Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Eliot is a very quiet child by day.  He reads books and feeds his fish.  But when midnight strikes, Eliot becomes a superhero!  He has all sorts of adventures: returning lions to the zoo, saving ships, and recovering the crown jewels.  Tonight he has to stop a huge meteor that is heading right for earth!  In a series of adventures and mishaps, the question becomes whether he can save earth in time.

Imagination to the rescue!  Eliot has great classic adventures that will appeal to children.  His quiet identity at home is also a classic superhero alter-ego, which will be appreciated.  The text is written to be read aloud with fonts that call for crashing noises, loud explosions, and even quiet.  Smith’s illustrations are a great mix of collage and drawing, creating an exciting setting for each of Eliot’s adventures.  They are clever, wry and very silly, perfection for the book.

Recommended for children who have their own capes, this book will fly into eager hands.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Looking Like Me

Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers

This father and son partnership has created a picture book that will work with a broad span of ages.   Walter Dean Myers’ poem explores everything that a person can be, all the various aspects of a person.  He focuses on what a person loves to do, relationships with others, and who that person really is.  It is an empowering message of both individuality and connections to others. 

The poetry in the book dances from one idea to the next with a jazzy rhythm and urban vibe.  Christopher Myers’ art is joyous, loose and loud.  The two work together to offer a book filled with rhythm and movement. 

This book is accessible enough to be used with children in elementary school, but may speak loudest to older children and teens who are asking themselves about their identity.  It begs to be used with students and reacted to in a personal way.  Appropriate for ages 7-14.

Reviewed from library copy.

Firefighter Ted

Firefighter Ted by Andrea Beaty and Pascal Lemaitre

When Ted woke up one morning, he smelled smoke.  He knew that he needed a firefighter!  Unable to find a firefighter anywhere in his room, he become one.  He did have to make his own fire extinguisher our of whipped cream and an air tube from the fish tank.  Firefighter Ted started the day by putting out a breakfast fire, much to his mother’s dismay.  He then rescued a kitten from the hot sidewalk.  This made him late to school.  Met at the door by the principal, Ted became alarmed that the principal was overheating, so he wrapped him in hazard tape and used his fire extinguisher on him.  When the class went to the science fair, Ted had to leap into action again to make it all safe.  In the end, there was a real fire and you know who came to the rescue!

This second Ted book follows Doctor Ted.  Done with the same humor and spunk as the first, readers will be very happy to have a second adventure that hints at a third.  Ted is a great character who takes imaginative play to an entirely different level.  He combines ingenuity with courage, never paying attention to what others have to say about his costumes or what he does to help.  The illustrations are done with thick black lines and bright colors.  They are inviting, fun and fresh.

Recommended for all public libraries, this series will fly off of the shelves.  It will also make a welcome addition to fire safety story times and units.  Appropriate for toddlers through preschoolers, this series will be enjoyed by ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Best Scottish Children’s Books

The Scottish children’s books of the year have been announced.  They were voted on by over 15,000 school-aged children.

Older Readers

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray


Younger Readers

First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts by Lari Don


Early Years

Manfred the Baddie by John Fardell

2009 Costa Book Award Shortlist

Here is the Shortlist for Children’s Books (really much more like teen book):

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Troubadour by Mary Hoffman

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera (not out yet in the US)


The Costa Book Award is given to the most enjoyable books of the year by writers from the UK and Ireland.  You may remember them as I do as the Whitbread Awards but they have a new name now.

When the World Is Ready for Bed

When the World Is Ready for Bed by Gillian Shields, illustrated by Anna Currey

It’s bedtime and the entire world starts to get ready.  The little rabbits are called back to their cozy cottage.  The flowers close, night birds sing.  The evening routine starts.  There is warm soup for supper.  Toys have to be tidied up.  Time for talking about the day.  Then baths, teeth, and faces.  Stories, prayers, and hugs.  And one final glimpse of a bright star in the sky. 

This quiet bedtime story has the warmth and feel of a very traditional English tale like Peter Rabbit.  The story is told in short rhyming verses that add to the feeling of tradition and also to the feeling of a gentle nighttime routine.  Currey’s art reflects that same sense of timelessness and coziness.  From the soft cozy furniture to the toys strewn across the floor even after tidying up. 

This is a book to sink into, read again and again, and make part of your regular bedtime routine.  Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from library copy.


Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

This sequel to Lament continues the story of Dee and James, this time from James’ perspective.  Now the two of them are at Thornking-Ash, a boarding highschool for musically talented teens.  James is an incredibly talented piper and his talent draws in a faerie who seeks out musicians and gives them great music in exchange for years of their lives.  Nuala arrives ready to make a deal with James, but as they get to know one another better, her motives change.  Now they must deal with the fact that Nuala lives only 16 years and will be burned alive on Halloween only to return reborn without any memories.  And on top of that, they have to stop the cunning other faeries who are searching for more power through Dee.

Stiefvater has outdone herself here.  Her prose is thorny, magical, and gripping.  The novel draws you into its faerie ring and won’t release you until you are gasping for breath from the dance.  Her characterization of James is poignant and soul searching combined with a sarcasm and wit that really brings him to life.  Nuala is a character readers will be set to detest, but will slowly warm to just as James does.  She is a complex character who changes through the course of the book believably.

The setting of the school is done very well.  It becomes both an area of safety and a place of fear.  The campus setting is ideal for this sort of story with its separateness, community and structure. 

Impossible to put down, breathlessly turning and spinning, this novel is a wonder.  Highly recommended to all libraries and to all teens who loved Lament, this book is appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by Bib-Laura-graphy, Angieville, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Library Lounge Lizard, The Well-Read Child, and Charlotte’s Library.

Not Last Night but the Night Before


Not Last Night but the Night Before by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

A little boy runs to answer the door and there are three black cats there.  They rush in and knock him to the ground.  Then the man in the moon is at the door, he also rushes in.  And so one after the other fairy tale characters knock on the door and then shove, push, and knock the boy right down.  Finally when Punch, Judy, Baby and Crocodile knock on the door, they shake hands and greet him warmly.  And that is when readers and the little boy suddenly understand where everyone was headed and why. 

McNaughtons rhymes are bouncy and great fun to read aloud.  They invite you into the silliness and imagination at play here.  Clark’s illustrations are equally inviting as they depict beloved characters.  I particularly love the way the characters wait patiently and sweetly at the door but then proceed to barge in and down goes the boy again.  That little tension before each onslaught is delicious. 

This is ideal for reading aloud.  It will work best for children who know the characters, but those just learning about them will enjoy the energy and fun here too.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Here Comes Jack Frost

Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara

The author of Ghosts in the House returns with another great seasonal title.  A lonely boy who hates winter discovers frosty patterns on his windows and then Jack Frost himself.  Jack Frost playfully runs away from the boy, telling him that he can’t jump over the pond.  But the boy had ice skates and he and his dog twirl across the ice.  When Jack Frost runs over a hill, the boy and his dog use a sled.  After a rousing snowball fight, Jack Frost agrees to stay with the boy as long as he never mentions anything warm.  So they build snowmen, ski, and play.  Until one day, there are signs of spring.

The story here is charming, filled with all of the classic winter ways to play.  Kohara’s prose is clear and simple.  It is the illustrations that really make the book soar with their bright whites and blues that range from icy to midnight.  Without any spangles or sparkles, this book gleams with cold.  Prickly Jack Frost with his sharp lines contrasts beautifully with the boy in his rounded hat and coat. 

A marvelous choice for snowy story times, this book is ideal for toddlers.  Read it at home with plenty of blankets and a mug of cocoa to keep cuddly.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by A Year of Reading.