Tuesday, January 19, 2010


BOYS, BEARS, AND A SERIOUS PAIR OF HIKING BOOTS, by Abby McDonald (Candlewick, April 2010)(12+). The summer after her junior year of high school, environmental activist ("green teen") and New Jersey suburbanite, Jenna, is faced with the most horrible of prospects: having to go spend the summer with her decidedly non-eco-friendly grandmother in her condo in Orlando, Florida. She's going to miss her friends and all the protests they have planned.

But then, she has a brainchild: why not spend the summer in rural Canada with her godmother, an environmentally-aware ex-hippie. What could be more perfect?

But when Jenna gets to the actual remote wilderness, she finds things are not quite what she expected: encountering gorgeous but sullen boys, the hostile Goth stepdaughter of her godmother, and discovering that the environment and one's place in it means something more than merely separating one's recyclables.

BOYS, BEARS, AND SERIOUS PAIR OF HIKING BOOTS is a light, romantic comedy and coming-of-age story told with an engaging voice that will leave readers with an appreciation of the outdoors and Jenna's growth therein.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Awards 2010

Among the pleasures of being a member of the youth literature community are seeing and/or hearing of the announcements of the annual ALA awards. Congratulations to everyone! I'm not going to reproduce the entire list here, but wanted to highlight those that I blogged about this year:

Sibert Medal and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for YAs Finalist:

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone

Sibert Honor:

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's New Colors and Bright Ideas, by Chris Barton

Newbery Honor

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin

Caldecott Honor

All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Marla Frazee

Printz Award

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

Saturday, January 16, 2010


THE MAZE RUNNER, by James Dashner (Delacorte Press 2009)(12+). Sixteen year old Thomas wakes up without a memory and in a "lift" in the center of the Glade, an open area surrounded on all sides by walls that lead to a Maze that changes every night. And you don't want to be caught out there at night. Once a month, a new boy is delivered into the Glade, where the Gladers have formed their own society and are seeking answers to the mysteries of why they're there.

But after Thomas arrives, everything changes: the next day, a girl is delivered. And food deliveries stop...Can they solve the mystery of the maze and make it home? Or will they be trapped there forever?

THE MAZE RUNNER is an exciting, suspenseful, thrill-ride with an intriguing "world" that's more than meets the eye. Readers will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


THE RULE OF WON, by Stefan Petrucha (Walker 2008)(12+). Caleb Dunne would aspire to be the best slacker ever, but that's too ambitious. But he begins to see the light when his ex-girlfriend makes him join a school club based on the phenomenal best-selling self-help book, The Rule of Won. But when the things they're "imanifesting" in their "Craves" begin to come true, he starts to worry, especially after the group starts to act like a fascist cult. Can he escape before it's too late? Does he even want to?

THE RULE OF WON is a sometimes funny and fascinating examination of group think and cargo cult reasoning; Caleb and his enemies and allies alike are well-rounded and sympathetic. Suspenseful and ultimately satisfying, as well as being a good read, THE RULE OF WON offers plenty to think about.

Cynthia has an interview with Petrucha here.


THE HOLLOW BETTLE: THE POISONS OF CAUX, BOOK 1, by Susannah Appelbaum (Knopf 2009)(8-12). King Nightshade rules the kingdom of Caux, in which poisoning has been raised to a high art. Everyone who can afford it hires a Taster to ensure that they don't inadvertently eat or drink anything that would be bad for them.

Eleven year old Ivy Manx's uncle, an underground apotheopath healer, disappears, leaving Ivy alone with the odious Taster, Sorrel Flux. Eventually, she flees with Rowan, a young and renegade Taster, to try to find her uncle. Can they survive the wilds and poisons of Caux with the king's men chasing them?

THE HOLLOW BETTLE is an entertaining fantasy set in a novel and sinister fantasy world. The protagonist, as well as the villains, are creepy and intriguing. Book 1 of 3.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


HENRY AND THE CRAZED CHICKEN PIRATES, by Carolyn Crimi, ill. by John Manders (Candlewick 2009). All seems to be well in buccaneer bunny land, until Henry discovers a message in a bottle: a threat to steal the bunnies' loot! The other bunnies pooh-pooh his concerns, until they are taken captive by the crazed chicken pirates themselves.

Fortunately, Henry knows that the way to success is through research and planning (and quick thinking and courage)! But can he single-handedly save his shipmates and fend off the crazed chicken pirates?

HENRY AND THE CRAZED CHICKEN PIRATES is a boisterous and funny bunny tale by the author and illustrator of HENRY AND THE BUCCANEER BUNNIES.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


NUBS: THE TRUE STORY OF A MUTT, A MARINE, AND A MIRACLE, by Maj. Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, and Mary Nethery (Little Brown 2009). In western Iraq, a group of American marines befriended a dog they called "Nubs," because his ears had been cut off. They couldn't keep him, but when they left, Nubs followed their humvee. For seventy miles across the desert...

So they organized a campaign to bring him back to the US...

Illustrated with photographs, evocative of LASSIE COME HOME, this charming tale will appeal to dog lovers everywhere. And, no, the dog does not die.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM, by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick 2009). At the dawn of the American manned space program, a group of test pilots -- all male -- was chosen as the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts.

And then, a new study was undertaken: to see how women would do if given the same battery of stress and psychological tests given the men.

And they passed with flying colors...

ALMOST ASTRONAUTS is a fascinating and uplifting story of the space program; and the politics and societal attitudes that swirled around its early years. More, it is a story of individual courage and hope and dreams. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


SCHOOL OF FEAR, by Gitty Daneshvari (Little Brown 2009)(8-12). Lulu is claustrophobic. Madeleine is arachnophobic. Garrison is aquaphobic. And Theo is thanatophobic.

Each has embarrassed his parents once too often. So they're being sent away for the summer to the remote and secretive School of Fear, where Mrs. Wellington has an excellent track record of helping children overcome their phobias. At least, that's the story. But when the kids arrive at the School, all is not as they expect. Can they overcome their fears to help each other survive?

Zany, engaging, and occasionally gross, SCHOOL OF FEAR will appeal even to those who are bibliophobic.


LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS, by Kristin Clark Venuti (Egmont 2009)(ages 8-12). Tristan Benway is the latest in a long line of butlers to the Bellweather family, bound to their service for two hundred years by a blood oath of fealty sworn by a long-dead ancestor. And family honor demands that the Benways keep their oath.

It isn't easy, though, when the Bellweathers live in a lighthouse, and have five incredibly destructive children. Throw in an albino alligator, a performing seal, and a plot to steal the Mona Lisa, and Tristan will be more than happy to see the two hundred year term of the oath expire.

If he survives that long...

LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS is a terrifically zany romp, accurately described in the catalog copy as "the Addams Family meets Cheaper by the Dozen."
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