Thursday, July 29, 2010


A BOOK ABOUT COLOR, by Mark Gonyea (Henry Holt 2010)(ages 8+). Beginning with illustrations of six "houses," graphic artist Mark Gonyea introduces readers to the primary and secondary colors, their uses and "feel," and their properties.

A BOOK ABOUT COLOR is elegantly simple, straightforward, bright, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES, by Andrea Beaty (Amulet 2010)(ages 7-11). Eleven-year-old twins Kevin and Joules Rockman have been dropped off at Campwhatsitooya by their parents, who are on their way to an international Spam festival. But instead of a summer of campfires and hiking and ghost stories, they find themselves in the middle of an invasion by big, giant bunnies from outer space! Can they save the earth from the leporine pestilence?

ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES is a hilarious parody, offering a unique take on the tropes of both horror and summer camp movies. In brief, ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES is the funniest story of attack by giant rabbits since NIGHT OF THE LEPUS.

Andrea co-blogs at Three Silly Chicks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


FEEDING THE SHEEP, by Leda Schubert, ill. by Andrea U'Ren (FSG 2010)(ages 3-6). While her mother tends to the sheep and the wool and the spinning and the knitting (and more), the little girl asks, "What are you doing?" At each stage, the mother tells of, and the illustrations show, a step in the process of turning wool into a sweater.

FEEDING THE SHEEP is an elegant tale of mother-daughter bonding and participatory education. Drawings are bright and cheerful, and together with the text, provide a heartwarming introduction to sheep husbandry and the work that goes behind the work that goes into a sweater.

Baa, ram, ewe! (Sorry, I just couldn't help myself)

Read a guest post by Leda Schubert on FEEDING THE SHEEP at Cynsations.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN, by Shutta Crum (Knopf 2010)(ages 8-12). Twelve-year-old Thomas is the eldest of ten children and the one who has to take care of the rest. Although small for his age, he's always dreamt of having an adventure and becoming a knight. He gets his chance when Sir Gerald takes him as his squire. At the castle, he learns there's more to becoming a knight than mere adventure -- it's hard work, involving learning the use of weapons, manners, and, worst of all, dancing.

But then the unthinkable happens: while all the other knights are away defending the border, the Princess Eleanor is captured by the Dragon Queen. So Thomas must now undertake a desperate quest all by himself - to rescue the princess and slay the dragon!

THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN is a fun and charming story of chivalry and adventure and lake monsters and dragons and a boy's quest to find where he best fits in the world.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


THE INVISIBLE ORDER: RISE OF THE DARKLINGS, by Paul Crilley (Egmont 2010)(ages 10+). In the middle of Victorian London, twelve-year-old Emily and her nine-year-old brother William are recently orphaned. When Emily rescues a piskie in a back alley, she is drawn into an ages-old conflict involving two sects of the fey folk and the Invisible Order, a human secret society dedicated to protecting humanity from the fey.

Things become more personal when William is kidnapped -- she has to get him back, but whom can she trust? Together with Corrigan, the piskie she rescued, and Jack, a street urchin a year older than her, she must navigate her way through treachery and danger.

RISE OF THE DARKLINGS is an intense, action-packed ride through a Victorian London that sits atop a dangerous faerie realm. Emily is engaging and well-developed, while Corrigan and Jack are funny and likeable. Readers will anxiously await the publication of Book 2, THE FIRE KING.

Friday, July 16, 2010


BRAINS FOR LUNCH: A ZOMBIE NOVEL IN HAIKU, by K.A. Holt (Roaring Brook 2010). In the fanciful world of BRAINS FOR LUNCH, zombies, chupacabras, and humans (lifers) all go to the same school, but they stay pretty much to themselves. So it's a shock when Loeb, a zombie, finds himself attracted to Siobhan, a lifer. Can true love overcome zombification and incompatible eating habits?

BRAINS FOR LUNCH is whimsical and bizarrely entertaining. Drawings by Gahan Wilson complement the text with just the right touch of funny gross-ness. And, the fact that it's entirely in haiku adds a charmingly surreal quality to the whole thing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Guest review by Mercury.

Greetings and felicitations.

WINDOWS WITH BIRDS, by Karen Ritz (Boyds Mills 2010)(ages 5-7 [human years]).

Of late, my humans have been greatly remiss in providing Cat stories for me to review. I have, accordingly, clawed their furniture.

But back to the matter at hand. Although the title of this fine picture book unfortunately refers to birds (class Aves), the true protagonist is, in fact, a gray tabby (Felis catus) American short-hair.

WINDOWS WITH BIRDS is the poignant tale of a cat who is uprooted from his charming home and moved by his people to a high-rise apartment. Understandably overcome by the trauma, the cat hides in the closet and in the box springs, causing inadvertent distress to his small human. Eventually, though, the cat comes to realize that things are not as bad as he initially thought.

An altogether exquisite and sweet picture book experience.

A taste of Fibonacci

GROWING PATTERNS: FIBONACCI NUMBERS IN NATURE, by Sarah C. Campbell, photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell (Boyds Mills Press 2010)(ages 5-11). This elegant picture book introduces the Fibonacci sequence (1+1+2+3+5+8+13+21+...)(each number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers) through photographs of flowers and simple counting exercises. An afterword and glossary should pique the interest of anyone interested in numbers or nature.

BLOCKHEAD: THE LIFE OF FIBONACCI, by Joseph D'Agnese, ill. by John O'Brien (Henry Holt 2010)(ages 6-9). This fun and highly-fictionalized account of the life Fibonacci ranges from a childhood in which he had difficulties in school through an adulthood of travels and curiosity. Both text and pictures are lively and provide an entertaining tale of how Fibonacci (may have) discovered the sequence that bears his name.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A bit of whimsy...

This book trailer, stitched together out of pieces filmed before M. T. Anderson’s unfortunate disappearance, discusses his new book The Suburb Beyond the Stars.

It is part of a larger set of documents about the strange and mysterious sightings and deaths in the area of Mount Norumbega — all of which will be released soon on Scholastic’s website. We’re working to make them available to a waiting public.

We hope you can make more sense of this film than we can.

The Suburb Beyond the Stars from Sang Lee on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sports and more

I tend to be kind of indifferent about professional sports as a whole (and I include big-time college sports in that category), especially those that involve a ball and hand-eye coordination. I try to go to the gym and swim or run regularly but am usually not that interested in paying attention to what other people are doing (also, I myself have absolutely no hand-eye coordination :-)).

I do, of course, follow the Longhorns (somewhat avidly) and the Cubs (guardedly), and every four years, the Olympics, but that's pretty much it as a spectator. So this month, I was kind of surprised to discover that, this (last) month, I actually paid some attention to Wimbledon (the longest tennis match), the World Cup (the US game and officiating), and the Tour de France (that Austinite on Team RadioShack and really great coverage on Versus).

All this got me thinking about my reading choices and books having sports or athletics in them...

So, anyway, linked or set in below are some "sports" books that I've covered on the blog or over at Cyn's web site. By "sports books," I mean books in which sports and/or athletics are or were important to the protagonist or the plot, and can include those in which the climax is other than the "big game." This does not include books involving swordplay - those are for another post :-). Oddly enough, all are YA.

BUG BOY, by Eric Luper
IN THE BREAK, by Jack Lopez
JUMP, by Elisa Carbone
OPEN ICE, by Pat Hughes
PINNED, by Alfred C. Martino
SHIFT, by Jennifer Bradbury
THAW, by Monica Roe

Some older ones from the web site:

ROUGHNECKS by Thomas Cochran (Harcourt, 1997).
Oil Patch, Louisiana, is a town where football is king and where Travis Cody is responsible for the team's only loss. Travis's championship game-day preparations are a vehicle for Travis to reflect on his past as an Oil Patch Roughneck and his future as . . . he doesn't know what. Ages 12-up.

SLAM! by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 1996). SLAM! is the story of Greg, 17, who's hot on the basketball courts but not in class. A strong voice and well-drawn character who's part of the crowd that looks to athletics for escape and a future. Ages 12-up.

WRESTLING STURBRIDGE by Rich Wallace (Knopf, 1996). Sturbridge, PA, is a wrestling town. Ben is the second-best wrestler in his weight class. The first-best is his friend, who's counted on to win the state championship. Ben has other plans. Compelling guy voice and well-drawn characters. Wallace is also the author of SHOTS ON GOAL, also set in Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, focusing this time on soccer, friendship, teamwork, girls, and feuding about all four. Ages 12-up

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Silly goose...WLT, etc.

Last weekend was the Writers League of Texas annual agents and editors conference, held at the Hyatt Regency on Lady Bird (Town) Lake in downtown Austin (which explains the goose). Some thirty or so agents and editors presented and/or were pitched to by around 300 aspiring authors.

I went in Saturday morning a little before my panel, Kid Lit: One Hot Market, with editor Mary Colgan of Chronicle Books; agent Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents; and Alice Tasman of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Cyndi Hughes and the rest of the Writers' League folks had things well in hand -- the registration desk was bustling, the timers for the pitch sessions were getting organized, and most importantly, there was coffee, fruit, and breakfast tacos in the agent/editor decompression chamber.

The room for the panel was packed and we had a lively and engaging conversation, covering topics from branding, to what an agent can do for you, to what excites people about children's literature.

After a surprisingly good lunch, I attended Jennifer Ziegler's panel (YA, YA, YA Not: How to Tell if your Book is for Adults or Teens or Both), with editor Mary Colgan and author Mari Mancusi, which addressed issues of cross-over books and what may or may not be appropriate for YA. Afterward, Jennifer and I had a fun chat about Star Trek and World Cup soccer and boys reading.

Sunday morning, Clay Smith (Literary Director of the Texas Book Festival), moderated The Ties that Bind: The Agent/Author Relationship, with James Fitzerald of the James Fitzgerald Agency, Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and author David Marion Wilkinson. The discussion ranged from the degree of agent involvement in the substance of the manuscripts to what happens if you need to fire an agent.

On the whole, the conference was exciting and exhausting. The Writers' League did a terrific job. And although I have an agent and am not particularly inclined toward the adult market, it was still very interesting to get the views of the adult agents, editors, and authors, which is often very different from those in children's literature.

Anyway, back to writing!
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