happen, I thought to myself, "What!, look at Vernon keeping me on my reading toes." I would've been more than happy with keeping things the same but Vernon decided different and it worked just as well.

Curse of the Were-Wiener is a little more scary and creepy then the first two. Though not too much, just enough to make it that more fun to read and maybe causing a few arm hairs stand up. Dragonbreath is a great suggestion for Diary of the Wimpy Kid fans, since its very funny and part graphic novel as well. The series can be read out of order, however, I highly recommend starting from the beginning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases

Not a lot of new releases this week. The list in longer since I am still including a few titles that came out earlier in the year.

Don't Let Aunt Mabel Bless The Table by Vanessa Newton (new release) Newton a still a pretty new illustrator/ author and I really like her style.

Soap Soap Soap/Jabon Jabon Jabon by Elizabeth O. Dulemba (new paperback release) click over and watch the trailer its very cute.

Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier illus by Rebecca Dautremer. This is a gorgeous book and there are brown princesses.

Doodlebug: A novel in doodles by Karen Romano Young

Calvin Coconut: Zoo Breath by Graham Salisbury (new release) Third book in a great series. My review of book two.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez (new paperback release) my review. This was one of my favorite middle grade novel's last year. Its also won the Belpre award

The Aristobrats by Jennifer Snow I had forgot this one last week, Liz B's review reminded me.

Spike Alienson by Malaika Rose Stanley illus. by Sarah Horne - The good news - the book is out and looks very good, click over, read the excerpt. The not so good news its a UK release. I won't make a habit of showing UK new releases but I couldn't resist. It very hard to find funny, contemporary middle grade novel's with Black male protagonist.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ready, Set... Wait! - Patti R. Zelch - Connie McLennan

Ready, Set... Wait! by Patti R. Zelch illus by Connie McLennan
Zelch answers the question to What Animals Do Before a Hurricane?

This was a great, easy to follow, and very informative look at what some animals do with a hurricane on its way. Three of the animals included, crocodiles, manatees and butterflies. I love Zelch's straight forward text.

"Crocodiles may crawl to open water or into deep canal and rivers that crisscross the land. Concealed below the water's surface - they wait!"

McLennan's illustrations are wonderful and fit perfectly. The author inculdes some more facts in the back.

Including - What is a Hurricane? and When Hurricane season is? There's a world map and graphs to rely some very useful information. Ages 5 up.

An excerpt For Creative Minds or the additional facts can be found at Sylvan Dell publishing site in English and in Spanish

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday is for Football

I tried to think of something to open up the football season the way I did with baseball but I came up empty.

Here's a list of football books, I did back in 2008. I can't believe I picked the Chargers to go to the Superbowl. They're awful in the playoffs.

I wanted to highlight a few titles, that I loved. Please don't sleep on any of them, they're all very good and go beyond the field.

Knights of Hill Country by Tim Tharp. my review

Jim Thorpe Original All - American by Joesph Bruchac - my review

Deadline by Chris Crutcher - Is isn't about football but it has some great football in it.

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte

And released this week

Payback Time by Carl Deuker my review

Payback Time - Carl Deuker

Payback Time by Carl Deuker
Daniel True is a senior at his Seattle H.S. He dreams of becoming a journalist. When Daniel isn't voted editor newspaper, he's very surprised and disappointed. To make it even worse the new editor is making him the sports reporter. Daniel likes watching sports but he wants to cover real news.

At school everyone calls Daniel - Mitch, short for Michehlin Man, an unwanted name he got his first day of high school. Daniel accepts the new assignment as sports reporter. When He and Kimi Yon (his photographer and crush) go to football practice they notice a very talented new player, Angel Marichal. Though for some reason Angel is keeping his ability a secret. The coach isn't using Angel to his full capacity. Daniel knows something is up and is deteremined to find out what. Breaking this story might be his big break.

This is Deuker's first novel where the main protagonist isn't an athlete. It was an expected change, but there is still no denying the author's strengths. The sports action is always excellent. The reader can easily picture every play. Though Daniel isn't a player, there's still a lot of football in Payback Time.

Deuker is very good at creating main characters with some depths and expressing their internal struggles

"My gut hurt so much, I didn't even want to move, so instead of going into the house, I sat in the silent car. I'm not the kind of person who will ever make news. I'm too ordinary, and I've known that for as long as I can remember. That's why the movie about Nixon had been such a big deal to me. I could picture myself being like those reporters. I could scratch a story until I got to the bottom of it. The newsmen in Afghanistan and Iraq didn't charge into battle firing guns. They carried cameras and tape recorders and paper and pencils. Those were the tools they used to shine light into the darkness. I thought that someday I'd be brave like them. But tonight I hadn't had the courage to keep my fist clenched around a set of keys."

Daniel and Kimi work very well together. The author also shares some of Kimi's past and goals. The revelation of Angel's secret fell a little short for me. Though, Daniel more than makes up for that. I highly recommend Payback Time, its out now just in time for football season. ages 12up

It's almost time for baseball playoffs. If you missed it do check out 9 Authors, 12 Questions I posted back in April . Deuker was kind enough to hold down the catcher's spot with Painting the Black.