Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale. Amulet, 2014. 128 pages. Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12 Maturity Level: 4 (age 10 and up) This is the fourth volume of “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales,” all of which employ the author’s namesake (the heroic Revolutionary-War spy) as narrator for some dark, dramatic chapters in history. […]
*The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Harcourt Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 237 pages. Reading Level: Middle Grade, ages 10-12 Maturity Level: 4 (ages 10-12) and up One-line summary: The Crossover, a verse novel for middle grades, is an exuberant, touching, and funny tribute to basketball and family. Basketball Rule #1: In this game of life/ your family […]
The Wimpy Kid phenomenon keeps on going, and so far has outlasted the dystopia phenomenon, the vampire phenomenon, and the zombie phenomenon. Volume 8 in the series, Hard Luck, is set to release on Nov. 5 with a 5.5 million print run. I reviewed The Third Wheel, Wimpy Kid #7, with observations on the genre […]
Got a novel idea? It’s easier than ever to get published, but if the imprint on the spine of your masterwork is Xlibris or iUniverse, don’t expect placement on the New York Times bestseller list. There are always exceptions, such as Christopher Paolini, a hardworking homeschooler who completed his first dragon novel (Eragon) at the […]
“Grammar” is a stretchy word, enclosing syntax (sentence structure), spelling, punctuation and parts of speech—the mechanics of language. Along with algebra, principal products, and geology, it would probably win a top five spot in the “Why do we have to learn this?” category. When it came to diagramming sentences, some of the kids in my […]
Dystopian fiction for middle-grades isn’t new: Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a classic of the genre. The success of The Hunger Games means similar titles for younger ages would be showing up soon. These two are good examples, even though each comes with a little twist–the first stirs in a generous measure of magic, and […]
Wrapping up our two weeks of Lorax-inspired environmental emphasis, how do children’s books specifically reflect growing concern about our care of the earth? Because of course they do. Any publisher will gravitate toward books that speak to a current issue, so expect to find plenty of books in your local school and public library about […]
Soldier Bear, by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011, 145 pages. Age/interest level: 9-12 World War II started when the Germans and the Russians went into Poland, the Germans from the left and the Russians from the right. They stopped exactly in the middle, where they […]
Picture books are traditional, and YA is new and glamorous, but the area of literature I consider to be “classic children’s” is that big glorious milestone middle—the golden years between, say, eight and twelve, when you were old enough to hop on your bike and seek adventure in the neighboring woods and vacant lots, when […]
By his own account, Brian Selznick spent six months in a funk before coming across the seminal idea for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. An award-winning illustrator of children’s novels and biographies, he couldn’t see his career going anywhere until he came across a bit of trivia about George Miletes, one of the pioneers of […]
The Brixton Brothers, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex, published by Simon & Schuster. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (2009), 179 pages. The Ghostwriter Secret (2010), 226 pages. Age/interest level: 9-13. Steve Brixton’s #1 favorite book is whichever Bailey Brothers detective novel he happens to be reading, and his #1 ambition is […]
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