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Flashback Friday – What Really Happened to Humpty? by Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom

From The Files of a Hard-Boiled Detective

Booklist “Starred Review”

Winner of the 2011 “Children’s Choice” Award for the state of New Mexico

What Really Happened to Humpty? by Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom with illustrations by Stephen Axelsen, Charlesbridge, 2009.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge egg fan, see. They can be real smooth at times, make you think they’re one thing, when they’re really another. I like that in an egg. Hard-boiled, sunny-side up, over-easy, scrambled, but my all time favorite is the Humpty-Dumpty kind, especially served up fresh in a Film Noir or Dragnet-style kind-of way.

First reviewed in 2009, today we’re revisiting What Really Happened To Humpty? by Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom (Charlesbridge, paperback $7.95, Ages 6-9) with illustrations by Stephen Axelsen. The tale, recounted tongue-in-cheek (can you say that for an egg story?) by Humpty’s hard-boiled detective brother Joe, opens like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Humpty Dumpty was pushed.

What Really Happened to Humpty? interior spread, © 2009, Charlesbridge

Now if that hasn’t got you itchin’ (you’re not allergic to eggs, are you?) to find out more … This clever, easy-to-read book simply cracked me up with its puns, plot and pictures. The mystery revolves around poor pushed Humpty, a pair of binoculars and a big wind. Readers’ appetites for a good, hearty romp around Mother Gooseland is whet by some well known personalities from childhood. The cast of possible culprits includes the Muffin Man, Old Mother Hubbard, Little Miss Muffet or Muffy, Spider, Goldie (as in Locks) and Chicken Little.

I really can’t tell much more without giving away all the good gags, but suffice it to say that its ending will leave readers satisfied. Kids will be happy that Humpty survives intact and his brother Joe, now vindicated for having solved the crime, can move on to new, more pressing business like helping Bo Peep find those missing sheep.

Click here to preview the book.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Middle Grade Mystery Liar & Spy Should Top Reading Lists

Author Kristen Kittscher reviews a middle grade novel for thinking kids.

If Rebecca Stead found it difficult to follow up her 2010 Newbery award winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME, you’d never know it. Her latest book, LIAR & SPY ($15.99, Random House Children’s Books, ages 9-12), is a stunningly well-crafted, moving story of friendship, trust, and nonconformity that’s sure to soar to the top of 2012 award lists, as well.

In the same spare, lyrical style that packed an emotional punch in When You Reach Me, Stead tells the story of Georges, a seventh grade boy adjusting to difficult new realities at home and school. His best friend has abandoned him for a cool crowd, bullies are targeting him, and he’s just moved out of the only home he’s ever known after his father lost his job. Georges finds some distraction from his troubles when he strikes up a friendship with his new neighbor and fellow twelve-year-old, Safer. An eccentric, coffee-drinking self-proclaimed “spy,” Safer enlists Georges’ help in hunting down the truth about their mysterious neighbor Mr. X, whom Safer suspects is a serial killer. While Georges does indeed get to the bottom of the mystery, in the process he discovers hard truths about himself and friendship.

LIAR & SPY is not for kids seeking an action-packed ride. It’s a gripping, poignant, and often funny book for kids who like to think. Its mystery slowly builds to a surprising climax and twist, but Stead focuses on delivering an emotionally satisfying resolution rather than a purely plot-based one. Her gift for exploring life’s larger questions in a way that’s accessible to kids without condescending to them makes this book an especially good pick for the classroom or a book club, as it’d undoubtedly spark great discussion about friendship, trust, lies, bullying and difference. WHEN YOU REACH ME fans need not worry about being disappointed by this magnificent follow up! 

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Mouse Gone Missing

My 11-year-old son Coleman has always been a voracious reader. The past few months he’s devoured some interesting middle grade books and I’ll be sharing some of his thoughts on what he’s read and loved.  The good news is that he’s discovered a slew of great books in all sorts of genres by a variety of very talented authors. We’ll begin our conversation by discussing a new series called The Song of the Winns and the first book in the Gerander trilogy is entitled The Secret of The Ginger Mice ($12.95, Running Press, ages 8 and up) by Frances Watts with illustrations by David Francis.   – Chosen as a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book 2011

 Q. In a nutshell, if you described this book to friends, what would you tell them it was about?

 A. I’d have to say this book is part mystery, part adventure about mice triplets. When Alice and Alex, two of the triplets discover their other brother has gone missing, Alice and Alex set out on a journey to find Alistair (a ginger mouse unlike the other two) and learn why he has possibly been mousenapped.

 Q. Where do the mice live in the story?

A. They live in a country called Shetlock which borders a country in turmoil called Gerander. Another nearby country called Souris is trying to take over Gerander.

Q. Tell us something about the triplets. What are they like, what challenges do they face trying to locate Alistair?

A. Alex and Alice are very adventurous yet Alistair is the type who would rather sit on a chair, snuggle with his scarf and read a book.  The two siblings face many obstacles during their exploits like Alex eating all the food on the first day of the journey, encounters with two-faced spies, and being locked in a cellar with almost no way out. 

Q. How do the struggles in Gerander affect the triplets?

A. Semi-Spoiler Alert:  Most of the ginger mice come from Gerander, and Souris wants to eliminate all of the ginger mice no matter where they are from so it will be easier to invade and conquer Gerander. As it happens Alistair was mousenapped by FIG, a pro-Gerander secret organization, in order to keep him safe from Souris mousenappers and spies. So all the time Alice and Alex are worried, Alistair is actually safe.  It’s when Alistair tries to escape to go home that his real problems begin.

Q. What did you enjoy most about this book?

A. It’s so hard to pinpoint one thing that I liked because there were so many things in the story I found enjoyable.  I cared about the mice and felt how they did. I thought the story idea was clever and it kept me turning the pages to see what crazy things Alistair was going to get up to, unlike how he usually behaved. The setting was quite realistic and it was easy getting caught up in the story.

Q. How did you feel when you finished the book?

A. At the end I was like, “No, give me more!” I did not want the book to end.

Q. Who would like The Secret of The Ginger Mice?

A. Anyone who can read well and likes adventure books with lots of surprises would find this a terrific book. In other words probably 3rd through 5th graders, or kids even younger if their parents read it to them. I can’t wait for book #2.


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Lauren Child’s Fun New Spy Thriller

Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 8-11) by Lauren Child is reviewed today by Amanda Hogg.

Compared to Ruby Redfort, almost everyone is a bozo. At the age of seven she won the junior code-cracker championship. The following year she was offered admission to Harvard, which she declined because she had no interest in becoming “some kind of geek freak.” When we meet her at age 13, Ruby Redfort has been called in by Spectrum, a top secret spy agency, to help crack the Fool’s Gold Gang’s code and stop a robbery. But the code is not the only mystery Ruby has to solve. Ruby’s mother has a couple near misses with death and Mrs. Digsby the housekeeper has gone missing along with the entire contents of the Redfort house.

Bike, drive and sprint through Twinsford with Ruby, her pal Clancy Crew and Hitch, Spectrum agent/bodyguard/butler, as they try to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Who is involved in the Fool’s Gold Gang? Why is someone trying to run Ruby’s mom off the road? And just where has Mrs. Digsby gone?

You may be wondering how this book differs from any other kid genius mystery. Well let me tell you, buster. Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes has layer upon layer of mysteries to solve, codes to crack and clues to find which the reader can unravel along with Ruby. Thankfully, for those of us who have no patience for problem solving and code cracking, clears up some of the more frustrating conundrums for us.

Filled with cartoonish villains, secret agents and nifty gadgets, Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child is a fun, raucous spy thriller that will have adults and kids alike on the edge of their seats. This book will appeal to readers who like Clarice Bean, Harriet the Spy and just about any book where snarky, spunky kids are smarter than their adult counterparts.

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The Mostly True Story of Jack

The Mostly True Story of Jack ($16.95, Little, Brown and Company, Middle Grade) is by Kelly Barnhill and reviewed by Lindy Michaels.

Who is Jack and perhaps more importantly, what is Jack? He is taken by his divorcing mother to stay with his aunt and uncle in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa. Even though Jack had always felt invisible to his mother, he never wanted to leave her. But oddly, there was something so familiar about this new and strange place, although he knew not what. And the strange only got stranger to the boy, as the days went by. Jack knew things, remembered things, but he just couldn’t seem to remember why he was remembering these things and what they meant. It was all so fuzzy in his mind.

There was the ancient book that his uncle gave him, which was filled with magical and unworldly information. Very confusing!  There was the girl, Wendy, who knew things, but wouldn’t tell. And there was her twin brother, Frankie, who years before, mysteriously had disappeared for months, only to be found by Jack’s uncle, his face now scarred, unable to utter a single word, never able to tell what had happened to him and why.

The richest man in town, Mr. Avery knew the secrets of Hazelwood, of the Lady under the ground, who had split in two… her good side weakened by her evil side, who stole the souls of those who had disappeared from the town. And yes, there were many of them. And the strangest thing of all was that once they were gone, they were immediately forgotten by their loved ones, by the town. It was as if they had never existed. And later, Wendy was underground. Would she be forgotten forever? Could her soul be saved?

What was the secret of this town and the Lady, split in two? And who would win? The good side of her, or the evil? And somehow could the young boy, Jack, have the magic within himself to find the answers? To save Wendy? To rescue all the taken souls? To bring together the good and evil of the Lady and make her whole, once again, perhaps making Jack whole again, too, to finally find his way home?  The  Mostly True Story of Jack is a mesmerizing read, beautifully poetic, with the rhythm of the wind. This is a novel that compels one to turn page after page, because one must learn of all the secrets and haunting mystery and magic of Hazelwood.

Written so beautifully by first time children’s author, Kelly Barnhill, this story will take readers to places they could have never, ever imagined in their wildest dreams. My personal opinion is, because of the rather complicated storyline, I recommend it for children ages eleven up through adulthood, all of whom, I believe, will be as touched by this magical journey as I was. A stunning debut novel.

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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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Dreaming Anastasia

pc070618Today’s guest reviewer is Rebecca, a 12-year old girl from Virginia. She enjoys reading, playing the piano and violin and is currently writing her own book. She is on a competition dance team and during the summer she is enrolled in a theater group.

9781402218170-mDreaming Anastasia, written by Joy Preble is about three very different people, but they are
all linked in some way. Most people think that Anastasia Romanov, the last grand Duchess of Russia is dead, but she’s not. She is imprisoned in Baba Yaga’s hut. Baba Yaga is a “fictional witch.”

Anne Michaelson is a modern girl in high school. She is having weird dreams. She is dreaming that she is someone else, living someone else’s life. Ethan is a member of a secret immortal brotherhood. The brotherhood is supposed to protect Anastasia until she can be freed from Baba Yaga’s Hut. The Brotherhood is led by an evil man named Victor. Ethan’s job was to find Anne and get her to save Anastasia. Now he has met her and he has found out that this is going to be harder than he thought.

This was a great book for young adults. It had adventure, fantasy, history, and romance all wrapped into one book. I would give it a score of 9 on a scale of 1-10. I loved it!

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d-0144-1Meet today’s guest reviewer, Riley.

I am 13 years-old and am about to start 8th grade. I enjoy reading, computer games, skateboarding, the beach and playing with my dogs. Mysteries, science fiction, comedy and horror books are my favorites, but if desperate I will read just about anything. Because you never know when you will be stuck running errands with your family, I try to always have a book with me.

9780316011730_154x233The Postcard by Tony Abbott is a fantastic mystery that intertwines fact and fiction. The two main characters Jason and Dia find themselves trapped in the mystery of Nick Falcon, and whether he is real, or just another made up character in one of Emerson Beale’s story.

It starts as an average teenage boy named Jason finds himself in Florida after being flown down to help his Dad pack up his deceased grandmother’s house. When alone at the house the phone rings and someone asks “how smart are you?” The voice continues to say “you can learn many things at a desk,” and then abruptly hangs up. Jason then goes to his grandmother’s old desk and finds a postcard. The mystery then begins as Jason and Dia try to find out the truth about Nick Falcon, and Emerson Beale. As they fight the secret order of Oobarab it is a thrilling race to find out the truth. Tony Abbott is an excellent writer so if you like a good mystery this is the book for you. Abbott ties up all loose ends perfectly in an exciting conclusion.

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Smart Sleuthing

I wanted desperately to expose my 8 year-old son, Coleman, to something more than the A-Z Mysteries. Not that these are not wonderful and worthwhile books, they are. However, what I will inevitably one day pronounce when he is dating I recently said regarding reading: “Coleman, there are many fish in the sea.” In other words, try a lot of different books to experience what’s out there. After taking my advice, and broadening his book horizons so to speak, he found Saxby Smart: Private Detective in The Curse Of The Ancient Mask and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire with pictures by R.W. Alley, Roaring Press from Roaring Brook Press.

97815964347451According to Coleman, “this great book is about a boy named Saxby Smart who attends a local school called St. Egbert’s. The book contained a total of three separate stories (aka Case Files) about mysteries that happened in the town where Saxby lived. There are two people he constantly relies on.

“One of them is named Muddy, a tech genius and the other is named Izzy. She is a keen researcher always looking up facts for Saxby. Muddy creates things out of old scrap junk he finds and makes them into amazing inventions like The Whitehouse Bike 2000 which can go really, really fast. (I think I know why my inventor son relates to this character so well). Website searcher for Saxby, Izzy looks up all the facts like how much the golden clasp is worth (see page 121 for The Clasp of Doom).” Coleman liked The Curse of the Ancient Mask best, “although,” according to him, “the others were pretty darned good, too!”

“In The Curse of the Ancient Mask, Saxby is friends with this tall girl from school and her dad is in a company that makes things. His rival company, Posispark set her dad up because they know he likes to buy souvenirs whereever he goes. He goes to Japan on business. Before he leaves he gets this mask from a store and once home, for some odd reason every time he announces something to his family that his company is building, Posispark somehow get the idea and starts building it. To find out what is going on, Saxby steps in to investigate, but you will have to read this book to find out his discovery.” The drawings totally added to how much he enjoyed the book and he’s already asking when the next book will come out! Fishing is good!

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Watch Out For Those Black Lagoons!

mail2Guest Reviewer Derek, from the San Gabriel Valley,  is a 6 year-old currently  in kindergarten. Like his brother Jared, Derek also started to read early. He likes to draw cartoons, play with Legos, and swim.

Derek has chosen to review  The New Kid from the Black Lagoon and The Class from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler.


61lbajtpbql_sl500_aa240_I like all the stories from Scholastic’s Black Lagoon series. My brother and I have read many Black Lagoon books. They are funny and crazy with creatures that are not real. Some creatures in these books have a pickle nose, some have Velcro skin that sticks to everything, some have laser breath, and some like to eat crayons, chalk, and erasers. The drawings of these wacky creatures are funny looking, too!

I like this part in The New Kid from the Black Lagoon book: “Maybe he’ll be a giant chicken, or a bionic turnip with three arms and four legs. If he is, then I want him on my basketball team.”

And in the The Class from the Black Lagoon book, I liked the part where the students are described like this: “Some grow two noses so they can pick them at the same time.” 02615_90Another good part is:  “And they’re always late when they come to school. But they only come when they have highly contagious diseases. When they’re healthy, they stay home.”


Both these stories are mysterious and made me want  to find out what will happen next, but I cannot tell you here.  You will find out at the end of each story.

NOTE FROM RONNA:  While the recommended age is from 9-12, it’s evident that younger children are loving this series!

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Secrets, Asylums and Squandered Fortunes

img_0696Holly, our Guest Reviewer today, is a ten year-old who loves to read, do karate, ice-skate, swim, and play on the Internet. She is also a Girl Scout. She likes fantasy books such as the Warriors series and The Spiderwick Chronicles. She loves to draw cartoon characters and likes to make comic strips. Her favorite color is green. Here’s some of Holly’s advice on life: First of all, don’t tell your deepest, darkest secret to any of your friends because one day they might not be your friends and they will blurt your secret to the world. Also respect all animals. Holly is a vegetarian by choice.  The book Holly has chosen to write about  from Candlewick Press is called  Secrets of Greymoor by Clara Gillow Clark.

34207125Hatte Belle Basket is a twelve year-old girl whose Mother is dead and her father is far away. She lives with her Grandmother in a large house. They are in danger of losing their wealth. They struggle with taxes (but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to Grandmother) because Hatte’s grandfather, Mr. Greymoor (who had passed away some time ago) had lost the fortune, the treasure, the family wealth. Her search for the treasure will take the reader into the world of Hatte Basket. Readers will discover through the main character that trying to be something you’re not is not such a good idea, because Hatte begins to feel very guilty after all of her dishonesty; Hatte lies to her friends and pretends to have maids, and butlers, servants and footman, when really she only has one cook.

The first couple chapters are a little slow, so if you’re looking for something that has a lot of action at the beginning, you might want to try another book. This is probably a good book for patient readers ages 9 through12, just because the plot might be a little confusing for younger readers.

All in all, this was a very good book and I think that it was really worth the trouble. While there were some very disappointing parts in this story, the ending was exceptionally good and I am glad I read it.

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