Review: Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid

hugs from pearl

Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid

Pearl is a very friendly little porcupine, and one of her favorite things to do is give everyone hugs.  But porcupines are prickly and Pearl’s hugs hurt!  At first Pearl tried keeping Band-Aids handy after hugs, but she didn’t like to make her friends say “Ouch!”  Then she tried pin cushions on her quills, but that took way too long and she couldn’t reach them all.  Pearl tried a long hot bath, but her quills refused to soften.   Pearl decided that she just couldn’t give hugs any more.  But then she got inspiration on her way home from school when she saw some bees buzzing happily among the thorny roses.  Could Pearl have figured out the trick to pain-free hugs from a porcupine?

Schmid has created a story that is simply told and can be read solely as a book about a little porcupine, but it is also a story that could be used for discussions about what each of us has that is prickly and hurts other people and how we can solve it.  The story has a touch of heartache and a real sweetness to it that never becomes sickly sweet or overbearing, instead it has a great freshness to it.

The art is equally fresh with its charming mix of pale greens and pinks.  Pearl herself glows with her pale pink blush, popping on each page compared to the other animals.  Her facial expressions manage to convey deep emotions even though they are just a few lines on the page.  The simplicity in both the text and the illustrations make the book very enticing.

This book is a shining example that adorable, sweet books can also be stirring and warm.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

friends with boys

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Released February 28, 2012.

Maggie McKay has been homeschooled her entire life by her mother, who has left the family.  Now she has to start regular high school, just like her three older brothers have.  Maggie has never had any friends who were girls, happily being friends with just her brothers.  As Maggie starts high school, she discovers the boredom, the cliques, and the first tentative steps at real friendship, even one with a girl!  Add into the mix a tragic ghostly mystery complete with a female ghost who follows Maggie around, and you have an interesting mix of graphic novel, paranormal, and high school reality.

Hicks has created a very engaging graphic novel here with her mix of genres.  Her characters are fully-formed, with all of the major characters displaying real depth.  The relationships between siblings is a large part of the storylines in the novel.   I also appreciated a story about a homeschooled teen who may be hesitant to enter high school but is not specifically troubled by her previous schooling.

The graphic format is well-used here.  The images are regularly used to tell more of the story than the characters’ speech bubbles do.   Done in black and white, the use of shadow and light is very effective.  The story takes several surprising twists, which makes it all the more readable.

A graphic novel about a girl who is not particularly girly is just the right book to have in library collections.   Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

YALSA 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

YALSA’s Quick Pick list focuses on books that teens ages 12-18 would pick up on their own and read, specifically books that reluctant readers will enjoy.  I find it an amazing list to use to broaden collections with books that are sure to move off the shelves.

The full list includes 117 titles, and here are the top ten:


Bronxwood by Coe Booth

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

D.C. Comics: The Ultimate Character Guide by Brandon Snider

Enclave by Ann Aguirre


Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Middle School: The Worst years of My Life by James Patterson

Pavement Chalk Artist: the Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever by Julian Beever


A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Whoogles: Can a Dog Make a Woman Pregnant?…and Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask “Who Would Google That?”  by Kendall Almerico and Teen Hottenroth

The Zodiac Killer: Terror and Mystery by Brenda Haugen

2012 Great Graphic Novels

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has named the top ten graphic novels as well as a longer list of graphic novels perfect for teen readers.  Here is the top ten list: 


Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgal

Axe Cop, Volume 1 by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

A Bride’s Story, Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori


Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media by Brooke Gladstone, Josh Neufeld & others

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev


Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Volumes 1 & 2 by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, & others

Wandering Son, Volume 1 by Shimura Takako

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:

Children’s books increasingly emphasize visual art

Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, and "Why We Broke Up" | Artery

Harry Potter’s iPhone screen:

Hear an excerpt from Odyssey Award winner ROTTERS #alayma #alamw12

Here is the petition for school libraries: #alayma

Hobbies boost children’s academic skills – RTÉ News

How to choose the best books for kids and teens – On Parenting – The Washington Post

Hugo gets the most Oscar nominations in 2012. Why? –

Interview: John Green

Is ‘The Hunger Games’ Building Too Much Buzz For Its Own Good? : Monkey See : NPR

Just subscribed to the RSS feed of The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults

squeetus blog: the mighty librarian

Take Your Child to the Library Day Launches on February 4th!

TED Blog | Harnessing the power of reading: Q&A with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon

Trending in Youth Culture: The Best Blogs and Sites for Youth Advocates | VOYA

YA market ripe for digital, say publishers | The Bookseller

Review: A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson

boy called dickens

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix

Enter the world of Charles Dickens’ childhood in this picture book.  The fog and cold of London will enfold you, along with the smoking chimneys and the dankness of the Thames.  Twelve-year-old Dickens worked in Warren’s blacking factory, wrapping bottles of blacking for sale.  He entertained the boy next to him with his stories when they could get away with it.  Dickens worked ten hour days and when work is finally completed, he headed home to his tiny attic room where he lived alone.  His family was in the debtors’ prison with only Dickens bringing in any money at all.  When his father and family is released from prison, Dickens’ life changes and he is finally allowed to go to school.  This book celebrates the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth in a way that will resonate with children.

Hopkinson’s story begins with an invitation into London and into understanding the world at that time better.  It is actually like entering a novel by the great writer.  Readers will chase after the fast-moving Dickens until they figure out where he is headed.  There is an element of play and fun from the get-go, even though the subject here is very serious. 

Hendrix’s illustrations show the gritty world that Dickens grew up in.  Yet all is not fog and work, there is the beauty of story, the world of imagination.  It’s an impressive mix of historical accuracy and a more whimsical take on creativity. 

Picture book biographies of historical figures can be tricky, since so much information needs to be shared.  Here the balance of story telling and imagery is deftly done, creating a book that is noteworthy.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

fault in our stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel has known she is terminal since she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 12.  But then a drug that worked on only a small percentage of the population actually worked on her and her tumors shrunk.  At age 16, she’s still not healthy: her lungs need to be drained regularly and she has to cart around an oxygen tank.  She also doesn’t attend high school, having gotten her GED.  Hazel spends her days watching trashy TV and reading books, forced out of the house only to go to a support group for teens with cancer.  It’s there that she meets Augustus Waters, a boy whose leg was lost to cancer.  The two form a bond almost immediately, but Hazel doesn’t want to get close to anyone who could be hurt by her death.  However, Augustus is not the type of person to be ignored easily and Hazel may just have a lot more life to lead than she ever imagined.

Green manages to write a book with characters who have cancer that is not a “cancer book.”  It bears absolutely no resemblance to those teary paperbacks filled with maudlin sentimentality.  Instead it is a purely John Green book, filled with witty remarks, complex characters, and a vast intelligence.  Both Hazel and Augustus are characters who are breathtakingly rendered, whole people, who just happen to come fully to life when together.

Green’s writing is incredible here.  His phrasing is beautiful and inventive, creating new imagery as he builds this amazing romance and human story.  One of my favorite sentences in the book comes on page 25, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”  Throughout the book, there are profound moments of insight, things that give pause, make you think, and create beauty from the ordinary.

Intensely personal, vibrantly romantic, and wildly successful, this book may just be the best that John Green has written.  Get this into the hands of teens and adults, perhaps with a tissue or two.  It is simply incredible.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

million suns

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

The second book in the Across the Universe series takes up the story three months after Amy was awoken from her cryosleep.  Elder has become Eldest and has taken control of the ship.  The population has stopped being drugged by Phydus but that has created new problems of controlling the suddenly unruly population.  Amy gets a clue that starts both her and Elder on a quest to figure out the truth behind the ship no longer moving through space.  It quickly becomes a race against time as killings start with the ominous phrase “Follow the leader” on each body.  The truth may set you free, but getting to it can be deadly.

I was thrilled to get my hands on this second book, because I found the first so fresh and fascinating.  The story continues with the same claustrophobic feeling aboard the ship, where readers will think that they know the truth of the situation but will quickly realize that there is much more to the story of their journey into space.  I did find the book hard to get into at first because the beginning was slow moving.  That is quickly remedied and the pacing of the rest of the book is very successful.

The setting of Godspeed is a compelling one that Revis uses to great effect throughout the story.  The ship itself holds many of the secrets, making it a vital part of the tale.  The characters are equally complex.  Elder and Amy have a relationship that is romantic yet troubled.  Combined with the tight setting, the desperation of their quest, and the killings, it makes for a riveting read of mystery, science fiction and romance.

This complex and engaging science fiction novel will be embraced by fans of the series, who will immediately start thinking about what will happen in book three.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Selena Gomez Stars in a Book Near You


Selena Gomez, Disney star of Wizards of Waverly Place and Beezus from Ramona and Beezus, the movie, has optioned the film rights for The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  Gomez is taking her career into her own hands, creating a production company. 

She is also slated to star in Universal’s Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the book by Jay Asher.

While I worry about a Disney-fication of these books, I am also very intrigued by this trend of riding popular teen fiction to stardom.  I suppose we will have to wait and see if a darker, more mature Gomez results.