The Case of the Poached Egg: A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery by Robin Newman

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THE CASE OF THE POACHED EGG:
A WILCOX & GRISWOLD MYSTERY
Written by Robin Newman
Illustrated by Deborah Zemke
(Creston Books; $15.95, Ages 4-8)

 

 

You’re eggspecting me to make yolks about this book, right? So here goes!

Eggceptionally funny, Robin Newman’s second Wilcox & Griswold mystery called The Case of the Poached Egg, will completely satisfy fans who’ve been hungry for a new installment following the duo’s Kirkus-starred first caper, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake.

The trench coat garbed Captain Griswold and the narrator Detective Wilcox are mice on the move. MFIs (Missing Food Inspectors) have to be. It’s an animals steal food kind of world. Always seeking justice for the over 100 creatures on Farmer Ed’s Farm, this pair will stop at nothing to crack a case. So, after taking an urgent call from Henrietta Hen upset over the apparent egg-napping of her “precious Penny,” Wilcox summons his superior to accompany him to the crime scene.

This 48-paged early chapter book not only breaks down the tale into six easily readable chapters, it also cleverly divides actions/events into time and place. For example, Wilcox and Griswold begin their investigation at 10:30am, at the Chicken Coop. There they not only encounter a distraught Henrietta, but an unusually written ransom note too. The game is afoot! I mean an egg! I mean, read on!

The determined MFIs uncover a motive and eventually a culprit, just in the nick of time, using the process of elimination, mounting clues such as a bunch of farm animals oversleeping, a red goose herring (!), thorough questioning of witnesses and possible suspects, and hand writing analysis. All this, which takes place against the backdrop of Farmer Ed’s Big Speggtacular, plus, the cast of colorful characters caught up in the shenanigans including Gabby Goose, Colonel Peck, Miss Rabbit and Porcini Pig makes for amusing dialogue as readers try to solve the mystery along with Wilcox and Griswold. And though, as an adult, I solved the case early on, kids will eat up the chance to play detective and read between the lines, something the format of this clever police procedural actively encourages.

I’m always pulled into a story when there’s a map included, and illustrator Zemke’s created a super one. Her expressive illustrations work wonderfully to add action and emotion to this humorous and accessible story, while also making the thought of reading a chapter book not as daunting for the younger crowd! NOTE: Parents who may read this book aloud should not miss the legal disclaimer on the front endpapers or the author’s note beginning with  “No eggs, chickens, geese or roosters were harmed …”  I’m ready for another serving of Wilcox & Griswold, yes, ready indeed!

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 


A Cat Who Can Bake and Kids Who Love to Eat Cake

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Debbie Glade shares her thoughts on this imaginative chapter book.

Mrs. Noodlekugel ($14.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up) is a charming chapter book about a boy and his sister, who discover a tiny house sandwiched between tall buildings behind their apartment. The janitor in their building tells them a nice old lady lives there, though they should not bother her at all. But kids being kids, naturally their curiosity leads them to explore where they are told not to go.

What they discover is a secret garden and a friendly old lady whose house smells like fresh-baked goodies. It is there that Mrs. Noodlekugel introduces the children to a cat who can bake and play the piano, among other things and a few other interesting creatures too. There’s a nice surprise for the children when they tell their parents they have been to the old lady’s house.

Here’s a book that in addition to being very imaginative, also reads like a quirky, yet wholesome adventure every young child would love to have. Who wouldn’t want to be treated to yummy fresh-baked goods while interacting with endearing animals with human characteristics?!  Along with the story are some cute cartoon-like black and white illustrations by Adam Stower. Author Daniel Pinkwater, who has written many popular books, generally bases his characters on people he knows in real life. This leaves us asking the question: Who is the Mrs. Noodlekugel in his life?!

If you read and love this book, you’ll be happy to know the adventures continue in 2013 with Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice.


Meet a Children’s Author Who Loves Words, Sunshine and Anything Delicious!

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Ronna Mandel discusses the love of words and language with San Francisco Bay Area debut author Sandra V. Feder.

Whoever said there are no new ideas has not spent time blogging about kids’ books!

One of my favorite things about writing on Good Reads With Ronna is getting to meet first time authors and I did just that in Larchmont Village one Saturday earlier this month, when I sat down to speak with Sandra V. Feder, author of Daisy’s Perfect Word from Kids Can Press. After spending a delightful time discussing our mutual love of language, I can honestly say I would read anything Sandra wrote because her enthusiasm was not only contagious, but refreshing and totally genuine! Find out more about Sandra on her website, www.sandravfeder.com. There’s also some information about how parents can continue the discussion about words with their children after they read Daisy’s Perfect Word.  Sandra’s also included useful information for teachers and librarians about how to use the book in a school setting. 

Daisy is a girl who loves words.  She compiles lists of words, and using the right words for the right situations makes all the difference in the world to her. Her best friend Emma appreciates Daisy’s love of language and they both adore Miss Goldner, their teacher. What happens when Daisy and Emma learn that Miss Goldner is going to get married? Will Daisy be able to find just the perfect present that will have meaning for Miss Goldner long after her wedding day?  Daisy is determined to give a gift that will bring smiles to her teacher while being both unique and something money cannot buy. Share the delight that Feder’s wonderful words can bring by reading a copy of Daisy’s Perfect Word today!

When did the seed of this story begin growing?

The seed began growing from watching my own children and other people’s children have fun with language.  I think a lot of kids go through a phase of experimenting with words. They like the way some of the words feel in their mouth. One of my daughters went through a phase of using the word actually a lot.  For example she would say, “actually, mother, I’d like some orange juice,” because it made her sound more grown up than the usual kid language.  And I noticed a lot of other children having fun learning new words and putting words together, so the idea of a character that enjoyed words and language was born.

Is this an early reader/chapter book or an MG (middle grade) novel? I ask because the different categories can be confusing for parents.  So what is it exactly and what age group do you see it for?

I see it for ages 7-10 and it’s called, by me
and the publisher, an early chapter book.
It is not an MG novel, which tends to
be a bit older and to deal with more
mature themes. The early chapter book
is not a first reader. It does have some
bigger words than kids might find in
a first reader.  Mine has 11 short chapters.
It’s meant for kids ages 7-10 but also is a fun
book for parents to read with their kids when
they are 5 or 6 years-old.
There’s nothing in it that is not age-appropriate.

It’s a nice read. Kids will feel good about themselves after they complete it. It’s nothing too daunting at first glance.

Yes, and the type is a little bigger, and there are a lot of illustrations, more illustrations than typical MG chapter books.  There are fun, big illustrations in almost every chapter and then lots of smaller ones as you go along.

And the illustrations were good, too. I really like them. You were lucky.

I am so grateful that the publisher paired me with a wonderful Canadian illustrator, Susan Mitchell. She really created the world that I imagined, and she did it so beautifully. I am very grateful. 

The cover, with the purple polka dots, is simply perfect.  It’s appealing.

That’s the art director from Kids Can Press, who did the cover design.  They are a terrific Canadian publishing group.  They are one of the top places to go for early chapter books. They are really interested in this market right now. They put so much care and love into Daisy’s Perfect Word. You can tell by the way it looks and how it was put together. They really did a beautiful job.

So were you a lot like Daisy growing up?

That’s a good question. I definitely have curly hair! I have always enjoyed words and language. I was interested in becoming a children’s book author from about age 9. And the reason is that I had a wonderful elementary school librarian who not only loved introducing us to books but also would bring authors to the school to talk to us. I think when you are a kid and you meet somebody who has created this world that you love and enjoy so much, it’s a magical thing.  And I thought, wouldn’t that be about the most wonderful thing in the world to create a world and characters that children would love? And so it was always a part of me, that seed, and I ended up going into journalism as a career and was a newspaper reporter for many years.   I had the opportunity to work as a news assistant for the New York Times in Washington, D.C. when I got out of college.  And when you write for The New York Times you really do see the power words have.  This was something that always resonated with me, and I finally have the opportunity to bring that passion of mine to a new generation.

Is this your first book?

It’s my first book, and it’s a series so there will be at least four Daisy books and they all have to do with how we use words and language.  In Book 2, Daisy discovers alliteration and has fun putting words together in new ways and in Book 3 she’s going to discover poetry. And Book 4, I haven’t decided on yet, but it will be something fun having to do with words.

Everybody has a Samantha in their life as a classmate, a snooty know-it-all kind of girl or boy in many cases. Do you recommend ignoring girls like that as Daisy did quite successfully?

Sometimes Daisy doesn’t like to be around Samantha because of the way Samantha talks and the words Samantha chooses. Samantha uses words such as “Stop!” “Follow me” and “Mine.” I think it’s an interesting lesson for kids to think about the language they use and how other kids hear them.  So I wanted to include this character, Samantha, who uses words in a way that isn’t the way that Daisy likes using words. Daisy doesn’t want to have Samantha’s words stuck in her head. She wants to have happier, more pleasant words in her head.  

Daisy is a good role model for girls and is empowering. I like the story because it’s not about purchasing anything. It had nothing to do with electronics. It just had to do with what came inside from Daisy as a person.

Thank you for recognizing that!

Daisy spends a good portion of the book searching for the right gift for her favorite teacher Miss Goldner. And then she decides it’s got to be the perfect word, something Miss Goldner will always remember. What is your perfect word?

One of my favorite words is sunshine because I think sunshine is both something we need in our lives, and I think there are people who spread sunshine, like Daisy. And I really appreciate those people in my own life. I’ve also always loved the word delicious because I have a sweet tooth like Daisy, and I also like the word delicious because I think when you apply it to children it’s cute: “What a delicious little baby!”

Daisy and her best friend Emma are really sweet girls, what do you think are the qualities that make them so appealing?

I think that they are girls who value each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think Emma appreciates Daisy’s fondness for words and Daisy appreciates Emma’s kindness and her sense of fun.  They share a lot together. To me what I like about the friendship is that I don’t see them as having the same personality, I see them as having complementary personalities. And as the series goes along, we’ll see different things in their relationship that come up where they diverge a little bit on at least one thing. Daisy wants to do it one way and Emma, who is equally strong, says, “this is what I want.”   I think they complement and balance one another.

Talking about Daisy’s love of words – as a writer you had to come up with this story that grew out of your love of words, yet I wonder, who has the better imagination, you or Daisy?

I like to think we both have good imaginations!

I thought Daisy coming up with the idea of a gift in the form of a word and Samantha even approving was huge!

I think it does happen that writers have a concept for a story, which for me was this idea of playing with words and language, but then you need a real storyline to go with it.  So I came up with idea of Daisy wanting to give her teacher a gift and then making that gift a word.   That’s what moves the story forward. And I also, as you mentioned, wanted something that wasn’t about going out and buying but was something that a child, any child, could come up with. It’s been so wonderful to see the reactions of children to the book; one little girl in Canada wrote a review in the National Post and she said that she loves that Daisy likes making up words because she likes making up words, too.  And she included one of her favorite made up words. We made a little book trailer for Daisy’s Perfect Word and went out and asked children, “What’s your favorite word?” and basically, without missing a beat, every child came up with a word.  Some had a particular reason they liked the word, and some just said, “I like the way it sounds.” The video trailer is on my website.  I think the idea of having fun with words really does touch a chord with children.

You mentioned earlier that you had written right out of college for The NYT.  Do you have a full time job, Sandra?

I am committed now to writing children’s books.  I am very excited about this new phase for me and feel very fortunate that Kids Can has put their faith in me for four books. As a new children’s book author, to have a series is really exciting and fun.  Once I started expanding the Daisy story and really getting to know Daisy in her world, I felt there were so many great places that I could continue to go with her. And the fact that Kids Can saw that as well and believed in me and Daisy is really wonderful.  I am also working on some other children’s book projects that I hope will come to fruition.

Will you go on tour?

Right now it’s meeting interviewers like you when I am in a particular city or over the phone, and I’m doing a lot of speaking around the Bay Area where I live, as well as school visits. 

 

Thank you so much Sandra for sharing your time, experience and love of the English language.  I cannot wait to read more of your wonderful words! It’s been belotzi (my son’s made up word for fantastic) spending time with you and learning about Daisy’s Perfect Word.




There’s No Place Like a Funeral Home

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pc0706211Matthew is a 10-year old boy from Virginia. He loves to play basketball, is very involved in the Weeblos and loves to camp. He also plays piano and viola.

9781416935964From the The Funeral Directors Son series comes Kip Campbell’s Gift, written by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. This is the best book I have ever read. Kip Campbell can talk to dead people. That’s really awesome. Some people think Kip is weird, but I think that would be cool. Kip helps his family because he can talk to dead people. The dead people leave Kip gold when he helps them.

Editor’s Note: This book is recommended for ages 8-12. If you want to get hooked, try reading an excerpt from the first chapter by clicking here now.