A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star July 20, 2014 A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star Kathleen Ann Goonan A rocket story. The Angelus Guns July 16, 2014 The Angelus Guns Max Gladstone There's a war in heaven, outside of time. Sleep Walking Now and Then July 9, 2014 Sleep Walking Now and Then Richard Bowes A tragedy in three acts. The Devil in the Details July 2, 2014 The Devil in the Details Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald A Peter Crossman adventure.
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A Long Overdue Nod to SciFi and Fantasy’s Best Librarians
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Showing posts tagged: children's books click to see more stuff tagged with children's books
May 22 2014 3:00pm

A Questionable View of Science: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet

Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet Eleanor CameronApparently I’m not the only one convinced that the remarkable discoveries, chronicled by children’s author Eleanor Cameron, of one Mr. Tyco Bass, that member of the Mushroom Planet who devoted a full human lifetime to creating various Strange Inventions, studying the stars, discovering new planetoids, and—in a new twist—finding what seem to be rather dangerous holes in space orbiting the Earth (GULP) should be brought to wider attention. Granted, my interest is purely scientific. That of Horatio Quimby Peabody, however, is rather less scientific, and rather more consumed with the joy of gaining renown—and possibly even tenure—by making such discoveries public. Thus his sudden decision to be a Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet.

[Though I seriously hope no young readers will be taking Horatio Quimby Peabody as an exemplar of the academic and scientific professions. Also, updates on the chickens.]

Jan 27 2014 11:15am

Newbery and Caldecott Winners Announced!

The American Library Association announced the Newbery and Caldecott Awards this morning in Philadelphia! Kate DiCamillo won the John Newbery Medal for Flora & Ulysses, the story of a comic-loving girl and a squirrel who is also a poet. DiCamillo previously won the Newbery for The Tale of Despereaux in 2004.

Brian Floca won a Randolph Caldecott Medal for his work, Locomotive. The Printz Award went to Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood. The Coretta Scott-King Awards for African-American books went to Rita William-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven, the story of a Brooklyn girl named Delphine who has to remember to “be eleven” while also taking on adult responsibilities. And the Coretta Scott-King illustration prize went to Bryan Collier with Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me.

Finally, there were four winners of Newbery Honors! Holly Black, whose work has appeared often on Tor.com, for Doll Bones; Kevin Henkers for The Year of Billy Miller; Amy Timberlake for One Came Home; and Vince Vawter for Paperboy.

You can read free samples of the Newbery Medal and Honor winners here, and read the New York Times review of Ms. Black’s book here.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Dec 27 2013 10:00am

Is There a Right Age to Read a Book?

Is There a Right Age to Read a Book?

Claire of The Captive Reader, one of my favourite book blogs, has a post about reading books before you are ready for them. She quotes Sheila Kaye-Smith on not reading books when you are too young for them and goes on to explain how she read much Great Literature as a teenager without it doing her a lick of harm. It never did me any harm either, and I’ve talked before about starting to read something and realising it’s too old for me and leaving it for later...and how I’m still doing this with E.R. Eddison at the age of forty-eight. It’s a good habit, because it blames myself and not the book when I can’t get into something. It’s quite distinct from thinking “this is awful,” which I think often enough, it’s “this is beyond me right now.”

But is there a right age to read a book?

[Read more]

Dec 20 2013 10:00am

I Hear Santa’s Sleigh: On The Polar Express and What It Means to Believe

The Polar Express

It’s sappy holiday story time! Are you ready? I’m ready….

So, Christmas at my house has always been a decidedly secular affair. In that way, I’m no different from a good portion of North America. My parents and I always loved decorating our tree, drinking cocoa, putting out the cookies and such, but the only time we ever arrived at a Christmas mass it was to hear my piano teacher play the service. I went to see one live nativity display as a teen because a friend’s cousin was playing one of the Wise Men. The only Jesus Christ I was listening to was probably the Superstar kind.

Santa Claus, however, was another matter entirely.

[A single bell…]

Nov 27 2013 8:30am

Catching Fire: A Children’s Champion

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Last week, in a bid to cut costs, and in all probability corners, The Times in its infinite literary wisdom decided to fire the estimable children’s book reviewer Amanda Craig. The decision has not been without consequences... neither for the newspaper nor the readers it’s supposed to serve.

Later on, in Cover Art Corner: a new look for Adam Nevill, plus a first look at his next book, No One Gets out Alive.

And finally, the twenty titles that’ll be given away as part of World Book Night in the UK in 2014 have been announced. If you’d like to help get the good word out about a few good books, The Reading Agency are already accepting applications.

[Read More]

Nov 21 2013 3:00pm

The Perils of Revolution: Westmark

Westmark Lloyd AlexanderEven as his novels focused on stories of princes or wannabe princes, princesses, and kings, Lloyd Alexander’s work had always had more than a touch of the democratic about it, with its gentle pokes against kings and the entire idea of the aristocracy. So it is perhaps not surprising that in the 1980s, after several light-hearted works, Alexander decided to take a deeper look at revolution, democracy, and kingship, in a new, more serious series, starting with Westmark, the first of the trilogy of the same name.

[Read More]

Sep 10 2013 2:00pm

Another One of Dad’s Stories: Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately the Milk Neil Gaiman Skottie Young

Neil Gaiman told a cautionary tale at his reading in Lexington, KY this summer. The moral was this: just because one’s young daughter enjoys R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series does not mean one’s same young daughter will also enjoy Stephen King’s Carrie. Sometimes, though, we literary sorts get carried away with our stories, with sharing and spinning imagination into words and tales, and just have to hope that the people around us are willing to jog a bit to catch up (or, at the very least, not turn tail and run).

In a culture where fathers are often presented as bumbling idiots a la Berenstein Bears (a “fatherist” problem Gaiman has even faulted himself for), Gaiman’s new children’s book, Fortunately, the Milk has turned the trope on its head while remaining charmingly self-aware. Fortunately’s protagonist is a dad on a mission—a very zany mission—but it’s in the telling of the tale that he proves himself to his kids. The publisher describes the book as “an ode to the pleasure and wonders of storytelling itself,” and Gaiman called it the “silliest book [he] has ever written.” It’s a bit of both, and therein lays its magic.

[Read more]

Aug 27 2013 10:00am

Transformation and Death: The Witches

The Witches 30th Anniversary Roald Dahl“I don’t mind at all,” I said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like as long as somebody loves you.”

After the tragic death of his parents in a car accident when he is only seven, the narrator—who never does get a name in the book—is sent to live with his Norwegian grandmother, first in Norway and then in England. Echoing Dahl’s own relationship with his Norwegian relatives, they speak both English and Norwegian to each other, hardly noticing what language they are using.

The grandmother is both a wonderfully reassuring and terrifying figure: reassuring, because she loves her grandson deeply and works to soften the horrible loss of his parents, with plenty of hugs and affection and tears. Terrifying, mostly because she spends her time frightening him with stories about witches—stories she insists are absolutely true—and partly because she spends her time smoking large cigars. She encourages her young grandson to follow her example, on the basis that people who smoke cigars never get colds. I’m pretty sure that’s medically invalid, a point only emphasized when the grandmother later comes down with pneumonia, which, ok, technically speaking isn’t a cold, but is hardly an advertisement for the health benefits of large cigars. (Not to mention the lung cancer risks.)

[Read more]

Aug 8 2013 2:30pm

A Look at Something Larger: Are All the Giants Dead?

Are All the Giants Dead Mary NortonAfter four books about tiny people living in walls, author Mary Norton decided it was time for a distinct change. And by distinct change, I mean, a book directly referencing giants: Are All the Giants Dead? (Spoiler: Er, no.) But this is not merely a book about giants: it’s a story of fairy tales, of exploration, of limitations, of writing, of imagination and courage. As with Norton’s other books, it makes for great bedtime reading: beautifully written and filled with subtle humor aimed at both adults and kids. I should like it more than I do.

[When meeting Cinderella turns out to be a decidedly “eh” experience.]

Aug 2 2013 1:00pm

When Your Ideal Life Still Isn’t As Good As Flying: The Borrowers Aloft

The Borrowers AloftMary Norton’s The Borrowers Aloft begins on an odd note for the series: not a word about Kate, who up until this point has been the main narrator and transcriber of the stories about the Borrowers. Instead, it starts by telling us about two model villages. In this case, “model” means little, like dollhouses; but try as I might, the only image I could think of was the replicas of various U.S. cities in Legoland Florida. (Which—off topic alert!—everyone should go see. Back on topic.) The first of these model villages is Little Fordham—the place Homily, Pod, and Arietty were trying to reach at the end of the last book—owned by Mr. Pott. The second is Ballyhoggin, owned by Mr. Platter. (You can all take a moment to quietly groan at the puns.)

Norton assures us that a third village, built by a young girl, also exists, but that this third village wasn’t very important—before going right ahead and mentioning it again in the next paragraph. But as it turns out, she’s right: the village is never mentioned again, with the focus returning to the two rival model villages, the Borrowers, and—if you couldn’t tell from the title—balloons.

[Not exactly SAFE balloons, mind you.]

Jun 12 2013 1:00pm

The Circle of Life: Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash

Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash

In the animal kingdom, order is everything.

Absent order, chaos would surely consume the many and various creatures who live in and around Murder’s Field, for instance. Imagine the madness of the grain harvest without someone to make sure the quails wait their turn! Consider those small souls who would go hungry because of the gluttony of others!

Luckily, that’s where the crow king comes in. For generations—ever since the war of the wolves—he and his black-feathered forefathers have upheld a system of sharing and, to a certain extent, caring. Under his watchful eye, an order of sorts is imposed. Rabbits, badgers, rats and mice alike are all subject to his commands from on high, in an ornate nest in a great tree at the centre of this field.

But now, the crow king is dead.

And at the outset of Lupus Rex, there is a very real reckoning ahead...

[Read more.]

Mar 29 2013 11:00am

Why Dinosaurs Are the Ultimate Childhood Companion

Why Dinosaurs Are the Ultimate Childhood Companion

It’s a scene familiar to parents, teachers, guardians, what have you. A small child poring over a book about massive, voracious, clawed killers. If blood is dripping from their jagged teeth, all the better. And rather than horrify us, the scene gives us a strange sense of comfort. Awww. The childhood dinosaur phase! How cute!

Indeed it’s such a familiar scene that I think a lot of us forget how weird it is in the first place that children even like dinosaurs. How did these beats find their way into so many children’s hearts?

[Read More]

Mar 7 2013 3:00pm

The Last Excursions into Fantasy: The Minpins and the Vicar of Nibbleswicke

Roald Dahl Children's Books The Minpins Vicar of Nibbleswicke Short StoriesAs a kind of final round up of Roald Dahl’s fiction before we get to the movies based on Dahl’s fiction, two short reviews of Dahl’s last works: The Minpins and The Vicar of Nibbleswicke. Reviews short because, well, the books are short (for some reason I remembered The Minpins as being much longer), but here because they serve as a nice coda to his work. Both were written while Dahl was in failing health—perhaps why neither turned into a novel—and this sensibility colors both books.

[The books!]

Jan 15 2013 11:00am

Is There a Right Age to Read a Book?

Is There a Right Age to Read a Book?

Claire of The Captive Reader, one of my favourite book blogs, has a post about reading books before you are ready for them. She quotes Sheila Kaye-Smith on not reading books when you are too young for them and goes on to explain how she read much Great Literature as a teenager without it doing her a lick of harm. It never did me any harm either, and I’ve talked before about starting to read something and realising it’s too old for me and leaving it for later...and how I’m still doing this with E.R. Eddison at the age of forty-eight. It’s a good habit, because it blames myself and not the book when I can’t get into something. It’s quite distinct from thinking “this is awful,” which I think often enough, it’s “this is beyond me right now.”

But is there a right age to read a book?

[Read more]

Dec 12 2012 12:00pm

Gaiman for Younglings: The Dave McKean Picture Book Collaborations

While Gaiman’s two picture books with Charles Vess have a lyrical, meta-fictional quality, the stories with illustrator Dave McKean seem more traditional in structure, by comparison. But of course this is Neil Gaiman we’re dealing with, so just because they have a more traditional structure doesn’t mean that the illustrations or story content is remotely humdrum or unexciting… It’s just an interesting paradox that the more narrative-centric stories contain almost surreal, off-the-wall illustrations from McKean, while the meta-fictional stories feature more straightforward (albeit lush and gorgeous) illustrations from Vess.

With the three Dave McKean picture books—The Wolves in the Walls, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, and Crazy Hair—Gaiman presents us with a trio of clever, humorous fables which read as delightful page-turners for adults and children alike.

[Read more]

Jun 28 2012 4:00pm

Pigs! In! Magic! Freddy the Magician

Before we get started with chatting about Freddy the Magician, I need to make something clear: I love magicians. The more spectacular and unrealistic a stage trick is, the more I love it. I can see the cups and balls trick done over and over and over, and I can even fall for the passing solid rings through one another every time.

So if you are expecting an unbiased review about a book featuring a talking pig performing magic tricks with the help of a talking cat—well. This isn’t going to be that review. (With the hasty assurance to the Powers That Be At Tor.com that I shall be returning to nice unbiased reviews soon.) Because, guys, HE MAKES A RABBIT DISAPPEAR INTO A HAT. A pig! Making a rabbit disappear into a hat! Plus, bonus mind reading tricks!

(Stage magicians love me.)

[Anyway, onto the book. Which really does feature a pig doing magic tricks and an Evil Rabbit. No, really. I love this book. Also, the link to a new Edith Nesbit ebook.]

Jun 21 2012 4:00pm

Post-War Transformations: Freddy and the Popinjay

As World War II finally drew to a close, Walter Brooks found himself pondering the question of whether or not friends and enemies could indeed change, or be changed, and how. So although so far, none of the Freddy books focused on character development and change,in the 1945 Freddy and the Popinjay, Brooks tells the intertwined stories of Jimmy, an emotionally abused neighbor’s child; Mac, father of a family of wildcats who enjoy eating small rabbits, whatever the rabbits might think about these tasty habits; and two robins turning themselves into more elaborate birds—or popinjays. All, for various reasons, want or need to transform themselves. And it’s up to Freddy the Pig, in his most heroic (in a quiet way) yet, to help them—or realize that just perhaps, it’s not the best idea.

Also, a courtly tournament almost straight out of the tales of King Arthur and the Round Table except that King Arthur’s tournaments, as I recall, rarely featured pillows, pigs, and reluctant cows. Which I now realize is kinda sad.

[Making friends with creatures that eat you.]

May 24 2012 4:00pm

The Threat of War: Freddy and the Ignormus

The animals of Bean Farm have long told stories about the Ignormus in the Big Woods. No one, admittedly, is quite sure what an Ignormus is, other than a large, terrifying creature that can eat any animal, who may have caused the disappearance of a rabbit or two. But when things begin to disappear from the Bean Farm—including carefully horded food supplies that the animals and Mr. Bean desperately need for the summer—followed by a series of threatening letters from the Ignoramus itself, the stories turn to pure terror. Worse, some suspicion is even falling on Freddy himself.  Freddy!

It all leads to Freddy and the Ignormus, a book that, while still funny and filled with crisp dialogue, has a surprisingly somber tone—and an urgent discussion of fear, courage, reality and belief, overshadowed with the terror of war.

[Who would have thought a series that includes the title Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars could have such an urgent, serious plot beneath all of the very silly jokes?]

Apr 26 2012 5:00pm

A Pig Achieves Greatness: Freddy the Detective

Cover for Freddy the Detective, showing the pig in his Sherlock Holmes capAll is, I’m sorry to say, not quite right on the Bean Farm, that home of the loveable animals Freddy the Pig, Jinx the Cat, Charles and Henrietta the chickens, and some rather less loveable rats. (Rats.) A toy train has disappeared. Grain is vanishing. And two Terrible Robbers have arrived in the area, leaving the human sheriff and detective quite at a loss.

Fortunately, the Bean Farm has a pig named Freddy, who has carefully studied the life of that most famous of detectives: Sherlock Holmes.

[Solving crimes when your friends WILL keep interfering with you.]

Mar 6 2012 4:00pm

Nothing is Going to Get Better, It’s Not: Hollywood’s Contempt for Dr. Seuss

Remember these immortal words: The Lorax made $70 million dollars in its opening weekend.

Yes, you read that correctly. $70 million. It has already made back its budget, which means we can probably expect a sequel somewhere down the line. The orange’n’moustached marketing gambit has been the focus of general derision for a while now, but it seems to have done its job. The Lorax selling SUVs and diapers, judging reality TV, and telling people to turn off their cellphones in rhyme has culminated in box office platinum.

Who else feels indescribable rage on behalf of Theodor Seuss Geisel?

[I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues]