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Have an Awesome Thanksgiving

In honor of this week’s holiday, a book review post from a few years back: Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday, by Mike Allegra, illustrated by David Gardner.  Whitman, 2012, 32 pages. Age-interest level: 4-up As our story opens, Sarah Hale is gathered with her five children around the Thanksgiving table.  No […]

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Flying Ponies and Dump Trucks

Do little kids love fantasy? NPR recently reported on a study done by three academic psychologists on the subject of children and fiction. They asked a group of 4-to-7-year-olds what choose between two stories they might like to read or listen to: one story about a child who found a treasure, and another about a […]

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Tempest in a Mixing Bowl

As a book reviewer, I have stars in my eyes. That is, I watch for stars when scanning book review journals, because they are an indicator of what someone finds excellent. Often, what others value is not what I would value, but if a book collects a lot of stars (six is the absolute gold […]

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When Is a Story More Than a Story?

We live in the Age of Narrative. And increasingly, novels stop telling stories and become about story, gazing at themselves with calm adoration. This is nowhere more true than in the celebrated children’s novels of Brian Selznek. Selnek began as an illustrator who, over time, developed a distinctive, detailed, textured style built on shades of […]

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The Uses of Terror

Yesterday I made a distinction between “terror” stories and “horror” stories—the latter based squarely on our elemental fear of death, often with buckets of blood thrown in. (Suspense is a sub-category of the horror genre, built on the same fear factor but not so brutal). The horror genre lumps together all stories that could be […]

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Scary Stuff

In honor of the holiday this week that celebrates spooks and skeletons, here’s a post from a few years ago. Everybody has their favorite C. S. Lewis quotes.  Here’s one of mine: “Almost the whole of Christian theology could perhaps be deduced from the two facts (a) That men make coarse jokes, and (b) That […]

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The Doll People by Ann Martin and Laura Godwin

The Doll People Series, by Ann Martin and Laura Godwin. Disney/Hyperion Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10 Recommended for: ages 7-12 (mostly girls) Bottom Line: The Doll People series, rolling out in a leisurely way with four titles since 2003, offers a winning set of “living dolls” and an ideal transition from chapter books to […]

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“The book is a lot better than the movie” – Usually

I’ve been thinking a lot about movies lately–perhaps because my latest novel, published this month, is set in the early days of the silent film industry.  Next week we’ll publish my interview with Betsy about that novel in particular.  But on the general theme of movies, and looking forward to the big holiday film season […]

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Matthew Muddles Through by Glenda Mathes

Matthew Muddles Through (Matthew in the Middle #1) by Glenda Mathes. CreateSpace, 2014, 220 pages Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10 Recommended for: ages 8-12 Bottom Line: The everyday adventures of a small-town preacher’s kid acquire eternal significance in this low-key series for middle graders. Matthew Vos belongs to a shrinking culture: the church-going, catechism-learning, […]

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13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Razorbill, 2006. 336 pages Reading Level: Young Adult, ages 12-15 Recommended for: ages 15-up Bottom Line: Since its publication in 2006, 13 Reasons Why has become the go-to novel on the subject of teen suicide, but it’s more sensational than useful. Suppose, when you get home from school one […]

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Laid-Back Homeschooling: a Word of Encouragement for the Year Ahead

I’m not quite ready to retire to a rocking chair in front of the general store, bending the ear of hapless passers-by: Yessir, it was rough back in them early homeschoolin’ days . . . But still, it’s fun to off-handedly mention that when we decided to take our third-grader and first-grader out of public […]

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