Tuesday, January 31, 2012


LITTLE DOG LOST: THE TRUE STORY OF A BRAVE DOG NAMED BALTIC, by Monica Carnesi (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin 2012)(ages 3-5).  In January 2010, a little dog was seen floating on an ice flow in the middle of the Vistula River (Poland), some sixty miles from the Baltic.  Attempts to rescue him proved fruitless.  Two days after he was first spotted, the research vessel Baltica, fifteen miles off the coast, spotted him.  Several attempts and dunkings later, he was brought aboard, and is now an honored and dry member of the crew.

LITTLE DOG LOST is charming and sweet tale, the simple text and expressive drawings richly evoking the heartwarming drama.        

Read an interview with Monica on Cynsations.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CHRONAL ENGINE jacket and news!

I received the mockup of the CHRONAL ENGINE jacket the other day.  The photo doesn't quite convey its awesomeness, but it's foil.  Yes, shiny.  If you put it in the microwave, it'll actually sparkle.  (This is a hypothesis -- I'm not going to actually test it out :-)).  The great design is by Clarion's Sharismar Rodriguez, and you might recognize the author photo from here

Also, CHRONAL ENGINE was featured last week in a Goddess of YA Literature blog post and in a post over at Turning the Pages.  Thanks for the kind words!

Save the dates:

CHRONAL ENGINE Launch and Signing at BookPeople, March 24, 2012, at 2 PM, otherwise known as National Dress Up as a Dinosaur Day!  (Well, not really, but it should be).

My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring Jordan Dane, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly---moderated by Sean Petrie--will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at BookPeople in Austin. Join us as six top YA authors dish on the devilish, gab about ghosts, and soar with the angels in this panel celebrating spine-tingling stories, supernatural creatures, and perhaps scariest of all, true love.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


In fact, I am Mercury.  [yawn].

I am, however, here to tell you about a book by that name (see cover below).

Long ago, in Japan [Did I mention that my Greg person's ancestors originated in Japan?] or so the story goes, there lived a poor but devout holy man who was barely keeping his temple together.  Tama appeared, raising his paw in the traditional Japanese come-to-me greeting.  [Some cats are known to do this.  I do not].

The cat adopted the holy man and stayed at the temple.  One day, during a thunderstorm, Tama greeted a rich samurai feudal lord who was taking refuge under a tree outside the temple grounds.  [I make no comment on whether it was a good idea for Tama to have been outdoors during a thunderstorm.]

The samurai approached the cat an instant before the tree was struck by lightning. [See?] In gratitude, the samurai lord bestowed lavish gifts, became a friend to the monk, and restored the temple to prosperity. 

[Is it true?  I don't know, but you can buy Maneki Neko figurines just about anywhere these days.]  In any case, I AM TAMA is a lovely story, freshly told, with very nice lush illustrations. 
I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT: A JAPANESE LEGEND, by Wendy Henrichs, ill. by Yoshiko Jaeggi (Peachtree 2011)(ages 5-9).

Thursday, January 26, 2012


FOR THE BIRDS: THE LIFE OF ROGER TORY PETERSON, by Peggy Thomas, ill. by Laura Jacques (Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press 2011)(ages 8+). As a child, Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996) was considered a bit of an odd bird.  He'd spend all his time exploring the woods in his small town, bringing home nests and wildflowers and butterflies and moths.  Early on, though, he became enamored of birds, and studying them and drawing them became his life's work.  Ultimately, he would become one of world's foremost ornithologists, and in 1934 would publish the first of the famous Peterson Field Guides.

FOR THE BIRDS provides a thoroughly fun and evocative introduction to the life and work of one of the premier naturalists of the 20th Century.  The text is compelling and the art is realistic and richly detailed.      

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DIABOLICAL release day! [Updated]

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available from Candlewick Press in North America, and it will be published Feb. 1 by Walker Australia and New Zealand.

When “slipped” angel Zachary and his werewolf pal, Kieren, are summoned under suspicious circumstances to a mysterious New England boarding school, they quickly find themselves in a hellish lockdown with an intriguing assortment of secretive, hand-picked “students.”

Plagued by demon dogs, hallucinatory wall decor, a sadistic instructor, and a legendary fire-breathing monster, will they somehow manage to escape? Or will the devil have his due?

Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize series — including Zachary's girl, Miranda, and Kieren's love, Quincie — along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.
To celebrate the release, Cynthia is hosting a giveaway on her blog!  For more information, go here.


Read an interview of Cyn by me at Cynsations here.
Check out an interview of Cyn by Joy Preble here.
And one by Jen Bigheart here.

Monday, January 23, 2012


THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD; BOSTON 1919, by Deborah Kops (Charlesbridge, February 2012)(ages 8-12), offers a fascinating look at one of the weirdest incidents in Boston's history. On January 15, 1919, a two million gallon tank of molasses explodes, destroying buildings and drowning a small Boston neighborhood in sticky goo.  Altogether, twenty-one people would die in this freak accident. 

In compelling fashion, Kops covers the story first from the perspective of individuals affected on the day itself -- men, women, and children going about their daily business until buildings collapsed around them and they were swamped in the viscous mess -- and then the tragedy's aftermath, including the subsequent lawsuits and testimony.  Sidebars provide additional period context and flavor.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


ZAHRA'S PARADISE, by Amir, ill. by Khalil (First Second Books/Roaring Brook Press 2011)(14+).  This powerful graphic novel tells the story of the search for Mehdi, a nineteen year old caught up in the aftermath of Iran's Green Revolution of 2009.  Last seen at the Freedom Square, his mother and his brother, a blogger, now search for him, trying to negotiate their way through the cruelty and fecklessness of the state bureaucracy... 

In addition to being a fine story, well-told and richly drawn, ZAHRA'S PARADISE does an excellent job of cutting through the headlines, bringing characters to life, and illuminating Iran's recent history.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Sarah Blake Johnson

Sarah Blake Johnson holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  A writer and photographer, she currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where the above picture was taken.

She has lived in Brazil, China, and in many places in the United States.  Her blog, Explorations, offers glimpses into her world. Another view of the stegosaur above is shown below, along with one of the world's smallest libraries.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT, by Allan Wolf (Candlewick Press 2011)(ages 12+), tells the story of the Titanic's fateful voyage, from the point of view of sundry passengers, crew, stowaways, and, functioning like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, the iceberg itself.

Wolf does a terrific job of weaving together the threads of the lives of the passengers, providing context to them as individuals and not merely survivors or victims.  Altogether, a compelling, engrossing read. 

An extensive author's note illuminates Wolff's research and provides additional information on the individuals highlighted.

Monday, January 09, 2012


ON THE BLUE COMET, by Rosemary Wells, ill. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick 2010)(ages 8-12).  In this young middle grade novel, eleven year old Oscar lives with his father in a small house in Cairo, Illinois.  There, they've created a world of their own: ten Lionel trains, including the Blue Comet.

It all comes crashing down, though, two years into the Great Depression, when the bank takes the house and the trains, too.  Now, Oscar must move in with his aunt and cousin while his father seeks work out in California.

On Christmas Eve, the trains are on display in the bank's lobby.  When bank robbers appear, the mysterious night watchman urges Oscar to flee by "jumping."  He does so, first into the train set and then ten years into the future... 

ON THE BLUE COMET offers a fanciful and enjoyable time travel yarn featuring cameos from famous actors and politicians and bankers of the era.  Full color illustrations add richness to the depiction of the times.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


CHOPSTICKS, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, ill. by Scott Magoon (Hyperion, January 24, 2012)(ages 4-8). The Chopsticks are inseparable, working together like a well (olive) oiled machine.  Until, one day, Chopstick A breaks a leg and Chopstick B has to make his way on his own.  But how will Chopstick B get along without his partner?

CHOPSTICKS is fun and funny and colorful, and a great exploration of standing on one's own.  In sum, CHOPSTICKS is perhaps the finest coming-of-age story involving kitchen utensils yet written.     

Friday, January 06, 2012


MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL, by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin 1939).

What I remember: Set in the 1930s, it involved Mike and his steam shovel, Mary Ann, who were being displaced by newer diesel models, even though they could do the job just as effectively, possibly even better.  I really remember liking the drawings, feeling sad about the steam shovel graveyard, the sense of nostalgia, and enjoying the very appropriate surprise ending.

The rest of the recollection: This was one of my brother's and my favorites.  We would go to the old Hild Library and check this book out as many times as we could. 

I also firmly recall that sense of sadness of when new technology replaced the old.  My mother used to do the typing for one of the companies in the old Rookery Building downtown, and I would drop off the finished papers at the switchboard operator, whose name was Helen.  At first, she had an old wire and plug style board, and I used to find it fascinating to watch.  But then, one day, it was gone, replaced by a sleek white plastic object with lots of flashing lights and buttons.  It wasn't nearly as fun as the old board, and Helen didn't think so, either. 

And now:  The book still absolutely holds up.  I love the drawings of the steam shovels and the sense of flying dirt as they dig the basement, as well as the fact that it's the kid who had the solution.  Further, the idea that a steam shovel -- old technology with an old aesthetic -- still has worth in a modern diesel-electric age still resonates (And I kind of want to call Virginia Lee Burton the "mother of steampunk." :-)).

I read this as an omnibus edition, which also included KATIE AND THE BIG SNOW, THE LITTLE HOUSE, and MAYBELLE THE CABLE CAR, which I also remember enjoying, although not as much as MIKE MULLIGAN.       

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


BIRD TALK: WHAT BIRDS ARE SAYING AND WHY, by Lita Judge (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, March 13, 2012)(ages 6-9).  This elegant and amply illustrated forty-eight page picture book presents an introduction to the myriad ways in which birds (avian dinosaurs) communicate: vocalizing, strutting, fighting, etc. Drawings are realistic and the text spare yet informative.  An afterword provides additional context on birds both familiar and unfamiliar.

A fascinating look at the natural world -- and I keep thinking it would be excellent paired with Diana Hutts Aston's AN EGG IS QUIET.  Lita did a Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs post for me a couple months ago, and she is also the author of BORN TO BE GIANTS: HOW BABY DINOSAURS GREW TO RULE THE WORLD.
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