Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 books by Austinites [Updated]

Post updated and moved to here.

For your holiday shopping this year, I thought I'd highlight some of the books written or illustrated this year by members of the Austin youth literature community:

Picture Books written by Austinites:

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton
Chicken Big, by Keith Graves
Holler Loudly, by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Picture Books Illustrated by Austinites:

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, ill. by Patrice Barton
Nonna Tell Me A Story, ill. by Laura Logan
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, ill. by Don Tate

Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Tween Novels:

Starfish, by James Crowley
Sunshine Picklelime, by Pamela Ferguson
The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter, by John Gosselink
Truth with a Capital T, by Bethany Hegedus
Brains for Lunch, by K.A. Holt
The Necropolis, by P.J. Hoover
Clementine, Friend of the Week, by Sara Pennypacker
Betti on the High Wire, by Lisa Railsback
Noonie's Masterpiece, by Lisa Railsback
Anna Maria's Gift, by Janice Shefelman
Front Page Face-off, by Jo Whittemore
Layla, Queen of Hearts, ill. by Patrice Barton

Young Adult Novels:

Saving Maddie, by Varian Johnson
The Less-Dead, by April Lurie
Bad Blood, by Mari Mancusi
The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar
Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky

Sunday, December 26, 2010


WORDS IN THE DUST, by Trent Reedy (Scholastic 2011)(ages 10+). Thirteen year-old Zulaikha lives in an Afghanistan recently liberated from the Taliban. But her concerns are more immediate than the politics of Kabul: getting along with her stepmother; dealing with her siblings; preparing for her sister's upcoming wedding; ignoring the taunts and almost always-horrified reactions to her appearance; and surreptitiously learning to read and write the poetry that so inspired her mother.

Then the Americans come to town, offering protection, opportunities, and a new life. And surgery to fix Zulaikha's cleft palate...

In WORDS IN THE DUST, Trent Reedy offers a human face to what is, for many, a far-off war. Reedy compellingly captures the rhythms of a small Afghan town and the dreams and personalities of its residents. Zulaikha is utterly believable as she reaches toward the future that is now available to her. Ultimately, WORDS IN THE DUST delivers as a finely-wrought novel of love, hope, and decency.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The AUSTIN CHRONICLE covers the YA scene...

This week's Austin Chronicle has an extensive look at YA literature here in Austin:

"Read Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize series, and you may never look at those Con­gress Avenue bats the same way again..."

The article covers the writing community, local book clubs, Book People, APL teen programming, and Texas Book Festival YA programming.

Full article here. Also, check out my post on 2010 books by Austin authors here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS, by Arthur Slade (Wendy Lamb/Random House 2009)(ages 10+). In Victorian London, fourteen year-old Modo -- a shape-changing hunchback -- has been raised in seclusion since he was an infant by a Mr. Socrates, leader of a secret society determined to protect the British Empire.

His first assignment: to determine what has caused a group of young men -- Britain's finest -- to turn on their fathers with murderous intent, and figure out if it relates to the kidnapping of scores of orphans.

In THE DARK DEEPS: THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS 2 (Wendy Lamb/Random House 2010), Modo finds his second: travel to New York to find out why one of their agents has disappeared and unlock the secret of the "Big Fish."

In THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS series, Arthur Slade presents a likeable protagonist in a fantastical, steampunk-inspired Britain. Modo's struggles between duty and self are compelling and the stories are action-packed. Readers will eagerly anticipate book 3.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GREGLSBLOG Favorites of 2010

This post is to highlight some of the 2010 books I've read, particularly enjoyed, and blogged in 2010.

Caveats: (1) It is not intended to be comprehensive. (2) Really, all the books I've blogged this year are, in some sense, favorites
(You can check them out in the sidebar). (3) I am still reading 2010 books and will likely blog some in the future. (4) I have read and enjoyed many more 2010 books than I have had a chance to blog and will likely add them to the blog in 2011.

Picture Books

Holler Loudly, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, ill. by Barry Gott. An exuberant read-aloud about a very loud boy. And, yes, I am married to the author :-).

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton, ill. by Tom Lichtenfeld. Whose plaything will reign supreme?

Mostly Monsterly, by Tammi Sauer, Ill. by Scott Magoon. Bernadette is a most unmonsterly monster...

Soar, Elinor, by Tami Lewis Brown, ill. by Francois Roca. The story of Elinor Smith and her attempt to fly under all the East River bridges...

Middle Grade

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia. Engaging protagonist in a turbulent era.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, by Barbara O'Connor. You'd try it, too...

The Healing Spell, by Kimberley Griffiths Little. Can Livie cure her mother?

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger. Is Dwight really channeling the powers of the Jedi?

Young Adult

Alien Invasion and other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky. The aftermath of the twelve-second conquest of the Earth.

Black Hole Sun, by David Macinnis Gill. Mars, red in tooth and claw.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta. An epic fantasy with a touch of romance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hollering loudly! [updated]

The news and reviews for HOLLER LOUDLY are pouring in:

"Readers as well as listeners will have fun with this animated story, and the Southwestern twang will just come naturally." School Library Journal

"A rambunctious, can't-lose read-aloud no one will want to hush." Kirkus Reviews

"With prose as raucous as its protagonist, Smith's (Santa Knows) tall tale introduces a boy who at birth 'cried so loud.... that the pecans fell from the pecan trees and the prickly pear cacti sprouted more needles.' This effervescent collaboration. . .has sass aplenty." Publishers' Weekly

"Lively prose is complemented by an exuberant design and palette. Hot pinks and wild purples, along with the exaggeratedly large open mouths of the characters, give this romp just the right treatment...A fabulous read-aloud that everyone will 'HUSH!' to hear." Horn Book Magazine.

"This original tall tale is a readaloud dream, full of big, brazen shouts and playful homey dialect. There’s hilarity in the chaos Holler’s volume causes, and the ending, wherein Holler learns the value of quiet and the townsfolk learn the value of loudness, is satisfyingly even-handed and logical." BCCB

Gift Guide: Books for All Ages by Nancy Churnin from The Dallas Morning News. "Gott's drawings of 10-gallon hats lend a Texas twang to Austin author Smith's tale of a boy who lives up to his name, much to the exasperation of his parents. Happily, he finds a good use for that loud voice and learns the value of quiet time."

Go check out author Jama Rattigan's SOUP OF THE DAY post for HOLLER LOUDLY: Wahoo! Yahoo! Two hoots and a holler!

Also, go see the interview of Cynthia at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast!

BLESSED news and ETERNAL fan trailer awesomeness...

Reviews are starting to come in on BLESSED (available, January 25, 2011):

"A guardian angel joins forces with an unusually humane vampire and a host of shape-shifters in this appealing melding of characters from Smith's earlier novels, Tantalize (2007) and Eternal (2009). The pages fairly smolder...[and] readers will again be pulled into this wild and ultimately fascinating...alternate universe." Kirkus Reviews

"As in the first two novels, the main attractions are the clever and campy blend of the supernatural and the everyday and the thoroughly entertaining characters, human and otherwise...A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader." Horn Book Magazine

And here's the awesome fan trailer for ETERNAL:

Monday, December 13, 2010


CLAUDE MONET: THE PAINTER WHO STOPPED THE TRAINS, by P.I. Maltbie, ill. by Jos. A. Smith (Abrams 2010). This nonfiction picture book tells the story of Claude Monet's winter at the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, where he created an innovative series of paintings of trains arriving and leaving.

The text is engaging, informative, and sometimes amusing. The art is occasionally whimsical and yet evokes the impressionist style, especially the scenes in the train station. CLAUDE MONET provides a fascinating look at an artist more known, perhaps, for water lilies than the products of industry. Paintings from the Saint-Lazare series can be found at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Harvard Art Museum.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


DINOSAUR MOUNTAIN, by Deborah Kogan Ray (FSG 2010). This picture book tells the story of Earl Douglass, bone prospector for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (who discovered some of that museum's most prized specimens, including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, and Camptosaurus) and the creation of Dinosaur National Monument.

Text is informative and compelling. Sidebar quotes from Douglass's journals and facts about the Mesozoic provide added context. The art elegantly complements the text, showing not only Douglass in action, but also the "tools of the trade," and maps of the Jurassic West. A fine introduction to the "down and dirty" of the Golden Age of dinosaur paleontology.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


JUSTIN CASE: SCHOOL, DROOL, AND OTHER DAILY DISASTERS, by Rachel Vail (Feiwel and Friends 2010)(ages 7-10). Justin, about to enter third grade, is nervous, and has much to be nervous about. His sister is starting kindergarten, he didn't get the teacher he wanted, his best friend is in another class, his favorite stuffed animal has gone missing, and there's a monster in the basement. Which may have taken the stuffed animal (which he still cares about even though he's too old for stuffed animals). How will he survive the year?

Told in a diary format that brings the reader along with Justin on his third-grade travails, JUSTIN CASE is funny, charming, and heartwarming. Drawings by Matthew Cordell evoke Justin's angst and are a perfect complement to the text.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Dinosaur Hall, photo courtesy of Houston Natural Sciences Museum

Big news from the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Houston, TX)! They've unearthed a nearly complete, articulated Dimetrodon skeleton, scheduled to go on display in the museum's paleo hall in 2012 (This is a big deal because, despite what you see in museums, paleontologists rarely find nearly whole fossil vertebrates).

Check out the HNSM blog post here. Oh, and Dimetrodon is a synapsid, not a dinosaur. It's also from the mid-Permian, so predates dinosaurs by about 30 million years. Oddly enough, although it looks like a reptile, it's actually closer to mammals.

Cyn and I took a trip to the the Houston Museum of Natural Science a couple years ago. It's just one museum in the Houston Museum District, near Rice University.

Homo sapiens (foreground) with juvenile Edmontosaurus

The museum, which is now a century old, has at the center of its Mesozoic display a Tyrannosaurus rex that stalks an adult and juvenile Edmontosaurus. A large sauropod stands aloof from the whole thing, while a Quetzalcoatlus soars overhead (see top photo). A number of smaller "raptors" and birds watch from afar.

Turtle (Toxochelys, I believe) and Mosasaur

The museum also features a number of life re-creations, including an ankylosaur being attacked by a pack of dromaeosaurs. (The ankylosaur, in fact, is the one Sinclair had built for the New York World's Fair. Two others are in Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose.).

Dromaeosaurus (top left), Ankylosaurus (left), and Homo sapiens

More pictures from the Natural Sciences Museum can be found here. Also, apparently, they're currently expanding the museum, so these pics will soon be out of date :-).

Friday, December 10, 2010


ESCAPING THE TIGER, by Laura Manivong (HarperCollins 2010)(10+). It's 1982 and twelve year-old Vonlai and his family have escaped from communist Laos across the Mekong into neighboring Thailand.

There, they are held at the squalid Na Pho refugee camp, where they must struggle if they are ever to survive to the brighter future they are hoping for. But when his sister is threatened, Vonlai takes matters into his own hands...

ESCAPING THE TIGER offers an engaging protagonist in a poignant and thought-provoking story of family and dignity. Vonlai's hopes and fears ring true as he deals with family, friends, and foes alike, and as he comes of age in the refugee camp. Flashbacks to their lives in communist Laos provide additional texture and contrast.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, by Melina Marchetta (Candlewick 2010)(12+). At the age of nine, Finnikin, son of the captain of the King's Guard, witnesses a bloody coup in the kingdom of Lumatere. After a brutal massacre, the kingdom is placed under a curse: no one can enter or leave. But Finnikin himself has been spirited away.

Ten years later, Finnikin trains with the former king's first man, traveling to refugee camps, seeking out fellow Lumaterans in exile. Then they encounter the mysterious Evanjalin, who claims she can speak, in her dreams, to those trapped inside Lumatere. And she might just have a plan to release the curse and overthrow the imposter...

FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK is a thoroughly enjoyable, thrilling and textured tale of survival, hope, love, and justice. The plot is complex and the fantasy world richly-detailed. Characters are layered, likeable, and believable. Altogether, FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK is a compelling read, full of action and adventure and heart.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


THE BODY AT THE TOWER (THE AGENCY, BOOK 2), by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick 2010). Mary Quinn is back in this sequel to THE AGENCY: A SPY IN THE HOUSE. This time, she's disguised as a 12 year-old errand boy at the Palace of Westminster construction site to uncover the truth behind the fall of a bricklayer from atop St. Stephen's Tower. Along the way, she discovers plots within plots and finds herself having to negotiate who and what she is and wants to be...

THE AGENCY: THE BODY IN THE TOWER is another finely-wrought historical mystery, bringing to life the seamier side of a richly-imagined Victorian London. Readers will eagerly anticipate Book 3.
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