It's time for a new books roundup!
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Finally! I've been dying to read this for over a year, ever since I heard that it was Candace Fleming's next project. Fleming is a tremendously gifted author of picture books and novels, but her inventive biographies are her claim to fame. Amelia Earhart has been a fascination of mine since childhood, so I am really excited about this book. Stellar reviews are pouring in, with Kirkus Reviews declaring it "[A] stunning look at a stunning lady" and Publishers Weekly anointing it as an "honest" and "stirring" portrayal.
The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lanie Kittie)
Birthday parties are fun, but we all know that the excitement and stimulation can get to be too much for the birthday girl/boy. The fact that lying and learning about the consequences of lying are major developmental milestones in early childhood means young children don't initially understand that we expect them to be grateful about a present that they don't like or already have. Lanie Kittie, younger sister of Fashion Kitty, is here to help. Lanie demonstrates how to welcome guests ("This is not a good way to welcome a party guest: 'Oh, good, you brought a present. Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie!") and other party etiquette tips. Lanie Kitty tells us that it's very important to make the guests feel happy about their gifts: "Good: Wow! Underpants! I love underpants. I wear them everyday. Bad: Yuck! Underpants! That's the worst present ever! I already have a million of those." We have several manners books, but none are specifically about birthday parties, which are typically huge deals in young children's lives.
Now, here's a story you don't read everyday: a middle-school boy is invited by an alien to go fishing...in space. OK, so nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong! Jason's cat disappears, which is just the first of unusual things (well, other than going fishing with an alien) that happen.
A Call for a New Alphabet
X is tired of being at the end of the alphabet, so he organizes a letter placement revolution. X whips up the other letters into a frenzy ("Q, aren't you bored to tears being stuck next to U? You two have to share nearly every word that you're in."). Kirkus Reviews calls this "[A] clever use of a familiar but not stale premise to clue new readers in to some of our written language's little foibles." Sounds like fun!
Close to Famous
Joan Bauer is one of my favorite YA authors; I can't name one of her books that I didn't like. Her latest covers a lot of issues, including mental illness and domestic abuse (Foster and her mother leave her mother's abusive boyfriend at the beginning of the novel), but Publisher Weekly reports that "[T]he characters' eventual triumphs are the type that the author's fans eat up" and Kirkus Reviews praises Bauer for balancing "these grim realities with Foster's ebullient personality and spunk."
If You're Hoppy
Oh, the eternal "If You're Happy and You Know It." Kids love it, and you can easily adapt it to holidays or other seasonal events (I just used a Valentine's version for my toddler story time and my Sunday School 3 years old class). School Library Journal says this is a "fresh spin" and "sure to be a storytime staple." Sign me up!
The Latte Rebellion
When Asha is called a "towel head" at a party, she organizes other biracial students into a "Latte Rebellion" to raise awareness of students with multicultural racial heritage. Kirkus calls this "compellingly original," while Publishers Weekly hails this as a "thought-provoking account of a girl's search for identity." We're seeing more YA books centered around biracial characters (I'm looking forward to reading Camo Girl very soon).
We can't have enough good racing books. We just can't! This one looks like a winner; Kirkus says it's "full of zooming action and fender-bender drama." I'm all for that.
Pick a Pup
Aaaaand we can't have enough good dog books. Sam and his grandmother go to the animal shelter to find a forever friend. Publishers Weekly enthused over the illustrations' "sturdy, boyish energy" and Marsha Wilson Chall's "spot-on" characterizations. Looking forward to adding this to a dog-themed story time!
Small Persons With Wings
HOLD UP, ladies and gentlemen. Starred reviews in School Library Journal, Kirkus, AND Publishers Weekly. Terrific review in The Horn Book Magazine. If that doesn't make you sit up and notice, I don't know what will. Mellie adores fairies. She's teased for believing in fairies. Imagine her surprise when she learns that her family has a long-standing history of being fairy guardians. Trouble comes when the fairies want a very special ring return. Ruh roh.
Take Me to the River
Hobbs ventures into white-water rafting in his latest nature-themed adventure novel. Thank goodness for Will Hobbs; as Kirkus Reviews notes, "readers who want to avoid the current paranormal or dystopian action-adventure trends can take comfort in a simple man-vs.-nature tale."
Now, *that's* what I call a good cover! Scholastic is advertising this as "The Breakfast Club meets The Blizzard of the Century." Hel-lo! Seven high school students are trapped in their high school during a New England blizzard. The power's down, cell phones are dead, heat's down, pipes are frozen....and not everyone makes it out alive. Eeek! Reviews have been excellent: "solid storytelling" according to Publishers Weekly and "gripping" according to Kirkus Reviews.
If Trapped is too intensely YA for you, then maybe Young Fredle is more your speed. Fredle is a young mouse cast out of his home, after which he must navigate the big scary outside world. But, as Kirkus Reviews tells us, "he discovers the world's an amazing place." Whew! Cynthia Voigt is a legend in children's literature and has won the Newbery Medal (Dicey's Song) and a Newbery Honor (A Solitary Blue). She won a Margaret Edwards Award for excellence in young adult literature. She's been around a long time and has won the most prestigious awards for her amazing books. Here's what The Horn Book Magazine has to say about her latest: "This is a writer at the top of her form, warm without sentimentality, wise without pretension. The territory here lies alongside Charlotte's Web, The Borrowers, and Watership Down, but it is a country all its own." Wow, wow, WOW.
Zita the Spacegirl
Zita's best friend has been abducted by aliens. She must save the day! Kirkus calls this graphic novel "truly out of this world." Very cool.
Whoa! Lots of terrific books there, and it's only February. 2011 looks to be another great year for children's/YA literature. There are so many talented people working in this field!