Category Archives: children’s books

The Doll People (Ann M. Martin) – Review

The doll peopleThe Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Goodwin
Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Age: 9+
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Hyperion, 2000
ISBN 9780786803613 / 256 pages
Find this book at your local library 

Forty-five years ago, the Doll family lost their beloved Aunt Sarah from their humble dollhouse home. After finding her Aunt Sarah’s journal stashed in the library bookshelves, Annabelle Doll takes it upon herself to venture out of the house and look for her aunt. On one of her explorations, she meets a new set of dolls and befriend Tiffany. With a new friend and a new burst of courage, Annabelle and Tiffany venture into the world of the living humans to look for their missing relative.

There are number of elements in this book that make it fantastic.

1. Illustrations by Brian Selznick. The author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret does a fantastic job bringing the doll families to life in this book. He pencil illustrations are amazing, depicting the smallest flecks of emotion in the doll’s faces.

2. Ann M. Martin. The author of the Babysitter’s Club teams up with author Laura Goodwin to write the first in a trilogy about the Doll family. This book is imaginative, funny and well paced. Annabelle’s family is from the Victorian era, made of porcelain and passed down from generation to generation. Tiffany’s family is new, plastic and perfect for the rough hands of a playful 5-year-old younger sister. The contrast between old and new, traditional v. modern is well examined through the friendship of Annabelle and Tiffany.

3. Living Dolls. Lives in Dollhouses. I LOVE, LOVE this genre in children’s fiction. This book is a perfect for fans of the following:

  • The Indian in the Cupboard series (Lynne Reid Banks)
  • The Castle in the Attic  (Elizabeth Winthrop)
  • Toy Story (the movies)
  • Time Windows (Kathryn Reiss)

The storyline is simple to follow, adventurous and the conversations feel true to the ages of the characters. Parents can enjoy this book and also use it as an opportunity to share stories from their childhood, or pass along toys from their childhood. 

Eight Keys (Suzanne LaFleur) – Review

Eight keysEight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Age: Tween (9 and up)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, school drama
Source: Library
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books, 2011
ISBN: 9780385740302
216 pages

Find this book at your local library  

Elise’s mother died when Elise was born during a complicated pregnancy. Elise’s father died shortly afterwards after a fight with cancer. Up until her 12th birthday, Elise had received a letter each year on her birthday that her father had written before his death.  When entering into 6th grade, Elise hits a rough patch.  She’s constantly behind in school, her locker partner is mean to her everyday, and Elise’s relationship with her best friend from childhood is on thin ice. Throughout the course of the first term of school, Elise stumbles upon eight keys left for her by her deceased father. Each key unlocks rooms and family histories that she had nearly forgotten.

The whole letters-from-beyond really seems to be a theme in books. There was PS I Love You by Cecila Ahern that may have started the whole thing. I know 13 Letters follows the same concept. This book though, is a little different.

The story is really sweet and I think girls entering the dreaded tween years will really relate to Elise. I like how delicately Lafleur touches on the bullying issue in the book. It’s very subtle, but also says a lot about the culture clashes in schools that most adults just don’t see. Every morning, Amanda smashes Elise’s lunch under a pile of textbooks. Amanda calls Elise names, and even once smashed the locker door on Elise’s fingers. Trying to cope with the large amount of school work, and Amanda’s bullying is a lot for Elise to handle. She takes out her frustration on her friendship with Franklin, putting a strain on their friendship for the first 3 months of the school year.

The messages and the rooms in the attic left by Elise’s dad are very sweet concepts. I won’t disclose the contents, but each room was just the thing Elise needed to help her figure out who is she, and what she wants to be. Each inspirational message left behind from her dad related to one of Elise’s problems in school, and helped guide her towards the right, although sometimes wrong, way of handling the situations.

I liked the supporting characters in the book as well. Although Franklin just seemed really young for his character. He acted more like a little kid constantly craving sweets that his mother won’t allow. Caroline is a great character too, very much a role model and support system that Elise needed to get through school.

I also really like that Elise isn’t the shy bookworm getting picked on at school. That seems too easy sometimes. Elise doesn’t read for fun, isn’t good at school, and just doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’s at a cross-roads for the majority of the book in terms of her interests and hobbies. I think it makes her much more approachable to reluctant readers.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Heather Vogel Frederick) – Review

The Mother-Daughter Book ClubThe Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
Age: tween (9-12)
Genre: Fiction / realistic drama
Source: Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2007
ISBN 9780689864124 / 245 pages

Find this book at your local library

Four girls with seemingly nothing in common are drafted to join a mother-daughter book club in their small community in Concord, Mass. Spanning the course of a year, the girls read Little Women because the author was born and raised in their hometown. Along the way, the girls forge new friendships, rekindle old, forgotten friendships, and learn to live a little more bravely each day.

Each chapter is told through the perspective of one of the four girls: Emma (the librarian’s overweight daughter), Jess (Emma’s best friend, shy, but musically talented), Megan (formerly best friends with Emma, left to join the popular girls at school) and Cassidy (the tomboy daughter of a formerly famous supermodel).

Although many of the experiences the girls face are realistic, in regards to bullying, crushes, and body image issues, etc. I did find it sort of unrealistic that one mothers is a former world-famous supermodel, while the other is now a famous celebrity on a soap opera, Heartbeats. It felt like there were too many big personalities for such a small town. 

I also thought the end was really sugary-sweet with the happy endings. Cavity inducing sugary-sweet. To be fair, only the last couple chapters of the book were that sweet. The girls, their experiences, and the parental interactions all felt very realistic, and approachable.

The writing style reminded me a lot of the Babysitter’s Club and Ann M. Martin’s creation of a small town in New England. There are currently four books in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, each book focusing on a different classic. The sequel to this one has the girls reading Anne of Green Gables.

I think this book is a great vehicle for steering young readers towards the classics. In this book, each of the four girls could see themselves as one of the March girls, and would implement the personalities of the March sisters into their everyday lives. Jo was the biggest source of inspiration for all the girls. 

I can see a lot of potential for a book like this. This can be read alongside the classics it discusses and parents can start their own mother-daughter book clubs or reading clubs.

In Search of Mockingbird (Loretta Ellsworth) – Review

In search of MockingbirdIn Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth
Age: 11 – 14
Genre: Fiction / Coming of Age
Publisher: Henry Holt, 2007
ISBN 9780805072365
181 pages
Find this book at your local library 

On the eve of her 16th birthday, Erin has to deal with some serious changes in her life. Although her mother died when she was just two, Erin’s dad is finally ready to settle down and marry his girlfriend of three years. Despite Erin’s frustration with this news, she receives from her dad a worn copy of her mother’s diary. With only a lightly packed backpack, her mother’s diary and well-worn and loved copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Erin sets off from Minnesota to Monroeville, Alabama with the hopes of meeting the reclusive author of the book that so strongly connects Erin to her mother, Harper Lee.

As a book for tweens/early teens, I really enjoyed this book. I think the cover will probably scare off potential readers, but hopefully they’ll be able to get past that. Erin does not fit in with her family. She has two athletic older brothers and her dad is dating a volleyball coach. All Erin wants to do is cuddle up somewhere cozy to read and write stories.

With a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird as her only link to her deceased mother, Erin is determined to meet Harper Lee, no matter what it takes. Along the way, Erin meets a series of characters that help her turn the long bus ride into  more of an internal and emotional journey.

Despite the neatly wrapped up ending, I think this is a great book for kids, as well as fans of To Kill A Mockingbird. There are many references made to the book and its characters. Erin is often comparing herself to Scout and trying to decide how Scout would handle a situation. I think teachers could push this title as a great supplemental read when reading Harper Lee’s classic.

The book is short, only a light 181 pages, so it doesn’t require much committment. Its set in the 80s, and Ellsworth did a great job of keeping the historical references accurate. The book focuses a lot on loss and forgiveness, with fellow passengers sharing their stories and experiences with Erin. Most of the book takes place on the bus from Minnesota to Alabama. Ellsworth did a fantastic job of describing the dull, depressing atmosphere of bus depots as well as the exhaustion from travelling for 12+ hours.

Reading this book really just made me want to reread To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven’t read that book in well over a dozen years, and I think I saw the movie farther back than I read the book. It is a story I always think about though. Atticus Finch is the personification of honesty, integrity and dignity in my mind.

Geek Girls Unite (Leslie Simon) – Review

Geek girls unite : how fangirls, bookworms, indie chicks, and Other misfits are taking over the worldGeek Girls Unite by Leslie Simon
Age: Tween / Teen
Genre: Nonfiction / Pop Culture / Women
Source: Publisher
Publisher: It Books,  2011
ISBN: 9780062002730
193 pages

Find this book at your local library 

I think the full title of this book explains the entire concept:

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks and Other Misfits Are Taking Over The World.

In this book by author and music journalist Leslie Simon, we explore the world of girl-geekdom. This book is a representation of the cultural progression towards a new identity, that of the geek. Particularly the variety of geek that is no longer relegated to the world of awkward boys. Being a geek is now cool, and its something that women around the globe are embracing and being celebrated for.

The book focuses primarily on 6 types of geek: Fangirl Geek, Literary Geek, Film Geek, Music Geek, Funny-Girl Geek, and Domestic Goddess Geek. There is also a chapter at the end that runs through a number of other geek varieties: tech geek, fashionista geek, athlete geek, etc.

Each chapter has a specific format, a certain breakdown of the geek in question. The format goes as follows (with my general review and thoughts in parenthesis):

  • Pop quiz to gauge how well-versed the reader is in this field. (The questions were something similar to a Seventeen Magazine teen quiz, and Simon probably could have varied the answers in each chapter, as the answer was always the same letter for each quiz).
  • Character Sketch (a quick run-down of what makes up this certain type of geek)
  • Say What? (the lingo most associated with this subset of geek)
  • Geek Mythology (a deeper look into the start of this geek movement, and who was involved in its evolution over time.)
  • Geek Goddesses (notable names of contemporary icons and figures in the media that best reflect this subset of geek)
  • Frenemies (Posers, frauds or phonies. People who think they fit into this geek category, but really don’t because of a series of bullet point, overly broad generalizations as listed and created by Simon).
  • Geek Love (another series of overly broad generalizations and ideas that do more to propagate the stereotypes associated with this level of geek, this time in regards to romantic matches.)
  • Required Reading / Web Bookmarks, Movies / Playlist (this part is actually my favorite of each chapter. I think Simon did a great job assembling a selection of resources for young girls to further learn about their desired geek-topic. Although there were a few links and notable names that I found missing in the book, I think this end summary did a good job of getting young girls started on their path of development.)

Had I known from the get-go that this book was aimed at the tween/teen age range, I would have approached it with a different frame of mind. As a 28-year-old, this book really didn’t appeal to me, or reach me on any volume, even though I am a self-proclaimed literary/domestic goddess geek married to a music geek. I think young girls will fully embrace this book and relate to the notable names (Tina Fey, Natalie Portman, etc). Although I did find the requirements for each type of geek to be restrictive, Simon does make a point to mention that geeks can be anyone who embraces a level of cultural with a passion and intensity and one type of geek is not better than the rest. This book is full of resources for anyone interested in learning more, or even just learning about the different subsets in this book. I’ve already jotted down a number of books to read, movies to watch and CDs to explore.

Book 58 of 2011

Read A Likes

book jacket book jacket  book jacket

  1. Geektastic by Holly Black
  2. She’s Such a Geek! by Annalee Newitz
  3. How to be a Geek Goddess by Christina Tynan-Wood


Wildwood (Colin Meloy) – Review

WildwoodWildwood by Colin Meloy
Age: 12 & up
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2011
ISBN: 9780062024688
541 pages

Find this book at your local library 

While enjoying a typical and relaxing day with her younger brother, Mac, 12-year-old Prue sees a murder of crows swoop down from the sky and sweep up her brother with one catch. Much to her dismay and horror, she sees that the crows have taken her brother into the frightful Impassable Woods that borders her hometown of Portland, Or. Now Prue has to muster up the courage to delve deep into the woods to look for her brother, but what she finds is more than she ever expected.

I know I said I wouldn’t review books for younger kids here, but I think this book is so fantastically and eloquently written, that adults will get a lot of enjoyment from reading this book. Colin Meloy is the lead singer/songwriter for the Decemberists, and this is his first book. Wildwood is book 1 of the Wildwood Chronicles. For me, this book has a lot of elements of many beloved children’s books. I found influences and traces of the following: The Chronicles of Narnia, Robin Hood, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, etc. From the talking animals, to the unhappy and restless residents of Wildwood, Prue and her friend Curtis get sucked into the slow upheaval that is about to upset the world of Wildwood and the epic struggle between good and evil.

The world Meloy has created is well-developed. I didn’t feel as if he spent too much or too little time on any of the numerous factions that make up the hidden world of Wildwood. From the bandits, to the city rulers, I found all the characters to be intricate, and complex. I would definitely recommend this book to advanced readers who enjoy fantasy, action, and humor. Meloy does not dumb down this book, even though it is aimed for a much younger audience. I had to look up a word in the dictionary on almost every page of this book.

There is a lot going on in this book, and I can’t even begin to sum it up in this review. I know I’ve left out giant chunks of the story, but if I were to review this book in as much detail as I wanted this review would be about a million words long.

A snippet of the book – Prue’s first impressions of Wildwood forest.

The sunlight dappled the ground in hazy patterns, and the air felt pure and untouched to Prue’s cheeks. As she walked, she wondered at the majesty of the place, her fears subsiding with every step in this incredible wilderness. Birds sang in the looming trees above the ravine, and the underbrush was periodically disturbed by the sudden skitter of a squirrel or a chipmunk. Prue couldn’t believe that no one had ever ventured this far into the Impassable Wilderness; she found it a welcoming and serene place, full of life and beauty.

Not to sound repetitive, but I LOVED this book and I think any adult who enjoys The Narnia series, or Harry Potter will definitely enjoy this book. I read all 500+ pages of it in one day. I think Harry Potter 7 was the last long book I did that for. I am eagerly awaiting book 2 of the series.

Book 49 of 2011

Gennifer Choldenko Bay Area Visit

Gennifer CholdenkoFor anyone and everyone living in the Bay Area, Gennifer Choldenko will be making the rounds in the Peninsula. If you’re as much of a fan of her work as I am, definitely try to make it to one of these events.

The author of Al Capone Does My Laundry, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, & If A Tree Falls as Lunch Period will be making the following appearances starting Monday Oct 3rd:

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period   Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko: Book Cover

  • Monday Oct 3rd – Menlo Park Public Library 7pm
  • Tuesday Oct 4th – Daly City Public Library 3:30pm
  • Tuesday Oct 4th – Redwood City Public Library 7pm
  • Thursday Oct 6th – South San Francisco Public Library 4:00pm

April Recap

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****The reviews for the children’s books can now be found at****

April has been incredibly slow reading month for me. Can you blame me though, I did get married in the middle of the month. Quite happily married at that. =)

I did manage to sneak in a new feature to the blog, Sunday Storytime. This is my opportunity to discuss different picture books, and how they can be incorporated into library storytimes along with fingerplays, feltboard stories and other similarly themed books.

Although pretty much  all of the book reviews for this month are picture books, I did spend a good portion of my time reading Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde.


1. Copy me, Copycub

2. book jacket

3. book jacket

4. Lost in a Good Book.

  1. Copy Me, Copycub by Richard Edwards
  2. Wake Up Kisses by Pamela Duncan Edwards
  3. Zookeeper Sue by Chris Demarest
  4. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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The one day of the year where all of the United States decides it wants to be Irish. Afterall, who can turn down green beer, green festivities and the age-old tradition of pinching anyone who isn’t wearing green? You know out-grow the last tradition.

Since I haven’t been able to compile a list myself, I’ll link you to some great Irish Authors Booklists around the web to help further the celebration!

NYPL – Irish Authors Booklist

Chicago Public Library – St. Patrick’s Day Booklist (for kids)

MyShelf – St. Patrick’s Day Fiction

Irish Writers Online A-Z Index

ALA announces youth media award winners

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The 2010 youth media awards have been announced by the American Librarian Association. These books are chosen for their outstanding writing, context and influence on teens and children.

Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, ALA awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth.  Selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s and young adult experts, the awards encourage original and creative work.  For more information on the ALA youth media awards and notables, please visit the ALA website at

A list of all the 2011 award winners follows:
John Newbery Medal
Moon over Manifest
“Moon over Manifest,” written by Clare Vanderpool, is the 2011 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Randolph Caldecott Medal
for the most distinguished American picture book for children
A sick day for Amos McGee

“A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” illustrated by Erin E. Stead, is the 2011 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Philip C. Stead, and is a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.
Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award
recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults
One crazy summer
“One Crazy Summer,” written by Rita Williams-Garcia is the 2011 King Author Book winner. The book is published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences
  • “The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel,” by Alden Bell, published by Holt Paperbacks, a division of Henry Holt and Company, LLC
  • “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel,” by Aimee Bender, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • “The House of Tomorrow,” by Peter Bognanni, published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of the Penguin Group
  • “Room: A Novel,” by Emma Donoghue, published by Little, Brown and Company a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
  • “The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel,” by Helen Grant, published by Delacorte, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • “The Radleys,” by Matt Haig, published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • “The Lock Artist,” by Steve Hamilton, published by Thomas Dunne Books for Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press
  • “Girl in Translation,” by Jean Kwok, published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of the Penguin Group
  • “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” by Liz Murray, published by Hyperion
  • “The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To,” by DC Pierson, published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • Follow the link to see the winners and honorees of the remaining awards.