Archive for ◊ December, 2017 ◊

29 Dec 2017 Midwest Book Review, Children’s Bookwatch
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“Froggy Bottom Blues” is a delightful origin of the blues tale with friendly froggy, bird, and animal characters for musicians. Loosely based on the biography of W. C. Handy, composer of “Memphis Blues” and early blues performer and collector, “Froggy Bottom Blues” follows the odyssey of E. Z., a froggy daughter who traveled [up] the Mississippi to follow a dream of becoming a great blues singer, inspiring other animal friends to become blues musicians along the way. Child-like illustrations present the characters of E. Z., Pelican, Woodpecker, and Cat, animal friends who also become blues musicians with E. Z.’s encouragement. One of the most beautiful aspects of “Froggy Bottom Blues” is the theme of sharing as a basic component of blues and perhaps all great music. Simply told and creatively illustrated, “Froggy Bottom Blues” tells a compelling tale about the birth of the blues, in the eyes of a talented, determined frog female who becomes a successful blues singer. It is a perfect introduction to the blues and the rich cultural background of blues musicians on the southern trip [up] the Mississippi River.

Froggy Bottom Blues
Sharon Edge Martin, author
Timothy Lange, illustrator
Doodle and Peck Publishing
P.O. Box 852105, Yukon, OK 73085 9780998930275 $9.99 www.doodleandpeck.com

24 Dec 2017 The Gift of a Good Story
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As a Christmas gift to myself, I am reading. Whole novels. Big ones. Little ones. And drinking cups of coffee while they are still hot. Yes, there is still work to be done, but for chickens and family to feed, most of it is less important than stilling my mind of anxiety and diving into story.

Yep, that was a cheesy way to introduce Matt De La Pena’s The Living. The writing is, of course, superb, and the characters people in which to believe. If you like apocalypse and politics and romance, you won’t go wrong with this, the first book in a series…or maybe a miniseries.

Here’s a sample:

“He did nothing more than tread water in the dark for several minutes, battling his own thoughts. What if he was stranded for good? Nothing to eat or drink, no one there when he died? What if he never saw anything but water again? He felt like he’d been shown the truth of the world. The absolute power it held. People just meaningless specks that came and went as easily as flipping a switch.”

You want something a little sweeter? Read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I cried. I don’t care much for tearjerkers, but this beautiful little story made me feel cozy and hopeful. Yeah, and I want my own wishtree.

11 Dec 2017 A Two-Novel Week!
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This was a good week, with only minor distractions. I not only wrote every day, but I managed to find quiet time to read two of the middle grade novels on my tottering stack.

First, Teddy Mars: Almost an Outlaw by Molly B. Burnham.

I picked up the first Teddy Mars novel, Almost a World Record Breaker, when it won the Sid Fleischman Award for humor from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I loved it so much, I decided to read it aloud to my fourth-grade Reading Lab boys. They loved it so much, they said I should invite the Reading Lab girls next door to join them. Almost an Outlaw, the third book in the series, lives up to expectations. Find you a reading spot where it’s okay to laugh out loud.

Second, Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson.

I had expectations here, too, because I’m a fan of Lawson’s The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.

How would I classify Nooks and Crannies?

It takes place in the early 1900s in England, during the reign of King Edward, so we can call it historical fiction.

The wealthy can afford electricity and motorcars, and the house where most of the story takes place has clever hidden passages. This gives the book a steampunk feel even though it’s a half dozen years into the 20th Century.

It is definitely a mystery, well plotted and fast paced, but it has such quotable lines. I see no reason that good genre fiction can’t be literary fiction, as well.

The main character, despite her Dickensian life is smart and good. If you love a good mystery, settle in and read.

I heartily recommend both books for your own middle grade stacks. And if you don’t have a middle grade stack, I suggest you start one.