Reviews of the Week

Each week we publish three brand-new reviews of books people are — or should be — talking about. Look for recommended picture books on Mondays, fiction on Tuesdays, and nonfiction and poetry on Wednesdays.

Review of A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

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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 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 […]

Review of The Red Pencil

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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 […]

Review of The Way to the Zoo

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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 […]

Review of The Iridescence of Birds

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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 […]

Review of Unstoppable Octobia May

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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

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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 […]