Review of A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

mcdonnell_perfectly messed-up story

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell; 
illus. by the author Preschool, Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp. 10/14    978-0-316-22258-7    $17.00 “No pages were harmed in the making of this book.” This cheeky copyright page disclaimer is undoubtedly true, but the very realistic-looking messes inside — and on the cover—make it hard to believe. For Louie, […]

Review of Brown Girl Dreaming

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 Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin 328 pp.    8/14    978-0-399-25251-8    $16.99    g Here is a memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. It starts out somewhat slowly, with Woodson relying on others’ memories to relate her (1963) birth and infancy in […]

Review of Winter Bees

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Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Rick Allen Primary, Intermediate    Houghton    32 pp. 11/14    978-0-547-90650-8    $17.99 In winter, bees (“we are nothing on our own”) keep their precious queen warm by massing together into a “sizzling ball.” Hibernating garter snakes, safe in a cave, “’round each other twist […]

Review of The Spiritglass Charade

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The Spiritglass Charade [Stoker & Holmes] by Colleen Gleason Middle School, High School    Chronicle    356 pp. 10/14    978-1-4521-1071-4    $17.99    g In the second Stoker & Holmes mystery (The Clockwork Scarab, rev. 9/13), the royal family enlists the teenage protagonists to investigate whether a young lady, Willa Ashton — who believes she can communicate with her […]

Review of The Book with No Pictures

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The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak Preschool    Dial    48 pp. 9/14    978-0-8037-4171-3    $17.99    g Novak (from television’s The Office) goes meta in this very funny text-only picture book. On crisp white pages, in a large black font, readers and listeners get clued in: “Here is how books work: Everything the words say, […]

Review of El Deafo

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El Deafo by Cece Bell; illus. by the author; 
color by David Lasky Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    242 pp. 9/14    978-1-4197-1020-9    $21.95 Paper ed.  978-1-4197-1217-3    $10.95 At the age of four, in 1975, Bell contracted meningitis, leaving her severely to profoundly deaf. In this characterful, vivid, often amusing graphic-novel memoir she recaptures the experiences of […]

Social justice

freedman_because they marched

Civil rights, global warming, and crime and punishment: these complex social issues receive accessible, clear treatment in four new nonfiction books for teens. In Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America, Russell Freedman documents the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march, including the horrific Bloody Sunday confrontation between marchers and Alabama state troopers. […]

Around the world

nye_turtle of oman

Reading can take children on journeys outside of their everyday realms. The following stories — some humorous, some tender — allow independent readers to spend time with characters from all over the globe. When Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman opens, Aref and his mother are preparing to leave their home in Muscat, Oman, […]

You’ve got to have friends

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Picture books about friendship can be a dime a dozen. However, these four new gems — about companions in adventure, in-sync skating partners, a tender odd-couple bond, and a freewheeling affection-giver — freshen things up. In Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, two boys set out to do just that — but unearth nothing. Eventually […]

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 […]