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Young Adult Fiction – The Lovely and the Lost


Written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
(Freeform Books; $17.99, Ages 12 and up)


the lovely and the lost book cvr



In the YA book, The Lovely and the Lost, teen Kira was found alone in the woods years ago by Cady (the woman who is now her stepmom). Since then Kira has been training with Cady’s elite search-and-rescue dogs. When a young girl goes missing in the immense Sierra Glades National Park, they are called in to the search. Kira needs to help this girl but becomes entangled with flashbacks of who she once was; regression into suppressed memories begins to overwhelm her.

Cady’s easygoing biological son, Jude, and their wild neighbor, Free, comprise a group the three teens call The Miscreants. Eclectic and passionate, they love one another and their dogs fiercely. When asked to put their tracking skills to use, they’re in.

With The Lovely and the Lost, Barnes has written a page-turner just perfect for summer or anytime reading. Short chapters race forward through layers of mysteries. Finding the lost girl is just as important as self-discovery. The flawed characters have dark pasts, yet find hope in one another. Even the dogs have well-developed personalities.

This story about family, secrets, and canine companions will tug at your heart and raise your pulse as you feel the clock ticking in the 750,000-acre wilderness area where the search takes place. Once you get to the end, you’ll want to read this clever book again to see what you missed the first time through. I like that some tangents are left open for interpretation or, possibly, a sequel.


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A Middle Grade Mystery – The Haunting of Hounds Hollow by Jeffrey Salane

Written by Jeffrey Salane
(Scholastic Press; $16. 99, Ages 8-12)


book cover illustration from The Haunting of Hounds Hollow by Jeffrey Salane



The middle grade novel, The Haunting of Hounds Hollow by Jeffrey Salane, is a recommended read for chilly, dark winter evenings. When Lucas Trainer’s family inherits a house from an almost-forgotten relative they move from the comforting familiarity of the big city to Hounds Hollow. For Lucas, making new friends means explaining his undiagnosed disease (his parents call it the Dark Cloud). Adjusting to being in the middle of nowhere is complicated by their crazy new mansion—akin to the Winchester Mystery House with rooms that lead to nowhere and a construction crew that doesn’t stop building.

The town’s history of people disappearing coupled with what may be a roaming pack of malevolent ghost dogs is enough to scare anyone away, but Lucas and his two new friends, Bess and Lens, decide they must uncover what’s going on before it’s too late. Lucas has a mysterious key that he hopes will unlock secrets from the past that continue to have hold of the house and its environs.

This book is suited for kids who like plots that delve into horror. The Haunting of Hounds Hollow takes some dark turns, particularly at the end. If you think your kid will grow into a fan of stories like Stephen King’s Pet Sematary then this tale will not disappoint.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success


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The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty


Written by Stacy McAnulty

(Random House BYR; $16.99, Ages 8-12)

Cover image from The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty


Until now, Stacy McAnulty has been best known for her picture books. (EXCELLENT ED is one of my favorites.) But her middle grade debut, THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL, puts her squarely in the category of must-read middle grade author, as well.

12-year-old Lucy Callahan narrates the book. Thanks to a chance meeting with a bolt of lightning, Lucy is a math genius. She’s been homeschooled for the four years since the accident and, technically, she should be going to college. Lucy’s grandma just has one requirement before sending her young charge off to university: “Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!).” The mysteries of calculus, algebra, and geometry are easy for Lucy to solve. But the mystery of how to survive middle school? It’s an impossible equation—especially for Lucy.

Lucy’s not very good at making friends. And, though she’d prefer to blend into the background, a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (another result of the lightning strike) makes her stand out. For example, she can’t just sit down. She needs to sit, stand, sit, stand, sit (otherwise she incessantly recites the numbers of pi in her head). And a germ phobia means she goes through a good number of Clorox wipes during the school day. (Lucy would want me to give you an exact here, but I can’t.) However, in spite of this, Lucy is comfortable with herself and I love that. In fact, McAnulty never gives the impression that the things that make Lucy so unique (and make middle school so difficult for her) are problems to be solved. They’re just part of Lucy—for better or worse. There are other problems too. Lucy’s mom is dead; her dad is absent; and her grandmother struggles to make ends meet. But these are all just part of Lucy’s life. McAnulty doesn’t let them become the focus of the book, which is just as it should be.

I don’t want to ruin the fun of reading this book by giving too much away. I will just say that I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the world through Lucy’s eyes. You don’t need to love (or even understand) math to love THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL. It’s a book for anyone who has ever felt out of place, vulnerable, or just plain weird. And I’m pretty sure that’s all of us.

Starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Interview with Author Stacy McAnulty at Librarian’s Quest

Author website

  • Reviewed by Colleen Paeff
    Read another review by Colleen Paeff
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Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I Blog Tour and Giveaway

Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I *1917*

Fast-paced, fascinating historical fiction for readers who love dogs.
Fast-paced, fascinating historical fiction for readers who love dogs.

Welcome to the last stop of Peachtree Publishers’ Blog Tour!

Please read on for more info about the book and giveaway. Thank you Peachtree for this wonderful opportunity to spread the word about Dog Chronicles!

The new Dog Chronicles series introduces young readers to the important yet often overlooked roles our canine companions played in major historical events. In Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I (Peachtree Publishers, $12.95, ages 7-10), written by Alison Hart and illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery, we meet man’s best friend at her finest in this 176 page book set in England and Belgium during the Great War.


What an eye-opener this fast-paced and moving historical fiction novel was for me! I had no idea that mercy dogs existed, yet after reading Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI, I learned and appreciated what a vital military role they played in finding and assisting wounded soldiers on the battlefields of Europe. Hart’s tightly constructed story begins with Darling’s recruitment by the military from the family who loved her, especially the two children, Robert and Katherine. The book then details Darling’s training period and finally focuses on her service as a mercy dog, braving life and death situations. Montgomery’s sketch-like illustrations  done with various lines in assorted directions complement the story in their depictions of village life, battlefields and various characters.

Hart manages to convincingly share the tale in Darling’s voice so readers experience first-hand the stresses she feels and the successes she accomplishes as a soldier. In addition to all the satisfying action and adventure they’ll find in the book, kids will be drawn into the story because of several meaningful relationships detailed. First there is Darling’s relationship as beloved pet of Katherine and Robert. Second is her role as Mercy dog under the caring and watchful guidance of handler, Private Kent. There’s also a sweet friendship between Darling and a stray dog named Rags from Darling’s home town of Cosham in England. Before the war, Rags and Darling would roam the town together when, on occasion, Darling slipped free from her leash.

When at last Darling is faced with the prospect of being on an actual mission, she is scared but well prepared. “Hoping to pick up a trail, I kept my nose to the ground. The smells of burnt earth, gunpowder, and a hundred boot soles grew confusing.” Using all her keen senses, Darling the mercy dog locates a fallen soldier. With the story focusing more on the dog squad and Darling’s role saving soldiers, young readers will find this perspective less harsh than had it been a full-on WWI tale. There are some harrowing moments like when the Allied trench of Darling’s regiment is blasted by a barrage of enemy shells. Darling must race to find and dig out her colleagues despite a painful wound she’s sustained. Of course the questions remain whether she’ll get to them in time, whether she’ll recover from her wound and then, will she ever make it back from the Continent to Cosham and her dear Katherine and Robert?

Next up in this series: Murphy, Gold Rush Dog *1896*


The GOOD READS WITH RONNA giveaway opp begins today, Friday, October 4, 2013 and runs through Sunday, October 20th ’til midnight. Enter now by sending your name and address to Good Reads With Ronna by clicking here. Be sure to write DARLING/Peachtree Giveaway in the subject line. One winner of (1) one copy of Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I -1917- will be selected via and notified on Monday, October 21st. Click here to see our contest and giveaways rule page.  Good luck!

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Limited Only By Your Imagination

Dog Loves Drawing by author/illustrator Louise Yates ($16.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 and up) is a most imaginative book. It is a story about Dog who loves reading books so much he opens his own book store. One day his aunt sends him a blank book, which he finds to be refreshingly different than the books he’s used to reading. This one is a blank book – a sketch book with no words and no pictures.  So Dog sharpens his pencil and gathers his brushes and draws a stickman. Miraculously that stickman comes to life and together, with one drawing after another, they doodle their way into a glorious imaginative adventure.

I have no doubt that Dog Loves Drawing  will stir up creativity in your child in a most clever and original manner.  Dog teaches us that we are limited only by our own imaginations. What’s better than a dog who loves to read and owns a book store? The darling drawings are made to look like those a child might make, but only more advanced. And I love the fact that Dog writes his aunt a thank you note for the sketch book she gave him. I’m a major advocate of writing thank you notes!

Before Dog Loves Drawing was written, Yates penned Dog Loves Books. Both of these titles would be a lovely addition to any child’s library. Consider making a holiday gift package with a set of colored pencils and a sketch book for the child in your life.

Reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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What the Heck is Your Dog Thinking?

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know ($12.99 Sourcebooks, Family Reading) by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson is downright cute and clever. A panel of 11 dogs share their insight on a wide variety of topics relating to well, being a dawg.  Think of it as a cheeky, humorous blog for people, written by their pets. Cuteness aside – all the entries are actually very helpful to dog owners.  Inside you will learn why dogs wag their tails, how they feel when you dress them up in silly costumes, the lowdown on walks, why they eat your furniture, why they love car trips and so much more. In addition to the fun and helpful information, the book is visually appealing. Each entry includes a headshot of the canine “writer,” and the pages are very colorful.  I love the fact that this book is both laugh-out-loud entertaining and includes so much valuable information about dogs I have not read in any other book.

Note: This book was not written for children, but the subject matter of pets applies to the entire family. There are a couple of entries in this book that parents may find are not appropriate for young children.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Oh Sister or is That Oh Brother?

Today’s guest reviewer is 4th grader Naomi. She’s 9 years-old, likes all animals, mermaids, wants peace in the world, and has eight pets. Read her review of the latest book in the Just Grace series, one of her faves!

JUST GRACE AND THE DOUBLE SURPRISE  ($14.99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ages 6-10) by Charise Mericle Harper.

This great new book is about two girls, ‘Just Grace’ and Mimi, who each get one surprise. Just Grace’s surprise is from her dad and Mimi’s surprise is from an adoption center. The main characters, Just Grace and Mimi. seem to be about 10 years-old. Just Grace is blonde, wears pigtails and has pink cheeks. She is eager, happy, and has willpower and empathy, qualities I like in a main character. Mimi has wavy hair. She is also eager but gets sad easily. I liked Grace best. I think other girls would enjoy reading this book, especially if they like dogs and baby brothers!

Nothing really similar to this book is going on in my own life. However, the plot is believable and I would read more books by this author. Essentially the story is about Grace getting a dog, and the adoption of Mimi’s 4 year-old brother. Plus there are the comics that Grace writes concerning things going on in her life. I’m really glad I read Just Grace and the Double Surprise. Just a note: some art in the book was childish because Grace draws it (in her comic) but the art the author drew was good. Add this book to your holiday wish list.

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Talk To Me. Please!

51mz7dm2fil_sl500_aa300_WOOF!  WOOF!! Translation from Dogease to English – I want to go out. I want food. I love it when you rub my belly. Whoa, will you take a look at that lovely little poodle.

WOOF, WOOF!!  There you again. I know you are capable of making more than those same old sounds. Say something substantial, would you please, Oscar! Guest reviewer Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, thinks this book is a howl and so will you!

Talk, Oscar, Please! ($14.95, Sterling, ages 3-6) was written by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by Tim Bowers.  Ah, there are so many ways for humans to communicate to each other these days. There’s the tried and true, albeit archaic, looking face to face with someone and actually speaking. Then there’s the, also seemingly archaic, phone conversation. And then there’s emailing, texting, tweeting, ‘face-booking’… have I left anything out?

Yes, that’s all well and good for humans, but the boy in TALK, OSCAR, PLEASE! wishes more than anything, that his doggie, Oscar would, could, oh please, talk, really talk to him. Imagine the conversations they would have. Oh, sure, Oscar yips and howls and barks and whimpers and wheezes, but… “Oh, boy, how I wish you could talk, Oscar – please?”

Not only would that be oh, so cool, but then Oscar could help the boy with his ABC’s, could help coach his soccer team, could crack some jokes, could explain to the vet that it’s fleas that’s really bothering him and even sing his little master some doggie lullabies at bedtime. “You’d lull me to sleep if you’d sing, Oscar – please?”

No, Oscar doesn’t become some magical pooch, in this adorable story, actually yapping in English, but the boy finds there are other ways to communicate with his best friend that are just as satisfying and he realizes that somehow they always know exactly what the other is thinking. Yes, sometimes real love needs no words, at all. A wag of the tail, a jump in the lap, a nuzzle on the neck, a sloppy lick on the face can be even better.

Now, try tweeting that and in rhyme, please!

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Put on a Hoppy Face!

Regular Contributor Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City claps her hands with approval for IF YOU’RE HOPPY ($16.99, HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, ages 2-5), written by April Pulley Sayre with illustrations by Jackie Urbanovic.


Who doesn’t know and love the musical ditty, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…?” But what if you’re HOPPY and you know it? What are you? Are you a frog? A bunny? What, I ask! Since they’re all HOPPY, you could be any of them or more, right?

Now, let’s see… what if you’re SLOPPY and you know it, what are you? No, no, your extremely messy children don’t count. But they will love this sing-songy, adorable, colorfully illustrated book as they try and guess who is GROWLY and FLAPPY and… well, you get the picture.

What I love about IF YOU’RE HOPPY is that it’s fun and silly and will even encourage little ones to come up with their own thoughts on who is hoppy and floppy and so on and so on!

But a warning! You can’t just read IF YOU’RE HOPPY. No, no, no. I insist that you sing it! And that will make you and your tots… happy. And if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

lindymichaelspic1The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Four-Footed And Fabulous

Today’s guest reviewer is Julia, a 12-year -old-San Gabriel Valley girl in the 7th grade. She enjoys reading, swimming, hanging out with her friends, and playing with her precious dog. She’d like to be a fiction writer one day and writes fabulous creative stories of her own.

9781402238888-mThe Doggy Divas: Roxy’s Rules (Sourcebooks, $6.99, ages 9-12) by Lauren Brown is about two girls, Roxy and Liz, best friends forever, who get into a huge fight because Roxy accidentally kissed Matt whom Liz likes. Now Roxy has been kicked out of Liz’s group of friends and she has no one else to hang out with, until she meets Kim and Georgia. Together they start a dog-walking business. Once Liz has heard of this new venture she tries to end it, but ends up getting busted by Matt. In all this, somehow Roxy loses Liz’s dog Little Roxy and if Roxy doesn’t find the pooch in time Liz will shut down the business. However there is happy, very cute and romatic ending which I won’t reveal or I’ll spoil it all for you! I would love to read more by this author because this book had a hook which grabbed my attention and I couldn’t put it down. I would recommend this book to people who like friendship, romance, and drama. Hopefully there is a sequel!

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50785403DOG LOVES BOOKS, (Random House Children’s Books, $19.99, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Louise Yates, is reviewed today by Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

I love books. Dog Loves Books. Just like dog, I remember the first day I opened my beloved OF BOOKS AND SUCH, L.A.’s first children’s bookshop. And just like dog, I bathed, dressed in my favorite hippie outfit (hey, it was 1972!) and waited with baited breath for my first customer to open the red door and enter my land of enchantment.

But for dog, no one entered his life’s dream. Okay, that’s not quite true. A woman did come in, but asked for a tea with milk and two sugars. Then a man entered asking for directions. Slightly depressed and bored, dog reached for a book and started to read… as it happened, a book about dinosaurs.

Then a quite magical thing happened. When he read, he forgot that he was alone, that he was even in his book store. And when one adventure ended, dog simply reached for another book off the shelf and wonder of wonders, a new adventure would quickly begin.

All that reading, more than he had ever done before, made him an expert in literature, so when customers did finally start flocking into his shop, dog knew just the right book to recommend. I love Dog Loves Books with its wonderful pastel illustrations. And children will, too. There is no doubt it will inspire them to discover new places, learn new things, meet new people and animals, all that are tucked into the pages of books, just waiting to be discovered.

lindymichaelspic2The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Mo Smells Green, A Scentsational Journey


Aromas aplenty as Mo goes a roamin’!!

If you’re not already familiar with the marvelous Mo series of books about a dog who smells colors through his nose, MO SMELLS GREEN is the perfect place to start.

This Earth Day, celebrate all the wonderful shades and scents of green that surround us and then actually smell them at the end of the book. A clever and creative collaboration with Aura Cacia 100% pure essential oils aromatherapy, allows the publisher to introduce this delightful smelling concept to children. Kids will also enjoy the easy to turn cut-out pages as well as the alluring scent of the outdoors getting closer and closer as they approach the story’s end.

body_fixp16_r212Written by Margaret Hyde with illustrations by Amanda Giacomini, Mo Smells Green puts the fun Press 2 Smelly experience at kids’ fingertips while sharing the “immense beauty of our planet” via an adorable story about a dog’s day out exploring nature.

Parents and children alike will appreciate the opportunity a read through of this book provides as it opens the door for body_fixp16_r218discussion of our planet and the precious gift of life it gives us all. Mo’s “scentsational journey” is really just a starting point (or companion) for your own family’s fruitful forays in the forests and woods, parks and meadows where we live.

Here are the scents that you will experience when reading Mo Smells Green:

body_fixp16_r219Grass: A combination of lemongrass, sweet basil along with a hint of bergamot essential oil.

Lime: Fresh and juicy, this uplifting scent is derived from cold-pressed lime peels.

The aroma of peppermint and spearmint combine to make invigorating and cooling aromatherapy benefits.

Life: The essence of all-things Earth, a woodsy, earthy aroma that combines frankincense, Atlas and Texas cedarwoods.

mosmellsblue_coverMo Cares! A portion of the proceeds from Mo Smells Green will go to to Best Friends Animal Society and support their initiatives to work with humane groups across the country. And through Friends of Mo events Mo’s Nose is dedicated to teaching kids to connect philanthropy and fun.

Look out for more Mo fun when Mo Smells Blue comes out this summer.

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Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Clifford

pbs_kids_logoleftbox-littleScholastic Media and PBS Kids invite families to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Clifford the Big Red Dog!

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, PBS KIDS and Scholastic Media will kick off “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS,” featuring ten days of favorite Clifford episodes that will focus on each of Clifford’s ten Big Ideas. The ten days of programming will begin on Monday, January 18th, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and showcase important life lessons that help teach social and character building skills.

If you’re looking for any entertainment highlights this month, “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS” will be a best bet for you and your family. It’s also great for parents of young children who may be unable to participate in a major volunteering project on MLK Day.

Click here now to see a clip.

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Call Of The Poodle

pc070621 Matthew, a 10-year old boy from Virginia, is today’s guest reviewer. He loves to play basketball, is very involved in the Weeblos and loves to camp. He also plays piano and viola. 9781416974741I really, really liked 100% Wolf, written by Jayne Lyons with illustrations by Victor Rivas. I thought it was funny that Freddy Lupin was all ready to become a great wolf like his father and instead turns into a pink poodle. Freddy tries to figure out how to help himself, and he meets fun dogs along the way. Freddy realizes it’s okay to be different.

This book made me laugh. A lot of my friends want to read it after I told them about it. I think you will want to read it, too!

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Something’s Afoot in New Skelly & Femur Book

picture-536Skelly & Femur, by Jimmy Pickering from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
is reviewed by Trevor, age 6. Trevor is entering 1st grade in Long Beach and has previously
reviewed for Good Reads With Ronna.

9781416971436Many things go missing in Skelly Manor. Where has everything gone?

The main characters are a skeleton girl, Skelly and her dog. I liked figuring out what happened. This is a story that maaaaybe (sic) could happen. The illustrations were colorful and really looked beautiful and cute. I liked them. I would tell all my friends to read this book and I would read a lot more from this author.

Parent Note: The illustrations were quite good. Trevor paused at each page to look carefully at the details before reading aloud the fairly easy words. It was fun to try and figure out what happened, but the ending wasn’t really on anybody’s radar.

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