MoonShadow: The Nightmare Ninja by Simon Higgins – Giveaway

Today is clear the shelf day. I’ve had Moonshadow: The Nightmare Ninja (Little, Brown, 2011) on the shelf for quite awhile and, while it might be a great book, I’m just not hearing it call me. So, no review today – just passing it on to someone else who might be interested. On the related note of not judging a book by its cover – that’s really what I’m doing here – even though I KNOW that is often a way to miss out on a great story.  However,  I don’t particularly care for martial arts combat and the cover just yells that out to me – what do you think? Nightmare Ninja is the second book in the Moonshadow series. The first is titled Rise of the Ninja.

At any rate, it may be a great book, especially for kids who are into the action/thriller type of drama – and all those ninja-o-philes out there. It garnered some nice review blurbs from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

So, to win this ARC, leave a comment on this post by October 31st and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

The Amulet of Amon-Ra by Leslie Carmichael: Review and Giveaway

Today, I’m giving away fellow CBAY author, Leslie Carmichael’s midgrade fantasy, The Amulet of Amon-Ra  (CBAY, 2009). I actually read this awhile ago and it makes a  quick and pleasant read for the third through seventh grade set.

Summary: When Jennifer receives an ancient scarab with a hidden compartment, she travels through time and space to the era of the great female pharaoh, Hatsheput. She uncovers conspiracies and tomb robbers, but can she find her way home?

Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Things to like about this book:   Egyptophiles will like this story. It includes a great deal of history and it could be included in a unit on ancient Egypt.

Audience:  Upper elementary,  MidGrade

Reviewed from: Paperback  provided by publisher.

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by October 24th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

Six Foolish Fishermen by Robert D. San Souci – Review and Giveaway

This picture book, illustrated by Doug Kennedy and originally published by Hyperion in 2000, has been re-released by Pelican Publishing this September. Robert San Souci has a ton of stories in and around the children’s book world and he often brings his pen down the bayou to concentrate on south Louisiana culture in his subject matter. His stories are staples in our libraries locally.

Six Foolish Fishermen is an example of a “Noodlehead” story. These stories appear in all types of literary traditions and are probably most well known as the “Foolish Jack” stories. In a noodlehead story, the main characters seem to lack even a modicum of common sense yet they somehow manage to come out on top. The noodlehead story is not written to demean any particular person, rather, it allows us to laugh at ourselves and the weaknesses we all share.

San Souci’s version (a take on “The Seven Foolish Fishermen” folktale) is ripe with Cajun dialect, vocabulary, and altered sentence structure – which may turn some readers off – but it provides a good opening into discussion of the Cajun culture. The six fishermen run into several predicaments they try to solve in the most absurd ways, until Henriette comes along and straightens them all out. It is laugh out loud funny. (more…)

Mixing Media – Pinkalicious, the Musical

Last weekend I took my nephew to see Pinkalicious, the Musical at our local community theater. Surrounded by little girls in pink tiaras, he might have felt slightly out of place. I had a great time, however. In case you are one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t know the story, Pinkalicious is a girl whose obsession with anything pink – especially cupcakes – drives her parents batty and creates havoc as she transforms into a great mass of pinkness.

The wildly popular book has become a franchise with as many possibilities as there are colors in an artist’s palette, I suppose. I’m not a huge fan of  picture book franchises – as I find they often become stilted to fit the marketing department’s expectations, and I haven’t read all thePinkalicious sequels, but the idea of turning the picture book into a musical was fascinating to me.

As is the case when moving from one medium to another, the story morphed a bit. I’m not really going to comment on that. But watching all these little kids in the theater, excited about theater, and excited about their book characters come to life, was quite impressive. It was a nice way to introduce the next generation to community theater.

If Pinkalicious hasn’t made it to your little theater community yet, look for it. It is an interesting experience, to say the least. Next spring our troupe is performing an adaptation of David Shannon’sHow I Became a Pirate. I think I’ll take my nephew back – he should feel more at home among the swashbucklers.

Hero by Mike Lupica – Review and Giveaway

Mike Lupica is a favorite author of the middle school set, especially boys. He’s gained a big following with a number of sports related books that always seemed to stay checked out in my library. Sports books aren’t my favorite but his baseball novel Heat impressed me a great deal.  It was so much more than a “sports” book.

His action fantasy Hero was released in November 2010 by Philomel Books. I am guilty of keeping the ARC I picked up for a looong time, but I’m tossing it up today because it is a quick, fun read that will please Lupica fans, in my humble opinion. I liked it anyway!

I’m cheating today with a blurb from Lupica’s website instead of my own:

“Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man, he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. (more…)

Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors – Review and Giveaway

Today I have a quick review of Suzanne Selfors’ midgrade Smells Like Treasure , Little Brown, May 2011. It took me a while to get into this quirky novel about Homer Pudding and his treasure sniffing dog but I think it will have a good following, especially among upper elementary and middle school boys. Smells Like Treasure  is the sequel to last year’s Smells Like Dog and I feel certain there are more of Homer and Dog’s adventures on the horizon.

In Treasure, Homer’s time has come – his time to take over his deceased uncle’s spot in L.O.S.T – Legends, Objects, Secrets and Treasures – a secret society that seeks out those oddities in the world – but never for personal gain. Of course, his right to his uncle’s chair is challenged by his (former) friend Lorelei. She’s an orphan just trying to get ahead in the world – even if it means stomping on Homer. A quest is set and the contest begins. Selfors’ imagination leads to some terrific inventions – such as the cloudcopter, great discoveries -like musical crystals, and amazing characters, including daft Honorable Lord Mockingbird XVIII. (more…)

The House that Witchy Built by Dianne de Las Casas – Review and Giveaway

This cute, cute Halloween addition by Dianne de Las Casas  and illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker is a take on “The House that Jack Built”.  I know, there are a thousand and one stories built on this framework, but there must be a reason. When Halloween rolled around in my library, the perennial favorite of my kindergarteners (and 1st and 2nd graders) was The House that Drac Built by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Not only because of the myriad of scary creatures but because of the repetition, repetition, repetition. I can’t speak for the rest of the world but my students always LOVED saying the story with me. Ah, the sneakiness of new vocabulary deftly dropped into a familiar chant.

But I digress … The House that Witchy Built (Pelican Publishing, 2011) delivers on its promise of Halloween fun, including sound effects for each story element. Between the creaking, rattling, flapping, cackling and smooching – yes, I said smooching – the reader will hardly be able to hear himself above the din. Holly Stone-Barker uses cut paper and collage for the artwork. Have I ever said how much I like this technique? Well, alot, especially for lower elementary stories. Just look at the cover – kids are going to pick that right up – and every page is just as inviting. (more…)

Why I Write – Thanks Baranoff Elementary Students!

Yesterday I had a school visit to the Buffaloes at Baranoff Elementary School in  Texas.  I had a great time sharing about story elements and talking some about my book, Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate. We even got a little Cajun storytelling in before the end. I’ve been out of the library and classroom for almost two years now and I will confess I miss that daily interaction with the students – although I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day.

Thanks to Book People for setting up the visit and for Madeline Smoot’s service as chauffeur and escort extraordinare! And special thanks to Baranoff’s librarian, Susan Jetton and her wonderful parent volunteers for inviting us and providing such great hospitality – lunch was yummy!

But most of all, thank you to the students at Baranoff. Your energy and enthusiasm reminded me why I write – to share stories with children. This author is grateful for the opportunity to share mine with all of you.

The Emperor’s Army by Virginia Walton Pilegard

Today I’m posting my first publisher requested review. I was excited to have the opportunity to review a few books from New Orleans publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.  A regional publisher, Pelican specializes in “travel guides, art and architecture books, Christmas books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, and children’s books, as well as a growing number of social commentary, history, and fiction titles”. (Pelican website)

The Emperor’s Army: a mathematical adventure by Virginia Walton Pilegard. Illustrated by Adrian Tans. Pelican Publishing, January 2010.

Genres: Picturebook, Historical fiction

When scholarship falls out of favor because the evil prime minister gains influence with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, a scholar and his son escape persecution by hiding in the mountains. They discover a huge project that artists arrested by the emperor are completing: a clay army to serve as guardians in the emperor’s afterlife. After the emperor dies, the peasants rob the buried army of statues, with the aid of the scholar’s son, and stage a revolt. The scholar and his son are rewarded and allowed to live in comfort, continuing to study.

This book would make a nice addition to an elementary school library and could be used as a teaching supplement in multiple subject areas. The rich language will probably require dictionary use by independent readers but provides a great opportunity to expand vocabulary.

Things to like about this book: First, Adrian Tans’ beautiful illustrations place the reader in the moment. Combined with the third person narration, the illustrations make it easy to settle in as though you are at the feet of a feudal elder in a long ago Chinese kingdom. The author introduces math concepts of volume and estimation, which allow for cross curricular usage. There is a brief historical note (which could have been expanded) concerning the first Huang emperor and an art activity for making clay sculptures.

Audience: Lower to middle elementary school. Read aloud in social studies or history class studying ancient China. Supplement to math or art class.

Reviewed from: F&G provided by publisher