Book Review: Matched

by Ally Condie
9780525423645, $17.99, Dutton Books (Penguin), Pub. Date: November 2010 

Matched was fascinating. It had a slow start, but kept me intrigued, and gathered momentum until I was reading at full gallop toward the end of the first book of what is obviously a new series.

Cassia Maria Reyes lives in the Society: a perfect futuristic society created out of the ashes of a society much like ours today. Food is prepared in individually-specific packages, jobs are carefully assigned to those for whom they would best suit, and at 17-years-old, Matches are selected for romantic partnership. During Cassia's Match Banquet, she is unexpectedly Matched with someone she already knows - her best friend, Xander. Highly unusual, yet not unwelcome, Cassia is pleased to be Matched with someone she feels so comfortable with.

Even though she already knows everything about him, a few days after the banquet, Cassia puts the information data stick given to her into the home computer to learn all about Xander. After she scrolls through all of his information, another screen pops up. This screen holds a second match for Cassia. It is also a boy she knows. A boy named Ky.

The Officials have caught the mistake and they attempt to do damage control. Cassia can tell no one. The faulty data stick is destroyed. But that glance at a second face has Cassia imagining a different life than the one she is living every day. She feels a connection to Ky now, and though Ky has no idea she saw his face, he seems to feel a connection for her too.

In a perfectly controlled Society, emotions such as love are not allowed to enter into any equation, as they rarely determine what is best for anybody. But Cassia has something inside her, a feeling, a spirit, an emotion, of independence, of rebellion, of fighting for her right to choose her Match for love. But the Society sees all. It knows all. And it orchestrates all. How can one 17-year-old girl take on the whole Society and win?

Cassia's story is well-told, with layers carefully built upon each other. By the end of the book, my interest in these characters was complete. The beginning only seemed sluggish because I didn't understand why all the elements were important to mention, but Condie does a great job of picking up those snippets and tying them together at the end. I'm excited to read more of Cassia & Ky's story. Share/Bookmark


Book Review: Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue 
by Cynthia Lord
9780545035316, Scholastic, $16.99, Pub Date: August 2010 

This book is a departure from my usual reading fare. It was a conscious choice - I've been reading so much fantasy lately, I wanted something with a little touch of reality.

Touch Blue is a quick, quiet, and utterly delightful middle grade novel perfect for a New England summer read. Tess Brooks and her family live year-round on an island off the coast of Maine. Her father is a fisherman, her mother, a school teacher. Their way of life is threatened when the state of Maine decrees there are too few children to continue operating the island school. The island families decide to become foster parents, simultaneously giving good homes to children in need and adding enough children to the island to (hopefully) keep the school open.

The storyline follows Tess and her family as they welcome 13-year-old, trumpet-playing Aaron. Tess and her younger sister are so excited to have a friend (possibly an older brother?), and can't understand it when Aaron doesn't return their enthusiasm. Aaron's been bounced around from home-to-home, and still has some secret, contact with his mother. Can this city born-and-bred skittish boy accept the warmth, humor, and lifestyle of the island folks?

What I loved most about this book is that while it can certainly be used as an "issue" novel - as in, hand it to a child as a gentle introduction to what being a foster child can be like - Cynthia Lord has crafted a touching slice-of-life tale of love, family, and lobstering in Maine. Share/Bookmark


BEA: BookExpo America

This blog is becoming a bit more "the life and times of a person involved in the children's book industry" than a straight forward review blog. I hope all you followers out there find this equally read-worthy.

So, BEA. BookExpo America. That's where I've been since Tuesday, when I was picked up at 5:30 a.m. by Andrew Laties, author of Rebel Bookseller, and Manager of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Bookstore. Fellow MFA graduate and Assistant Manager of the Carle Bookstore, Eliza Brown, came too.

What is BEA, you might ask? In a nutshell, BookExpo America is an annual conference for people related to the book industry. Booksellers, both indie and corporate, publishers, editors, agents, librarians, teachers, published authors & illustrators, unpublished authors & illustrators, and some really die hard fans of the book industry all come together to talk industry buzz, pick up advanced copies (called galleys or ARCs - advanced reading copies), network, discuss new ideas, attend informational sessions and panels, etcetera etcetera etcetera. The American Booksellers Association hosts a Day of Education for booksellers. The Association of Booksellers for Children hosts several ticketed events. The exhibit floor hosts hundreds of publishers all showcasing their work, handing out tote bags and galleys, and holding author signings people wait hours in line for.

Though there are roughly 5-100 things you could be doing at any given time while at BEA, here is the general schedule of events that interested me:


Serving the “Tween” Reader: Issues & Best Practices
No reader is harder to serve than the "tween," ages 9 – 12. This is the cusp of adolescence, with a wide range of developmental needs, reading levels, and social issues to navigate. Join a panel of experts as we discuss the definition of "tween" and examine key issues, including how to navigate content, how to interface with parents and teachers, how to shelve books for this market, what role outside services like Common Sense Media are playing in this category, and more. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Kristen McLean, Executive Director, ABC.

IndieBound Workshop
The Local First movement isn't an abstract concept—it lives in your community. Explore ideas for utilizing the energy of IndieBound to create events, sales opportunities, and awareness together with your indie business neighbors. Presented by Meg Smith, ABA Membership and Marketing Officer, and Paige Poe, ABA Marketing Manager.

The Nuts & Bolts of Children’s Bookselling: Roundtable Discussions
Join in roundtable discussions about the day-to-day operational issues that children's booksellers rarely get a chance to discuss in a conference environment, but which can make a big difference in their experience as booksellers. Topics will include title selection and shelving, creative display ideas, events, the mechanics of receiving and returns, managing co-op, community networking and partnerships, and more. Each table will focus on a single topic, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring your questions, ideas, and problems. Participants will learn from each other and emerge with fresh ideas and best practices to take back to their stores. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Elizabeth Bluemle & Josie Leavitt from Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont.

The ABC Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction 2010
An annual evening with children's booksellers involving great art, wonderful speakers, and a celebration of Being Independent!

MC: Michael Buckley, NYTimes bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm series (Abrams).
Keynote speaker: David Weisner, Caldecott Award-winning author of Flotsam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Disney Book Group Mo Willems & Jon J. Muth Art Reception
A reception featuring original art from their new book City Dog, Country Frog, words by Mo Willems, pictures by Jon J. Muth.

Check out this GREAT REVIEW on the IndieNext list by...me!

Emerging Leaders Council BEA Party @ WORD 
For young independent booksellers and the people lucky enough to be their plus ones.


Children's Book and Author Breakfast 
Presented in cooperation with the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee [the American Booksellers Association (ABA), Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), and the Children's Book Council (CBC)], this opening-day breakfast will feature:
The Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon
This event is always a highlight for ABA member booksellers. Enjoy lunch with award-winning authors and experience the best awards show in the industry.

Guess what author/illustrator was seated at my table...Jon J. Muth! I don't know if that was the biggest coincidence ever or what, but when I sat down and he introduced himself to me, my response was, "Oh, hello! I'm you're IndieNext quote." What a surprise & a pleasure!

Speed Dating with Children's Authors
Get to know children's book creators up close and personal! Each bookseller will get quick get-to-know-you chats with up-and-coming children's authors and illustrators, moving from table to table to meet them all. After the Speed Dating, enjoy larger discussions with those you piqued your interest!

Participating "dates" include: Heather Brewer, Bryan Collier, Eirean Corrigan, Beth Fantaskey, Adam Gidwitz, Charlie Higson, Lauren Kate, Sean Kenney, Jonathan Maberry, Carolyn MacCullough, Matt McElligott, Kate Millford, Daniel Nayeri, Mitali Perkins, Diana Peterfreund, Matthew Reinhart, Karen Gray Ruelle, Bob Seha, Nadja Spiegelman & Trade Loeffler, Jonathan Stroud, Iza Trapani, & Maryrose Wood.

BEA Young Adult Editors' Buzz
Young Adult Editors tell us about their hottest picks for the upcoming season.

Candlewick Booksellers & Authors Dinner 
I was honored to dine with Bonny Becker, Elizabeth Bluemle, Victoria Bond, John Cusick, James Howe, Megan McDonald, Tanya Simon, Daniel Nayeri, David Ezra Stein, Roger Sutton, & Rosemary Wells. Much thanks to Elise Supovitz, Director of Field Sales, for including me in this evening!


Tea With Children's Authors 
This great new program gives librarians and booksellers a chance to chat with some of the industry's brightest stars in a more relaxed and casual environment. Each author will join a table of book enthusiasts for refreshments and an open-ended conversation about the author's life and work. Each table will be moderated by an ABC bookseller. 

Authors scheduled to appear: Laure Halse Anderson, Jan Brett, Peter Brown, Doreen Cronin, Jennifer Donnelly, Russell Freedman, Cornelia Funke, Geoffry Hayes, Gordon Korman, Megan McDonald, Brandon Mull, Richard Peck, Sara Pennypacker & Marla Frazee, Rick Riordan, Peter Sis, & Carmen Agra Deedy.
So, you can well imagine how busy I've been over the past few days! A big shout-out to Margaret Raymo, Editorial Director at Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, who I kept running into at various events; to Noa Wheeler, Associate Editor at Henry Holt, who I literally almost ran into on the show floor; and to Holly Ruck, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sales rep extraordinaire, and my kind, generous host for the last three days! If you're part of the book industry, I highly recommend signing up for BEA 2011, May 24th - 26th.


Times, They Are a'Changin'

Exciting news!

1. I am moving to Boston for the summer to be the Children's Editorial Intern for Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, working with Margaret Raymo, the Editorial Director. This is such an exciting opportunity, and everyone has great things to say about living in Boston, especially in the summer. As this is an internship, I'm still looking for a more permanent job in children's publishing for the future.

2. Moving to Boston means Monday is my last day as the Odyssey Bookshop's Children's Department Manager. Marika McCoola will be replacing me there. Marika is a great artist, knows loads about children's books, and is going to be a great addition to the Odyssey staff. Check out her book reviews and artwork on her website, her review blog, and her exhibition blog.

For those wondering, yes, I will still be reviewing books and children's lit-related topics on this blog. Don't forget to check out my adult book reviews on my newest blog Afterthoughts for Adults. Share/Bookmark


Afterthoughts for Adults

Introducing Afterthoughts for Adults, my new blog featuring my adult book reviews.

With grad school completed *cue applause* I hope to have more time to read adult fiction and non-fiction. Rather than muddying Afterthoughts... with my adult book reviews, I decided it was time for a second blog. I will continue to blog children's lit and children's lit-related topics on Afterthoughts..., but now you can decide what you're in the mood for and hit up the appropriate review site.

All feedback is appreciated. I hope you enjoy!


Book Review: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
Paperback: 9780440421108, Yearling (Random House), $6.50
Hardcover: 9780375835230, Knopf (Random House), $15.95

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

A quick little review for you of a fantastic book I just plucked off the shelf. Another one of those "read a book for its cover" moments that paid off handsomely.

This was a fabulous read! I was pleasantly surprised to find the content reflected both the title and the cover art. This book reminds me of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, except, you know, shorter, updated, and the storyline is a different. 

Cornelia is the only child of two famous pianists. She's never met her father, and her mother is always off traveling to some foreign part of the world giving piano concerts (hence the orphan-like existence of Sara Crewe). People, especially adults, often relate to Cornelia only as this famous woman's daughter, not as Cornelia herself. As a result, Cornelia spends a lot of her time alone reading books, especially dictionaries, coming up with longer and longer words to use to get people (especially her well-intentioned but nosy housekeeper, Madame Desjardins) to stop talking to her. When a new neighbor moves in across the hall, this famous Somerset sister opens up new worlds of adventure and imagination for Cornelia, with the unexpected improvement of Cornelia's happiness along the way. 

A must-read for anyone who loved A Little Princess or The Penderwicks series. Simple, beautiful descriptive language, and the bonus of funny stories within the story make this a delightful summer read. This could be read aloud to anyone age 6 and up, probably a read-alone for anyone age 8/9 and up.


Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights: Candlewick Press

Ready for another long post? Introducing Candlewick's Fall line for the Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights round-up!

Disclaimer before we begin: I have not seen these books with my own two eyes. As I'll soon be leaving the Odyssey Bookshop to pursue a career elsewhere in the children's book industry (more on that in a later post), I've been going through catalogues but haven't been able to get my hands on the actual books. So, these books have been chosen based on my knowledge of the author and/or illustrator's previous work, the catalogue description, and my own personal taste.

Grandma's Gloves
by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Julia Denos
9780763631680, $15.99, Pub. Date: August 2010

These charming illustrations showcase the talent of first-time illustrator Julia Denos. More than an "issue book", this picturebook tells the story of a little girl and her grandmother who bond over growing plants and gardening. When her grandmother dies, the little girl is sad until she remembers all the gardening skills her grandmother has taught her. The illustrations capture the love and vivacity of their relationship, as green growing things jump off the page at the reader.

Snook Alone
by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
9780763626679, $16.99, Pub. Date: September 2010

Though not technically a picturebook, this book is intended for a picturebook-age audience of ages 4-7. The combination of acclaimed poet Marilyn Nelson and award-winning illustrator Timothy Basil Ering (who illustrated Kate DiCamillo's A Tale of Despereaux, among others) is sure to produce a hit. A quiet tale, this story is about a monk named Abba Jacob and his rat terrier, Snook. They live on an island together, but when the two are separated in a storm, the tale becomes Snook's journey finding his way back to his friend.

There's Going to Be a Baby
by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
9780763649074, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

For the first time EVER, husband-and-wife team up for a darling picturebook. John Burningham's witty take on a timeless story of an older sibling's uncertainty over a new family member is perfectly matched by Helen Oxenbury's "freshly enchanting and wonderfully nostalgic" illustrations.

Tiny Little Fly
by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
9780763646813, $15.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

I can already tell this is going to be a storytime favorite. Michael Rosen's (British Children's Laureate) simple text creates the sound affects for the animals trying to catch the fly. Tramp, crush, tramp - swat, swoop, snatch - roll, squash, roll: so many sounds and animals to act out with each reading! The tiny little fly lands here and there, while Kevin Waldron helps us imagine a fly's-eye-view of each animal the fly passes.

Fantasy: A Artist's Realm
by Ben Boos
9780763640569, $19.99, Pub. Date: October 2010 

Okay, I'm slipping this in here with the picturebooks. It is definitely an illustrated book, but for the older reader, 7 or 8 and up, all the way through to adults. Ben Boos has created a whole new world (stop singing the Aladdin song, right. now.) with this illustrated fantasy. Welcome to New Perigord, a land full of elves, dwarves, minotaurs, hobgoblins, and much more; scary and mystical, the detail of this land will leave you breathless and inspired to dream up a world of your own.

by Jeannie Baker
9780763648480, $18.99, Pub. Date: November 2010

Having written a paper on Jeannie Baker, I was thrilled to see a new book of hers in the Candlewick catalogue - and what a book it is! The title, Mirror, refers to the dual stories told side-by-side, one of a little boy in Sydney, Australia, one of a little boy in Morocco. The two different cultures are pictured in brilliant collage illustrations on opposite pages so the reader can examine each boy's day, and compare it to their own. Share/Bookmark


RePost: The "Good Guys" of YA Literature

This is a "repost", similar to a "retweet" on Twitter (follow me @rebf). Emily's Reading Room had an inspiring post recognizing the "good guys" of young adult fiction, as opposed to those moody, smoldering, dangerous "bad boys" everyone seems to fall for.

Some of Emily's top favorites included Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Laurie from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Peeta from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.

Obviously this made me question who my own top "good guys" of YA lit are, and these are a few names I came up with:

1. Philip Ammon from Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost, one of my top 5, all-time, desert island, favorite books. He's engaged to Edith, but he tries so hard to be a good guy and do the right thing to be worthy of loving Elnora. And of course, if I'm thinking of Philip, I have to put in Freckles, the title character from GSP's Freckles, and the Harvester, the title character from GSP's The Harvester. Really, all of her men are worthy "good guys".

2. Bookish Mac over fast and lose Charlie in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom finally wins Rose's much-deserved love. And yes, I have a soft spot, in part, due to his bookish nature.

3. T. C. Keller from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kruger. He loves baseball, has a great relationship with his dad, recites a standing address at the high school talent show to impress the girl, and he's cute to boot.

4. Poor Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He didn't know what hit him when his planet was blown up, and he's dragged back and forth between one end of the universe to the other. What a relief when he finds a love interest. He deserves it after being such a good sport.

Who are your favorite good guys? Share/Bookmark


Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Hardcover: 9780316042673, Hachette, $17.99
Lena Duchannes is forever the new girl in town, jumping from place to place to conceal her power and the curse on her family. Ethan Wate is forever a townie, determined to leave yet fated to always be a part of Gatlin, South Carolina. 

Lena longs for normalcy, friends, a chance to go to the prom, and an answer as to how to control her powers. Ethan longs for something different than the bleached, tanned, vapid cheerleaders and dead-end feeling he has for this town. 

Seeing each other in dreams weeks before actually meeting, when they finally are face to face, it's the showdown of the century as history repeats itself, when once again a Wate and a Duchannes fall in love and are determined to beat the odds keeping them apart.

Lots of supernatural stuff meets high school stuff in this book - stuff being the catch-all term for magic, witches, telepathy, vampires, dogs who see all, secret libraries, full-moon ceremonies, voodoo, cheerleaders with attitude, nosy neighbors, best friends with crappy cars, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Pretty funny, witty internal monologues and external dialogues keep this chunky book from getting too long, and the tension built up during the countdown to Lena's birthday is sure to keep you reading to the exciting conclusion on the final page.


Ode to the Long-necked Herbivore

A lot of giraffe-themed books have been popping up lately. Thanks to Laura at Tampa Bookworm for a giraffe book recommendation that sparked this post.

I admit I have a soft spot for giraffes. Polar bears, giraffes, and lobsters are my top three favorite non-domesticated animals. Okay, add elephant in there. My four top favorite non-domesticated animals. Maybe I'll post sometime in the future about books for the others, but today it's all giraffes, all the time.

Laura recommended The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David Ufer, illustrated by Kirsten Carlson (9781934359051, Sylvan Dell Publishing, $8.95). I haven't read it yet, but I always appreciate the recommendation.

In my recent Spring 2010 Picturebook Highlights: Marshall Cavendish post, I mentioned A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by Jon Cannell (9780761455950, $17.99)

When Lulu Went to the Zoo
by Andy Ellis
9780761354994, Andersen Press USA, $16.95
Though not primarily about a giraffe, this book does feature a giraffe on the cover. This is a sweet book about a little girl who doesn't like seeing the caged animals, so she frees them and takes them all home to live with her, with some funny results.

by Anke de Vries & Charlotte Dematons
9781590787496, Boyds Mill Press, $16.95
Raf is short for Giraffe, Ben's favorite stuffed toy. Sort of like the traveling gnome from the Travelocity commercials, when Ben loses Raf, Raf starts sending Ben postcards from his travels with the people who found him. But the real question is, will Raf make it back to Ben in time for Ben's birthday?

Giraffes Can't Dance
by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees
9780439287197, Scholastic, $16.99
Gerald is my favorite name for a giraffe, and this book is about a Gerald. The animals make fun of Gerald's awkward dancing at a jungle party. Gerald mopes away in shame, but a special friend helps Gerald see there's a type of music out there for everyone to dance to.

Last but not least, don't miss out on the finger puppet book Little Giraffe by Klaartje van der Put (9780811867870, Chronicle, $6.99) and the Melissa & Doug, large, stuffed giraffe ($99.99). Share/Bookmark


Book Review: The Penderwicks/The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
by Jeanne Birdsall
Hardcover: 9780375831430, Knopf (Random House), $15.95
Paperback: 9780440420477, Yearling (Random House), $6.99
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
by Jeanne Birdsall
Hardcover: 9780375840906, Knopf (Random House), $15.99
Paperback: 9780440422037, Yearling (Random House), $7.99

This post was originally published here in May 2008. This post has been edited from its original version.

Are you all ready for two fantastic reads? The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is the most fun new series to hit the shelves! Get ready for some gushing praise because I love these books! The two tales center around the Penderwicks family made up of a father, 4 daughters, and a loveable, laughable dog. There's nothing better for a summer read than a series set right in New England!

Winner of the National Book Award, the first book, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, takes place in Arundel, Maine, where the Penderwicks go on their summer vacation. Their normal vacation spot is booked, so they end up renting a small cottage on the property of a large house. Before you know it, the four sisters are up to their noses in adventures, involving, at times, yes, two rabbits, the boy next door (friend or foe?), a bull, the gardner, the cook, and much much more. It's an unforgettable summer for the entire family, and it's sure to be an unforgettable read for you!

The second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, takes place back home on Gardam Street. It's fall - school time - and also time for a visit from the girls' favorite aunt. Soon the whole house is in an uproar when their favorite aunt suggests the unthinkable: the girls' widowed father should start dating again! Everyone, Dad included, is horrified at this suggestion, and the girls soon hatch the Save-Daddy Plan. Hilarious incidents insue as the girls try to set their father up on one bad date after another. Handled with tact and sensitivity for such a touchy subject, everyone's heart ends up in the right hands by the end of this book.

Jeanne Birdsall calls Northampton, MA her home. She has visited the Odyssey Bookshop on many occasions. Look for signed copies and keep an eye out for book #3 coming in 2011!



Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer
Hardcover: 9780385340991, Dial (Random House), $22
Paperback: 9780385341004, Dial (Random House), $14 

This post was originally published here in August 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Doesn't that make you want to take a big bite out of the book itself? What is this society? What's Potato Peel Pie? Who is in it, how did it get started - so many questions come to mind when you read such a deliciously convoluted title.

The book is an epistolary novel (thank you to Emily Crowe for supplying me with that word), which means it is told entirely in the form of letters. I love this form of novel; it feels so much more intimate. You're not just getting this tale, you're reading the thoughts and feelings behind the actions. People feel so much freer and more able to put down on paper (in the form of letters) what they can't, or won't, verbally describe. If all the letters don't actually describe the scenario, then they serve to tantalize you with glimpses of the plot and tease you into reading more.

The letters are all to, from, or about Ms. Juliet Ashton, the central character in this novel. She is a writer by trade, so her letters are wonderfully descriptive, yet always leave you wanting to read more. She receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey. He had purchased a book written by Charles Lamb, which had been previously owned by Ms. Ashton. He writes to say he enjoyed this first taste of Charles Lamb and wonders if she would be able to help him in procuring more works of similar literary quality and merit. 

Ms. Ashton beings writing with Mr. Dawsey Adams (the man who wrote her), and is thus introduced to the society he is apart of - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The current year being 1946, people are still recovering and rebuilding their lives from the devastation of World War II. This society was begun during the German occupation of the Channel Islands, of which Guernsey is a part. Soon Juliet is corresponding with many of the members of this society, slowly uncovering the stories of German wartime occupation - the love, loss, friendship, and courage that occurred on this isolated island during the war - and getting a first-hand look at what that means in her own life.

No part of this book disappoints. I wanted to rush through it to see how and what happens, but I wanted it to never end. Also, it's a very sweet and sad story about how the book came to be. Mary Ann Shaffer was writing this novel when she unexpectedly passed away. Her niece, Annie Barrows, a famous children's author (she wrote the Ivy & Bean books), finished the novel for her. It became a success, because how could it not, but is so bittersweet due to the loss of its original author. 

Fans of The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and/or Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague will love this book as well. This is the perfect summer read.



Book Blogger Hop!

It's that time again - the Book Blogger Hop presented by Crazy-for-Books.

As always, thanks to Presenting Lenore for turning me on to this great phenom.

This week's visits through the Book Blogger Hop were to:

Emily at Emily's Reading Room (where she's giving away a FREE bookcase, so stop by soon!)
Erika at Erika Breathes Books (where I discovered something called "Waiting on Wednesday" which led me to the next blog)
Jill at Breaking the Spine (who began "Waiting on Wednesday," an idea I'm going to have to use next Wednesday)

Check 'em out, and don't forget to visit the blogs from my last Book Blogger Hop post. Share/Bookmark


Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights: HarperCollins

Presenting publisher #2 in the Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights series: HarperCollins!

There are a lot of amazing books on Harper's list for the fall, so get ready for a longer-than-usual post. I'm going to follow up with a post of winter holidays-specific books later in the year, probably November or December, as there are several worthy holiday titles, too.

Pajama Pirates
by Andrew Kramer, illustrated by Leslie Lammle
9780061251948, $16.99, Pub. Date: September 2010

Beautifully illustrated, these charming pictures perfectly capture the fun and adventurous spirit of the pajama pirates and their pre-bedtime escapades. The rhyming text tells a story of rowing away in a boat to have a pirate brawl on the high seas. The soothing, gentle rhythm of the story compliments the dusky blues and purples and moonshine color palate used in the illustrations.

Dinosaur Vs. The Potty
by Bob Shea
9781423133391, $15.99, Pub. Date: September 2010

Remember Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime? Well, now it's time to face that potty! With familiar, friendly illustrations, bright colors, lots of humor, and loads of potty-inducing playtime, this book will become an instant potty time classic.

Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique
by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
9780061235924, $17.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

Don't miss the newest, full-size, hardcover, fabulous Fancy Nancy title! In addition to running her fashion boutique, Nancy has to come up with an emergency plan to save her little sister's rained-out birthday party. What fancy ideas does Nancy have to save the day?

Knuffle Bunny Free
by Mo Willems
9780061929571, $17.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

Finally! The last installment of the Knuffle Bunny trilogy. Trixie and her family are visiting her grandparents in Holland. But on the way, a very important friend gets left on the plane! What will Trixie do? Is Trixie a big enough girl to spend a vacation in Holland without her beloved Knuffle Bunny? Find out what happens as Trixie grows up.

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman
9780061664656, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

Confession: I haven't actually seen this book in person with my own two eyes. Yet. BUT, I generally love the humor of Lemony Snicket, and I like the illustration-style in the cover image drawn by Maira Kalman, SO I'm going out on a limb and recommending this book. This is what the catalogue has to say about this book:

From bestselling author Lemony Snicket and celebrated illustrator Maira Kalman comes an uproarious, whimsical word book like no other.
Snicket and Kalman present a startlingly beautiful adventure woven from a practical introduction to thirteen wonderful words, including such marvels as Bird, Dog, Panache, and Haberdashery.
Maira Kalman, renowned for her design
illustrating the New York Times column The Principles of Uncertainty and books such as the bestselling The Elements of Stylecarries this madcap adventure to wondrous heights with her vision of a world populated with hats, song, and cake. A rollicking adventure joins forces with magnificent art to create a true celebration of words.

Sounds good, right?!?

I Didn't Do It
by Patricia MacLachlan & Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider
9780061358333, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

The follow-up to Once I Ate a Pie, this top-notch team has come up with another steal-your-heart picturebook of poems and paintings all from the dogs' points of view. Just as sweet as the first book, you'll be introduced to a whole new cast of dogs and their silly, naughty, loving little worlds

The Secret Message
by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
9781423110446, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

This lyrical retelling of a Rumi poem is not written as a poem itself, but as a delightful, cheeky tail about a parrot who tricks his owner into delivering a secret message. The double-page full-color illustrations help to evoke the beauty, scenery, and culture of Persia.

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate
9780061349201, $16.99, Pub. Date: November 2010

Every spring when I put my baseball picturebook display together, I think to myself, "We need more picturebooks about girls and baseball." An answer to my prayers was found in this fictionalized account of the true story of Effa Manley: a woman who lived, breathed, and worked baseball. As a mixed-race child growing up in the early 1900s, Effa experienced a lot of racism and sexism, but she didn't let that stop her. She organized protests in Harlem, married a ballplayer named Abe who helped start the Negro National League (a black baseball league), and managed the Brooklyn Eagles (a black baseball team). She never stopped working for the rights of black baseball players, and in 2006, she became the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The last two lines of the book say, "On Effa's gravestone it says: SHE LOVED BASEBALL. In 2006, baseball proved it loved her back."

All the Things I Love About You
by LeUyen Pham
9780061990298, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

Boy, I'm not a mother yet, and this book still brought a tear to my eye. That's not to say it's over-the-top sweet (though in some ways it is), but there are little elements of sly humor that keep it from being barf-inducing and instead firmly in the "Awww" category. Perfect for mothers and sons, with bold, contemporary illustrations.



Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights - Marshall Cavendish

Okay, I lied. Penguin was not the last. This morning I discovered a publisher's catalogue on my desk I had neglected to blog about before: Marshall Cavendish!

Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale
by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Omar Rayyan
9780761455998, $17.99, published in March 2010

I admit I have a big soft spot for Eric Kimmel, after growing up with his Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and The Chanukkah Guest. He writes multicultural tales with humor and sensitivity (and is lucky enough to have amazing illustrators put pictures to his words!) Omar Rayyan's illustrations bring this book to life with intricate details and a playful ambiance. Joha finds a wishing stick on his way to Baghdad. He makes several small wishes, but it's when the sultan starts using the wishing stick, that things really get out of hand.

by Bill Thomson
9780761455264, $15.99, published in March 2010

One rainy day, three kids in a park discover a bag of chalk. They begin to draw the sun, butterflies, even a dinosaur that all come to life! It takes some quick thinking and quick drawing to save the kids from the magic and the dinosaur that run amok. Crystal clear, almost photographic-quality illustrations are a nice contrast with the surreal subject matter. This wordless picturebook reminds me of some of Chris Van Allsburg's work: there's a similar fantasy quality and the endless possibilities of imagination (only, you know, in color).

A Giraffe Goes to Paris
by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by Jon Cannell 
9780761455950, $17.99, published in April 2010

This picturebook tells the re-imagined true story about a very famous giraffe. In 1827, the pasha of Egypt gave the king of France a gift: Belle, a giraffe. Belle traveled from Alexandria, Egypt to Paris, France, riding on a boat with a hole cut out for her neck, and then walking 500 miles in 41 days, parading through France from Marseilles to Paris. Jon Cannell's quirky cartoon-esque illustrations encompass artifacts and paintings from the 1800s, as we follow Belle's life story. Share/Bookmark


Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis 
Hardcover: 9780316057776, Little, Brown (Hachette), $17.99
Paperback: 9780316003957, Little, Brown, $6.99

This post was originally published here in March 2008. This version on Afterthoughts... has been edited from the original post.

I just finished a book called The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

First of all, great title and great author name. Let's face it, we all judge books by their covers, and I've noticed an astonishing correlation between good book titles, good author names, and good reads. Admittedly this doesn't always ring true, but try it with your favorite books and see if my theory holds up.

So this book...it's been called a science fiction book but I'm a little bit against placing books in a particular categoy. There are so many stereotypes and connotations (both positive and negative) that go into those words and I'd much rather judge a book on its cover than in its classification. Regardless, I thought it might be a good place to start and then I can break down that science fiction box for you and explain why it's just a good read.

What is "science-fiction-y" about this book is the central plot. Someone has been sending subliminal messages through television and radio broadcasts. They are undetectible by most humans, so though people are receiving and reacting to these messages, they're not conscious or aware of that fact. 

Mr. Benedict (the one of the "Mysterious Benedict Society") IS aware. He's a scientific genius (and one of the good guys in the book) who has figured out a way to translate and record these messages. Even though he used to be a well-respected government official, no one will listen to him now because they've all been slowly brainwashed by those subliminal messages.

This is the best part because this is where the kids come in. Certain children have the ability to resist these subliminal messages. They are young enough and value truth enough that their brains automatically do their best to resist the evil messages. Som Mr. Benedict puts together a team of children as secret spies to go into enemy territory and gather as much information as possible about who and what are sending these messages.

real story is how this team of four unlikely child heroes have to work together to solve this mission before they themselves can't resist those messages anymore. All four children have unique talents, but they don't know how to work as a team or even how to be friends.  

This book is packed with adventure (though it's not scary), good laughs (though the children in the book don't always think it's funny), friendship, teamwork, and yes, a few fights. It will keep you engrossed right to the very end with some surprising twists and turns. For instance - why did Kate's dad disappear? Does Sticky's family really not care about him? Why is Constance such a sleepy grouchy baby? Will Reynie ever see Miss Perumal again? How can Mr. Benedict appear to be in two places at once? And how on earth are these 4 kids going to stop THE WHISPERER?

The Mysterious Benedict Society to find out!
Once you've read the first book, don't forget to check out these two sequels:

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (book 2)
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Diana Sudyka
Hardcover: 9780316057806, Little, Brown, $16.99
Paperback: 9780316036733, Little, Brown, $6.99

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma (book 3)
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Diana Sudyka
Hardcover: 9780316045520, Little, Brown, $16.99



Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights - Penguin Young Readers Group

Presenting the final (I think) installment of the Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights series: Penguin Young Readers Group!

Name That Dog!
by Peggy Archer, illustrated by Stephanie Buscema
9780803733220, $16.99, Pub. Date: May 2010

Adorable illustrations show the character and personality of each dog described in this alphabetical set of poems.

Ladybug Girl at the Beach
by David Soman and Jacky Davis, illustrated by David Soman
9780803734166, $16.99, Pub. Date: May 2010

Lulu and her dog Bingo are back! A perfect summer read about using your imagination to overcome a gentle fear of the ocean. That sneaky ocean tries to take Lulu's pail, but as Ladybug Girl, she's strong enough to save her toy.
Don't miss the other books in the Ladybug Girl series:

Ladybug Girl
9780803731950, $16.99

Ladybug Girl Dresses Up!
9780448453736, $5.99

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy
9780803733398, $16.99

The Buffalo Are Back
by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor
9780525422150, $16.99, Pub. Date: May 2010

This dynamic duo has teamed up again for an intimate look at the history of the American buffalo. This picturebook chronicles the sweeping tale from roaming wild alongside Plains Indians to the herds that now roam our national parks. With a fictional tale weaving the non-fiction elements together, this is a quiet book to share in a private storytime moment.

Red Green Blue: A First Book of Colors
by Alison Jay
9780525423034, $16.99, Pub. Date: May 2010

I have to be honest: this book is going to sell SO MUCH BETTER when they finally turn it into a board book. That said, don't miss this fourth book in a brightly-illustrated, beautifully designed, early concept books by acclaimed illustrator Alison Jay. Her other books in this series include an ABC book, a 1,2,3 book, and a word book. They all exhibit this unique crackle illustration style with nursery rhyme characters. Absolutely delightful.

What's the Big Idea, Molly?
by Valeri Gorbachev
9780399254284, $16.99, Pub. Date: June 2010

I am a huge fan of Valerie Gorbachev's work. His illustration style perfectly suits his sweet storytelling. Each book is about friendship in one way or another, whether it involves sharing, or teamwork, or appreciating each other, and this one is no exception. Molly Mouse and her friends work together to gain inspiration for a truly original birthday present.

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan
by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Steve Adams
9780525478867, $17.99, Pub. Date: August 2010

Lost Boy is a compelling fictionalized account of J.M. Barrie's life in picturebook format. If the sweetness of Finding Neverland, the movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, could be harnessed into a picturebook, this would be it. Steve Adams's illustrations have a grainy, antique feel to compliment Jane Yolen's informative text. You'll want to grab a copy of Peter Pan soon after reading this! Share/Bookmark