Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett, 1980

A Discworld sendup of Macbeth that quickly takes on a life of its own. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick are Macbeth's own witches brought into hilarious relief, and characters I'll not soon forget. Satiric adult fantasy, safe for young readers with the faint exception of some subtle and naughty winks at, er, Nature. Most desperately recommended!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Horns & Wrinkles, by Joseph Helgerson, 2006

Claire's troubles begin when her nasty, pillowy cousin Duke drops her off a wagonwheel bridge over the Mississippi River. She floats down on a puff of fairy dust. Things go rougher for Duke-- he sprouts a rhino horn for a nose, and his parents (and dog Duff) get turned to stone. So begins a fantastically inventive and irreverent farce involving river trolls, rock trolls, shooting stars, riddles, bullies, catfish, long-lost uncles and brothers, muskrats, and a leech or two. As twisty and "rivery" as the Mississippi herself, well worth the journey. Recommended.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Savvy by Ingrid Law, 2008

Mississippi Beaumont's family members always turn thirteen with a bang. That's when their unpredictable (and usually uncontrollable) "savvy" kicks in. One brother makes electricity, another makes hurricanes. But on the day before Mibs's thirteenth birthday, when Mibs' Poppa is injured in a serious car crash, Mibs' impending savvy is all but forgotten. It's going to take more than a savvy superpower to get to Poppa's hospital in Salina, Kansas, 90 miles away, but with the help of windstorms, talking tattoos, a pink bible-selling bus driver, a first crush, and a vanishing seven-year old, they may just make it. Strongly recommended for middle-grade readers and fans of warm-hearted youth fiction.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, 2007

Reynie Muldoon's test-taking aptitude makes him a shoo-in for the opportunities and privileges offered by a mysterious, unnamed group. As an orphan, he has nothing to lose by accepting eccentric Mr. Benedict's offer to join his society along with three other unwanted children with curious talents. Their mission is dangerous, but it just might save the world. Sounds like a job for the Mysterious Benedict Society. Fun, nostalgic middle-grade adventure. Recommended.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry, 2009

I'm excited to announce that my debut novel, The Amaranth Enchantment, is now available for pre-order on and from bookstores. I can't, of course, give a review of a novel that I wrote, but I can say that if you like the kinds of books I tend to read, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this. :) I'll post more as the release date approaches, and I look forward to hearing from readers about it. [The title of this post links to the Amazon listing.]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ptolemy's Gate (Book 3 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud, 2006

John Mandrake -- or should we call him Nathaniel? -- has grown in the ranks of power in magician-run London, and in popularity with the restless commoners, but he's more dependent than ever on Bartimaeus for demonic (and emotional) assistance. But a failed attempt to discover the identity of the magician fomenting rebellion leaves Mandrake and Bartimaeus vulnerable. Meanwhile, Kitty's been doing a little reading, and she and Bartimaeus have a few encounters of their own. Suspenseful, effecting a thorough transformation, with a staggering conclusion. Most strongly recommended, but read the entire series in order.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reading Update

In January 2008 I graduated from the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, and took a bit of a reading vacation. I had a lot of writing commitments and deadlines, but more to the point, I needed a break. Since that time I've read the following books:

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo. Adult nonfiction, recommended.
The Boston Italians, by Stephen Puleo. Adult nonfiction, recommended.
Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody book One), by Elizabeth Peters. Adult mystery/adventure. Good fun. Recommended.
The Golem's Eye (Book 2 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud. YA fantasy / humor. Strongly recommended.

Summer's here, it's reading time. More posts and titles soon to follow!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Maestro, by Tim Wynne-Jones, 1996.

There was never space for Burl in a universe with Cal, his father, at the center. Burl’s escaping steps lead him to a remote camp on a lake where an eccentric musician seeking solitude offers him scrambled eggs and shelter. “The Maestro,” a famous musician, doesn’t stay long, and when word of his death reaches Burl, an opportunity for a new life unfolds, but claiming poses multi-faceted dangers. Never predictable or trite; Burl’s predicament is dire and authentic, his helpers unlikely and imperfect, his dignity affirmed throughout despite his stumbling steps. Most strongly recommended.

Bill in a China Shop, by Katie McAllaster Weaver, Ill. Tim Ragin, 2003

Bill the bull is a dapper dan with a taste for ornate porcelain. His tail and a sneering salesman are his undoing in the one shop in London that doesn’t specifically prohibit bulls from browsing. Sumptuously illustrated in lavish Victorian style, with rhyme and humor spot-on; a delightful picture book parents won’t mind re-reading. Strongly recommended.

Araminta Spookie: My Haunted House, by Angie Sage, 2006

Araminta Spookie’s Aunt Tabby is sick of doing battle with the boiler in their ancient, huge, rambling house that ought to be haunted even if Araminta has yet to find a ghost. Aunt Tabby sticks a For Sale sign out front, and it takes all of Araminta’s ingenuity to sabotage Tabby’s plans. Even when she finds real ghosts in the castle, it seems she can’t stop Tabby from selling. Charming light humor that hits the target every time. Strongly recommended for elementary and early middle-grade readers.

Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett, 2006.

What do frogs, twelves, used books, anonymous letters, pentominoes, old lady neighbours, and stolen paintings have in common? Who knows! Ms. Hussey, Petra and Calder’s sixth grade teacher, says asking questions can be dangerous. But when a priceless Vermeer painting turns up missing – the very same painting Petra had dreamed about a few days before – Petra and Calder have lots of questions to ask. Middle-grade history-mystery, recommended.

Shakespeare's Secret, by Elise Broach, 2005

When Hero Netherfield moves into the Murphy diamond house, she has nothing good to look forward to but a new set of sixth-grade classmates likely to obsess over her odd name. But when she meets Miriam Roth, her elderly neighbor, who tells her the secret of the stolen Murphy diamond, and its connection to an Elizabethan nobleman who may have been none other than the pen behind the name of Shakespeare, Hero suddenly has more on her mind than just figuring out why Danny Cordova, the cutest boy in the eigth grade, turns up everywhere she goes. Charming middle-grade history-mystery; strongly recommended.