Friday, August 19, 2011

Awesome August Reads

We are running full steam ahead into the fall publishing season. The forthcoming months promise to bring many great reads...perhaps the next Newbery, Caldecott, or Printz winners? Or have those already been published? Online chatter about possible winners will increase with the relaunch of the Heavy Medal blog, probably in September. The Horn Book will also host its first Caldecott discussion blog, Calling Caldecott, launch date TBD. There's lots to talk about, so let's get started!

10 Little Caterpillars

Fall 2011 brings several posthumous publications from beloved children's authors (in addition to this month's Bill Martin Jr., this fall will bring a volume of newly discovered Shel Silverstein poems, Eva Ibbotson's second-to-last novel, and a volume of Dr. Seuss stories). 10 Little Caterpillars, originally published in a volume of Martin's poetry, is given a new interpretation in this picture book version illustrated by the fabulous Lois Ehlert. Ten caterpillars crawl, munch, and discover outdoor wonders. These are no generic caterpillars; each caterpillar is its own unique species, which adds a scientific flavor to this counting story.

America Is Under Attack

Several months ago, I began looking for recent children's/YA books about the tragic events of September 11, 2001, in anticipation of next month's 10th anniversary. I was gratified to find early positive buzz about America is Under Attack from online blogs and early reviews. Booklist informs readers that Don Brown "brings things to many an uncomfortable point--that cannot be avoided--without going too far." I've seen digital images of the book (sorry, cannot remember where!); one of the most striking illustrations is that of New Yorkers looking up in horror (or shielding their eyes) at the Twin Towers.

Bear's Loose Tooth

On a much lighter note, we turn to Karma Wilson's latest entry in her adorable bear picture books. Children will definitely relate to Bear's issues over a loose tooth. His friends assure him that it will fall out and another will replace it, but how will Bear eat in the meantime? Of course, the tooth falls out, all is well, and the tooth fairy even brings blueberries.


Fifteen year old Almira is determined that she's going to do Ramadan right this year (last year's fast was foiled by the temptation of Oreos). She reveals her Ramadan experience "in a breezy banter that progresses from the shallow to the insightful as she learns humility, patience, and the importance of faith," according to Kirkus Reviews. Looking forward to this one; most YA fiction that I've read were centered around a Muslim girl wearing the hijab and issues with immigrant parents; this strikes me as a bit different.

Beyond Lucky

Can we make our own "luck?" What does it mean to really be a hero? Those are the questions central to Sarah Aronson's debut novel. Twelve year old Ari is sure, absolutely sure, that the priceless soccer training card that he discovered has changed the luck of his soccer team. That is, until the card is stolen. Accusations are hurled, friendships are threatened, and the soccer team's games are pitiful. What can be done? Kirkus calls Beyond Lucky "solid," Publishers Weekly praises the "graceful storytelling," and School Library Journal notes that "[T]he soccer action will make the story extra appealing to seasoned players, but does not exclude those who are unfamiliar with the sport." Excellent.


Maurice Sendak has not had a solo work published since 1981 (he's collaborated on several projects since then, but nothing that's his creation only). Bumble-ardy, based on his 1970 Sesame Street short film, marks a welcomed return for the picture book master. Poor Bumble-ardy has never had a party! His lucky day comes on his ninth birthday, when a pile of partying pigs surprises him. Those familiar with Sendak's work will not be surprised to find that Bumble-ardy is a bit strange and a little dark. The story has been changed slightly from its original film plot (no more pigs drinking wine at the party).

The Drop

Four teens in training for British Columbia's snowboarding Backcountry Patrollers (rescuing people lost in the mountains) put their skills to the test when a friend goes missing. School Library Journal acclaims Jeff Ross's vivid descriptions of snowboarding and mountain climbing and recommends The Drop to readers who "like sports adventure novels that move at a downhill pace." Cool.

Ghetto Cowboy

Cole's mother has had it with his behavior; hoping that a change in environment will shape him up, she sends him to live with his father in Philadelphia. Cole's father is part of an urban cowboy community dating back to the Civil War that mentors at-risk kids. Cole bonds with a horse named Boo and changes his attitude about his new life. G. Neri based Ghetto Cowboy on the actual urban cowboy communities in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Cannot wait to read this!

The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories

Father Ghost's children just can't go to sleep! What to do? If you're a daddy ghost, you tell your little ghostlings scary stories until they fall asleep. What kind of stories do ghosts find scary? Well, there once was a scary BABY...and one time, a really scary HAMBURGER...and finally....a terrifying GRANDMOTHER. Perfect for young children who want a "ghost story" around Halloween (or any time), but really can't tolerate anything too shivery.

It's the First Day of School--Forever!

Oh, the horror! The king of middle-grade horror returns with a truly frightening prospect: reliving the first day of school over and over again. School Library Journal promises that "kids will love the twist at the end." Can't imagine that this will stay on the shelves long.

Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played With Puppets

Regular blog readers know that I am a huge Muppets fan, so you can imagine how happy I was when I learned that Kathleen Krull had written a biography on Jim Henson. Krull is a master of picture book biographies, and Jim Henson's life story is a natural fit for her talents. A new Muppets movie is set to be released come Thanksgiving time (their first movie since 1999), which will hopefully, along with this book, create a new generation of Muppets fans.


I have a fondness for early chapter books/independent reading books. With a bloated market of 400+ paged chapter books (many of them series), it sometimes seems that short chapter books for the emerging reader are neglected. Thankfully, we have books like Labracadabra. Zach wanted a dog more than anything, but he's rather disappointed with the dog his parents bring home. You see, Labracadabra is no puppy; he's fully-grown, of indeterminate ancestry, is a "used dog" from the shelter, and has a weird name. Zach has an unusual tail, though. A very unusual tail. He and Zach have many adventures in five chapters, which should delight young dog owners and hopeful dog owners.

Lottie Paris Lives Here

A sweet relationship between a spirited young girl and her father or grandfather (we never really find out) is highlighted in this tale of an outing to the park. Looks very cute.

Megan's Year: An Irish Traveler's Story

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has definitely sparked interest in the Irish Travelers community, so I am very curious about this book! Gloria Whelan is one of my favorite authors; although she's best known for her historical fiction novels, she is the author of one of my all-time favorite picture books. I was initially disappointed that this wasn't a novel, but I'm still eager to read it.


Jackson Pearce continues his series of reimagined fairy tales (Sisters Red was his first, and his follow-up to Sweetly will be a retelling of The Little Mermaid) in this Hansel and Gretel-ish story involving witches, werewolves, and candy. Sounds awesome.

This Dark Endeavor, Book 1: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

*Happy dance* I've been waiting forever for this! Kenneth Oppel is one of my go-to recs for YA literature, and the fact that he has a new series out makes me doubly happy. This Dark Endeavor series is centered around a teenaged Victor Frankenstein. Publishers Weekly hails it as being "melodramatic, exciting, disquieting, and intentionally over the top."

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners From 2,000 Feet Below the Desert

Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Marc Aronson captures the dramas, fear, and exhilarion of the Chilean mine rescue nearly one year after the collapse and miraculous ending. It's already received numerous positive reviews.

Whoa! I even intentionally left off some titles that I really wanted to tell you about (in anticipation of reviewing them). August-October is a busy publishing month in children's/YA literature; hope you can keep up!

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