Just Jake by Jake Marcionette Book Review

Just Jake by Jake Marcionette
Illustrations by Victor Revis Villa
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Release Date: February 4, 2014

Jake is made of pure awesome. Problem is, the kids in his new school don't know it yet. Following a few simple rules to raise his awesome quotient, Jake navigates his new school, neighborhood bullies, and one strange kid who may be even more awesome than anyone can imagine.

For the Wimpy Kid lovers, Jake is simple book with a character who is anything but humble, just like Greg Hefley. The biggest difference between the two is that Jake is (or says he is) actually awesome and Greg just imagines that he is. There were the usual tropes, an older teen sister that he hates, the moving to a new city, a bully, and a weird kid. The plot was rather simplistic, with no subplots beyond sibling rivalry and no winks to the reader like in Wimpy Kid. Part of the whimsy of the Wimpy Kids books is that Greg really does think he is great and it is the reader who is aware that he is self-centered and a terrible friend. For Jake, there is no such depth to the plot or the character. Jake is awesome, now he just has to prove it. Truth be told, there really wasn't anything awesome about Jake. He is an average kid with a passing talent at drawing and a knack for finding other kids who have similar awesome potential. He isn't a bad or mean character, he is just entirely self-centered.

 The clip art and illustrations are what will draw the reader into this story though. It is perfect for the reluctant reader and also written on a reading level that would make it perfect for students moving from chapter books into middle grade fiction.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord Book Review

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: February 25, 2014

When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake in New Hampshire, she isn't really sure what to expect. Her father, a famous photographer will be away on a photo shoot for most of the summer. Lucy quickly makes friends with the boy next door and an enemy is the girl across the lake, but it is the discovery of a photo contest that her father is judging that becomes the framework for her summer. As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy helps her new friend Nate with Loon Watch, but her camera reveals a sadness that Nate does not want to see: his grandmother's memory slipping away.

As with Rules, Cynthia Lord has created another believable and sometimes heart wrenching story. Of course, the real sadness of the story rested solely on Grandma Lilah who has dementia.This is a subject that I feel is rarely discussed in children's literature or with children in general. As a child I remember being very afraid of old people. My children's church group used to visit a nursing home fairly regularly and I don't remember anyone ever explaining to me why these old people couldn't remember their names or acted strangely.

This was a fun summer story with a wonderful sense of place, one made all the more poignant with the loons and photography sub-plots. I love that Lucy eventually learns the importance of not always seeing life through the lens of her camera.  For me, the real win though is in the fact that I teared up a couple of times. There were some parts that moved a little slow and Lucy was a rather introspective child, but for the most part, the pacing was fine. I think that teachers are really going to love this book as it has many elements (photography, bird watching, new friendships) that teachers can teach and use in the classroom. I think kids will love it for all the same reasons, especially if they are one of the lucky ones who gets a school visit from Ms. Lord.

Hi Koo! by Jon Muth Book Review

Hi Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon Muth
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: February 25, 2014

It is said that poetry is a dying art form, but I think the one place that it still thrives is within picture books. The poetry form of Haiku though, is a rarity indeed. Hi Koo is a beautiful picture book that transverses the seasons along with one of Muth's signature pandas. Each page and verse highlights a different letter of the alphabet. The ideas within the story are simple enough for a young child to understand and yet told in a way that is both lovely and complex. It is what I would typically refer to as a "quiet book", but sometimes it is the quiet ones that speak the loudest.

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler Book Review

Rapture Practice: The True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 9, 2013

When Aaron Hartzler was little, he couldn't wait for the The Rapture in which Jesus would come down from the clouds and whisk he and his family up to heaven. However, as he grows older Aaron finds himself questioning a lot of what his family believes and why. He begins to realize that although his parents have a disdain for television and movies, alcohol, premarital sex, and rebellion, his view of the world isn't exactly lining up with theirs. Whether he's sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns some lessons that aren't found in the Bible and the weird thing about believing is that no one can do it for you.

As I begin this review let me first tell you what this book isn't. This isn't a coming out story. Aaron Hartzler did not come out as gay until he was in college, a good two years past the last events in this book. This is not a book written as a vendetta against his family either. Although he clearly doesn't and didn't agree with some of their parenting methods, Aaron is very respectful of both them and their beliefs. This is simply a coming of age story, one that I think some people can relate to. The subtitle is a little misleading in my opinion, because it suggests that he was living as a gay teen, where it seemed to me like that wasn't even something he considered until he was almost out of high school, mostly because he was just trying to survive and understand this family he was in. I am sure it was a part of him, even then, but he doesn't really appear to dwell on it, not with all these other doubts and feelings swirling through his brain.

This story really resonated with me on a very deep and emotional level. Without getting too personal, there were a lot of elements to this story that were very similar to the way I grew up and raised. Aaron grew up without a television and was taught that things with witches or wizards was evil. I grew up without a television and wasn't allowed to watch Smurfs because it had a sorcerer in it. His mother ran a Bible study for the kids in the neighborhood, they attended church three times a week, Bible studies were done after dinner every night, he attended private Christian schools, he belonged to a "more Christian" version of Boy Scouts, (mine was called Missionettes), and his parents put great emphasis on virgin until married. The biggest differences were that my parents mellowed out over the years and eventually did buy a television. They also allowed me to question, doubt, discuss, and comment on my faith and the things in my life. If I didn't want a promise ring, I didn't have to wear one.

Part of me does not want to recommend this book. I already have to deal with people who have a very negative image of Evangelical Christians and they have very strong opinions concerning the way I was raised. Part of me wants to protect myself and others, to tell my readers that only those who grew up like this will truly understand. However, I also think that Aaron does such a spectacular job of portraying his parents, despite their strictness, as nothing but loving and caring, that people should walk away with an expanded mind rather than added bias. I also think that anyone who has lived with parents who are strict in any sense of the word, or found themselves questioning their faith (even if their parents weren't Evangelical Christians), stumbling around in the world of mixed up emotions, and desperately grasping at their sexual identity will find a kindred spirit in the pages of this book.

Thus, I do recommend it. I recommend it because I know it is an important conversation, one that some teens simply aren't having (or can't have) with their parents and parents aren't having with their kids. It is part of a reality that is sometimes confusing and for some, all too familiar.

Maple by Lori Nichols Book Review

Maple by Lori Nichols
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: February 20, 2014

While Maple is still in her mother's stomach, her parents plant a maple tree in her honor. She and the tree grow together and even though the tree isn't always the best playmate, it doesn't mind when she is moody or loud. Then Maple becomes a big sister and finds that babies can be loud too. luckily Maple knows the perfect answer for her little sister—Willow.

This is a nice addition to the big brother/big sister genre that parents are always looking for. I also loved the tree element and the two beautiful names. What an adorable idea to plant a tree that your child is named after in order that they may grow up with it. Of course, this trend could become a serious issue should they decide to have a number of kids because 1) you may run out of trees and 2) you could run out of yard for all those trees. I would also say that this could fit into the nature story category as well. A simple book about trees for a 3 or 4 year old. Either way, it is a nice debut novel by Lori Nichols with adorable illustrations. 

Motordog by Kurt Cyrus Book Review

Motordog by Kurt Cyrus 
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: February 25, 2014

A dog is man's best friend, even if he is robotic, but Flip gets more than he bargained for when Scoot the Cat comes on scene. Soon his new robo-pet is not obeying any of the voice commands and things begin to go completely haywire.

There is no doubt that Kurt Cyrus, a concept artist who has worked for Disney and Pixar, is a talented artist. However, the story itself felt a little flat. The rhymes did not roll off the tongue and I found myself tripping over the book as I read it aloud to my nephew. In fact, after looking over the book again, I think it would have made a rather nice wordless picture book. Add a few more gadgets for Motordog and it would be almost like an Inspector Gadget like character without the clunky poetry. 

That said, my nephew loved it and did want me to read it to him again, but unlike my favorite Piggie & Elephant books, I don't think parents are going to love reading this one over and over again.

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock Book Review

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Mary GrandPre
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: February 11, 2014

Vasily Kadinsky is considered one of the very first abstract artists. Throughout his life, Kadinsky experienced synesthesia, hearing colors as sound. He discovered this world of sound and color after being given a paint box by his aunt, a paint box that turned out to be, for Kadinsky, rather noisy.

I am torn with this book. On the one hand I dislike children's biographies that take creative license and basically turn a biographical story into a work of fiction. This reminds me of a lot of biographies that were written in the 60's and 70's that were heavy on the fiction and light on the fact. The author's saving grace is that she admits that her story is only based on a true story. I find this a shame because Hollywood does "based on" a lot and we all know how that works out. (Perhaps you saw a little movie about Mr. Disney and Mrs. Travers?)

On the other hand, the illustrations by GrandPre were simply spectacular. Beautifully drawn, capturing the essence of Kadinsky but making it her own. On one page Kadinsky is clearly bored and even the dead fish on the table looks miserable.

Books That Feature Birds - A Book List for the Birdbrained

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going Book Review

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: November 18, 2004

Troy Billings is a 296 pound seventeen-year-old who is completely miserable. About to commit suicide, Troy is pulled from the brink by Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, drug addict, dropout guitar genius. In that moment, whether Troy likes it or not, he and Curt have become friends and whether he can play drums or not, Troy is the new drummer in Curt's band. Struggling with connecting with his dad, his brother who thinks he is a complete loser, and mostly his massive bulk, Curt opens Troy up to a world of punk rock and friendship that will change his life forever.

I was originally introduced to this book years ago during a graduate lecture at Hamline University. I bought the book and then it sat on my bookshelf, unread for the past five years. This is something I do often, as I put priority for book club books and library books over the books I have bought and own. I have looked at it a few times, but didn't think anything of it until I saw a new independent movie on Netflix called Fat Kid Rules the World. Apparently, Matthew Lillard read the audio book and having fallen in love with the story, he began to toy with the idea of making it in a movie. Eventually, he started a Kickstarter project where he got the financial backing to make the film. Although, like all book to film adaptations, they can never be exactly the same, the movie felt so authentic and heartfelt that I knew I needed to read the book.

The book is fantastic. I know some people who could really resonate with this story whether it is because they feel like an outsider or because of Troy's weight issues. Being 6'2 and almost 300 pounds is not going to be easy, but Troy feels like everyone is always laughing at him, always looking at him, always staring. What if you meet someone who doesn't care about any of that though? Curt doesn't care that Troy is fat and he doesn't care that he can't play drums. Curt sees something in Troy that no one has seen before--potential. Troy's dad is amazing; Ex-military for sure, but also good-hearted, and truly wanting what is best for both his sons.

The book and movie have a few noticeable differences. For example the story has shifted from new York City to somewhere in California, therefore the suicide attempt is by bus rather than subway. One of the biggest differences to me though was toward the end. Curt (called Marcus in the film) eventually winds up in the hospital with pneumonia. In the movie he is portrayed as this pill popping drug addict who is hoarding his pills for when he can't get them later, however in the book there is this much deeper level to it. Curt has nowhere to go, no family that cares about him. Perhaps he is hoarding the pills for later, but the truth is, he isn't taking his medication because he doesn't want to get better. He wants to remain at the hospital for as long as possible because at least there he gets food and shelter. This revelation is a game changer for Troy.

I really loved this book. Troy is still fat and he hasn't forgotten about it. He is always aware of it, like an open wound that won't heal, but he has also discovered this world of rock music and drums and it is enough for the reader to know that Troy will not be trying to jump in front of anymore trains or buses again.

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley Book Review

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley
Publisher: Graphix an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: February 25, 2014

At thirteen, Jimmy Gownley was at the top of his class, smart, popular, and a star basketball player. After spending nearly a month at home sick with chicken pox and then pneumonia, Jimmy loses his way a bit. However, with the production of his first comic book to his first trip to an art museum, Jimmy knows that his future lies with comics.

Jimmy Gownley is the author and illustrator of the Amelia Rules! series, a series that I am only vaguely familiar with mostly because I worked in a bookstore for years.The Dumbest Idea Ever! is an honest account of how plans can be turned upside down and that sometimes there is something even bigger and better around the corner. A memoir told in a way that is sure to catch the attention of its target audience of 8-12 year olds, it is a nice reminder that everyone (even children) have some difficult times and how important a creative outlet is. For Jimmy, who must have dreamed of being a basketball star in his youth, his true calling turned out to be that of an author and illustrator of comic books.

Jimmy was also given the encouragement by a friend to write what he knew, a story about his own life. As dumb as that idea may have sounded, his friend was offering something that every writer is taught. Although I would venture to say that it isn't just about writing what you know, it is also about writing what you want to know. I kind of wish that more children's authors would write bios, because there are some really great life stories out there that I am sure kids would love to read, but instead they are told like secrets at writer's conferences and in lecture halls.

Author Interview: Anne Tews Schwab

Well folks, this is it. My first ever interview on Children's Atheneum. I am sure this is going to be an interesting learning process, but for now I will try to focus more on the writing aspect of the author's I interview. And now presenting: Anne Tews Schwab.

Do you recall how your interest in writing as a academic pursuit and career originated?
  •      I think it all started right after I learned how to write my name ... I was so proud of my new skill,  and so eager to share it with the world, that I grabbed a good friend and a pair of red crayons, and my co-author and I went on a writing spree. We wrote and wrote and wrote, covering the outside walls of our houses, our trash cans and our white picket fence. It was my first experience in self publishing and it was thrilling and exhilarating - until my mother discovered our work and handed us a bucket and scrub brush and instructed us to wash it all off. And that was how I first discovered the joy and pain of editing. 

What draws you to children’s books specifically?
  •      The tight truths delivered in straightforward narratives, the subtext available for deep readers to discover, the inquisitive minds of young characters determined to unravel the mysteries of the world as they come of age in times of trouble, war and/or peace.

How do you birth a poem and how does it grow into something like a book?
  •      I think a poem grows the same way a story does - it all starts with a seedling, an acorn, a random thought, observation, question, revelation, and from there it gathers energy and power, growing in scope and size, gathering companions and forming alliances with other poetic ideas and forms until the group assembles and organizes into something resembling a narrative.

What is your favorite poem in Capsized?
  •      Probably the diamant√© (Black Diamond) about a grand piano. This was such fun to write while working out the puzzle of how to best fit the piano imagery into this distinctive and elegant poetic form!

What is the most challenging part of writing for you?
  •      Feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day to write all the stories roaming around in my head!

What have you learned about writing that you didn’t know 5 years ago?
  •      I think my favorite thing that I've heard over and over and have finally taken to heart as gospel truth is the simple idea of: Write, write, write! In other words, in order to succeed, first you must complete!

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
  •      I'm working on a draft of an epic novel about pirates and mermaids with a bit of global warming thrown into the mix :) And if I could solve the more hours in the day conundrum, I might finally get it polished!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

You write a pirate poems that you post on Facebook, where did the idea of a pirate poem a day come from and is it difficult to maintain?
  •      I was inspired to write daily poems after a workshopping session at Hamline (where I received my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults). We tried a new poetic form every day to begin the session, and after that I was hooked!

Can you describe one of your writing fantasies? Does it include a best-seller, a corrugated display, book tours, school visits? Oprah?
  •      Well, if I'm dreaming big, then I'd say: my pirate adventure published as a middle grade series that ends up getting picked up by Steven Spielberg and made into a movie. 

One last very important question: Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards, or your slippers on, and when realizing it, just said screw it?
  •      I've had many dreams (nightmares?) where this has happened but I can't recall it ever happening in real life... But there's always tomorrow!

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison Book Review

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 6, 2014

Jane is a rather ordinary dog. Extra ordinary. She isn't strong, graceful, or brave like the other members of her family. Is there is a place for a quite ordinary dog in such an extraordinary world though?

Who doesn't love a nice circus story, especially one with cute little dogs? This book reminded me in tone of Sidewalk Circus and is perfect for a younger audience, especially the little ones who don't sit still very long.

I am confused about one thing though and it has nothing to do with the story itself. When I interned at Candlewick Press and even during my Master's program, I was led to believe that getting a book published as an author/illustrator was very difficult. However, looking back over the past few books I have reviewed, there is a large amount that are written and illustrated by the same person. What I was taught was that publishers like to pick their own illustrators and that an author, even if they think they could illustrate the book, should not actually send in any pictures and at most should mention that they are an illustrator. This makes me wonder how these books are being published. Are the illustrators approaching the publishers with book ideas? Are they presenting the manuscript first and then mentioning they can illustrate second? Is there a more organic process that I am not familiar with? Are author/illustrators submitting their materials all at the same time and getting contracts that way? Inquiring minds want to know. I must know. Google search powers activate.

Sugar Hill by Carole Boston Weatherford Book Review

 Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Release Date: February 1, 2014

Sugar Hill in Harlem has become a place of rhythm and history with the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Faith Ringgold, W.E.B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall having walked its streets and called it home. It is a place synonymous with culture and community, expanding the literary, music, and artistic worlds.

This could be easily considered a love story to the heyday of Harlem's Sugar Hill. With simple jazzy language that hearkens to the literary heritage of the source material. With lively and colorful illustrations, Sugar Hill feels upbeat and jazzy with a tinge of sadness for a bygone age when the Duke walked the streets of Harlem.

Odd, Weird & Little by Patrick Jennings Book Review

Odd, Weird & Little by Patrick Jennings
Publisher: Egmont
Release Date: January 28, 2014

Everyone thinks Woodrow is weird, especially the school bullies Garrett and Hubcap. That is until a new kid comes to school. Toulouse is short, dresses in a suit, has huge eyes, and barely speaks. Woodrow sees a kindred spirit in Toulouse and soon they form a fast friendship, but even he can't shake the feeling that there is something more than a little strange with his new friend.

A cute little book that could be considered part of the new bully movement in books. Woodrow is a cute kid who is struggling to find who he is, fighting desperately to be true to himself and yet be liked. Toulouse is the mystery, but he is also Woodrow's only hope for if there is someone else who is strange at his school maybe it is okay for him to be a little strange or at the very least, someone to take the bullies attention off himself.

That said, I am not particularly fond of books that give away the "twist" on the book cover. I was actually quite annoyed by it, because only a moron would not get the obvious clues just from the cover. Kids aren't that dumb. Now, perhaps the intention was that the reader is supposed to know more about the story than the main character, but the fact that this is revealed on the cover takes all the mystery out of it. This basically means that this is just a story about bullies. Honestly, if they release this in paperback, I highly suggest they change the cover as it would help the story immensely. 

Dare the Wind by Tracey Fern Book Review

Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern
Illustrated by Arnold McCully
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Release Date: February 18, 2014

In a time period where women were rarely even allowed on a boat, Ellen Prentiss' papa taught her how to navigate the sea. When she grew up she met a man who also loved to sail and together she and her husband sailed the seas. When her husband was given command of the clipper ship Flying Cloud, Ellen wants to be the first one to travel from New York City, around the tip of Cape Horn, and onto San Francisco and she knows she needs to be the fastest.

A spectacular historical biography about a woman many of us have never heard of is the perfect marriage of mighty girl, history, and illustrations. Fern does a great job of conveying what is at stake and the risks that are involved. Ellen must not only prove herself at her job, but she must also prove herself as a woman. There are many questions I have that I don't think would have fit or were appropriate for this book. For example, this man she married...he must have been an extraordinary man for his time. Not only did he marry a woman who already had a very skilled job, but he was happy to let her do it in a time period where women were expected to keep house and have children. On that note, did Ellen have any children? What did the men sailing her ships think of her?

In my mind, this book has perhaps done the very thing that a good children's biography does and that is to make the reader want to learn and know more.

Birdie's Big Girl Hair by Sujean Rim Book Review

Birdie's Big Girl Hair by Sujean Rim
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: February 4, 2014

Birdie's hair has gotten out of control and it is finally time for a haircut, but what style will she pick? After looking through magazines, she is still unsure. Will she choose chic, classic chignons or flowing, feathery flips. No, Birdie chooses her mom's hairdo from her high school yearbook. It's so luxurious, shiny, and full of bounce, but as we all know, it never looks the same as when a hairstylist does it.

I don't remember my first haircut or the second, third, or forth. I do remember wanting a perm when I was eleven, which was a HUGE mistake, but beyond that, despite a couple of different styles, I don't actually remember wanting any particular style. However, having followed friends on Facebook who have young girls, this is apparently a big deal. I imagine it was a big deal for me as well, but not big enough for me to remember it 20+ years later.

As was the case with David Shannon's Bugs in my Hair, this is one of those books for kids who may be nervous about getting a haircut. Unlike the Little Critter or Berenstein Bears books though, this book isn't didactic at all and in the end, I absolutely love Birdie's new haircut.

Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski Book Review

Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski 
Publisher: Big Picture Press
Release Date: October 8, 2013

I have always had a fascination with maps. I love old hand drawn maps, maps of Egyptian tombs, road maps, and topographical maps. Before I travel anywhere, I always buy a map and student the layout of the town and city. I have been known to give money to the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

In short, I love maps, which is why I adored this book. A coffee-table sized tome, this books features maps for 44 countries all cleverly illustrated using cartoon-like inforgraphics. Each countries map includes traditional costumes, popular dishes, animals, food, large cities, cultural history, famous people from that country, popular children's names, activities, landmarks, and much more. There is also a key with spoken languages, population, land area, and capital. There is so much on every page, so much information to take in. My only wish is that this book could have been thicker and included more maps and more countries. Missing from pages were Norway, Ireland, Iran, Korea, Philippines, and a ton of African countries. Although I understand that this would have required a lot more illustration work as well as creating a rather large book (the pages are very thick), it did feel like I was only getting the highlights, or at least the countries that the authors and publisher felt were important. On the whole though, this was an excellent book of maps, perfect for the curious learner.

Hollow City by Ransome Riggs Book Review

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: January 14, 2014

In this second installment of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends have been forced to flee their home and make their way to London in hopes of helping Miss Peregrine. Being hunted at every turn, Jacob must also decide whether his place is with the Peculiars in 1940 or whether he should return home, either way, there will be dire consequences.

Part fantasy, part historical fiction, and all adventure, Hollow City is exactly what I want from a sequel. It began exactly where the last book left off, with no backtracking or long paragraphs devoted to already known information. What this should say then is, if you haven't read the first book, then you should definitely not read the second. I am okay with series that do this. Much like television shows, I never begin with episode 10 in he middle of the series, yet the television networks assume that I haven't been watching so they throw in a 'previously on Supernatural', which is basically an intro that gives away the plot of this weeks current episode. Thank you Mr. Riggs for assuming that I read the first book.

The pacing is quick, almost galloping, for these children have only three days to make it to London. Although this number felt rather arbitrary and was probably used in order to speed up the story, it did feel a little forced. However, the story itself and the many twists and turns (that I am trying very hard not to give away) where excellent. I couldn't have guessed where things were going and I can tell you, by the end, I was very concerned for the future of all our favorite characters. I don't know if this is going to be a trilogy or not, but if Riggs keeps writing like this with all those incredible photographs, I would read a dozen books about these peculiar children.

Nest by Jorey Hurley Book Review

Nest by Jorey Hurley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 4, 2014

It all begins with an egg. Beautifully illustrated, Nest chronicles the life and milestones of a young robin as it makes its way in the world. Told simply, with a single word on each page, readers will see and understand the journey of the birds from spring to summer, hatching to flying. This is a book that also has a lot of opportunities for craft ideas and can be revisited over and over throughout the year. A perfect introduction for young bird watchers and an excellent book by debut author and illustrator Jorey Hurley.

The Hueys in...It Wasn't Me by Oliver Jeffers Book Review

The Hueys in...It Wasn't Me by Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: April 25, 2013

The thing about the Hueys is that most of the time they agree. But sometimes they don't. Even worse, sometimes they don't even know what they are arguing about. Gillespie wants to help them solve their differences, but how can he when they can't agree on anything?

I have not read any of the other Huey books and I am not entirely sure what these sketched creatures are supposed to be, but to my eye they kind of look like pills. I can imagine that one is Advil while another is a pill for arthritis. This does not really matter as the little pill people are expressive enough and cute enough to keep a young reader engaged. The story itself is simple enough. Why argue, especially if you don't know what you are arguing about? Yet, the conclusion, which was simply distraction, didn't feel like a conclusion at all. Like the dog in the cartoon "Up", just shout the word squirrel (or in this case, fly) and that is enough to make everyone forget about their nonsensical argument and get along. That's cute enough for this simple picture book and the plus side is that the story isn't really didactic.

Post #500: Release Dates, Rule Revisions, and Blog Tours

Welcome to Children's Atheneum's 500th blog post!


There was a time a few years back that blogger lost about 40+ blog posts, so technically this is not 500, but according to the official count on my dashboard we have reached a milestone.

As such, now would be a good time to let my readers know about some general changes that I will be implementing immediately:

1. Publisher & Release Dates
Since I often read Advance Reader Copies, there are times that I review books that won't be released for another month or two. In order to give my reader's all the information they need, I will begin posting the publishing house as well as the official release date of the book, even if the book was published a year ago.

2. Review Rule Revision
In the past, I have made it a general rule not to review books of people I know personally. This has meant my professors at Hamline University, classmates, and author friends. The problem with this is that a) my readers are not hearing about some really fantastic books and b) as I meet more and more authors and my classmates begin publishing, this is becoming more and more difficult. Thus, beginning now, I will be reviewing any and all books that I read, including those written by friends, classmates, teachers, and peers. I promise that I will continue to write these reviews with honesty, integrity, and balance, but will not limit myself to only authors I do not know. For full disclosure, I will inform the reader when it is an author or illustrator that I know.

3. Interviews & Blog Tours
In the history of Children's Atheneum, I have never done an interview or a blog tour. Some of this was due to sheer laziness. A little bit was because I truly didn't think that I would be a very good interviewer. Also, what is a blog tour exactly? That was completely rhetorical, I do actually know the answer now. Over the past year or so, I have been approached by authors in regards to reviews, interviews, and blog tours and I have declined. No more. As of now, I would like to open Children's Atheneum up to authors and illustrators who are looking to expand their readership through reviews, interviews, and blogs tours. I hope to make a link (if I can remember how) letting authors and illustrators know where they can send ARCs for review and how to get in touch with me regarding interviews and blog tours. Just as my End of the Year reviews have some strange and interesting categories, I hope that the questions I ask these authors will not be the usual type, but I am sure it will be a work in progress. All I know is that I have reached nearly 2,000 readers a month and I think it is time to expand this little blog I have created.