Tag Archives: children’s books

Another World: Children’s Lit

For the first months of 2017, I was immersed in reading children’s books.  They soothe my soul; they provide mentoring for my own writing; and I have the opportunity to share the best with my blog readers. 2016 provided a variety of excellent children’s titles, but I am most excited about sharing the best nominees of Easy Readers and Early Chapter books.  What a surprise when I met prize-winning authors in competition with new authors.

The creativity of well-illustrated books with original texts was obvious in this judging assignment.  Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo were nominated in this eclectic mix of 10 titles for me to choose the “Best Of,” as shared with children’s bloggers in CYBILs (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). I was honored to be among teachers, parents, and fellow bloggers led by the creative Jodie Helliker Rodriquez, whose “Growing Book By Book” blog has always amazed me with her own creativity and sharing.

Wait until you get the winning book for Early Chapter Books in your hand.  It is appealing from the cover illustration featuring Mango Allsorts and her new pet. Look for a black and white and lavender cover!  Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig begins a new series by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy.  What originality!  Faber’s endearing new character Mango Allsorts finds a Malaysian tapir stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. The setting is a busy city and Mango, on her own most of the time, discovers a strange sight as she walks home from karate class.  It’s “not a pig” is lying down on the busy street camouflaged in the white stripes of the highway!  This book of four experiences with new friends, Mango and her tapir Bambang, is difficult to describe. It would not be the same without the original illustrations by Vulliamy.  I want to purchase all the Mango books in the series. Each new book uses a different palate than the original lavender highlighted in this debut.

Mo Willems’ titles turned out not to be written by him.  Remember Go Dog Go, the P.D. Eastman title confused as a Dr. Seuss favorite?  That little Cat in the Hat in the corner of the cover made readers think we had another Seuss winner.  Of course, Eastman had his own classic even with “I Can Read It All By Myself” series stamp on the corner of the cover. Mo Willems did the same thing, adding his name to the title page of a book series called “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! Despite the appealing title, We are Growing  and  The Cookie Fiasco  were not my favorites. Check them out from your library and see if you agree.

In the category of Easy Readers I discovered Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends by Tina Kugler!  This debut title is definitely an easy book for new readers.  The illustrations are delightful.  Kugler’s characters share values of friendship, pride and understanding.  Her tongue-in-cheek pictures with Snail and Worm’s animated and inanimate friends will resonate with her intended audience.  Repetition in the text will help these readers. This book was the winner for the Easy Reader judges from CYBILS nominees for 2016.

My second favorite Easy Reader is a longer story. The Infamous Ratsos by Kara La Reau is at first funny, cute and endearing when the Ratso brothers try to be tough like their single Dad.  I can see why it was nominated by the CYBILs first round of judges.  Readers will identify with the bullying scene, the plans to be mischievous, and the bonding with the father.  At the second reading I wasn’t certain if parents reading with their children would find the situations funny.  Who is going to buy this book?  We judged it too long for early readers; still reluctant older readers may enjoy the high jinx of these rat hoodlums.  There is a lesson by the end and the main characters all learn that being bad is not good!

Kate Di Camillo’s latest entry in the Early Chapter books category was a fun read.  She writes about neighbors of the popular pig Mercy Watson.  Baby Lincoln and her aged sister Eugenia are unusual characters introduced in Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Adults will understand Lucille’s need for a “necessary journey,” but I am uncertain whether children ages 6-9 will find these strange characters engaging.  DiCamillo is an expert in plot, dialogue and voice, as well as a challenging vocabulary.  This title didn’t spark my interest as much as Faber’s Mango and Bambang  book did.

What children’s books do you recommend from your reading in 2016?  As usual, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Happy Reading in 2017!

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Filed under Children's Literature, First Novels, Prizes

Read. Review. Recommend.

The first book I completed read in 2017 kept me reading so that I wanted to finish it in one sitting.  Instead of staying up all night as I wished to do, I relished each scene and word, stretching out my reading to two days.  The language is authentic teen speech which resonates for any age.

Have I grabbed your attention?  Guitar Notes by Mary Amato begins with a perfect title and cover.  Don’t you love language with two meanings?  You know this book is about a guitar player, probably a teen, and guitar music has notes.  Notes also mean communications between friends.  Paper messages, texts, or voice mails can also be short notes between the main characters- one who is almost perfect and one who has no friends. How Amato brings them together over a guitar is masterful.

How do I decide who will want to share this book?  A teen, a singer, a parent who needs to understand teen angst?  They will all enjoy it!

What a great title to begin my reading challenge of 2017.  I will be reading many easy readers and early chapter books for my assigned judging project with CYBILs, helping to choose the best of 2016.  Guitar Notes was a delightful start to my reading with a Meaty book offering genuine Language.  (Check out the CAMEL reading rating in my previous blogs.) Since Mary Amato is a local author writing about Maryland, this book also fits the setting rating, too.  (E=Exceptional time and place)

Happy Reading in 2017!  Find your own reading challenge and enjoy every word.

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Filed under Children's Literature, Reading challenges, Realistic Fiction, Uncategorized

Author Crushes

I have a new author crush every week.  How about you?  Do you fall in love with authors you meet from friend’s recommendations and from the new books at the library?

My latest crushes are for middle grade authors Gordon Korman and Mary Amato!  Korman was recommended to me by a new reading friend when she heard I was looking for examples of dialogue from a boy’s perspective.  Both my grands are boys and I am writing several middle grade novels which my BETA readers call “girls’ books.”  I want to appeal to all genders, so I picked up Ungifted to hear a different POV on my way to meet friends for lunch 2 hours away.  Still driving last weekend, on the way to a children’s writing conference, I fell in love with Gordon Korman’s humor, character development and pacing. Ungifted is told from many different children and adults in school and home settings. What more could a reader and a writer hope to gain?  This week at the library, I picked up one more book by Korman, Schooled, and I am prepared to laugh and enjoy more of his multiple voice books. Readers of both genders and all ages can enjoy these books.

Mary Amato is a new author I met at the children’s writing conference.  What a find!  Her Our Teacher is a Vampire and other (Not) True Stories also was created with multiple characters’ voices.  Each of the students in Mrs. Penrose’s class adds letters and articles to a blank book Alexander received for his birthday.  The resulting novel is humorous and authentic, full of likeable middle grade protagonists (plus teachers and a librarian.)

An old flame grabbed me at the library:  Pam Munoz Ryan!  The Dreamer and Echo are different genres and interesting additions to her body of children’s stories that range from picture biographies to historical fiction.  I relished Riding Freedom, Mice and Beans, and When Marian Sang:  the True Recital of Marian Anderson.  In my latest read from Ryan, I discovered a fictionalized biography of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, with illustrations by Peter Sis.  What a delightI discovered in The Dreamer and I await a different experience in Echo which is based on ancient folktales!  Many poems are added at the end of the book.  An intriguing idea they share with us lovers of children’s literature.

One more new find is Leah Pileggi, author of Prisoner 88.  I was looking for another book recommended by my ten-year-old grandson which had a similar title.  It is amazing to hear of 4th and 5th graders reading about prisoners, but they love the authenticity of these books.  Prisoner 88 is about a 10-year-old-boy who is the youngest prisoner in the history of Idaho’s Territorial Penitentiary.  In 1885 Jake has a rude awakening, as you can imagine.  Later in history, Yanek (Jack) becomes a prisoner in 10 concentration camps in Germany. He lived in a Polish Ghetto and then was imprisoned around 1939 for the sole reason that he was Jewish.  Prisoner B-3087 is the memoir of Jack Gruener, penned with his wife Ruth and Alan Gratz. These two historical fiction books are both survivor stories you will want to read.

If you are considering writing your own children’s books, I recommend you join me in a great organization:  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Lin Oliver founded this organization and, as a realistic and personable speaker at the latest regional conference, she shared her passion and advice for us pre-published authors.  You may recognize Lin as co-author with Henry Winkler of the “Hank Zipser” series.  Thanks to Lin Oliver, I met many aspiring children’s authors, agents and editors.  Peer Critique advice was available and valuable.  New friends from my own state and region will be a fine addition for my writing friends’ network.

[Don’t forget that if you see any errors in my posts, please alert me.  A new writing friend wrote that Jane Eyre was written by Emily Bronte.  I am too embarrassed to let her know… Should I tell her.  What do you think?]

Happy Reading in 2016 and Love from Best Books By Beth!

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Filed under Associations for Writers, Boys' books, Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, reading journals, Realistic Fiction, SCBWI

CATEGORIES OF BOOKS

Most genres of fiction interest me from mysteries to historical fiction. There are many categories to relish as I have found from Book Page, a magazine provided by the Friends of the Library in my vacation spot.  Where to begin to find the next book to read?  I am changing my blog to include books I want to read but have not read yet.

                         Which are your top choices from this list?

New titles on my TBR list include one from each of these categories:

  1. Literary Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. This one includes three narrative threads, intriguing for a reader and a writer.
  2. Family Saga:  Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlan.  She is a favorite author since I read her Black and Blue, a realistic view of domestic violence.
  3. Coming-of-Age:  Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton. Begins in the 1960’s.
  4. Memoir: Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith.  About her life in Appalachia.
  5. Middle Grade Fiction: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson.  A historical tale beginning in 1887 NYC with an Italian Oliver Twist-like character.
  6. Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.  Starts in a forest and progresses to Broadway!
  7. Historical Mystery: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  For adults and especially lovers of Jane Eyre (and no vampires!)
  8. Mystery:  Plantation Shudders by Ellen ByronAn Agatha nominee for best debut cosy mystery.  I confess I read this one first as I am going to the Malice Domestic conference later this month.
  9. Audio Memoir:  On My Own by Diane Rehm, read by the author.
  10. Historical Fiction: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  If you loved Major Pettigrew’s Land Stand, you have been waiting five years for her next novel.   I think we will be pleased from the several reviews I have read so far.

Trisha Ping’s review in book Page of #10: “Full of trenchant observations on human nature and featuring a lovable cast of characters, The Summer Before the War is a second novel that satisfies.”  Isn’t this premise the reason we read?  I know it rings true for me!

 

Let me know what you recommend currently in comments.

I hope you are having fun with your own 2016 Reading Challenge!

 

HAPPY READING IN 2016!!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Book Clubs, Children's Literature, First Novels, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Malice Domestic, Mystery, Reading challenges, Uncategorized

CONNECTIONS IN LITERATURE

If you love To Kill a Mockingbird as I do, you have read all the news about Harper Lee’s writing, her friendships, and her death.  But have you read the latest novel Tru and Nelle by G. Neri? You will recognize the characters immediately, but are they Scout and Dill or Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee?  Their adventures, as imagined by Greg Neri, who usually writes urban fiction, will amaze and delight you.  Did you know both writers, Truman and Harper were neighbors in Monroeville, AL; that they both loved to read Sherlock Holmes stories (in book form); and that both assisted each other in their adult writing.  Be prepared for surprises and clues to the plot, characters and setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.  You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this book is written for middle grade  readers of ages nine to twelve, but you adults will get the allusions and gain knowledge you didn’t know you wanted to realize about these favorite authors.   Writers will “find the fun” in learning the “backstory!”

Happy Reading in all Genres for 2016!

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Filed under Book Clubs, Children, Children's Literature, Historial Fiction, Literary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Uncategorized

THRILLS AND CHILLS

Do you enjoy thrillers? I have a fun surprise for you from a great thriller writer!
I just finished Libby Fischer Hellman’s latest book Jump Cut and she has an offer for you readers out there. I know you will love this page-turner. It can be read so quickly, but that doesn’t mean there is not substance in her writing. You will be amazed with the currency and thrills she has put in her latest book! We have included her link to her books, so find them soon so you don’t miss out on the excitement! Here’s the link:
http://libbyhellmann.com/my-books/jump-cut

Look above for a partial view of the offer. I cannot get the picture to paste into this blog, but here is the scoop:  Pre-order Jump Cut for 99 cents at the link above and you will also receive a copy of another Ellie Foreman book, An Eye for Murder!

What more can I say? This page-turner is intriguing and scary with just the right amount of details and secrets any thriller reader will want to read! Readers like me who love mysteries and thrillers will want to read all the Ellie Foreman books, from her adventures referenced in Jump Cut. Hellmann’s description of the characters, her well-thought out clues, the pace, and the many mysterious plot twists kept me reading to complete the novel in one thrill-packed  weekend.
Looking for a lighter read? Florida is the setting for Checked Out! Had to try this one that takes place in a library! What would you do if you heard $1,000,000 was lost in a library book? Helen Hawthorne, a PI with her husband Phil, takes a dead-end job to help the Friends of the Library and her client discover a famous painting which was left in a book donated to the library. Elaine Viets adds her usual humor in this 14th book in her series in FL. (I love her mystery shopper series which is set in St. Louis suburbs, too.) Being a library volunteer doesn’t sound like a Dead-End job to me, but Helen is not paid a salary in this caper, only she does get a commission as she follows all the clues to catch the culprit. Cosy mysteries are the best reads on the beach or vacation.
Maybe you are looking for a mystery for your child or grandchildren. The latest one I can recommend is a new author for me. Lisa Papademetrious created a unique title which reminds me of So You Want to Be a Wizard! Similar to Diane Duane’s series, A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic features a magical book. The settings of USA and Pakistan with two young girls who do not know each other adds so much intrigue, you will be drawn in to discover how their stories relate to one another. Clues abound and you will be amazed at the similarities of their lives and adventures throughout this short book. Thank you to Erik at http://www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.comfor his recommendation of this title.

Happy Reading in 2016! I am well on my way to a new Good Reads goal for the year!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, Links, Mystery

MYSTERY IS COMPANY!

 

At the beginning of May, I was fortunate to attend a conference called Malice Domestic where I was in the “company” of my favorite mystery authors.  Fans are very welcome to attend this annual conference in Bethesda, MD, and we were able to vote for our favorites to win the Agatha Awards. Here are some books I recommend to keep you “company” next month.  Go to Kathy Harig’s independent bookstore, Mystery Loves Company, online (www.mysterylovescompany.com ) or in Oxford, MD to order your copy of these entertaining books.

One nomination for an Agatha Award for the best children’s or young adult mystery was Greenglass House by Kate Milford. Greenglass HouseI met Ms. Milford at the Annapolis Book Festival on Saturday, April 25, 2015.  Ms. Milford won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for this exciting mystery for older elementary readers.

Another mystery in the juvenile category is Penny Warner ‘s Code Busters Club #4: The Mummy’s Curse which won the Agatha Award for best juvenile mystery this year.The Code Busters Club, Case #4: The Mummy’s Curse  I also enjoyed Andi Under Pressure by Amanda Flower. (Readers from 7 to 11) Andi Under Pressure (An Andi Boggs Novel)

Ready for some Adult suggestions?  Adult Agatha winners I chose include Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan Truth Be Told: A Jane Ryland Novel for best contemporary mystery, Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen Queen of Hearts (A Royal Spyness Mystery)for best historical, and Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Editor for the best non-fiction mystery title of 2014.

The panel discussions with these writers and Margaret Maron, author of Designated Daughters,Designated Daughters (A Deborah Knott Mystery) the 18th in the Deborah Knott series, highlighted other authors I love.   Shawn Reilly Simmons, author of the “Red Carpet Catering Mysteries,” ably moderated one of the discussions.  Her light mysteries feature Penny Sutherland, a head chef on movie sets.  The setting is intriguing and I look forward to reading more of her mysteries in the future.  Read Murder on the Red Carpet to be introduced to the cast of characters in Simmons’ series.Murder on the Red Carpet (The Red Carpet Catering Series Book 1)

GM Malliet writes a different type of cosy mystery (A Demon Summer) , set in Great Britain, starring Max Tudor, a former MI 5 agent who changes his vocation to become an Anglican priest.  Romance, humor and suspense are present in these ecclesiastical mysteries.  Malliet has been compared to authors Louise Penny, Tara French, and Deborah Crombie, with Charlaine Harris weighing in with her own recommendation.

I missed saying hi to authors Marcia Talley, Sujata Massey, and Elaine Viets, but I was greeted by Hank Ryan who told a funny story about Stephen King, the down-to-earth writer and winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for 2014.  Don’t miss Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King!

I am giving you the Amazon links to these titles.  Use the links in blue to order these titles easily.

Happy Mystery Reading in 2015!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Award winning books, Children's Literature, Malice Domestic, Mystery, The Mystery Writers of America

READING FOR LIFE

June is the month of baby showers and graduations and weddings.  What better time to share a book.  In fact, some organizers of celebrations are suggesting that we add a book inscribed to the honoree instead of a card.

Here is a task not too hard/ Enclose a book instead of a card.

I received an invitation recently with these words added to the announcement of a shower.  So today, I will suggest some classics for including in your celebration presents no matter the occasion.

 Pat the Bunny is a great first book for any baby and new parents.  Don’t worry if multiple copies arrive at the party:  these books wear out with continued reading and feeling.  If you have never seen this gem, it is a pop-up book with each page a new touch for baby.  Reviews mention that the books aren’t that sturdy, but that is why you need a backup copy! Pat the Bunny Book & Plush (Touch-and-Feel)

Guess How Much I Love You is another favorite of young families.  You have heard the expression “I love you to the Moon and back,” I am certain.  This line is from Sam McBratney’s book.  Guess How Much I Love You 20th Anniversary Edition  You can guess why this title is so well-loved.  I hear children still love it when they are toddlers, so you can get your money’s worth for your gift.

Maybe you want to honor an elementary school graduate.  Some buy a thematic Dr. Seuss book such as The Lorax  The Lorax (Classic Seuss)or  Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Oh, The Places You’ll Go! You may not be the only friend giving one of these titles, so you may want a fun book for the student for summer reading such as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Libraryor Greenglass House by Kate Milford, books I recommended in other posts this year.Greenglass House

How about high school graduates, don’t they deserve a great book to add to their library, too?  1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die1,000 Places to See Before You Die, the second edition: Completely Revised and Updated with Over 200 New EntriesI have heard that John Green’s Looking for Alaska is better than The Fault in Our Stars, so see if that book fits the need for your teen graduate. Looking for Alaska

This post was an experiment to see if I could link titles from Amazon for you to purchase easily.  Let me know if you like this service from my blog.  If you buy the books from this link, I will receive a few pennies for each item purchased. The money will help me to enter writing contests.

Happy Reading and Book Buying for yourself and others in 2015!

Let me know what you recommend and title you suggest to this blog in comments.

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, gifts, Links, Mystery

An Affinity for Books (Teens and ‘Tweens)

You could say I have an affinity for books.  Once I read a great title, I want to recommend it and find another Read A-Like for myself and others.  What is a Read A-Like you ask?  Librarians and book review sources alert you to books by saying “If you liked this book…you will love this one!”

The biggest question I have received from parents is “What do you recommend after Harry Potter:  that series is the only ones my child will read!”

Fantasy readers of all ages will enjoy Diane Duane’s creative series So You Want to Be a Wizard?  Similar to HP books are the main characters Nita Callahan and Christopher (Kit) Rodriquez  who do not realize they are wizards until they find a book with that same title.  Duane introduces many topics appealing to readers who love this genre including bullying, voracious readers, love of animals, annoying siblings, and she includes mystery and suspense with a dash of humor, as Nita and Kit learn how to deal with their “special” gift.  There are nine books in the series with one more planned for release this year.

The latest young adult (YA) book I completed (No, I didn’t write one yet) reading this year is by prolific Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  I was amazed that he wrote for young people after I remembered his imaginative adult fiction The Shadow of the Wind and its sequels.  The Midnight Palace reminds me of The Thief Lord, another favorite by Cornelia Funke, because the main characters are orphans who band together in an orphanage in Calcutta to swear allegiance forever.  They are challenged by a murderer who appears to them suddenly when they turn 16 and are ready to graduate from the orphanage.  The suspense is phenomenal, and I mean that literally! Funke uses the setting of Venice, so you can compare these two novels with settings far apart.  Ask yourself the question in each novel:  Who is the antagonist or the bad guy?

In my next post, I will review some adult Read A-Likes for you.

Please send me ideas and comments about this and my other posts!

Happy Reading in 2015!  Don’t forget the Goodreads reading challenge!

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Filed under Children's Literature, Fantasy, First Novels, Literary Fiction, untraditional mysteries

Libraries are “Someplace Special”!

“I was scared. I was lonely. I discovered there was only one room in this school where I was happy and where I felt secure. And that room was the library.”  Anthony Horowitz, children’s author was quoted saying.

We readers love books set in libraries or bookstores. Our fun derives from being transported to the places we remember with enlightening moments of joy.  Many of us have one library or bookstore where we felt at home, a solitary or noisy place where we were surrounded by the sources of our secret habit. Our memories of the stories are intermingled with our pleasures of being in the places where the books are stored.

When authors evoke the wonder of those special book depositories filled with more books, all of which we hope to explore, we are full of awe and desire to try to satiate our hunger for more.

My fingers itch to touch each volume whether it is a huge tome or a miniature storybook.  I will list a few I devoured or I wish to relish soon. This list is eclectic: full of every genre something for each age.

  1. Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia and Frederick McKissick
  2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  3. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor (and many others used this title)
  4. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  5. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  6. Clara and the Book Wagon by Nancy Smiler Levinson
  7. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse
  8. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter
  9. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  10.  Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
  11.  Carolyn Hart’s “Death on Demand” series
  12.  Cook the Books by Marion Moore Hill

Please comment and add more suggestions to this minimal list.

HAPPY READING IN 2015!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Book Mobiles, Children's Literature, Historial Fiction, Mystery