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The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to Highschool--How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle (Updated Edition) Cover

I went to the library to pick up a book on hold and came across this on the new shelf. And came home and read it straight through. REALLY excellent--probably the best book on the subject I've read. My kids have gone to all kinds of bully discussions at school over the years, and some of the solutions the schools come up with...well. Our favorite (not at this school, I forget which one it was) said, if you find yourself being bullied, what you need to do is fine a lot of friends to stick up for you. Um. Riiight. The whole reason the bully singled you out is because you DON'T have a bunch of friends. So how is that supposed to help?

This book isn't like that. This book is helpful.

One thing I like is how it treats the problem as a complex issue. What is bullying about? Power and contempt. Who is involved? The bully, the victim, and also the people watching (who might defend, join in the attack, or passively do nothing.) All of these players must overcome issues to solve a bullying problem. The book addresses each player in quite a bit of detail, trying to understand motivations for acting the way they do. And then it walks you through how to solve the issue and break the cycle of aggression.

Some things I particularly liked:

(In the section on understanding what bullying is) Teasing versus taunting: Teasing is fun, and done on an equal level of power, and ends when one of the participants is uncomfortable. Taunting is done on unequal power levels, and is meant to be degrading and show contempt.

Telling vs. tattling: If you do it just to get someone in trouble, it's tattling. Don't. If you do it to get someone OUT of trouble, then do it. If it's both, tell. I thought this was a super succinct way to explain it to a kid.

The idea of repentance--helping your child apologize, make restitution, and try to heal the breach. Understanding, of course, that things take time, and the older and more severe the action, the more complicated this is. (It sounds better in the book than in my summary!)

The idea of "creating opportunities to do good"--it teaches empathy and teaches kids to value other human beings. If you do, you aren't going to want to bully someone. Basically, the book promotes talking with your kid, modeling good behavior for your kid, but also putting the kid in the steering wheel to learn by experience how to deal with other people in a healthy way.

The section on dealing with the situation from the bullied side was good, but the one that stuck out most to me was the bystander section. Because we are ALL bystanders. And really, one person CAN make a difference. Some good friends of ours have a son the same age as our oldest. They had recently moved to a new town and he was the new kid in school. (So, every reason to keep his mouth shut and work on keeping those new friends.) The circus came to town, and since homeschooling is illegal in Germany, the circus kids were required to enroll in whatever school they were near. So yes, that means changing schools every few weeks. The other kids started picking on the circus kids. Our friends' son stood up and told them to leave the circus kids alone. And they stopped. He could have stayed quiet, but he didn't. And because he spoke up right from the start, the bullying never had a chance to take hold. I think of that story a lot.

My oldest (now 15) had significant bully issues in 3rd and 4th grade, and so I'm always sensitive to the possibility. The town we're currently in has by FAR the lowest incidence of bullying of any school we've attended, and I've pondered a lot on why that is. I'm pretty sure it's because of all the things the book names--the families in this town are teaching their kids by word, by example, and by providing practical experiences for their kids on how to feel good about themselves and care about others. I know that no place is perfect, but the difference here is striking. I wish it was like this everywhere!

And I guess I've just been thinking a lot about this, seeing how the book I most recently finished writing had a lot of these themes...especially about the bystander part. Which is why this quote stuck out to me in neon lights. It's a quote from Neil Kurshan, from his book Raising Your Child to Be a Mensch: "Children do not magically learn morality, kindness, and decency any more than they learn math, English, or science. They mature into decent and responsible people by emulating adults who are examples and models for them, especially courageous parents with principles and values who stand up for what they believe." And Coloroso continues: "It's important that our children see us stepping in, speaking up, and taking a stand against injustices, be those injustices in the family room, or the boardroom, the classroom, or the city streets. When we do more than give lip service to our beliefs, when we walk our talk, we model for our children ways to be that potent force in stopping the bullying." (p. 167)

Basically, between modeling and giving kids a chance to actually practice it, we teach courage and empathy and kindness. Which is why our friend's son didn't spend hours agonizing. He just stood up for those kids--because he'd already had years of positive examples, and opportunities to learn to care about others.

This is a longer review than I normally do, but the book was really, really good. I hope it reaches a lot of people and spurs a lot of conversations, because it will make the world a better place! free counter with statistics
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Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, Editing, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults
By Cheryl B. Klein
Asterisk Books, New York, 2011

A review by Rose Green

Second Sight is a collection of talks and workshops and blog posts on writing by Cheryl Klein, editor at Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic. Some of these talks have appeared on her web site, and others not. Here they are all collected into one handy resource. If I was leaving the country and could only take a handful of books with me, I would include this one. It’s the single most practical writing book I’ve read.

What this book is not: an introduction to writing and/or children’s publishing. It will not tell you the standard format for manuscripts, nor will it tell you how to write a bestseller. It will not tell you how to get rich “like that woman from England who wrote a book” or how to get on Oprah. It has very few examples from adult books--with the exception of Aristotle’s writings, which should tell you something about the depth and seriousness with which Cheryl regards children’s literature.

Who this book is for: the intermediate to advanced writer, preferably someone who has already completed (or at least is deeply into) a first draft. There is definitely a hole in the market for books for intermediate writers, the ones who are past the introductory stages of how a book is put together but who don’t yet have an agent or editor of their own to guide them. It’s full of practical suggestions for deep revision, for finding those “electric fence emotions” (as she describes the raw feelings of middle school) and pulling them forward to connect with readers in a real, believable way. The book itself is written with authority; not just because of Klein’s editor hat, but because she herself is an excellent writer, particularly gifted at pinpointing and expressing plot structure, voice, characterization—in short, the underpinnings of a novel.

Some topics covered in the book: The Annotated Query Letter from Hell, back to back with an example and discussion of a good (real) query and why it works. Deep discussions of character, plot, theme, and voice. An excellent tutorial on how a picture book is put together, complete with a sample storyboard (which my daughter had me read to her--twice). An entire chapter detailing the editing process of one of her author’s books. (Note: if you think all the revision is over once you sign a contract, this chapter will be very eye-opening!) A revision checklist for writers. And more. If you are most concerned with getting the emotional heart of a book right, whether serious or funny or whatever, this is the book for you.

The only warning I need to give is that you may find yourself stopping often to put the book into practice. As I was reading it, I also happened to be revising a first draft of a book of my own, and found myself diving back and forth between my draft and this book, making notes and thinking through character arcs. So, bring a pencil when you sit down to read!

Second Sight will be available in February 2011 and further information about ordering can be found at Cheryl’s web site, www.cherylklein.com.
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Starcrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2010
351 pages

Digger doesn't much care about the politics of those around her, as long as her employers pay her well. She's a thief and a messenger, and together with her partner/boyfriend Tegen, has done pretty well in the city of Gerse. But the last bundle of letters ended up costing Tegen's life and her safety. Fleeing from the Greenmen--the Inquisition-style enforcers of the worship of Celys--she joins up with a boatload of rowdy noble youth going home from a night of carousing. Quickly she transforms herself into a ladies' maid and goes off to their mountain fortress, where she expects to enjoy a brief respite from her problems and then continue on her flight. But just after all the houseguests arrive, an avalanche seals off all exits, trapping her inside with a man who knows exactly who she is and who wants her to do a dangerous and duplicitous job for himself. A job that could just spark a civil war.

Recommended for readers who love fantasy and mystery and alternate worlds and plucky heroines and excellent writing and series novels (because two more are coming!). Also readers who enjoyed A Curse Dark as Gold (by the same author), as well as books by Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, and Megan Whalen Turner. Read it today!
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If you read Ingrid Law's SAVVY of a couple years ago, you have to read SCUMBLE! And even if you missed the first one, don't worry, they're companion novels, and you don't have to read them in any particular order. If you haven't heard of them yet, well, Walden Media is making SAVVY into a movie, so chances are you'll meet up with it eventually. But why wait? Read it today!

SCUMBLE is lovely. It's one of those books you read (and reread) as a kid that becomes a part of you. The main character is Ledge, younger cousin to Mibs, who you met in SAVVY. In this kind of family, there are a lot of changes that come when you turn 13. Not the least of which is that you get a savvy--a peculiar-to-you talent that no one else can do. Like the ability to can radio broadcasts in jars. Or the ability to stir up a hurricane. Or have electric charges come out of your fingertips. Ledge is excited to get his savvy--until it hits. His savvy is breaking things, and at the rate he's going, there won't be much left to break soon. Keeping the damage under control while his family goes to a wedding at Uncle Autry's farm in Wyoming is tricky enough. Throw in a nosy neighbor girl and her determined-to-own-the-town father, and Ledge's problems have only just begun. Highly recommended!
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1. I'm going to a conference tomorrow! Between a baby, no money, and distance, I let my SCBWI membership lapse a couple years ago. I'm in an in-between blind spot of SCBWI's, anyhow (neither new nor published). But this conference features Cheryl Klein, editor extraordinaire at Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, and I'm going to learn to be a better writer. My kids are somewhat in awe that I will be hearing and possibly meeting the US continuity editor of the Harry Potter series.

2. Must find something to wear to conference. It occurred to me recently that I don't really have a lot of conference-like clothes. This might be tricky, as the car is getting an oil change + extra work done this morning, and I am carless.

3. Everyone else is excited because they're going to see their cousins while I'm at the conference. The girls especially--it will be all their girl cousins but one.

4. Read so far in September (not many, as we've been getting settled and I've had to request quite a lot at the library):

If a Tree Falls at Lunchtime, Gennifer Choldenko. Nicely-spun contemporary about a white girl and a black boy who find out they have an unexpected connection/secret. Some nice humor in there to offset the issues.

Diamonds in the Shadows, Caroline Cooney. I really liked this one. Usually I enjoy her work as something light (even if it’s a mystery/thriller, it’s pretty far removed from my own reality). This one was a thriller but the characters were African refugees and the Connecticut family who hosts them—as well as the fifth refugee, who is exactly the kind of man most refugees left Africa to get away from. Cooney’s church sponsors refugees and she was host for a month, so between her thriller background and her real life experience, it was pretty compelling.

Daddy Long-Legs, Jean Webster (reread)

Dear Enemy, Jean Webster (reread). This is the sequel/companion to the above book. Something about the voice (especially in the first one) reminds me of [livejournal.com profile] pixiechick_sw . It was written possibly even before WWI, and is just about as far from something like Hunger Games as possible. Not that I don't enjoy high drama--but sometimes you just want a friendly book, you know?

, Neal Gaiman and Michael Reaves. Definitely a boy book. Originally developed for TV but novelized, instead. There was a bit of psychic distance in it for me, but the idea was interesting, and the males in my family all liked it. 

The Princess and the Snowbird
, Mette Ivie Harrison. Funny how voice and essence are things you can't mask. Even if the books have nothing to do with [livejournal.com profile] metteharrison ’s postings about triathlons, it's just so obvious that they are written by the same person. I think this comes through clearest in the Hound and her core-deep need to speak the truth. A lovely book (the third in a series). If you liked Martine Leavitt’s Keturah and the Lord Death, you will likely enjoy this series.

5. Off to pack and maybe even write a little. Happy weekend, everyone!
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Hee--if you are looking for a light, fun, girly sort of book, look no further than this:

Desi feels invisible, a little lonely after her ex-best friend dumped her (there was the small matter of Desi's dad prosecuting the friend's dad, resulting in a much-deserved jail sentence...but really, how could that be Desi's fault?). Plus, the best summer job she can find involves wearing a muggy and embarrassing groundhog suit. All she wants is a better job, and to make a difference. Lucky for her, she gets her chance: a job where she fills in for princesses around the world who would rather be somewhere else for a while. Funny and fast-paced, this is a great summer read. Get one for the pink-loving (but smart!) reader in your life today!
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Love historical fantasy? Sea voyages, family secrets, Australia, True Love, and a race for a legendary stone await in Angie Frazier's EVERLASTING. Check out the book trailer, and go here for contest info on how to win free books and stuff!

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I LOVED this book! This was one of the books I went looking for at B&N the other day, and they didn't have it. Which was sad for me, because I wanted it, and sad for them, because I had money burning in my pocket and would have bought it if they'd had it. Instead, I bought nothing. But happy for me, the friends we stayed overnight with last night in Wichita are book reviewers and have great bookstores. I went with them to their local indie and there it was. Yay!

So anyway, if you're looking for a good example of Voice, this is great. Sarah has a way of writing that makes everything, whether it's ghosts or a walk in the park or even her laundry list, sound interesting. The story: Sadie and her sister Zuzu and their father and pregnant stepmother (who they all love, so it's not that kind of story) move from Texas to Salt Lake City so they can help out their elderly grandmother. The house they move into is old and interesting, and they find a small hidden room in the attic that once belonged to another little girl. In the attic is this girl's journal, written during the flu epidemic. They read it together with their next door neighbor, who prefers to be called Belladonna Desolation. (Not, of course, her real name.) There are lots of nice intersecting threads between the present and the past and mothers and daughters and siblings and friends. I loved the idea that everyone is linked to some kind of origin story. There are nice moments of humor and you get the feeling that Sadie would be a very nice friend to have.

I would have loved this book even if I didn't know Sarah, but because I do it was like the enhanced DVD version or something--I remember her talking about going to a Mary Kay party for research, and sure enough, there it was! And all kinds of details that I know come from her own experiences--even though the book isn't an autobiography or anything. But just small details.

My girls have been begging me to read a new book to them (we last finished Vivian Vande Velde's Now You See It, but then we boxed up/took back all the books, and had nothing left to read). I think that they'd really like this.

Also, I'm not primarily a middle grade reader, but every so often a MG book has enough heart or the right kind of heart that I identify with it. So even if you read more YA, I'd still recommend you take a look.

Also Part II: If you like historical fiction I'd recommend Jenny Moss's Winnie's War as well. They are both about the flu epidemic, both have lovely writing, and both have MCs from Texas, now that I think of it, but they are very different. But they give you a sense of what it was like back then.

Go read! :)
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DH travels occasionally, and always buys books in the airport, but his taste is usually...um. He tries, really. But usually we end up tossing the books. (Or maybe that is what is meant to happen? They only sell books you don't want to keep beyond the length of a flight, in case you accidentally leave them on a plane?) Anyway. One book he kept looking at but not getting is the one he finally did buy this last time. And it's a winner.

The premise of Life As We Knew It is thus: an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it closer to the earth, which creates huge tidal waves that destroy large coastline areas, that sucks up volcanoes and creates a mini ice age with all the ash, and that isolates people and cuts off food, water, and electricity. So, not an unheard-of scenario for dystopia. But the thing that made this one different--and much creepier, despite the warmth of the family and friend relationships--was that this doesn't happen in the distant future. It happens right now. And it's really convincing. I don't know about the astrophysics involved, and I did wonder how they got water from their well without electricity, but the rest was so extremely convincing that I wondered what kind of research the author did. I've had to read it in small increments because it's just a little too real for me. Between being a little bit sick, having tornado sirens going off every night, reading about volcanic ash and economic collapses in the news, and still remembering a little too vividly what it was like in the ice storm of 2009 when it was 15 degrees and we had no electricity--and neither did anyone else--well, it's all very close to reality! Especially the bit about spending all day cutting wood and tending the fire and being dirty and not being able to clean clothes and oneself--DH and I recognized so many things we did in that time that I'm thinking Pfeffer MUST have lived through some natural disasters to be so accurate!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make sure we have enough canned food to last until we leave. Then maybe I'll look into the two sequels, The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In.
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One word: Awesome!! Go pick up your copy today!
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Tiger, by Jeff Stone (book 1 of the Five Ancestors series)
Random House, 2005
Middle grade fantasy
Reviewed by Bookworm, age 9

For twelve-year-old Fu, when your temple is being destroyed, there is no choice between running or fighting. It's always running. But Fu doesn't want to run, and instead steals the dragon scrolls from his evil brother Ying. He runs off into the forest only to come upon trouble inside the governor's village where his friend the tiger cub is captured, and Fu is thrown into a bamboo cage. But then he discovers a twelve-year-old named Ma who, despite his ear injury rendering him half deaf (caused by Fu), decides to help Fu when Ying's soldiers attack the village and Fu's father Sanfu (also known as the drunkard) is hit by a qiang. If you want to find out what happens to Fu, then read Tiger by Jeff stone. This book is for both boys and girls, ages about 8-13. If you liked books and kung fu movies, you'll definitely love this series from the award-winning author Jeff Stone.

         Also in this series: Monkey, Snake, Crane, Eagle, Mouse, and Dragon (in order).
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29. Leviathan, Scott Westerfield. I liked this better than his Uglies series, but not as much as Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series. But, I did like the central Europe bit being um, well, central. Home stomping grounds and all. It took me a while to get into it, but now I’m looking forward to the sequel.

30. The Duel, Judith St. George. About the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, both Revolutionary War heroes, both self-made men, wherein Hamilton was killed. Quite horrible to think that people actually did this. Incidentally, Burr’s daughter Theodosia married Joseph Alston of Charleston!

31. Once a Witch, Carolyn MacCullough. Reread. Despite a totally different setting and story, something about the writing reminds me of Jackie Dolamore's writing, so if you like one, I recommend trying the other.

32. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, JK Rowling. Reread, to the girls.

33. Hidden Talents, David Lubar. His first kid book. DH and sons also enjoyed these books; we all went on a David Lubar kick. DH says he likes how Lubar managed to set kids into a reform school and still make them sympathetic.

34. True Talents, David Lubar. Sequel to Hidden Talents. A fun boy book, continuing the adventures of six psychic kids.

35. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Francisco X. Stork. Pancho’s determined to avenge his sister’s murder, but along the way he becomes the companion of a guy dying of cancer, and begins to change the way he sees life and vengeance. About forgiveness and moving on.

36. Mudville, Kurtis Scaletta. I picked it up because the author is a Blueboarder, but it was an awesome book. A curse, two rival towns, and unfinished baseball game from 20 years ago. A kid and his dad and a foster brother. Humor but warmth. Good stuff.

37. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones, reread, to the girls. Great book! I love reading it aloud.

38. Brightly Woven, Alexandra Bracken, reread. It reminds me vaguely of Howl, and I wasn’t quite ready to be rid of wizards, so I enjoyed it all over again.

39. The Line, Teri Hall. Nicely done futuristic story that will continue in a sequel.

40. Incarceron, Catherine Fisher. Very chilling! Incarceron is a prison that is tiny, like another dimension, and creepily alive. Finn came from Outside, and is trying to escape. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden and is trying to find a lost prince. Plenty of twists and turns, only to leave people inside at the end. So now we have to wait for a sequel.

41. Dragonfly, Julia Golding. Fantasy kingdom (no magic) with glorious wars, etc. .

42. Flipped, Wendelin van Draanen, reread, to the girls. They loved it!

43. The Agency: A Spy in the House, Y.S. Lee. (Candlewick) Victorian girl power mystery. Enjoyable and light, although something about it felt a little off (anachronistic attitude much? But that’s the fun fantasy part of it, I guess). Supposed to be a trilogy.

44. Blackout, Connie Willis (the sequel will be All Clear, out in September). One of the characters (Colin) has one of my favorite names. Slow going at first, with several main characters and various aliases. But now I'm quite invested.  Must have sequel!
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It was the Week of the Bird, Week of the House Showing, Week of the Termite Inspection, and Week of Roseola--ack! One more showing tomorrow, and then oh please oh please someone rent this house so it will stop! But at least the roseola is nearly over. I guess that's what PMB has had. Starting Saturday night he had three days of high fever (tylenol did nothing) with even some jerky movement in the night that now in retrospect I wonder if it was febrile convulsions, common with this illness. Then when the fever went away, he broke out in a rash. Doctors claim that it's all over then, that the rash doesn't bother them and everything's cheery. Obviously they've never had to live with a kid with roseola! Because something bothers them! Everyone I could find on the internet talked about how extremely irritable their sweet cherub was, and man oh man is that true. But sometime midway through last night the wakiness stopped and PMB settled down to sleep for real--the first time since Saturday--and this morning he woke up with a real smile. So I am so glad!! I don't think I can stay up one night more!

Books--I finished reading Howl's Moving Castle with the girls. It's a great book for reading aloud--I love the banter back and forth between Howl and Sophie. I didn't like the book at all when I read it as a teen, but then I reread it as an adult and now I love it. Funny how that happens. I'm not even sure I know why I didn't like it--maybe I didn't pick up on Howl's sympathetic side? And the ending is a little confusing, too. What was the curse supposed to do, exactly? But overall I like it.

Then I reread Brightly Woven, by Alexandra Bracken, because it reminds me of Howl and I wasn't quite done with reading about adventurous wizards. I really like how the author uses her own background (she's from Arizona) in the story. It makes it feel quite real and fresh.

Now I'm reading Catherine Fisher's Incarceron. It's chilling and dystopian, so if you like that sort of thing, you'll probably like this. Not anywhere near as violent as Hunger Games, but compelling in much the same way. I find that dystopian novels don't fill me much--I want to be in a world when I read, but the world I want to be in usually does not look dystopian!--butevery now and then I can still enjoy one.

What about you? What have you been reading?
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Okay, so today is a double review day. Hooray for books! 

It's been raining in Mudville (Moundville) for 20 years. Ever since the unfinished baseball game between Moundville and Sinister Bend, the game Roy's dad helped drag out to a draw--which is better than the usual result (SB's win over M).

Then one day, Roy's dad takes in a foster kid about Roy's age. And then the rain stops. Just like that.

Roy's a baseball player. And the foster kid, Sturgis, is an awesome pitcher himself. With the rain gone, it's time to reopen the town's favorite sport, and soon they've got a team together. And it's time to take on Sinister Bend once and for all. 

Mudville is about fathers and sons and friends and ancient curses and oh yeah, some baseball, too.

What I really liked about this book was the way the humor and warmth are so perfectly balanced. Oh, and some of the unexpected plot turns, too. Of course there are much bigger ones as the story goes on, but even at the very beginning, where Roy comes home to find that surprise! his dad's taken in this kid, you're totally not expecting it. And then there's this great conversation between him and his dad about it while they're making dinner. It's this ping pong game of deep questions about Sturgis (the kid), light commentary about dinner--just balanced enough to show that Roy and his dad have an easy, open relationship without getting bogged down into depressing detail. The humor and the more serious stuff is perfectly balanced so that the meaningful stuff means something.

I'd recommend this to any MG boy who likes humor and wants the good guys to win. It would be a great reading book for a school class because it's great writing, but kid-interesting, too. web stats
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Please welcome my hopefully semi-regular guest reviewer. He's 9 and he's mine and he goes by the name The Bookworm. Here's his review of The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor.

Alyss Heart has been abducted from her rightful place as the heir to the throne of Queen of Wonderland, and her murderous Aunt Redd has kicked her aside and stolen the throne for herself. Alyss escaped into the Pool of Tears, a place by Wondertropolis, the main city, and into the real world. She becomes lost in it and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must find her on a long, fruitless search throughout the entire world, arriving in puddles where no puddles should be, through the Pool of Tears. Eventually she finds a family willing to adopt her. She tells the heartbreaking story of how she got into the world to a man named Lewis Carroll. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name wrong! And so after thirteen long years and a near marriage, she is brought back and must battle her Aunt Redd to regain her rightful place as Queen of Hearts.

I liked this book because it's an unusual version of a popular story. It is the first in a trilogy and the other two books, in case you're interested in them, are called Seeing Redd and ArchEnemy. I'd recommend this book if you liked Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This book is for anybody who is looking for a good story but I'd most prefer if people read it who were from ages 9-99. web stats
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  1. Ring of Fire, PD Baccalario. MG, lots of plot and four MCs. Cool setting (Italy). A little too light on characterization for me, but right for someone else.
  2. Syren, Angie Sage. Book 5 of Septimus Heap. Fun MG series that has started to grow on me. 
  3. Alcatraz vs. the Scrivener’s Bones, Brandon Sanderson (reread)
  4. At the Crossing Places, Kevin Crossley-Holland (reread) *love*
  5. The Book of the Maidservant, Rebecca Barnhouse. Based on real people who did a pilgrimage to Rome. A mean lady who thinks she’s pious mistreats her serving girl until the girl finally finds a way to escape. I wanted to kick Dame Margery so hard!
  6. Bobby vs. the Girls (Accidentally), Lisa Yee. Heehee, this one sounds like my second son’s life! Fourth-graders trying to be friends even though one is a boy and one is a girl—and their friends hate each other.
  7. Dani Noir, Nova Ren Suma. Nicely written MG--if you like mysteries and BW film, this is for you.
  8. Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd. Literary, with a plot, definitely. Plenty of atmosphere, and Irish Angst. Interesting with the history. I confess I’m not so good with depressing endings, but I know this is the kind of book some people really love, and if true for you, I'd recommend it.
  9.  Alcatraz vs. the Knights of Crystallia, Brandon Sanderson. Reread.
  10. Everlasting, Angie Frazier. Ooh, mystery and fantasy and history, with more books to follow. Would make an awesome movie!
  11. A Brief History of Montmaray, Michelle Cooper. The voice is what carries this tale of the last days of the kingdom of Montmaray, a rocky island in the Atlantic settled by the descendants of some people from Cornwall. It’s 1936 and the Germans attack the kingdom of Montmaray (about two and a half families on a rocky island). I didn’t think the bit with the brother and love interest being interested in each other would have been taken *quite* that casually in 1936. The tone of the book as a whole reminded me of I Capture the Castle.
  12. For All Time, Caroline Cooney (reread). It’s a lot shorter than a book today would be, but it was just what I was looking for—stuff happened and True Love found a way. I would’ve liked Strat to realize he was Strat and she was Annie at the end (like in As You Wish), but I’m 99% sure it WAS him at the end. And there was Egypt. And I like the name Strat/Stratton. Reading as an adult, though, I couldn't help wondering if the author was laughing, just a bit, at the drama of being a teenager.
  13. Where the Mountains Meet the Moon, Grace Lin. Very beautiful book! She did the illustrations, too. A series of interlacing Chinese-inspired stories in Grand Fairy Tale style. Won a Newbery Honor.
  1. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. Reread, after reading #11. I seem to wrongly remember more of a resolution at the end.
  2. The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley. Reread. So nicely done! I’m impressed with how there’s only a small psychic distance for the reader, despite the omniscient 3rd person. And just nice worldbuilding, which means it feels real, not made up.
  1. The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han. Liked this one better than Shug—I could relate to the characters better. Thought Han did a nice job of building situational tension—it was like putting a puzzle together from the outside in, instead of a chronological setup. I'm not entirely sure I'm convinced with the boy she chose in the end, but I hear there is to be a sequel, so we'll see.
  2. The Dragonfly Pool, Eva Ibbotson. Reread.
  3. Calamity Jack, Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale. Yay! That library on page 23 or whatever it is? I used to live across the street from it (before it was a library, and back when it was a creepy haunted house condemned building).
  4. The Gate of Days (The Book of Time II), Guillaume Prevost.
  5. The Circle of Gold (The Book of Time III), Guillaume Prevost. I liked this last book the best of the three. Sam does stuff more, instead of just being pulled from one situation to another. I think going into the series I was expecting it to be a bit more literary, but I think it's meant just to be entertaining (and to teach you about a lot of history).
  6. Heart’s Blood, Juliett Marillier. The first adult book I’ve liked in a long time. The book was nicely put together, I cared about the characters, it was an excellent retelling of Beauty and the Beast where all the parts of the fairy tale had an actual reason to be there, and I mostly forgot it was a retelling (something to consider and study, perhaps). Nice and immediate, too.
  7. A Summer of Silk Moths, Margaret Willey (published by Flux). A modern story that’s a tribute to Girl of the Limberlost. Some nice writing, some places that I would have liked to slow down a bit more on (getting the two families and their backstory straight at the beginning was a little confusing). I liked Limberlost, although for today's reader it's true that it's a little too sweet. The mom there has some mental issues and is mean because of it, and you just keep waiting for the girl to fight back, but she's just...sweet. This book really addresses that.
  8. Violet Wings, Victoria Hanley (ARC). I thought this was lower YA, but really it’s more MG. Friends, no romance, and a ton of worldbuilding. It would be a good book for a kid (girl) who reads at a high level but isn't old enough to get romance or deeper layers.
  1. The Miles Between, Mary E. Pearson. This is a great example of magical realism. Real life with a sort of dreamlike unreality to it. Nice book that gradually reveals the MC's secret.
  2. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, David Lubar. Funny, a bit like Wimpy Kid, only in high school.
  3. The Chosen One, Carol Lynch Williams. Chilling story about a girl escaping a polygamist sect after being “chosen” to marry her old, yucky uncle as seventh wife. Williams is LDS (um...those are the people who DON'T practice polygamy anymore) and lives in Utah, and she handles this with compassionate complexity. The girl’s parents are nice and love her, they don’t beat the kids, and they’re a good family. They all get along. But at the same time, they’re scared to oppose their leaders because the wives and kids could be taken away and given to someone else, in a situation that would be far worse and make their lives much crueler. So you can see how someone in that situation might have a hard time getting out. In a sense it's like any other abusive situation--ie, a lot more complex in both cause and solution than lurid media stories would have you believe
  4. Shadow, Jenny Moss (see review previous to this entry!)
  5. Brightly Woven, Alexandra Bracken. I got to see the first chapter before this sold, and really liked it. A well-built fantasy that I'd recommend to people who loved Howl's Moving Castle.
  6. A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner. This one stars Sophos as MC, although Gen is there, too.
I'm trying to cleanse the palate after revising two books back to back, so I'm hoping to add many more books to this list!
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375 pp
Scholastic, 2010 (just released!)

Shadow's job is to watch over the queen and keep her safe. Not a servant, precisely, certainly not a noblewoman, and not even parents or a real name to call her own, Shadow keeps to herself and makes sure not to form emotional ties with anyone. But the kingdom is in trouble, and when the queen is killed, she is suspected. Not sure whether to believe her protests or not, Sir Kenway brings her away from the castle to help him in his quest to save the land. This isn't an urban fantasy, and it isn't a sweet, tidy fairytale, either--both Shadow and Kenway are imperfect people with issues to work through, and over the course of the book, they change and grow quite a bit. I'd recommend this to people who like strong heroines, fantasy in the vein of Shannon Hale (although the tone is somewhat different, it's more that kind of world than others), and also people who enjoyed Winnie's War (which, although a completely different genre, has some similarities in challenges the main characters both face). I remain thoroughly impressed by Jenny's many talents--she's a fabulous writer, a former NASA engineer, and all-around wise, kind person. Talk about using the left, right, and center of your brain! Bravo, and congratulations on your book release, Jenny!
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Don't worry, this won't be my only picture book post--I know there are wonderful ones being published all the time. But today we're doing five that my five kids have loved so much that we've had to either buy it so someone else could check it out from the library, or we've owned multiple copies due to wear and tear, or we can still recite all the words many years later.

1.  Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak. I still haven't seen the film (I know, my bad), but the book encompasses all the wild in a kid, plus the need to come home and be where "someone loved him best of all."

2.  Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss. This is great for kids who can't yet hold a whole story in their heads. They can laugh at the spread about not hopping on pop, or Mr. Brown being out of town (well, they probably won't get the humor of that one yet) and go on to the next thing. And, when they get to be about five, the book comes back because now it's perfect for just-beginning readers.

3.  Go Dog, Go, P.D. Eastman. For some reason our family quotes this one all the time. "Go dogs, go! The light is green now!" Or, "Now it is NIGHT. Night is not a time for play. Night is a time for sleep. Sleep dogs, sleep." "Do you like my hat?" "Yes! I like that party hat!" If you agree that toddlers speak Basic German Shepherd, then maybe you can see why this one is a winner...

4.  Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, by Al Perkins. This may not have won a Caldecott or anything, but the book is copyright 1969 and it's still in print. Does that tell you something? I LOVE the language on this one. It's like a rhythmic song, and the kids just can't get enough of it. If you have a toddler who grooves on rhythm, this is the book!

5.  Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox (ill. by Helen Oxenbury). I know, it's new. But the author and illustrator have been publishing forever, and since every single time we went to the library, PMB ripped it off the shelf with loud squeals of ownership, we went ahead and got our own copy so we could continue reading without overdue fees. Lovely repetition, lots of babies (which is what toddlers like to see, right? I can't tell if they see themselves, or if they see how much bigger they are.) Just a beautiful book that has tons of kid appeal. Plus, I personally love how international the babies are. Most attempts at diversity stop at black and white. This has not only caucasian, Asian, black kids (from various countries), but also Eskimo, Arab, etc.

What about you? Any classics you'd like to add? They can be modern, but generally speaking, ones that have huge kid appeal that get read over and over and over and over.
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And...today's Friday Five deals with books set in far-out places. Seeing as how the golden age of SF is ironically mostly in the past, some of these are oldies but goodies.

Ingathering: The Complete People Stories, Zenna Henderson. Henderson was a schoolteacher in Arizona, and her short stories are well-grounded in everyday life. The People are much like us, another civilization who lived on another planet, that died. The People fled for a new home, and many ended up here. They look just like us, but have some abilities we don't. The stories have a similar flavor to Alexander Key's books. Adult, but accessible to MG and YA.

The Forgotten Door, Alexander Key. About a boy who fell through a hole from his world to ours, who has powers but who knocked his head in the fall and can't remember who he is or how he arrived. It's set in the Appalacians, which you don't see often. Key is of course the author of the much more popular Escape to Witch Mountain, but he has several other lovely books. MG.

The Doom Machine, Mark Teague. This book may have come out in 2009, but it harks back to the age of Key and Henderson. Teague is the author/illustrator of Dear Mrs. LaRue, and his humor carries through in this retro-50s MG novel of alien invasion and space exploration. Definitely to be paired with #4.

The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex. Like Teague, Rex is also an illustrator. This book is also about aliens, but the adventure is on earth, and how the earthlings deal with the invasion. The main character, Tip, is a girl, but the boy has wild boy appeal (I cannot seem to prise it from my 9-year-old son's fingers). JLo, the friendly alien (they are known as The Boov) who accompanies our heroine, is a would-be cartoonist, and art scatters the pages most entertainingly.

Lost Time, Susan Maupin Schmid.
This also came out in the last year or two, only this takes place on an entirely different world. Violynne is the daughter of archaeologist who have disappeared. Naturally, the story ends up following after them. It's an unusual blend of mystery and sci fi and sort-of archaeology. MG, not really "girly" per se, but probably will appeal more to girls than boys.
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The sun is sunny, the sky is blue, and I'm very sorry for all those in the western US who are submerged in rain and snow and storms, because that's how it usually is here.

For today's Friday Five (and maybe every one, we'll see), I'm doing books. My 9-year-old has very wide tastes in reading and was helping me come up with all kinds of reading combinations of five. I have a feeling he has a future in books somehow. However, since it's my blog, I'm starting with my own selection today, which is...

Five Fine First Fantasy Novels

To be fair, I guess I should say that I know all of these people and read some of these books prior to publication (and before some of them were even sold). But they are still lovely. And if you are wanting approachable characters but are tired of species-crossed lovers meeting in biology class, then these may be some good options for you.

1. A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce. This was the first winner of the Morris Award for new authors. It's a lovely retelling of Rumplestilskin, one that makes sense, even, unlike the original fairy tale. And the writing is lovely. YA, but MG readers can enjoy it as well. If you have read this, look for Starcrossed, the first of a new fantasy series by the same author, in the (still sort of distant) future.

2.  Faery Rebels: Spellhunter (aka Knife in the UK), by RJ Anderson. The faeries in the Oak have lost their magic and nobody really understands why. Instead of staying away from humans and preserving the status quo, Knife, the faeries' hunter, befriends and falls in love with a human, and together they try to unravel what happened and how Knife's people can regain what they've lost. Tween, but YA readers can enjoy it, too. A sequel, Wayfarer, comes out in April.

3. Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate, by Donna St. Cyr. Robert's got a problem--actually, more than one. His annoying little sister Janine drank an elixir from a strange bottle and now she's shrunk. The only way to bring her back up to size is to join the secret Syndicate of Cheese his missing father was a member of, find the mysterious cheese of Eliki--and maybe even discover his missing father as well. Plenty of cheese, Greek mythology, and humor in this middle grade novel.

4.  Magic Under Glass, by Jaclyn Dolamore. I was going to wait until the new cover was out to do this, but I feel like discussing fantasy today, so I'll have to come back and change it when it's available. Anyway. This one takes place in an entirely fantasy world, but with a Victorian England feel. Nim's a trouser girl, come to make her fortune, only trouser girl dancers went out of style a few years before she was able to secure her fortune. A change of course comes in the form of Hollin Parry, who wants her to perform with a life-sized automaton that plays the piano. Everyone else has been scared away because they say it's haunted. Nim's braver, though--and discovers that the "haunted" automaton is really a fairy prince who's been magically imprisoned in mechanics. And bad guys are after him... YA, but accessible to MG.

5. Everlasting, by Angie Frazier. High seas! Ancient curses! True Love! Australia! Camille Rowen sets off from San Francisco on her last sea voyage with her father in the wake of her impending marriage. But partway through, her father changes the course of the ship--for Australia, where her mother, long thought dead, is apparently still alive. The ship goes down before they get there, killing Camille's father, and Camille and Oscar, first mate and long time friend (not to mention hot guy) are left to deal with a map, a curse, and a race against rivals to the prize of a lifetime. YA, out in June. First of a trilogy, plus Angie's got a MG mystery series (Suzanna Snow) coming out from Scholastic in 2011.
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