Middle-grade mirth

gantos_key that swallowed joey pigza

Kids having strange and wacky adventures with their friends — what’s a more engaging topic for upper-intermediate and early-middle-school readers? Two of the books below will have readers saying goodbye to favorite characters, one is a (snarky) sequel, and one is an homage — albeit a strange one — to a beloved classic. The Key […]

Books mentioned in the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Sharon Flake Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake, Scholastic, 9–12 years. Middle-school mirth The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, Farrar, 9–12 years. He Laughed with His Other Mouths [Pals in Peril] by M.T. Anderson, illus. by Kurt Cyrus, Simon/Beach Lane, 9–12 years. Cartboy Goes to Camp by L.A. […]

Review of The Red Pencil

pinkney_red pencil

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. by Shane W. Evans Middle School    Little, Brown    324 pp. 9/14    978-0-316-24780-1    $17.00 e-book ed.  978-0-316-24781-8    $9.99 The first part of this vivid novel, set from September 2003 to March 2004, celebrates twelve-year-old Amira’s life on her family farm in Darfur, Sudan. Her first-person prose poems and […]

Thom’s Rules of Order: Ten Tips for Good Book Discussion

book stack

Many of us who read and consider books for young people in 
some professional capacity know group book discussion to be one 
of the most rewarding parts of the job. Few gratifications compare with enlightened, book-focused repartee in intelligent company. These discussions take many forms, from conversations around a kitchen table or in a college […]

Review of The Way to the Zoo

burningham_this way to the zoo

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham; 
illus. by the author Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    40 pp. 8/14    978-0-7636-7317-8    $15.99 “All I have to do is leave you at home when I go out for a while and it looks as if you had the whole zoo in here!” cries Sylvie’s mother. Actually, there had […]

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site app review

goodnight goodnight construction site

Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld’s best-selling picture book Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (Chronicle, 2011) — about some hardworking, tuckered-out trucks callin’ it a night — is newly available in a digital book app edition (Oceanhouse Media, November 2014). One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their tasks and settle […]

Review of The Iridescence of Birds

maclachlan_iridescence of birds

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan; 
illus. by Hadley Hooper Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp. 10/14    978-1-59643-948-1    $17.99 “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived / in a dreary town…” Thus begins this speculative exploration of the painter’s early encounters with color, worded as a book-length […]

Beyond the Magically (Dis)abled

mcgovern_say what you will

This past May, Twitter broke out in a glorious maelstrom of activity around the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks that was thrilling to follow and — once I realized the plea wasn’t only for more books with central characters of color — even more thrilling to join. As the mother of a teenager with autism, the founder of […]

Review of Unstoppable Octobia May

flake_unstoppable octobia may

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    281 pp. 9/14    978-0-545-60960-9    $16.99 e-book ed.  978-0-545-60961-6    $16.99 Unstoppable indeed is the dogged and imaginative protagonist of this fast-paced mystery novel set in 1953. Once narrator Octobia May gets an idea into her head, she follows it as far as it will take […]

Review of The Farmer and the Clown

frazee_farmer and the clown

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee; illus. by the author Preschool, Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    32 pp. 10/14    978-1-4424-9744-3    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-1-4424-9745-0    $10.99 Appearances can be deceiving in this superb wordless book from two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Frazee. At sunset, a grim-faced, pitchfork-wielding farmer comes to the rescue when a circus train hits […]