The Children's Book Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Greenwillow

I have been sick for most of the last month, and haven’t been able to post any reviews.  However, I have been reading and found some terrific books to recommend.  Since there are so many, I will just give a brief reviews over the next few days.  Please note that most of these books have a wide age appeal.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Slobhan Dowd.  Illustrated by Jim Kay.  (2011).  204 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 11-adult.

This powerful book enthralled me from the first pages.  I think it is one of the most compelling and honest novels I have ever read.  Colin’s mother is dying of cancer and he is haunted by a monster.  Is the monster part of a nightmare or, is it real?  Will the monster help Colin face the truth of his mother’s situation?  The ending is tremendously moving and brought me to tears.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.  (2011).  312 pages.  Walden Pond Press.  Ages 9-12.  Fantasy.

Breadcrumbs is an intriguing mix of realistic fiction and fantasy with the theme of the power of friendship.  Eleven-year-old Hazel and Jack are the best of friends in our contemporary world.  They love to read fantasies.  When Jack suddenly disappears, Hazel goes into a magic wood to rescue him from a white witch who has frozen his heart.  The story is enriched by many references to beloved fantasies.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.  (2011).  360 pages.  Clarion.  Ages 11-15.  Historical/Realistic Fiction.

Eighth grader, Doug Swieteck surmounts difficult challenges in 1968 when his family moves to a new home in upstate New York.  Doug’s perseverance, hard work, discoveries in art and kindness to others blesses himself his family and the people in his new community.  Schmidt tells the story in Doug’s voice which is humorous and endearing.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  (2011)..  422 pages.  Greenwillow.  Ages 12-adult.  Fantasy.

What a captivating, fantastic romance and adventure.  The heroine is a princess who has always believed that she is nothing compared to her older sister.  How she discovers her own strength, intelligence and ability to lead makes an engrossing  and enchanting story.

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak.  Illustrated by Philip Hopman.  (2011).  145 pages.  Eerdmans.  Ages 10-adult.

Here is a story based on real events of a troop of Polish soldiers in World War II.  The soldiers discover a small bear cub and adopt him.  The bear travels with the soldiers from Iran to Egypt and finally to Scotland at the end of the war.  In the midst of war, the bear provides a relief from tragedy with his humorous antics.  Maps of the soldiers’ journey and photographs at the end enrich the story.  Winner of the Mildred Batchelder Award which is given to book originally published in another country in a language other than English.

The Lily Pond by Annika Thor.  (2011).  217 pages.  Delacorte Press.  Ages 10-14.

A sequel to A Faraway Island, winner of the Mildred Batchelder Award in 2010.  This book follows thirteen year old Stephie Steiner, as she goes to school on the mainland.  Her Jewish parents have sent Stephie and her sister to Sweden to protect them from the Nazi persecution.  Stephie must please her foster parents, navigate through the difficulties of a new school and the responsibilities of being a scholarship student while she experiences her first love.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg.  (2011).  221 pages.  Houghton Mifflin.  Ages 11-adult.  Short Stories.

When I last taught sixth grade my students were inspired to tell the stories they saw in the gripping pictures of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.  Now fourteen talented authors have created their own stories that are evoked by each the pictures.  The original pictures are included with each short story.  Young people will enjoy the stories and want to compare them with their own versions.  Read the some of the stories aloud to hook listeners who will want to read more who will want to read more on their own.


The Children’s Book Compass and I have been on vacation for awhile.  However, I have been reading hundreds of books  and have discovered some excellent titles to share with you.  Over the next weeks I will blog about  them.

Should I Share My Ice Cream?  by Mo Willems.  (2011).  57 pages.  Hyperion.  Grades K-3.  Beginning Reader.

Mo Willems is a genius!  His fifteen books about the characters, Elephant and Piggie, use natural language and expressive, simple illustrations to tell stories that intrigue children.  The bonus for young readers is that they can be successful in reading the books for themselves.  This time Elephant buys an ice cream but the title question immediately causes him a dilemma – should he share his ice cream with Piggie?  As he argues with himself about what to do, the ice cream melts into a puddle on the ground.  The satisfying conclusion will delight fans of the two friends.

Hurry Down to Derry Fair by Dori Chaconas.  Illustrated by Gillian Tyler.  (2011). Unpaged. Candlewick Press.  Grades K-3.  Picture Book.

On the title page of this charming book, Dinny Brown, a small boy, watches the Derry Fair being set up on the property just below his family’s farm.  He is eager to experience each part of the fair – the giant swing, the animals, the cotton candy, the hot-air balloon, the ferris wheel.  He urges each of his family members to hurry up so they can go.  But Mama, Daddy, and sister, Lucy, have to first finish their preparations for items they are taking to the fair.  Even though Dinny helps each one, he is afraid that that the fair won’t wait.  When he comes to Grandma Patty he finds a receptive audience.  She tells him to fetch his coins because she is taking him to the fair.  Suddenly, the rest of the family gathers up their things and “rush and tumble down the walk.” to see the fair.  A gatefold at the end opens out to show a four page spread of all the activities at the fair.  The lyrical text combines with the detailed, warm illustrations to make a story that will become a classic.  The pages showing Dinny helping Mama make her lemon pies to take to the fair shows how the words are complimented and expanded by the illustrations.  The text reads, Whap! Crack! Plop-plop-plot! Whisk a little! Whisk a lot! Whisk those eggs as light air.  Mama sifts while Dinny whisks. Then off they’ll go to Derry Fair!”  The two page spread illustration shows each part in the process of making the pies.  The characterizations of Mama and Dinny are enhanced by the small details in their dress and hairdos.  This book made me wish to fly to rural England to attend a country fair.

If You’re Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre.  Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic.  (2011).  Unpaged.  Greenwillow.  Grades K-4.  Picture Book.

Do you remember singing the traditional song, “If you’re happy and you know it?”  It was a hit with my students and my own children.  Sayre gives that favorite song new life with lyrics that will make children sing with joy.  “If you’re hoppy and you know it, you’re … a frog.”  The frog is joined by other hoppy critters.  Each new verse introduces more humorously illustrated creatures that cavort across the pages being sloppy, or growly, or flappy, or slimy and scaly and mean.  Sayre plays with the pattern of the verses that adds to the fun of the song.  The book design features large sized font in various colors that adds emphasis to the lyrics.  The brightly colored, animated animals have pizzazz!  The only thing lacking in this book is the music for the song.

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

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