Review: Miss Sally Ann and the Panther by Bobbi Miller

miss sally ann

Miss Sally Ann and the Panther retold by Bobbi Miller, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Miss Sally Ann has had many great adventures, but one of the tallest tales about her is the story of when she met Fireeyes.  Fireeyes was a panther, huge and black.  When the two of them saw each other in the deep forest, they both wanted each other’s fur.  Miss Sally Ann thought that Fireeyes’ hide would keep her toes nice and warm.  Fireeyes wanted the bear-fur coat that she was wearing to keep his shoulders warm.  After gazing eye-to-eye, the two of them began to fight.  It was an epic battle, and I won’t spoil the ending or the middle of the book for you.  Just know that this is one wild tale about a tremendous woman and a blazing panther.

Miller’s writing here is, as she would put it, “ripsnorting fine.”  She peppers and spices her prose with words that can only be read with a twang and a great deal of swagger.  Just try saying “thunderferous” or “terrifiacious” without a big grin leaping to the your lips.  It all makes this book not only a great tall tale about an amazing woman, but also a “thunderific” book to share aloud.  The pacing is wild and wonderful, the battle is beyond epic, and the result is pure comfort too.

Lloyd’s illustrations really bring the larger-than-life characters full to realization.  From the huge size of Fireeyes to the great joy and fun that Miss Sally Ann has about life, the two of them shine on these pages.  Their battle is captured, full of motion and stunning action.

This is one great read to share with children learning about tall tales.  Not only does it feature a woman, but it’s also a treat to read aloud.  I’d also sneak it into any story time about cats just to get some big energy in there.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

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


BBC News – JK Rowling mulls ‘director’s cut’ of Harry Potter books

Belinda Rapley’s top 10 horse books | Children’s books | #kidlit

D&Q’s Devlin Brings "The Moomins," "Pippi Longstocking" to the States – Comic Book Resources #kidlit

JK Rowling’s next book ‘very likely’ to be a children’s book | Children’s books |

Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy Books #kidlit

November/December starred reviews — The Horn Book #kidlit #yalit

Outrage leads Stockholm library to drop Tintin ban – The Local –


IMLS Announces $2.5 Million to Support Early Learning #literacy#libraries

I.N.K.: Using Non Fiction Picture Books to Teach Reading and Writing

Why games are valuable to help kids engage and learn.


Kathy Dawson Gets Imprint at Penguin Young Readers


Booker prize head judge says book bloggers drown out serious criticism, to the detriment of literature | Guardian

Everything leaks in the end. RT@PamelaPaulNYT Are the book embargo’s days numbered? (JK Rowling’s didn’t hold.) …

"If you have to pay for a good review, you shouldn’t be a writer. "


If you like books like these: crime fiction for teens | Children’s books | #yalit

Teen Reads Better Than ‘Fifty Shades’ – Entertainment – The Atlantic Wire #yalit

Review: Everything Goes: Henry Goes Skating by Brian Biggs

everything goes

Everything Goes: Henry Goes Skating by Brian Biggs

This book follows the Everything Goes books by Biggs, but this time is in a format perfect for very early readers.  When Henry wakes up, there is snow on the ground and more falling.  He thinks it’s the perfect day to build a snowman, but his family decides to head skating instead.  On their way to the rink, they see all sorts of vehicles, including a bus that is stuck on the ice.  Luckily, there is a tow truck helping the bus get on its way.  At the rink, they see a Zamboni and get to skate in the snow.  When they get back home, it’s snowman building time!

Done in the style of Biggs, this book is not actually written or illustrated by him.  It does capture the busy and bright style of the earlier books by Biggs that had lots of vehicles and movement.  The illustrations here are filled with color and motion.  The writing is simple enough for the earliest of readers. 

Combine basic words with the popularity of cars and trucks and you have a winning early reader.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer

strange place to call home

A Strange Place to Call Home: the World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young

Through evocative poetry, this book explores habitats that you would never guess something could even survive in.  But they do!  There are creatures who live in places with no water, no warmth, little food.  And those are the creatures that star in this book, each of them celebrated in verse.  There are penguins, mountain goats, and camels, which may be the animals that came to mind.  But Singer looks deeper than that and introduces unlikely creatures to readers, including petroleum flies that hatch in oil, ice worms that live in glaciers, and blind cave fish from Texas and Mexico.  She takes these creatures, known and unknown, and gives us a glimpse of them and their habitat in a variety of poetry forms.  Each page is a discovery of a new animal and a new type of poetry.

Singer excels at creating poetry that is artistic and has depth and yet offers young readers an approach to verse that is welcoming.  She writes at their level yet doesn’t ever play down to them.  Since some of the haikus and other forms are quite brief, it’s nice that she offers paragraphs of information at the end of the book on each creature.  At the very end of the book, she also speaks to the variety of poetic forms she has employed in the book.

Young’s illustrations add another layer of beauty into the book.  Through his layered paper art, he creates a red forest of flamingo legs, a swirl of desert sands, foaming rivers, and an urban landscape among many others.  His work embraces the diverse habitats, recreating the harshness and the often subtle richness of these unknown worlds.

A great pick for poetry units or units on habitats, this book offers a perfect blend of verse, science and art.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

code name verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Verity has been captured by the Gestapo, who have tortured her and kept her without sleep for weeks.  Now she has agreed to tell them the truth, but as a British spy during World War II, that means putting many others in danger.  Still, it gets the torture to stop, and there are many ways to be truthful.  As Verity puts pen to paper, she tells the story of the friendship between two girls, Maddie and Queenie, who would never have met during peacetime, much less become best friends.  Maddie’s story is that of becoming a female pilot when there are very few.  It is a story of strong skills, good luck, and great mentors.  Along the way, she met Queenie, another strong girl, who spoke German, bluffed naturally, and loved fiercely.  This friendship is the heart of Verity’s story of truth, one written with details that are lingered over as if they transport her somewhere safe.  It is also the story that will keep her alive one more day, but eventually the story must end.

Wein is purely masterful here.  While I caught certain things in the story that pointed me to the right conclusions, much of it is so cat and mouse that it is a real pleasure to puzzle through.  That said, it is also a great story all on its own without the puzzle, something that is incredibly difficult to do.  Wein populates her story with so many strong women.  There are Maddie and Queenie, either of whom would have been heroine enough to carry their own book.  Yet there is the magic of having their stories told intertwined.  There are the other women who risked their lives against Hitler, women who defied by seeming to capitulate, women who fought with all their had.  It is the story of all of those women too.

Throughout the book there is an ache that will not go away.  That is the ache of Verity and her story of torture.  Every detail is rimmed with sorrow, with never seeing it again, with the knowledge that her days are so few.  This creates a fragility, a solid sadness, that is present throughout.  It is the world of war, the desperation and the death, and it lifts this book to another level that is beyond the pain.

Tremendously beautiful, achingly sad, and beyond brave, this book and these heroines are simply and utterly amazing.  This is a must-read book, one that I hope garners awards, one that will be a delight to share with others.  Oh, and I must mention that it’s a great crossover for adult readers too.  Trust me, get your hands on this one!

Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Tale Dark & Grimm–The Movie

The Wrap has the news that FilmNation Entertainment has acquired the feature film rights for Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm.  The book will be made into a live-action film and will be FilmNation’s first family oriented project.

I am a big fan of both books in this series.  If you haven’t read them yet, you will want to, because I can’t see a film format capturing the irreverent tone of the books quite right.

Review: The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer

lonely book

The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Chris Sheban

When the book first arrived at the library, it was shiny and new.  It was placed on display and a long list of children waited to read it.  Then the book was moved to the regular children’s shelves with other books that were not so new too.  It was still happy, since it got checked out often.  But as the book grew older, it got checked out less and less.  It had a tear and was missing its last page.  Then one day, a girl found the book, read it and loved it.  She took it home, carried it to school with her, and even shared it at show and tell.  The book felt loved again.  But the next story time, the girl chose a different book and forgot the special book.  She remembered when she got home, but the library was already closed.  Then when she got to the library a week later, the book was gone, withdrawn and meant for the book sale.  This is a sentimental but gorgeous book that every person who has ever loved a book will enjoy.

When I started this book, I was not a fan.  I worried that it would tip into the saccharine and overly sweet.  It is sentimental, as I mentioned above, but it never tips too far into that mode.  Instead I found myself reading a book that brought me back to the joy of discovering books as a child and finding myself closely attached to them.  I still can’t have a logical discussion of the Little House on the Prairie series, since I read them to tatters as a little girl.  I love this book for bringing me back to that.

Sheban’s art is soft and dreamy.  There are often books that glow with the wonder inside of them, something that book lovers will really appreciate.  This is a quiet book, and the art supports that, depicting quiet time reading and bonding with a story.

A great gift for any book-loving child, I think this book will speak most to adults who look fondly back on the books of their childhood.  Perhaps a holiday gift for your favorite librarian or reading teacher.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

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


Maggie Stiefvater Interview : The Childrens Book Review #yalit

‘1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books.’ Zadie Smith’s rules for writing …


12 September 2012 – Humour in picture books « Picture Books Only

Beyond Judy Blume: Books for Children of All Genders | Bitch Media #kidlit

A Book Cover in Time: The Changing Art of Our Childhood Reads – Entertainment – The Atlantic Wire #kidlit

Books about planes, trains, and automobiles — The Horn Book #kidlit

RT @candlewick: Drumroll please! Newbery Award-winner Kate DiCamillo’s next #kidlit novel is announced! #kidlitchat

EarlyWord has the news of the sequel for Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children coming in June 2013 – #kidlit

Horn Book asks if a concept book like Green by Seeger can win the Caldecott – #kidlit

Market in children’s books thrives, with promise found in fall releases | The Columbus Dispatch

Top Ten Middle Grade Graphic Novel Series by Hannahlily Smith « Nerdy Book Club


Interesting look at "ebooks" & emergent readers. Thanks @sljournal …#tlchat #kidlit #edtech

What to Do When Kids Aren’t Allowed to Read Digital Books in School

What’s Wrong With Reading?

Why reading by third grade is critical, and what can be done to help children meet that deadline | Deseret News

Review: Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm

eighth grade is making me sick

Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi

Ginny starts out 8th grade with big plans that she lists out.  They include trying out for cheer, being able to bike to school, sketching every day, and falling in love.  Ginny and her family have just moved to a newer, bigger house, but she’s able to stay at the same school.  Lots of things are going right for Ginny: she likes her science partner, she makes the cheer team, and she just might be falling in love too!  Unfortunately though, everything is not perfect.  Things get tough when Ginny’s mother gets pregnant and her step father loses his job.  As things start to cascade, Ginny starts to get sick.   Nothing is going like Ginny hoped it would.

This book is entirely told in objects like notes, texts, lists and letters.  Readers will love looking through the debris of Ginny’s life.  It’s almost like searching through someone’s stuff to find a storyline inside.  Castaldi’s art is a great mix of actual items and art, done in a popping mixed-media style.  The colors are pure teen-girl yet not stereotypical and I loved the inclusion of all of the books that Ginny was reading that readers can seek out too.

Holm has created a book that reads quickly and lightly, but also explores some of the deeper issues facing tweens today.  There is sickness, a blended family, and job loss to name a few.  Even friendships are explored in a deeper way than one would expect in a book this colorful and fun.

Reluctant readers and tweens who love to read will both enjoy this book which is honest and bright.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.