Book Review Wednesday: Talk Like A Pirate Day

Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day. Don’t ask me why ye’ landlubbers, but I’m right excited like there be a jellyfish in my gut, or like I’ve tapped a few too many casks of rum. So I’m floating out this message in a bottle about some fine books that I’ve been eyein’ for me next journey on the high seas.

There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish, Jennifer Ward, Ill. Steve Gray

Fish swallowing pirates be a regular happening– but in this book, the bloke does some other inspired eating. If yer anklebiters like to caterwaul about old women eatin’ flies, they’ll probably put their mark on this book too. Launches today!

There was an old pirate . . . who swallowed a fish, a bird, a map, some gold, and even a whole pirate ship! Will the Old Pirate sink to the bottom of the deep, dark sea? Yo ho ho! Watch his belly grow! Jennifer Ward’s take on the ?Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly? song is perfectly matched with Steve Gray’s zany digital illustrations

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The High Sky Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, Penned entirely by the hand of Scott Nash

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay The Pirate is an illustrated novel that sets sail on Sept 29th. Capn’ Scott Nash will launch the adventure at Longfellow Books in me favorite city of ships Portland, Maine on October 5th at 7pm. Even a scallywag like me knows not to grab illustrations without asking (unless it’s a bonafide cover) so I’ll send you over to Capn’ Nash’s amazing website to look at the ships, weapons and characters of the adventure.

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay The Pirate, is the first book ever written about one of the most notorious and admired characters in Avian (bird) history. Blue Jay was, on one wing, the most famous and infamous in the land and skies, terrorizing merchant ships that sailed the tradewinds across the Colonies. He and his crew plucked incalculable amounts of goods and treasure out of the sky and, as you will learn from this book, from below ground. On the other wing, through his actions Blue Jay unwittingly became the spiritual leader of a revolution that changed the course of history.

At it’s core, the story of Blue Jay is one of intrigue, mystery and adventure, a seafaring yarn turned on it’ head by tossing a flock of winged sailors in the air, where they swoop and soar in search of treasure and adventure.

Aye’ there be one more pirate tale that sets my toes to itching like they do when I’ve just come back from a long journey at sea and no washin’. That book is Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson. Aye. It’s still in the dry docks but a beauty she is my friends, a beauty she is. She launches in 2013. Keep yer knickers on for now and and ye better be watching this space for more. Until then, Capn’ Caroline and a friend o’mine’ll be teachin’ ye the art of making hardtack for yer next journey on the high seas.

Shiver me timbers it’s time to shove off.

Book Review Wednesday: Middle Grade Reading Round-up

It is very possible that these books will not be new to you. Many of them were published last year or before and have already been nominated and listed. Still, these wonderful books finally made it out of my to-be-read pile and are officially read and returned to the library (and other trusting book-loving souls out there.) I found it interesting that each had a bully character. If you’ve read the books, I’d love to discuss how authors portray bullies and how we can make them multi-faceted. I think that the omniscient narrator in TRUE was especially effective for this.


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Jeremy has a problem. A big problem. An I-messed-up-my-dad’s-beloved-boat problem. He’s ready to make it right but is going to need a bunch of cash to do the job. Enter– the Windjammer Whirl. A contest to build and race a model boat with $500 to the winner.  New problem? Only Cupcake Cadets (similar to Girl scouts) can enter the race. Jeremy and his good friend Slatter don their skirted uniforms and wigs and hilarity ensues.  Eric Luper does a great job making the book light and readable but injects enough heart and growth for the characters so that the story comes off as more than fluff. If your kiddo liked the Fudge books by Judy Blume, they’ll love this novel. This book is a Maine State Student Book Award nominee.


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Ella and her best friend Z share a fantasy world of knights, princesses and chivalry. Thing is, Ella knows it’s just pretend, but Z seems to want to stay there all the time. Ella understands this. A fantasy world is often easier than the one that Z inhabits. Ella protects Z at the same time she deals with her own difficulties: the death of her father, being biracial in an all-white school, and a skin condition that leaves her with patches of dark and light skin.  When a new kid, another Black kid, comes to school he widens her world. Ella grows through the decisions she makes about friendship, popularity, and responsibility. Kekla Magoon writes beautiful, honest characters. This book is a Maine State Book Award Nominee.


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Katherine Hannigan has a knack for pairing wonderful, plucky heroines with quiet small town worlds to end up with more adventure than you may have originally guessed. I don’t want to give too much away with this one. Delly, the main character has been bad, bad, bad news for as long as anyone can remember. With the help of her little brother, and a new friend, Delly turns around the bad so that everyone (not just the reader) can see her inner goodness. Delly is just the kind of friend we all hope to have. The engaging narrative pulled me along, with threads woven from three or four different subplots. I didn’t want to leave the book at the end. While the ending was realistic, it may come across to some readers as didactic. However, there are some problems that kids just can’t solve on their own.


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I’m not sure how one book can have so much humor and pain in the same story but Gary D. Schmidt managed it in OKAY FOR NOW. When agents and editors say that they are looking for a unique and honest character voice, this is what they are talking about. With the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Doug moves to a new town with everything working against him and he manages to rise above his circumstances. I know. I haven’t told you much but I don’t want to print any spoilers. For a better synopsis, an excerpt and a reading by the author (don’t listen if you don’t want a spoiler) check out this page: National Book Award Finalist.  I did have issues with the father’s and Lil’s plot lines, but who am I to criticize Gary D. Schmidt? I’d recommend this for kids 13 an up, but I feel very strongly that kids will self-select material with which they feel comfortable and put down books for which they aren’t ready.

Next week– angsty YA audiobooks…

Book Review Wednesday: Jersey Tomatoes are the Best


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The summer 2012 Olympics in London are only weeks away. After the opening ceremonies, with its choreography and flames, the athletes will get down to doing what they do best– playing their sport. For most of them, it has been a lifetime of preparation and training. Before my son completed school this year, their class read an article about the olympic athletes and the teacher asked, “Do you think that the training the olympic athletes go through is worth it?”

Maria Padian’s Young Adult novel JERSEY TOMATOES ARE THE BEST gives readers an inside look at the training of two high-level female, best-friend, teen athletes. Henry (Henriette) is a tennis champ and Eva is a ballerina.

The book is told in alternating first person chapters with spot-on dialogue and voice unique to each character. Padian keeps the story moving forward, a difficult task with two narrators. She also captures the nuances of each sport beautifully with details that reveal a well-researched story.

The book is emotionally honest and at times, heart wrenching as Eva struggles with anorexia, Henry struggles to rediscover her love of the game, and both girls try to define themselves as separate from their “obnoxious parents.” The book, with themes of body image, family, sacrifice, secrets, and first love, is a thought provoking, page turner.

An amazing summer read. Don’t miss it!

Book Review Wednesday: She Loved Baseball


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The picture book biography is a great way to get kids interested in history. (Previous reviews of PB Biographies here and here.) A good PB biography author needs a hook– a place for a young reader to access the story. This entry point is often hard to find. Audrey Vernick found a great hook, a sister’s desire to play baseball with her brothers, in SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY.

Effa’s principal discourages her from playing with her own brothers because their skin is dark and hers is light. This scene sets the reader up for the story of Effa’s tenacious resistance to the segregation and bigotry of 1930’s and 1940’s and her love of baseball.

Effa Manley became one of the great business women in the Negro League. She cared for her players in the Newark Eagles and was eventually respected by other owners in the league. Especially interesting to me was the fact that Negro League owners were not always paid for their contracted ball players when the players were finally accepted/hired by white teams. Effa changed that with a press campaign. Later, her letter writing campaign in the 1970’s to the National Baseball Hall of Fame started the induction of Negro League players. She was posthumously honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for her civil rights work and her work with the Negro Leagues.

Audrey Vernick’s text is well-suited to the picture book format. It is perfect for older elementary students researching on their own or for an adult read-aloud. The text and images are well-matched by illustrator Don Tate. Tate’s gestural figures and expressive faces pull in the reader into the historical period and the narrative.

Neither women’s history (March) or black history (February) need to be relegated to their  honorary months. SHE LOVED BASEBALL can be enjoyed year round.

Book Review Wednesday: Duck Sock Hop

There’s nothing I like better than getting a new book in the mail. Yesterday, I found this…


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DUCK SOCK  HOP
Dial Books For Young Readers (2012)
By: Jane Kohuth
Illu: Jane Porter

I loved it so much I had to write about it right away.

Jane Kohuth engages readers and listeners alike on a variety of levels. First we get the  rhythmic text about ducks who like to wear socks and dance, with playful, spot-on, finger- snapping, toe-tapping rhyme. On second look, the parent reader can point out a variety of concepts: shapes, colors, opposites (right/left, high/low) numbers “three ducks boogie, one duck rocks. Two ducks stop and trade their socks.”

The wonderful thing about this book is that it is a perfect example of how a picture books can include a plot arc with a conflict. (This is something that I often have to mention in editorial situations.) After the ducks boogie and rock, they dance holes in their socks. Kohuth gives enough fun-loving time at the beginning of the story for the readers to fall in love with, and really care for the ducks, so we really feel sad when the dancing is interrupted. The change of mood also adds much needed change-up to the rhyme and rhythm. The adult-reader gets a chance to involve the child listener, “What are the ducks going to do?” The solution– Band-Aids and snacks, make ducks infinitely relatable to the toddler set.

Debut illustrator Jane Porter places the brightly colored ducks on fields of white. In the following video she describes her process. She draws using india ink and often uses a stick as her drawing tool.  Readers of DUCK SOCK HOP can feel the dance-y movement in the gestural quality of her drawing. Next, she layers on color and texture digital. In this book, the duck feathers and the sock details both have a wonderful print feel.

Jane Porter Interview

If your kiddo liked…


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or…

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They’ll love DUCK SOCK HOP!

Book Review Wednesday: At the bookfair.

Well friends, Creative Chaos finally broke the 100 views mark on Monday’s post, The Children’s Book Industry, a gendered affair.  Feel free to keep commenting there about your thoughts and ideas regarding the issue. It is obviously on the minds of many and also obvious that while valuing ourselves and our work is important, we can only go so far when limited by societal structures, budgetary constraints, and national policy that doesn’t support women, children, and families. Vote your interests.

TODAY… The Bookfair!

This week the Scholastic Bookfair visited my child’s elementary school and I volunteered. Yes, I know– therefore taking four hours away from my writing. However, I was able to watch kids and books and that is an eye-opening experience.

What they wanted:
It is true that many of them had five dollars or less and were gung ho to skip the books all together for a chance to purchase a pencil with the animal toppers that bug out their eyes when you squeeze. (huge hit) Diaries with locks for boys and girls also got a lot of touch time.

The money limit meant that they had to skip new releases. The big winners were mass market titles such as tie-in books Star Wars and anything lego was big with guys. Selina Gomez and iCarly, and Bad Kitty with girls. Ellen Miles has a series called Puppy Place that 2nd and 3rd grade girls tended to gravitate towards. The covers are super cute as was the book Little Pink Puppy about a piglet raised by a dachshund.


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The Titanic was represented at the Fair but I didn’t see a lot of kids gravitate towards it.

I did get asked for the Hunger Games more than a handful of times but since this was an elementary fair it wasn’t present. Sort of surprised since Allie Condie’s, Matched series, Legend, and the Patterson Witch & Wizard books were all on hand. 

Overall, the kids were asking for adventure, and animals. Can’t be more succinct than that.

My favorites from the fair:


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From Indiebound: Caroline lives on Meadowview Street. But where’s the meadow? Where’s the view? There’s nothing growing in her front yard except grass. Then she spots a flower and a butterfly and a bird and Caroline realizes that with her help, maybe Meadowview Street can have a meadow after all.

My take: On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole, is a quiet picture book about the beauty around us when we appreciate nature and don’t try to control it. This PB was a bargain at $2.50 at the fair.


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From Indiebound: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My Take: The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate (yes the Animorphs author) is told from the point of view of Ivan, a silver back gorilla. This makes for a visually interesting book with short sentences and paragraphs. Readable and well-designed.


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From Indiebound: A reality-bending adventure from a Newbery Honor-winning author. Siblings India, Finn, and Mouse are stunned when their mom tells them they are flying that night–without her–to their Uncle Red’s home in Colorado. But things take an even more dramatic turn when their plane lands in a very unusual place. A mysterious driver meets them at the airport; when he drops them off at their “destination,” each kid suddenly has a clock with a different amount of time left. If the time runs out, they have to become permanent citizens in a place they don’t recognize or understand. Only if they work together can they call the driver back to help get them where they really belong. Suspenseful, funny, dramatic, and thought-provoking, this is a book that will stay with you long after you read the incredible ending.

My Take: Gennifer Choldenko brought us AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and its sequel AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES. My boys and I were riveted by her storytelling in those books. NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT was on the Spring 2011 Indiebound NEXT list.

Enjoy your reading!

Book Review Wednesday: Middle Grade Book Talk

Still I Read
by Anna J. Boll (with apologies to Ms. Angelou)

Baseballs slump on backstops
games unable to proceed
Worms drown on the blacktop
but still I read.

Yes, it seems that the only thing that I can find motivation for these rainy, rainy days is reading. If you  are looking for new books to place on the top of your TBR (too-be-read) pile, look no further than today’s Middle Grade Books. These brand new releases are sure to be a hit with savvy middle grade readers. First on the list is the ONE FOR THE MURPHY’S. (Happy Book Birthday, Linda Mullaly Hunt!)


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Linda’s summary:

In the wake of heart-breaking betrayal, Carley Connors is thrust into foster care and left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family.

Carley has thick walls and isn’t rattled easily, but this is a world she just doesn’t understand. A world that frightens her. So, she resists this side of life she’d believed did not exist with dinners around a table and a “zip your jacket, here’s your lunch” kind of mom.

However, with the help of her Broadway-obsessed and unpredictable friend, Toni, the Murphys do the impossible in showing Carley what it feels like to belong somewhere. But, when her mother wants her back, will she lose the only family that she has ever known?

My take:

Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s debut novel explores the conflicted feelings of Carley Connor as she leaves a dangerous home situation to join the foster care system and live with the Murphy family. Vaguely reminiscent of The Great Gilly Hopkins, Lynda Mullaly Hunt creates a story all her own with honest emotion and believable dialogue. Carley’s relationship with Foster Mom Julie Murphy is heartening and evolves beautifully.

For a sneak peak of the first chapter take a look on Linda’s website. (Growing book lovers tip: read this aloud to your middle grade students/kids. Who can resist a book after hearing the first chapter.)


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SEE YOU AT HARRY’S also launched this week (Happy Book Birthday, Jo!). When I asked her agent about this book before the launch he said, “Bring your tissue box.” Jo Knowles (LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, JUMPING OFF SWINGS) recently won the SCBWI Crystal Kite for her novel PEARL. Jo is a wonderful and giving writer. If you are a writer, don’t miss her blog with Monday Morning Warm ups.

From the Candlewick site:

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

My take:

With SEE YOU AT HARRY’S, Jo Knowles has given us a book that rings with emotional truth. In another author’s hands, the themes of family, self-discovery, and grief could feel heavy-handed or didactic. This reader never felt manipulated. In contrast, Knowles reveals a pathway into a very real family of six, each character beautifully whole and fabulously flawed. The plot was surprising and full of tension.

So there you have it. Book Review Wednesday (on Thursday) and plenty to read. Remember to support you local indie bookstore!

Book Review Wednesday: A Wreath for Emmett Till

Recently,  the name Emmett Till has surfaced quite a bit in relation to the  Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Houghton Mifflin’s teacher guide to A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL gives the following short explanation of Emmet Till’s death.

Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at or speaking to a white woman. Though two men were tried for the crime, they were acquitted; no one has been convicted for Emmett’s murder. In 2004 the U.S. Justice Department reopened the case based on new evidence brought to light by two documentary films.


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Marilyn Nelson’s  A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL is a heroic crown of sonnets– a sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets, in which the last one is made up of the first lines of the preceding fourteen. The final poem is also an acrostic that reads RIP Emmett L Till.

The book was published in 2005 and won the 2005 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award, a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. Nelson is not a stranger to awards and prizes and holds three Coretta Scott King honors for her books EMMETT TILL, FORTUNE’S BONES, and CARVER and the Newbery Honor for CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS.

With all of these awards, my opinion is unnecessary. Instead, this posting is a way to alert those of you interested in poetry and social justice about this sophisticated, complicated, and emotional book of poems.

I mentioned in a comment last Wednesday that we learn and retain new information when we have a scaffolding of previous learning upon which to hang the new knowledge. To this end, EMMETT TILL came across my desk at just the right time. I happen to be completing my first reading of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The classic courtroom and coming of age novel transported me to the deep south in 1935. While writing this post I also found out about “Strange Fruit” the 1936 poem about lynching referenced in EMMETT TILL. That poem was published by Abel Merrapol and made popular by Billie Holliday.

It is the season of Easter and martyrs, death and rebirth. Further, it is the season of Passover. I spent this afternoon teaching children about the importance of remembering  history so we will not be doomed to repeat our mistakes. Each year, Jews try to put themselves ourselves in that place of slavery, and deliverance so that they we will not allow slavery and injustice to happen again. But injustice is all around– in far away lands and close to home.

The poems of Marilyn Nelson remind us of this. Below is the fifth stanza, and I’m taken with how it captures my feelings for Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Your only child, a body thrown to bloat,
mother of sorrows, of justice denied.
Surely you must have thought of suicide,
seeing his gray flesh, chains around his throat.
Surely you didn’t know you would devote
the rest of your changed life to dignified
public remembrance of how Emmett died,
innocence slaughtered by the hands of hate.
If sudden loving light proclaimed you blest
would you bow your head in humility,
your healed heart overflow with gratitude?
Would you say yes, like the mother of Christ?
Or would you say no to your destiny,
mother of a boy martyr, if you could?

This book crossed my path at the exact right time.

While researching this post, I found a video of an hour long speech/reading that Ms. Nelson presented at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. The section of the video on this book starts around 15:00-34:00 and she discusses the heroic crown of sonnets structure and the final acrostic poem. She also reads the entire book in the most melliflulous voice.

If you are interested in more information about Ms. Nelson, please follow the links to some of these other online resources.

There is an NPR interview with Nelson who was the Connecticut Poet Laureate at the time.

More about Marilyn Nelson at the Poetry Foundation here.

And a ton of links at Teaching Books including slide shows, videos, and other websites.

Book Review Wednesday: Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen


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OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
March 13, 2012, 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0385740524

Donna Gephart won the 2009 SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor award for her debut novel AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! In OLIVIA BEAN TRIVIA QUEEN, Gephart’s third novel, the author known for her humor does not disappoint.

Olivia Bean has some very clear cut goals. She wants to be better at geography. She wants her father’s approval. She wants a friend. Olivia is sure that the path to her goals is to be a contestant on kid’s week of the game show Jeopardy!. This course of action is not far fetched. All the Bean’s are trivia crazy from Olivia, to her kindergarten brother Charlie, to her absent father. In fact, the bits of trivia that pop up throughout Olivia’s day successfully develop her character and keep the story moving forward.

Gephart creates many true-to-life characters who are full of faults. Perhaps the most flawed is Olivia’s father. An obsessive card player and gambler, he left Olivia’s mother and moved West with Olivia’s best friend’s mother. Just this is enough to turn a reader’s stomach, but Gephart doesn’t stop there. This father schedules calls with his kids and doesn’t follow through. He brushes Olivia off when she needs his support, and he shames her about the challenges she has with geography. Still, Olivia loves him.

Charlie, a five year old who hardly remembers his father, is just as enamored of trivia as Olivia but he prefers the gross variety. If you want to know how many bacteria there are in a square inch of armpit, or why a flamingo pees on its own leg, Charlie Bean can tell you that. Charlie is a constant source of comic relief in this sometimes very serious story. Gephart writes kindergarteners well and the dialogue between Charlie and Olivia is authentic, funny, and often heart warming.

Olivia lives with her journalist mother and almost step-dad Neil. While both are supportive and attentive, Olivia misses her father. She also misses being her mother’s confidant– a relationship that often occurs between a single parent and the oldest child. As the family faces money issues, Olivia matures and comes to terms with the fact that Neil is Mom’s new main source of support.

The book is written in first person present tense. This point of view transmits a sense of urgency– not only the reader, but also the narrator, is unaware of what comes next. Sometimes, the present tense can seem self-conscious and jars the reader out of the story. This was the case in OLIVIA BEAN. The benefit of this technique is that neither readers nor Olivia know if she will make it onto or win Jeopardy!. However, a past tense telling would have been just as exciting and more in keeping with the middle grade genre.

There are subtle chuckles tucked throughout OLIVIA BEAN TRIVIA QUEEN as well as a few laugh out loud moments. In this fast paced story for middle graders, the humor is a successful vehicle for more serious and skillfully handled coming of age issues.

Book Review Wednesday: The Girl Who Could Silence The Wind


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Sonia Ocampo’s birth coincided with a terrible storm, but as soon as she was born, the winds went away leaving her family and the village to believe that she had a direct line to God. Her miraculous ability to silence the wind is both her blessing and her curse. In “The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind,” as in her middle grade novel, “Milagros” (Candlewick, 2008), Meg Medina, who has written for adults and children for 15 years, explores the power and pitfalls of the miracle.

At sixteen, Sonia has taken on the maladies, prayers, and dreams of the entire village. She is weighed down by milagros (tiny hand-forged prayer charms) which she wears on a shawl. While many people in Sonia’s fictional mining village make the journey North to pursue economic opportunity, Sonia is the anchor of faith for the village and is unable to explore her own dreams.

Sonia’s village might be in Mexico or Central America but the reader is often unsure. With lyrical writing, Medina creates a fictional world which skirts the edges of reality and magic. The reader is covered in the dust of the mountains, he can hear the promising whistle of the train that runs to the capital, and feel the weight of the milagros on Sonia’s shawl.

The range of female characters in the book is especially compelling. Sonia’s Tia Neli is strong and street smart. Sonia’s mother, while quiet, has a silent strength about her. Conchita Fo, the bar mistress is a wonderful mix of beauty and beast.

Sonia is the strongest of all. Throughout the book she struggles with her faith, with the lack of opportunities in her village, with love and with loyalty. Sonia journeys from her small mountain village to the capital city but ends up using knowledge from her village life and family to finally her solve her problems.  Intelligent, ethical, and empathetic, Sonia, who was born with the burden of a miracle, takes back her life and destiny.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, Sonia survives a storm, meets characters who challenge her values, journeys far away and back again only to learn there’s no place like home.