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A Giveaway Celebrating Candlewick’s Ten Books in Time Magazine’s Top 100

 

WIN FOUR FAB BOOKS!!

 

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If you’re a regular reader of our blog you’ll know we review a plethora of picture books published by Candlewick Press, a leading independent children’s book publisher based near Boston, Massachusetts. Obviously one of our faves, Candlewick Press consistently offers top quality books for the discerning reader. Their big news is that ten of their titles have been included in Time magazine’s TOP 100 YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF ALL-TIME, a list honoring the all-time classics, both old and new. Here are the six books that have been chosen for older readers: Feed by M. T. Anderson; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay; The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness; and Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci.

But, there’s even more great news: We’re thrilled to be giving away four of their excellent books for younger readers to one lucky reader!

Read about the four picture books selected by TIME and then enter our Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Children’s/Picture Books:

I-Want-My-Hat-Back-cvr.jpg I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor– and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke.

GRWR: This bears repeating: I LOVE THIS PICTURE BOOK and could read it again and again. The same is true for Klassen’s follow up, This is Not My Hat. Your kids will agree. Klassen’s sweet, naive bear is in search of his hat and can’t even see the truth when it’s staring at him straight in the face, while atop the head of the creature who stole it. The kindly, good mannered bear makes his way through the woods encountering a fox, a bunny, a turtle, a snake, a possum, a deer and a squirrel, always asking after his hat. “Have you seen my hat?”  The animals’ replies are varied, but straightforward and clever, and all in a font color matching their design. Of course the culprit’s remarks are by far the crowd pleaser,

“No. Why are you asking me.
I haven’t seen it.
I haven’t seen any hats anywhere.
I would not steal a hat.
Don’t ask me any more questions.

recalling Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” When at last the bear realizes where his hat is, readers will note upper case letters signaling his displeasure, and more hilarity and surprises ensue. This read-aloud delight will tickle the funny bone of generations of youngsters. – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763655983 (Ages 4-8)

* A Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book

Note:  I Want My Hat Back is in their Top 25 to be voted on for Best of the Best ranking by popular reader vote:  http://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/

JourneyJourney-cvr.jpg by Aaron Becker

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

GRWR: Reviewer Hilary Taber said of Journey, “Pure imagination is Journey, a wordless picture book by Aaron Becker. Journeying through the world of this stunning picture book, the audience follows the adventure of a little girl who uses a red marker to literally draw herself from one world into another. Lonely and bored in her own home, the little girl retreats to her room where she uses a red marker to draw a secret, red door. This new world beyond the red door is filled with breathtaking landscapes.”

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763660536 (Ages 4-8)

* A Caldecott Honor Book

Library LionLibrary-Lion-cvr.jpg by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Michelle Knudsen’s disarming story, illustrated by the matchless Kevin Hawkes in an expressive timeless style, will win over even the most ardent of rule keepers. An affectionate storybook tribute to that truly wonderful place: the library.

GRWR: Knudsen asked herself the question, what would happen if a lion walked into a library, and then ran with it! What’s so wonderful about this premise is that lion statues have always been the guardians of great library entrances I have known and they’re in front of the library in Library Lion, too. Hawkes’ warm, light colored, low key ’50s style artwork helps convey the supposed staid atmosphere of the library, but all that changes when a curious lion enters the scene. After he makes most of the visitors nervous, he ends up at story time and roars when it’s over. Youngsters will understand how he feels because who doesn’t love story time? But head librarian Miss Merriweather tells him, “If you cannot be quiet, you will have to leave.” As with many librarians, or children’s impression of them, it’s all about the rules. As long as the lion follows the rules, he’s welcome, in fact he becomes a regular and even makes himself quite useful. His tail dusts books while giving kids rides along the stacks of books. Miss Merriweather’s colleague, Mr. McBee, has more trouble accepting the lion’s presence in the library providing the tension in this very readable tale. When Miss Merriweather falls, it’s the lion whose ROAR alerts Mr. McBee to the accident saving the day. Sometimes, it’s clear, there’s “good reason to break the rules.” Notice the lion statues smiling before closing the book to contented little ones. – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

$16.99 U.S./$20.00 CAN Hardcover – ISBN: 9780763622626

$6.99 U.S. /8.00 CAN Pbk – ISBN: 9780763637842

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Sound Book Bear-Hunt-Sound-cvr.jpgby Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Imagine the fun of going on a bear hunt-through tall, wavy grass (SWISHY SWISHY!); … and a swirling whirling snowstorm (HOOOO WOOOO!) – only to find a “real” bear waiting at the end of the trail! For brave hunters and bear lovers, a classic chant-aloud.

GRWR: It’s a beautiful day for a bear hunt. “We’re not scared.” Remember these three words because they get repeated over and over and their rhythm along with spot on sound effects make this one of the all time must-haves for any new parent’s home collection. Four kids, their dad, and the family’s faithful companion head out for some fresh air and a hike. They’ll traverse grass, a river, then mud, “Squelch Squerch! Squelch Squerch! Squelch Squerch! They go into a forest then emerge to see a snowstorm building and dark clouds blowing in. Kids’ll feel the frosty air as the mood begins to change. A cave is next. Oh, no! “We’ve got to go through it!”  What’s that? A bear?  A BEAR?  The group backtracks in record time and as they retrace their steps, they end up being followed by the bear all the way home. Parents and caregivers can quicken their pace when reading the last bit. Especially the part where the family leaves the front door open and goes back down to shut it, coming face to face with the bear looking through the glass until …. at last, everyone is safe upstairs under the covers!! Phew, that was close. My kids always wondered if maybe the bear gave the family such a big chase simply because he wanted some friends. Whatever conversation develops from a reading, all the better. That’s what makes this story a timeless adventure for the entire family. Plus, you can read it, and squelch and squerch to your heart’s content without ever having to worry about getting mud on a nice, clean floor.  – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Sound Novelty Book: $19.99 – ISBN: 9780763677022 (Ages 3-7)

ABOUT CANDLEWICK PRESS
Candlewick Press is an independent, employee-owned publisher based in Somerville, Massachusetts. For over twenty years, Candlewick has published outstanding children’s books for readers of all ages, including books by award-winning authors and illustrators such as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo, M. T. Anderson, Jon Klassen, and Laura Amy Schlitz; the widely acclaimed Judy Moody, Mercy Watson, and ’Ology series; and favorites such as Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Waldo?, and Maisy. Candlewick is part of the Walker Books Group, together with Walker Books UK in London and Walker Books Australia, based in Sydney and Auckland. Visit Candlewick online at www.candlewick.com.

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Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

Celebrating Children
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

 

✩Starred Review – Publishers Weekly
Los Angeles Times Holiday Books Guide
Amazon.com Best Books of the Year

Little-Humans-cvr.jpgI am utterly charmed by Brandon Stanton’s new nonfiction picture book, Little Humans (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, $17.99, Ages 2-6) and am singing its praises to all who’ll listen. Most of you know Stanton from his blog, and #1 New York Times Bestseller, Humans of New York. In this adorable picture book he’s collected a wonderful, diverse array of photographs of the children of New York. The accompanying text is affirming to all “little humans” everywhere that they are capable of doing big things! Of course they may need to ask for help, they may just need a hug or two, but by and large they can accomplish many things on their own. For example, as the book states they can, “Put on a show, to make you proud of what they know!” I’m a big fan of books that affirm that children should be credited for knowing as much as they do. They know a lot!

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Interior images from Little Humans by Brandon Stanton, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ©2014.

The photographs of the children take up nearly each entire page. Many of them are taken on the eye level of the child or children in the photograph. This means there was some considerable time that Brandon Stanton had to spend on his knees or, as the dust jacket on the inside flap shows, actually on the ground to get such great shots! These large as life photos help to remind the reader that these little humans may be small, but they are so much more than that. They’re full of life, and are being met by Stanton literally on their own level on every page. In these photos Stanton helps to bridge the gap of space that exists between children and adults.

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Interior images from Little Humans by Brandon Stanton, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ©2014.

So many colorful personalities present themselves, and each child has his or her own unique style of awesome! The smile inducing photos range from one child in particular being singled out, to groups of many children. The photos of children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds are especially important for me to see, as I continue to try to support diverse children’s books. I very much appreciate the diversity of personality type, too. However, it’s the sweet face of every child featured in this book that pleases me most. Every child is warmly celebrated. Little Humans is a perfect book for a holiday gift for a little human you might know, and would definitely be a great present for a teacher. Well done, Brandon Stanton! Once again, you show us the beauty of all humanity.

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber

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Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family’s Hands by Samuel Caraballo

A Celebration of Family!
 Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia /
These Hands: My Family’s Hands

by Samuel Caraballo with illustrations by Shawn Costello
(Piñata Books, $17.95, Ages 5-9)

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Love of family is celebrated in this heart warming and delightful bilingual picture book. Author Samuel Caraballo’s moving depiction of a young girl’s deep appreciation of her family truly touched my heart! Interwoven throughout the text are symbols of the indigenous people of Latin America with explanations of these symbols at the back of the book. Here is an opportunity for a child to learn about Latin American culture or perhaps these images are wonderfully sweet reminders to a child who is already familiar with them. For me it was a wonderful education! For example the young girl narrating the book says to her mother:

Your hands, the most tender!
When I am scared, they soothe me.
When I am hungry, they always feed me.
When I am thirsty, they give me the most refreshing water.
They give me warmth when I shiver with cold.
Mom, your hands are like rose petals!

I learned that rose petals represent tenderness in Latin America, which is so appropriate. The image of my own sweet mother immediately came to my mind as I remembered her loving care of me in exactly this way. The strong hands of the little girl’s dad who lifts her up every time she falls, the friendly hands of her siblings that encourage her with applause, the happy hands of her grandma who teaches her to lift her spirits by dancing, and the wise hands of her grandfather who teaches her to care for the earth are all described in delightful, vibrant language. In return for the care her family gives her the little girl promises that, when she is a woman, she will always be there for her family.

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Interior spread from Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia/These Hands: My Family’s Hands by Samuel Caraballo with illustrations by Shawn Costello, Piñata Books for Children © 2014.

Shawn Costello’s warm, joyous illustrations are paired so well with the endearing text. My favorite illustration is the one on the cover that depicts the strong bond of love between the little girl and her grandpa as they both try to reach for the brightest star in the night sky! It is truly magical!

Fans of Munch’s Love You Forever will find much to appreciate in this story of the closeness of family ties, and children will feel comforted knowing that the beautiful love of their family is always there for them. Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia /These Hands: My Family’s Hands reassures them that they will always be surrounded with family who will provide a circle of protection, fun, and wisdom. This book is a wonderful addition to any library, encouraging young children to learn to appreciate the beauty of both Spanish and English. For me it brought back many happy memories of my own family in whose loving hands I was so well cared for!

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber

 

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The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale,
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Superhero Princess to the Rescue!
Hilary Taber reviewsThe Princess in Black
(Candlewick Press, $14.99, Ages 5-8),
the first book in a new chapter book series.

Princess-in-Black-cvr.jpgWho says you can’t be a princess and a heroine? Allow me to introduce you to Princess Magnolia. This princess wears pink, has a sparkle ring, glass slippers and, at the beginning of the book, she is taking tea with the Duchess Wigtower. The Duchess has a feeling that Princess Magnolia is perhaps too perfect. Princess Magnolia appears to the Duchess to be too prim and proper. Princess Magnolia therefore must have a secret.

It seems that the Duchess will certainly have an opportunity to find out what that secret might be when Princess Magnolia’s glitter stone ring suddenly gives off an alarm. However, Duchess Wigtower (deftly and sweetly illustrated by LeUyen Pham with a wonderfully towering wig) never quite catches on that there has been a call to action! The glitter stone ring is actually a secret alarm. The Princess excuses herself to change into her black outfit to become the Princess in Black!

Princess Magnolia’s kingdom just happens to be located right next to Monster Land. A daring princess is clearly needed here. Together with her black pony (who is usually disguised as a unicorn), she sets off to find out why the alarm was sounded. When the princess arrives, she finds that the rather dim witted monsters who live underground in Monster Land have forgotten why they are not allowed to go above ground. It’s especially hard for them to remember the reason for this rule when they can smell the lovely scent of goat floating down into their cave. They love goats, but not in the strictly, “I’m just admiring these charming goats. Reminds me so much of Heidi!” Certainly not. The monsters want to eat the charming goats. This is a job for the Princess in Black! Well, these silly monsters have certainly met their match, but will Princess Magnolia be able to save the day and protect her superhero identity? If anyone can outwit duchesses and monsters it would be Princess Magnolia, a.k.a. the Princess in Black!

LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations meet Shannon and Dean Hale’s lively writing punch for punch and sparkle for sparkle. The illustrations are so sweetly princess-like when they need to be, but so full of action-packed, adorable fun when they should be that they are impossible to resist. There are also many interesting clues to be found in the illustrations that the attentive reader can pick up on that prove, without a doubt, that Princess Magnolia is actually the Princess in Black. Additionally, The Princess in Black is the first in a series. Huzzah! This series will provide a much needed bridge to longer, more challenging reading when the time is right. Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series will find much to enjoy here. Princess fans of all ages will find a heroine to inspire them, for Princess Magnolia is a model of both fashion and bravery.

Click here to find out Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Princess in Black.

Click here to read a Q&A with the Hales.

Shannon and Dean Hale are the husband-and-wife writing team behind the graphic novels Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, both illustrated by Nathan Hale.

 

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Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis
is reviewed by Hilary Taber.

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When I first saw the cover of Sweetest Kulu (Inhabit Media, $16.95, Ages 0-6), I knew I was hooked. I said to a friend, “I think this is the dearest picture book cover I have ever seen!” I still think so! Of course I wondered what “Kulu” meant. The back of the book provided me with the information I needed.

Kulu is an Inuktitut endearment given to babies, and younger children. The author, Celina Kalluk, is Inuit and an acclaimed throat singer. Her book is as sweet as the sweetest Kulu pictured on the cover. This charming picture book is a gentle lullaby poem from a mother to her child. It tells the story of the day that artic animals from the surrounding region hear about the birth of Kulu, for the wind has spread the news about this remarkable baby.

“Melodies of Wind arrived, sharing stories of how the weather forms,
and telling you to always listen closely. Wise wind had learned your name,
charming Kulu, and invited the world to meet you.”

Each animal that comes to see Kulu bestows a gift upon the baby, much as the fairies in Sleeping Beauty bestowed a gift to the newborn girl. However, each gift beautifully reflects the tie between nature and this brand new arrival, this bundle of joy. One of my favorite pages shows the nobility of the Caribou juxtaposed with the small, sweetly sleeping Kulu on his back:

“Caribou choose patience for you, cutest Kulu. He gave you the ability
to look to the stars, so that you will always know where you are and
may gently lead the way.”

Such wonderful gifts are given by each animal that they far outweigh the gifts given to Sleeping Beauty of beauty and riches. Each gift connects the baby with the land, with the gift of believing in yourself, the ability to give love, the predisposition to help those in need, and so on until you know that Kulu will be guided by these lessons for life. Kulu, in being blessed by the wind and each animal, will always be a blessing to others along the path of life. I can’t think of a better way for a life to begin. Illustrator Alexandra Neonakis brings to life each scene with adorable, but also breathtaking illustrations that combine the sweetest Kulu with each animal who has come to visit.

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Interior artwork from Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis, Inhabit Media ©2014.

This is one of those books that make you want to hug it to you, because it’s that good and true. If I had a child, I would want that child to have the blessings of a good character that Kulu receives. As an aunt, I wish these for my nephew for they make for a truly happy and fulfilling life. Children will love learning the names of each arctic animal. The magical, rhythmic language of the book will be a wonderful bridge between the activities of the day, helping children transition peacefully into their just-before-bed reading.

Sweetest Kulu would make an ideal present for a new baby in your life, and an excellent baby shower gift as well. The whole world seems to be in love with Kulu in this book, and I am too! Take the opportunity to purchase this book now if you have little ones to read to, and buy another to stash away for that baby shower you know you will be invited to! I will be buying one especially for my nephew, who is to me one of the sweetest children there ever was! I want him to learn these important lessons so that they will be a blessing to him all of his life, and guide him to true happiness.

Interested in more stories like Sweetest Kulu? Contact Inhabit Media or Birch Bark Books.

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How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

Finding Hope and Strength in a Time of Trial:
How I Became a Ghost written by Tim Tingle, reviewed by Hilary Taber.

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How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle, The RoadRunner Press.

“…that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again, and again, and again.”

– Tom Hanks as Walt Disney from the movie Saving Mr. Banks

Without compromising historical accuracy, author Tim Tingle draws upon his considerable imagination and talent to tell the story of a young Choctaw boy named Isaac. The book How I Became a Ghost (The RoadRunner Press, $18.95, ages 8-12) relates the story of Isaac’s journey along the Choctaw Nation’s Trail of Tears in the year 1830. This is a truth telling tale that reveals the extreme hardships endured by that nation, but it also remains a hopeful story, full of heroism and adventure.

The first lines pulled me into Isaac’s story, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention…” With these magical lines the reader is transported into Isaac’s world. Isaac has two wonderful parents, an older brother named Luke, and a lively dog called Jumper. As the story unfolds, we find that Treaty Talk has resulted in the forced relocation of the Choctaw tribe from their land in Mississippi. As Isaac watches different members of his tribe say goodbye to the land, he suddenly finds that he has the ability to foresee how they will die. Later, he also is able to communicate with members of the tribe who died along the way, and who have become friendly ghosts. These ghosts gently help him to come to the realization that he will soon be a ghost as well. Isaac makes sure that his family knows that this will happen to him. When he does become a ghost it turns out that it isn’t a departure from his family at all. Isaac finds that his family can still see him and he can still speak with them.

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

Hopping Good Fun! Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny (Schwartz & Wade, trade paperback, $8.99, Ages 8-12), Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and reviewed by Hilary Taber.

Madeline has had a very rough time lately. Her hippie parents have been kidnapped! The only lead Madeline has is a note left on the refrigerator written in code. She’s also been the witness of a most amazing thing. She thinks she saw a car full of foxes, with a fox for a driver, leaving her small hometown around the time that her parents went missing. With only these leads to go on, Madeline meets Mr. and Mrs. Bunny who are just as astonished as Madeline to learn that she can understand Rabbit. Madeline, amazingly enough, understands every word Mr. and Mrs. Bunny say!

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! By Mrs. Bunny. Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Schwartz & Wade.

The story takes many amusing detours, and Madeline learns something wonderful about her parents. For all their annoying candle making, jewelry making, and general hippie ways, she loves them dearly. Madeline misses her parents so much that she is willing to trust two sometimes muddled, always adorable (and even occasionally correct) fedora-wearing rabbits in order to get them back.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny have their own story, of course, as to why they are interested in solving crimes. One day Mrs. Bunny said to Mr. Bunny, “I think we should be detectives!” Mr. Bunny, she firmly believes, should give up his job, they should immediately go buy fedoras, and therefore be detectives. Mr. Bunny does bring up a sore point though, which is that they have no license to prove that they are, in fact, detectives. To that bit of logic Mrs. Bunny replies, “I think fedoras are enough. Anyone who sees a bunny in a fedora will not feel the need to see a license.”

At this point in the story I was more than amused. I was laughing and reading parts of it aloud to my family. Although it is extremely funny, this book delves down deeper. It seeks to answer the eternal question, “Why do I put up with my crazy family? Why do I love them so much that I would do anything for them?” while adding detective bunnies on the side. You just can’t ask much more than that from a book. There is a sequel out now titled Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Almost Royalty, which I am looking forward to reading very much! Well done, Polly Horvath!

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Lord and Lady Bunny – Almost Royalty! By Mr. & Mrs. Bunny. Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

This book would unquestionably make an adorable gift to fans of Mr. Roald Dahl’s or even Mr. Lemony Snicket’s books. Horvath is just as clever, but infinitely sweeter. Additionally, her characters are just as much fun. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire! won a Parent’s Choice Gold Award, and got starred reviews from The Horn Book Review, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. As if that were not enough, there is a bonus to these books because Mrs. Bunny has her very own blog! It’s not a mystery why your children should be reading these books now, is it? No, it’s more a mystery why we aren’t all reading these books because they are so much fun! Case closed!

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The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas by David Almond

The Water’s Fine:
The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas, (Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 8-12) by David Almond, is reviewed by Hilary Taber.

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The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas by David Almond with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers, Candlewick Press

I knew that when I saw the cover of this book that I would love it. After all, with Oliver Jeffers of The Day the Crayons Quit fame (among many others) how can you go wrong with the illustrations? Yet, this book was so much more than just fantastic illustrations. David Almond has written a wonderful story about families, dreams of greatness, gypsies, and so much more. When Stanley Potts decides that enough is enough when it comes to his financially struggling Uncle Ernie putting his beloved goldfish in a can to sell, he sets out on a course of adventure that will change his life forever.

He decides to join a traveling fair, and he becomes quite attached to the fair’s “Hook-a-duck” proprietor, Mr. Dostoyevsky. All of the people who work at the fair take on Stanley as a sort of second son, but none more than Mr. Dostoyevsky who puts Stanley in change of all goldfish related rewards for winning his booth prizes. Little does Stanley know that his true fate is ready to meet him in the form of Pancho Pirelli, the man who can swim with piranhas! Is Stanley ready to embrace this new path that he feels is right up his alley, or will his aunt and uncle find him at the fair before he is able to decide for himself what his choice will be?

This book was funny, and poignant all at the same time. I found myself charmed by the life of freedom at the fair, and was as pleased as punch when Stanley decides for himself what his life will be. As an added bonus, the villains of the piece are the dastardly DAFT (“Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things”) organization that operates to abolish all things they deem to be suspect. How can Stanley, his uncle, his aunt, Mr. Dostoyevsky, and the Great Pancho Pirelli himself avoid such comically ignorant baddies especially concerned with fish? What really makes these bad guys so very funny is that, of course, their inherent evil nature is caused by ignorance which always leads to poor spelling. I think we all knew that was true, but it’s nice to be reminded to be on your guard when dealing with such folks. Beware the ignorant souls who take justice into their own hands while butchering the English language in the most comical way possible!

What I liked most about David Almond’s writing is that it is full of wonder, imagination and humor. However, Almond never shies away from Stanley’s dilemma of being torn between his family and his extraordinary life at the fair. Family and forgiveness are at the heart of this quirky middle grade novel. This book is perfect for Roald Dahl fans, fans of the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch. Also, anyone who enjoys a book about the love of pets, particularly fish (I know you’re out there) will deeply identify with Stanley, goldfish aficionado! David Almond’s fantastic book earned starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist. And now, ditto from me.

 

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An Interview with Aaron Becker

PURE IMAGINATION,
An Interview With Aaron Becker

Headshot of Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY, Copyright © 2013 courtesy of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA., 2013.
Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY, Copyright © 2013 courtesy of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA., 2013.

Today’s interview with Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY (Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 4-8), comes to us courtesy of Hilary Taber and just before the naming of the 2014 Caldecott winner and honors announcement later today.

NOTE: At the time of posting we did not know that JOURNEY was named a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Congratulations to Aaron Becker!

Treat yourself and your children to one of 2013’s most talked about picture books, Aaron Becker’s JOURNEY. Though wordless, this colorful tale speaks to its readers in so many different ways, a big part of why JOURNEY will continue to bring immense pleasure to so many for years to come. Find out about Aaron Becker here with Hilary’s insightful interview.

Hilary Taber: Thank you for this interview, and thank you so much for the book as well. It’s gorgeous, so beautifully and wonderfully illustrated. My family has enjoyed it so much.

Aaron Becker: Thank you.

Hilary Taber: Congrats, too, on all the starred reviews! Horn Book Best of 2013, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book, so many accolades for JOURNEY. It must have been so fun to get those, and very affirming.

Aaron Becker: Yeah, it is and has been an amazing response. Like nothing I anticipated or was really imagining.

HT: Was your family delighted?

AB: Well, for sure. Totally, yeah … I mean, that’s something I always wanted to do … a children’s book, and to get to do one is delighting enough. And then people respond to it in ways I wouldn’t have even anticipated. It’s just very exciting.

HT: So, you have always wanted to write a children’s book or illustrate one?

AB: Oh, yeah. When I was a kid I made my own books … I wrote my own stories and drew pictures … it was one of my hobbies. This is my first book and I’m almost forty … there was a career in the middle there. I spent about a decade working as an illustrator on motion pictures.

Cover of JOURNEY by Aaron Becker. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker, from Candlewick Press.
JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

HT: Do you feel that your career in movies helped you as a picture book illustrator?

AB: It sure does. Certainly there’s the technical side of just learning the craft of telling stories through pictures. We do that in film and in books. So, there’s just a lot of technical stuff I learned – composition, how to lead the reader’s eye, where you want them to go – but it’s a different craft as well. So, there’s some crossover for sure.

HT: I have some familiarity through my family with film production. I read that you refer to the picture book as having sets in it. Are the main characters like actors?

AB: I know, I caught myself using that word (sets), I noticed that too. It’s how I think, only right now I’m working on the third … there are three Journey books … I do think in terms of film. In some ways I think that if films were easier to make, less capital intensive, and less time intensive, I’d be making short films, not books. The nice thing about a book is that the scope of the project can be taken on by one person … it’s easier for me to be just like, “Okay, I’ll work with an editor – you know, with an agent.”

HT: Do you feel that you had people in your past, family or mentors, or somebody that was very key or crucial to you becoming an illustrator today?

AB: It’s easy for me to think in terms of books I like, but my parents definitely were important. Especially my mom, she was very focused on feeding my interests. She bought me a pad of paper, she bought me markers, and she made sure I had trips to the library to get out my drawing books and stuff.  So, I was encouraged, but I wouldn’t say there was anyone around me doing this kind of work. It was my own interest for sure.

HT: It was your own journey.

AB: Yes, it was absolutely my journey.  I started working on this book just after my daughter was born, and I had lost my job with the film company … I had always wanted to do this children’s book thing, a now or never kind of feeling, all my cards on the table, just a “Hail Mary pass.” It definitely felt like a journey, especially because it took so long for the book to come out. You know, it was about a three year process from inception to publication, which actually isn’t long for a book. It seemed like forever.

Interior spread from JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
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Fridays Featuring Flintridge – Roderick Townley’s Novels

A Truly Great Good Thing:

The Work of Children’s Author Roderick Townley –

reviewed by Hilary Taber of Flintridge Bookstore

 

I’m beyond delighted to announce that this and next Friday’s posts will be devoted to author and poet Roderick Townley. I will take this opportunity to review three of his children’s novels for those just making his acquaintance and next Friday Mr. Townley will join us for an amazing and inspiring interview. Those of you who are writers won’t want to miss this! For you who are already familiar with his delightful stories, you may empathize that it’s difficult to easily sum up the work of this author. His writing somewhat defies definition. I think Roderick Townley rather likes it that way. He likes to be unpredictable.

I will dare to say that it takes a certain talent that very few authors have to be able to convey such potent meaning in just a few sentences. Additionally, his writing is full of the magical, creative, and wondrous power of fairy tales. Mr. Townley is one of those authors who, through his books, seems to come to the reader and say, “Take my hand for now we are about to go journeying to places unknown, sights yet unseen, and things not clearly understood by anyone. Ready?” I always say, “Yes!” to offers like that, for not many authors are able to provide such unique and original tales. By the end of the story I have always thought very new thoughts, experienced high adventure, and returned to the real world wishing that the book could have lasted just a little bit longer, or even just a few pages longer. The writing itself is so magical that I always end up half convinced that, if I just wished hard enough, the extra pages I want might magically appear. Of course they don’t, but right there is the proof of a good author. Who else could half convince me of such a possibility? Such writing is just like the title of his first book. It is indeed a Great, Good Thing.

cvr9780689853289_9780689853289_lgThe Great Good Thing (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 10-14)

“Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn’t get to live it very often.”

Sylvie has been a storybook princess for more than eighty years. Her trouble is that the story of her amazing life is never lived until a Reader comes along. It is only when the book containing the story of Princess Sylvie is opened and read that she can live her adventures in the storybook. When your life depends on Readers reading and your story is forgotten what can you do? The characters in the book begin to accept the fact that they might never have a new Reader. However, one day, a very special Reader does come, and Sylvie dares to break the rule of all storybook characters, “Never look at the Reader”. Being Sylvie (brave, adventurous, and a Person with Purpose), she takes it one step further and makes a lasting friendship with this Reader. This friendship is destined to change Sylvie’s story forever, but it also offers Sylvie the opportunity to fulfill her greatest wish. Sylvie is finally given a chance to do A Great Good Thing.

41dlFvL3GSL._SY380_The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 8-12)

“Not long ago, in the sunny mountain village of Aplanap, famous for its tilted streets, cuckoo clocks, and Finster cheese, there stood a small shoemaker’s shop. And in the window of that shop was a shoe that fit nobody.”

In this book Mr. Townley invites the reader to follow the adventures of Hap, the goodhearted assistant cobbler to the shoemaker who made the beautiful blue shoe. When the blue shoe looses its magical glow (due to Hap’s theft of one of the precious blue stones), he is sent to work tirelessly in the dreaded mines of Mount Xexnax. However, here in this cruel place, Hap discovers that sometimes life isn’t just about liberating yourself from a dreadful situation. Sometimes it’s about liberating others as well, for Mount Xenax holds many others in slavery. But just how will Hap be able to escape and set everyone else held in slavery on the mountain free as well? What about the blue shoe? Will the blue shoe ever regain its mysterious blue glow and why does it glow? Mary GrandPré, who is now famous for her illustrations for the Harry Potter series, wonderfully illustrates The Blue Shoe bringing to life the cast of characters that populate a world of heroes, heroines, villains, a blue shoe, and one shadowy, mysterious character it would be unfair of me to mention too much about.

8600966The Door in the Forest (Bluefire, $6.99, ages 8 and up)

“Some people claimed it was enchanted; others swore it was cursed; but, really, it hardly mattered what you thought because you couldn’t get to it.”

Daniel and his family live near a mysterious island. This island is impossible to reach, as the island itself seems to jealously guard its secrets with vines, quicksand, and snakes. No one has ever set foot there. While most people are content to leave the island to itself, Daniel is not. He knows he would willingly spend his whole life trying to figure out how to reach such a mysterious place. However, to achieve this dream, it will take a war, a witch (or is she?), and a girl named Emily whose past may be the only key to accessing the island that Daniel will ever find. Now, mix this cast of intriguing characters together with an evil captain who is intent on getting to the island first, and you are ready for an adventure you will not soon forget! The Door in the Forest seems to me to always ask these questions: “How much would you risk, who would you be willing to trust, and how long could you hold out during a dangerous time to attain the impossible thing you have always wanted with your whole heart?”

To find out more about Roderick Townley’s young adult novels Sky and The Red Thread and to learn more about the sequels to The Great Good Thing (Into the Labyrinth and The Constellation of Sylvie) visit www.rodericktownley.com. Also, please join me next Friday for the interview with Mr. Townley as we discuss his writing for children, writing in general, poetry, and the inspirations that have led to his remarkable books.

HilaryTaberStop by the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Check out the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events. And when you stop by, keep a lookout for Hilary peeking out from behind a novel.

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Fridays Featuring Flintridge – An Easter Basket of Books

An Easter Basket of Book Reviews from Hilary Taber …

Recently, I’ve realized that there are a wealth of words that we never use. “Haberdasher”, for example, or “perchance” are words that come to mind.  Certainly, “hodgepodge” falls into this category. During an Easter season when, if one is lucky enough, there are baskets filled to the brimful with a lovely hodgepodge of all sorts of delights, then surely there is absolutely nothing wrong with a literary hodgepodge. Who knows what I might put in this one? In the spirit of the whole thing, I’ve mixed all kinds of books together for this week’s reviews. Old will meet new, and these “introductions” will hopefully lead you to some new book friends. Just think of these reviews as the different kinds of candies you might find separately packed into those colorful plastic eggs in your Easter basket, and you can’t go wrong!

DreamFriends_JKT_mech2_sm_smDream Friends (Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin, $16.99) by You Byun, Ages 3 and up

This exquisite picture book débuted at story time last week at Flintridge Books and my young audience was especially appreciative of how many beautiful things we could find on each page. The main character, Melody, has a Dream Friend that visits every night in her dreams. Is it a huge, white dog? A huge, white bear? While we couldn’t settle on a definite species we all agreed that the Dream Friend is wonderful, and takes Melody on all kinds of adventures through a world filled with opal-like colors, tiny cats that look like potential astronauts, spiral staircases, giant tulips, and paper cranes that sail the sky. Through this dream world, Melody and her Dream Friend fly together. However, back in the real world of the schoolyard, Melody is in need of a friend. Will Melody be able to make a real friend who will understand how important and magical her Dream Friend is?

This is a treasure box of a book that is simply enchanting. Many smaller illustrations make the book fun to explore. On each page my story time pals picked out what illustration they would like to take home to have in their room if such a thing were possible. With a Dream Friend really anything is possible, and that is the charm of the story. With a happily-ever-after-ending this makes a wonderful bedtime story that I’m sure will leave a child wondering if they will make a Dream Friend of their own. Dream Friends is a Publisher’s Weekly starred reviewed winner, and I wholeheartedly agree with that!

TrixieTen-240x300Trixie Ten (Henry Holt & Co., $16.99) by Sarah Massini, Ages 3-7

Ah, poor Trixie Ten’s life is filled with the burden of brothers and sisters! Not just one or two of them, but nine of them. Trixie is the tenth child. All of her siblings are particularly annoying in their very own way. One always sneezes, another always stumbles on things, another always makes a sound like a roaring lion, and so on. How annoying! Trixie Ten can’t take it anymore! One night she grabs a trusty flashlight and leaves to find somewhere that is quiet, and definitely not filled with noisy siblings. Yet, when she finally finds that place, she’s not quite as pleased as she thought she would be. While it’s true that everything is very quiet it’s equally true that Trixie misses her noisy family! While Trixie Ten is gone, her family is busy counting everyone to make sure that the whole family is accounted for. In cozy beds they begin counting, “Wanda One, Thomas Two…” and so on until they get to Trixie Ten. On my! Where is Trixie Ten?! The whole family sets out on an adventure to rescue Trixie.

My young story time audience was just pulled into this book. Annoying brothers and sisters that you wish you could ditch now and then? I could just feel that they totally understood that! Yet it was the question of “Who are we without our family?” (that Ms. Massini cleverly poses) was what kept their attention until the very end. Highly recommended for any child, but can you imagine if you came from a large family how much you would connect with this story? Also, if you are a teacher, well here is a book that begs for some really great discussions about family, counting, and colors. Also, this book is a great basis for a fantastic craft. Every character is a fingerprint of a different color with a little face, making finger and hand print activities ideal. Have fun!

80171Fairy Tales (Liveright, $17.95) by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Meilo So, ages 5 and up

I made the discovery of this book a few years ago, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading the fairy tales that poet e.e. cummings wrote for his grandson. While a few of the stories would be more suited to a grown-up audience because of the symbolism, most of them are just fine for their intended audience. I especially like “The Elephant and the Butterfly” (these character are meant to be cummings and his grandson), and “The House that Ate Mosquito Pie”. They are both touching, beautifully written stories about unlikely friendships. A few lines just took my breath away. “A bird began to sing in a bush, and all the clouds went out of the sky, and it was Spring everywhere.” This next line just make me shiver it was so pretty, “In a little while the house heard a new sound, which was as if five or six (or maybe even seven) brooks were laughing about a secret; and this sound grew higher and clearer until the house knew that it was somebody singing and singing and singing.”

What can I write about writing like that? e.e. cummings is a poet whose prose in these stories is simple, yet profound. More than that I dare not venture, but I do hope you will find out for yourselves!

TangleKnotsRevisedBasket__2__2_394x600A Tangle of Knots (Philomel/Penguin, $16.99) by Lisa Graff, Ages 8-12

In this finely spun tale told in multiple points of view, almost everyone has a Talent that borders on being magical. Some have a Talent for knitting, for spitting, for whistling, but eleven-year-old Cady has a Talent for cake baking. She can take a good look at any person and match them up with the perfect cake. When Cady was left at Miss Mallory’s Home for Lost Girls, Miss Mallory had no idea that Cady would stay for so long. Having a Talent for matching her girls with the perfect family Miss Mallory has no idea who would be the perfect family for Cady until a series of events begins to unfold, each one mysteriously tied to the other, that reveal a Talent Stealer, a man with a Talent for tying knots, and a certain blue suitcase marked “St. Anthony’s” among other mysteries. Other child and adult characters join Cady with their secrets, Talents, and searches for Talents. This book is sure to please fans of Ingrid Law’s Savvy if what drew them to the book was the idea of people having varying magical talents and gifts. An intriguing puzzle for mystery lovers, and a thoroughly enjoyable book that links the Facts of the characters with their Fate. All through the book there are Cady’s recipes for cakes matched with all the key characters in the book which would be especially pleasing to young bakers. A Tangle of Knots earned a starred review from Kirkus, which was much deserved!

9780060846169Miki Falls: Spring (Book One) (HarperTeen, $8.99) by Mark Crilley, Ages 12 and up

Miki is beginning her final year at high school, and she’s determined that this year will be the best year ever. There is nothing so tempting a fate as to announce that very soon you will be planning to control everything, and Miki soon learns that lesson in the form of a tall, handsome new student named Hiro. There’s definitely something mysterious about this new guy in town, and soon Miki becomes determined to find out exactly what he is up to. Yet, as Miki learns, sometimes knowing someone else’s secret is a pathway to an adventure. This adventure will turn Miki’s life upside down, and challenge everything she ever thought she knew about love.

Although Miki and Hiro are high school students, I think that readers still in middle school would find it very enjoyable. It’s just enough romance (but not too much) for a young girl just beginning to be curious about love, and has enough action to keep the reader engaged for the rest of the series. I would definitely recommend buying at least the first two books in the series because once you’re hooked you can’t wait for the next sequel! I’m just beginning to explore the world of graphic novels for children and teens more thoroughly. “Miki Falls” really caught my attention because it’s so beautiful, and Mark Crilley’s experience as an American living in Japan is evident in every page. This may be seen in the thoughtful attention to detail in the scenery, which is done with an expert touch. Fans of “Fruits Basket” will be sure to enjoy this American foray into manga-inspired graphic novels.

HilaryTaberPlease visit the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events. And when you stop by, keep a lookout for Hilary peeking out from behind a novel.

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