Illustrator of the Week - Russ Daff

Since graduating from Falmouth School of Art in 1993, Russ Daff has enjoyed a varied career. For eight years he worked on numerous projects in the Computer games industry, producing titles for Playstation and PC formats. Designing a wide range of characters and environments for these games developed a strong sense of visual impact that was later utilised in his illustration and comic work. Russ now concentrates on his illustration and cartooning, full time. He has worked for a broad spectrum of clients. His artwork has been used for books, magazines, posters, brochures, Ecards and exhibition stands. He currently lives in Cambridge, UK.

Coming Soon: September 1

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

It's finally here. The highly anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games. Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Viola in Reel Life by Adrianna Trigiani

I just realized that I accidentally shelved this book, not knowing that it had not been released yet. I sure hope this does not get us into any trouble. I'm marooned. Abandoned. Left to rot in boarding school . . .Viola doesn't want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world. Ick. There's no way Viola's going to survive the year—especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera. Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life. But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in.

The Stonekeeper's Purse (Amulet, Book 2) by Kazu Kibiuishi

Emily and Navin's mother is still in a coma from the arachnopod's poison, and there's only one place to find help: Kanalis, the bustling, beautiful city of waterfalls. But when Em, her brother, and Miskit and the rest of the robotic crew aboard the walking house reach the city, they quickly realize that seeking help is looking for trouble, dangerous trouble. The Elf King's son, Trellis, is still after them, but this time he's accompanied by a mysterious and dangerous guard, Luger. Then an equally mysterious fox, Leon Redbeard, steps in to help. This new fox friend offers to take Em on the perilous trip up Demon's Head Mountain to find the antidote she needs. Miskit is suspicious, Navin is worried about being left behind, and Emily is in the toughest spot of all. She's got to let loose the power of the amulet—without losing herself!

Dragon Kiss (Tales of the Frog Prince) by E.D. Baker

Audun is a teenage ice dragon in love...with a human princess. Can he become human and win Millie's heart? Audun is on a quest to find Princess Millie, and to become human in order to win her heart. But The Dragon King has set out a number of tasks Audun must perform before he is permitted to even try to woo Millie...and each one is filled with E. D. Baker's signature adventure and hilarity as this dragon-turned-human-turned dragon and back again battles sea witches and warlocks both familiar to readers of the series, and altogether new. A fantastic stand-alone fairy tale that brings new life to this wonderful series.

Book of the Week - The Odd Egg

During my shelving excursions in the bookstore, I often run across books that beg to be read, right then and right there, no matter if I am on the clock or not. Of course, I do not do this with middle grade or young adult, but picture books are great because they only take a moment and almost always make me smile. Almost. Sometimes I find some picture books to be rather shocking. Today I ran across a book called The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. I have featured Ms. Gravett as an illustrator on this site previously, so I quickly snatched it up and read it through.

The story is about a duck who cannot seem to lay an egg. While all the other animals lay eggs and wait for them to hatch, duck doesn't have one. Until she discovers a very odd egg. A big giant odd egg with green spot. The other eggs all hatch revealing the various baby animals. They all laugh at duck and her weird egg. Then the egg hatches and out pops an alligator that eats all the animals and their babies.

Does anyone else find this story a little disturbing? I know it's the circle of life, but this is a children's picture book. I can't read this to children at story time. What kind of message does that send? Don't make fun of people or an alligator will eat you or something similarly terrible?

Forgotten Author of the Week - Eleanor Cameron

Eleanor Cameron was born in Canada, but spent most of her life in California. She grew up and married in Berkeley, California and then later she moved to Pacific Grove, where she lived for the rest of her life. Eleanor is most well known for her series, The Mushroom Planet novels. The novels are set on a tiny, habitable second moon in an invisible orbit 50,000 miles from Earth. The "Mushroom PLanet" is covered in various types of mushrooms and is populated by little green people. The series includes:

Eleanor also wrote a second series called the Julia Redfern series, as well as a few others that were both realistic and sci-fi in nature.
    • A Room Made of Windows (1971)
    • Julia and the Hand of God (1977)
    • That Julia Redfern (1982)
    • Julia's Magic (1984)
    • The Private Worlds of Julia Redfern (1989)

Illustrator of the Week - Diana Sudyka

Diana lives and works in Chicago. Diana started her career as a master printer for Tony Fitzpatrick at Big Cat Press and then Landfall Press. Eventually, she decided to go back to school to get her MFA from Northwestern University. Moving back to Chicago she worked as an archiver. Now, Diana makes her living as a full-time illustrator. She has worked on band covers, book covers, and children's book illustrations. Her most well known illustrations are from the Mysterious Benedict Society, a series of middle grade books.

Book of the Week - Ni Hao, Kai-Lan

This isn't so much a book review as much as a book introduction and discussion piece. I ran across this series as I was shelving. Produced by Nick Jr., the same people who bring us Dora the Explorer and Yo Gabba Gabba, have brought us a new character: Ni Hao, Kai-lan. The show has been airing for a year and a half now, so I assume those with young children would be familiar with it. For me it is new, as the book products are just now rolling into bookstores.

Ni Hao, Kai-lan introduces its viewers to the Mandarin Chinese language, along with elements of Chinese culture and values, multiculturalism (through the diverse backgrounds of Kai-lan's friends), and intergenerational families (like Kai-lan and her relationship with Ye Ye).

Some of the books I have seen so far:
Meet Kai-lan
Happy Chinese New Year Kai-lan
The Dragon Dance
Kai-lan and the Ladybug Festival
Kai-lan's Trip to China
Kai-lan and the Dragon Boat Festival

For my readers who are Asian-American, I wonder what you think of such a series of books and tv. From my perspective, I think it is exciting to see Asian-Americans represented to such young readers and is easily accessible to those of all races and ethnicities. Perhaps because I have participated in Dragon Boat races, that is my favorite book so far. What do you think of this series? Are these books that you would buy for your children? If yes, why?

Forgotten Author of the Week - Arthur Ransome

Born in 1884 in Leeds, Arthur Mitchell Ransome was an English author and journalist, best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons series for children. Ransome received a formal education first in Windemere and then at Rugby School (where he lived in Lewis Carroll's study room) but he hated it, due to poor vision, lack of athletic skills, and not so great grades. Later he attended Yorkshire College, his father's college and studied chemistry. His father died in 1897 and had a lasting impact on Ransome. Eventually Ransome abandoned college and began working as a writing, getting a few low-paying jobs at publishing companies and magazines.

Ransome's first book, Bohemia in London came out in 1907. Two years later Ransome married Ivy Constance Walked and they had one daughter, Tabitha. It was not a happy marriage though and they eventually divorced in 1924. At one point Ransome became embroiled with Oscar Wilde as he wrote about Wilde and Douglas' affair together. It was a

ll rather scandalous, but Ransome won in the end.

During World War I, Ransome worked as a war correspondent mostly covering Russia where he had done some studying for a book on folk tales. Ransome wrote down these experiences in another book published right after the war ended. He remarried Evgenia who he met in Russia and moved her o England where he continued to write on foreign affairs.

Once Ransome had settled down, he decided to write a children's book, Swallows and Amazons in 1929. He immediately earned the reputation of being one of England's best children's writers. Apparently, he based the Walker children (the "Swallows") in the book in part on the Altounyan family who he had a long-standing friendship with. He later denied

the connection, claiming that he only used their names, not their personalities. It upset him that people did not regard the characters as original creations.

Ransome's writing is noted for his detailed descriptions of activities. Although he used many actual places, he invented his own geography. His interest in sailing also became part of his books. A few of the books in the series have a more fantastical feeling about them. The experiences Ransome had traveling around the world can be found in many of his books, from the Amazon to China to Russia.

Swallows ans Amazons was so popular that it inspired a number of other authors to write in a similar vein: mostnotably two schoolchildren, Pamela Whitlock and Katharine Hull who wrote The Far-Distant Oxys, and adventure story set on Exmoor. Whitlock sent her manuscript to Ransome in 1937 who then convinced his publisher to print it.

Illustrator of the Week - Matt Rousel

Canadian Illustrator Matt Rousel has not earned much acclaim in the US. Yet. However, Rousell's unique use of clay and computer animation have made his illustrations sought after in his native country. So far his books are only in French as is much of the information about the author, but never the less he is a fascinating illustrator and I can't wait until he begins creating art for books in English.

Book of the Week - Lawn Boy

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

This is a GREAT read for kids and adults! It starts with a gift of an old lawn mower and turns into a million dollar business run by a 12 year old kid who accidentally becomes rich with a grass-cutting business. This book explains the concepts of supply and demand, starting a business, capitalism, stock market; it's entrepreneurship at it's best!

LAWN BOY provides some quick entertainment. It's a very manageable read at less than 90 pages. Readers are treated to quite a few laughs and a little business education.

The main character is a 12-year-old boy. His grandmother gives him a riding lawn mower for his birthday. She says it was his late grandfather's mower. Miracle of all miracles, the thing actually works, and he sets about mowing their pitiful excuse for a yard.

When he finishes the yard, a neighbor wonders if he can get his own lawn mowed. Soon he's mowing for the whole neighborhood. In a few short days, he has over three hundred dollars stuffed in his pockets.

Arnold, a stay-at-home stockbroker, would like his lawn mowed; but he admits to being short on cash. He offers a deal -- mow his lawn and he'll invest the cost of the mowing in the stock market and hopefully increase the investment. Boy, does he!

Before he knows it, he has a growing business and more money than he can even imagine. He has a stock portfolio that would be the envy of any businessperson. And just think, his only dream at the start of the summer was to have enough to afford a new inner tube for his bike tire.

The problem now is how do you break it to your parents that in five short weeks you have tons of money? Will they believe you?

Gary Paulsen has done it yet again. His die-hard fans will like the story, and reluctant readers will find it a quick and satisfying read. It's also a terrific read-aloud that will have them laughing and teach them a little about capitalism in the bargain.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Julie Andrews Edwards

Many people do not realize that one of the greatest actresses and singers is also an author too. Ms. Andrews has written twenty-seven children's books, her first Mandy. Among her other books are The Last of the Really Great Whandoodles, Little Bo, Dumpy the Dumptruck, Simeon's Gift, Dragon:The Hound of Honor, and The Great American Mousical. Her most recent books from 2007 is wisdom that is passed down from mother to child.

Andrews herself acknowledges that some people see her as a "celebrity author" and in her own words, "This really irritates me." Andrews has been writing children's book for almost 38 years and says that it is a lifelong passion. That passion was first awakened by her father, her encouraged her to read and write through example. For the past 12 years Andrews
has been working with her daughter Emma, writing books that nurture the imagination and celebrate their sense of wonder. Together they have started their own imprint along with Hachette Book Group. Andrews is a huge advocate for children's book and especially poetry, a natural direction since she is a singer. Surely we have all discovered Julie Andrews the is now time to discover Julie Andrews Edwards the author.

Illustrator of the Week - Sarah Hollander

Sarah Hollander is an American artist who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Sarah has won numerous awards as an art director and designer, with a large client list. Her children's illustrations are soft and warm, mixing gouache/watercolors with vibrant colors. Sarah lives with her husband, two sons, a Golden Retriever, a leopard gecko.

Coming Soon: August 11

Evil? by Timothy Carter

Book of Stuart, Chapter 1:10

10 And, yea verily, Stuart did commit the Sin of Onan in the shower. And this was witnessed by his own brother who did cry out unto their mother. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
11 And the townspeople rose up against him and all Onaners, calling upon one another to tear the youthful sinners limb from unclean limb. And there was much pants wetting.
12 And lo, Stuart did join forces with the demon, Fon Pyre, and together they did set forth to discover the cause of the town's trouble.

13 And, hark! A pair of fallen angels would plant seeds of hatred unto the townspeople. And on the seventh day, Stuart did vow to rip the fallen angels a new one and layeth upon them an epic smacketh-down.

Meridian by Amber Kizer

Sixteen-year-old Meridian has been surrounded by death ever since she can remember. As a child, insects, mice, and salamanders would burrow into her bedclothes and die. At her elementary school, she was blamed for a classmate’s tragic accident. And on her sixteenth birthday, a car crashes in front of her family home—and Meridian’s body explodes in pain.

Before she can fully recover,Meridian is told that she’s a danger to her family and hustled off to her great-aunt’s house in Revelation, Colorado. It’s there that she learns that she is a Fenestra—the half-angel, half-human link between the living and the dead. But Meridian and
her sworn protector and love, Tens, face great danger from the Aternocti, a band of dark forces who capture vulnerable souls on the brink of death and cause chaos.

The Monster Variations by Daniel Kraus

Someone is killing boys in a small town. The murder weapon is a truck, and the only protection is a curfew enacted to keep kids off the streets. But it’s summer—and that alone is worth the risk of staying out late for James, Willie, and Reggie.

Willie, who lost his arm in the first hit-and-run attack, finds it hard to keep up with his two best friends as they leave childhood behind. All of them are chang
ing, hounded by their parents, hunted by the killer, and haunted by the “monster,” a dead thing that guards the dangerous gateway between youth and manhood. But that’s not all: shadowing the boys everywhere is Mel Herman, the mysterious and brilliant bully whose dark secrets may hold the key to their survival. As the summer burns away, these forces collide, and it will take compassion, brains, and guts for the boys to overcome their demons—and not become monsters themselves. In this chilling and poignant debut novel, Daniel Kraus deftly explores the choices boys grapple with and the revelations that occur as they become men.

After by Amy Efaw

An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .Before that morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.

And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible— she turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon’s unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.

What If...All Your Friends Turned On You by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sarah James

Sixteen-year-old Haley Miller is back at Hillsdale High school after the holiday break, and she’s finally got her driver’s license! But something fishy is going on. The few people she trusts are now acting less than trustworthy, and she’s beginning to wonder: is she turning into an outcast? Haley was looking forward to her best spring break yet, but now it’s not clear she’ll get an invite from anybody. Maybe readers—with their excellent decision-making skills—can guide Haley back to her rightful place in the social strata. Anything’s possible in this fun series where Choose Your Own Adventure meets Gossip Girl.

When The Snow Fell by Henning Mankell

As it has in the past, the first snow of the year signifies to Joel Gustafson his very own New Year’s Eve. So when the snow begins to fall on a cold November day, Joel gets busy making new resolutions—three, to be exact. As the winter days pass, life becomes ever more complicated. Joel has questions and the answers don’t necessarily come easily, but he is determined to keep his resolutions—for his father, for himself, and for their future.

Henry & The Crazed Chicken Pirates by Carolyn Crimi

Barnacle Black Ear and his band of Buccaneer Bunnies are back! The floppy-eared scallywags are busy — shooting one another out of cannons; swinging from the masts of their ship — too busy to listen when Henry finds a threatening message in a bottle. While Henry works frantically on his book, HENRY'S PLAN FOR IMPENDING DANGER FROM THE UNKNOWN ENEMY WHY WROTE THE

SCARY NOTE, his mates bowl with coconuts or dig for treasure, and his father, Black Ear, bellows that Henry is wasting his time. But when Crazed Chicken Pirates attack the unsuspecting Bunnies, will Henry and his book save the day?

Miss Little's Gift by Douglas Wood

Douglas is the youngest, smallest, and newest student in his second-grade class, and he doesn’t like reading. He doesn’t like sitting still. And he doesn’t like Miss Little, especially when she makes him stay after class day after day, forcing him to sound out lines and blobs and squiggles when he’d rather be throwing a football. Luckily Douglas likes the pictures in the book Miss Little has chosen for him, pictures that remind him of the lake his family visits every summer. Award-winning author Douglas Wood — the boy in the story — alludes to scenes from The Little Island, the first book that enticed him to read, in a tale that will resonate

with many children with ADHD. It is also a heartwarming ode to a special teacher whose gentle persistence changed one little boy’s life forever.

Roberto's Trip to the Top by John Paterson Jr

Today was the day! Finally it is time for Roberto to take his well-earned trip on the teleférico to the top of El Ávila, the mountain overlooking his village. Since Papá has to work, Tío Antonio will go with his nephew, who makes sure to pack his camera so he can share the sights with Papá. Up, up, up, the cable car goes, over gasp-inducing ravines, to an exciting new world of vendors, animals, and a spectacular view of Caracas below. Featuring lively illustrations and interwoven with Spanish words that are translated in a glossary at the end, here is a warmhearted tale of a little boy’s first big adventure without his parents.

Wiggins Learns His Manners by Leslie McGuirk

Wiggens is a Chocolate Labrador puppy who just can’t seem to mind his manners. His parents don’t know what to do, until they discover a place that teaches puppies all about refinement and how to behave — the famous Four Seasons Restaurant! Wiggens is nervous at first, but with the help of a Saint Bernard, he and the other puppies soon learn ten important lessons (and sample delicious food as well). Leslie McGuirk’s playful art and language enliven tips from Four Seasons owner Alex von Bidder in a truly fetching tale about mastering your manners.

Hamlet by John Marsden

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but Hamlet can’t be sure what’s causing the stench. His rage at his mother’s infidelities — together with his greed for the sensual Ophelia and his dead father’s call to revenge a "murder most foul" — have his mind in chaos, and he wants to scatter his traitorous uncle’s insides across the fields. But was it really his father’s ghost that night on the ramparts, or a hell-fiend sent to trick him? "Action is hot," he tells Ophelia, who lives shut up in a tower with her longings and lust. "Action is courage, and reflection is cowardly. Picking up the knife has the colors of truth. As soon as I hesitate. . . ." In this dark, erotically charged, beautifully crafted novel, John Marsden brings one of Shakespeare’s most riveting characters to full-blooded life in a narrative of intense psychological complexity.

Book of the Week - The Curious Garden

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

I stumbled across this book while during storytime. We planted wildflowers, which are currently in bloom on my windowsill.

This charming little picture book creates two very interesting characters
. While out exploring one day, Liam discovers a little tiny bit of green stuff growing on some abandoned railroad tracks. He begins to nurture the garden, which becomes curiouser and curiouser as the story continues. The garden explores the railroad tracks, and then other rooftops, street corners, roads, parks, until the entire city is green and beautiful and all the citizens are helping the curious garden grow.

The pictures have a very classic look, but it is the slow greening of the
pictures that makes it so magical. The first picture is of an old gr
ay city and in the end it is so beautiful and green. What child wouldn't
want a beautiful green garden after reading this book?

Forgotten Author of the Week - Clare Turlay Newberry

Clare Turlay Newberry is a distinguished Caldecott Medal recipient. This doesn't include her numerous nominations and honorable mentions. She began drawing when she was just two, her favorite images being those of cats. She sold her first drawings when she was sixteen. She pursued art studies in Oregon and later in France. Her first picture book, Herbert the Lion, was published in 1931. She concentrated on portrait painting, but in 1934 she turned her full attention to children's books. Her first Caldecott book, Mittens, incorporated her love of cats and drawing, even using some of her neighborhood animals as models. Mittens was described by the New York Times as having "some of the very best cat pictures ever made." Newberry wrote all the stories that accomponied her illustrations, stories that were often inspired by her own daughter and son and their friends. By her death, Newberry left a legacy of beautiful picture books for children.

Illustrator of the Week - Clare Turlay Newberry

If you aren't sensing a theme yet, I am finding it easier to feature the same author and illustrator in one week. Especially now that my thesis is weighing down on me. This week I will feature Clare Turlay Newberry.