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Friday, February 27, 2009


February 2009

The following reviews, interviews and features are running on for the month of February.

Reviews and Excerpts
SKELETON CREEK by Patrick Carman
Strange things are happening in Skeleton Creek --- and Ryan and Sarah are trying to get to the heart of it. But after an eerie accident leaves Ryan housebound and forbidden to see Sarah, their investigation takes two tracks: Ryan records everything in his journal, while Sarah uses her videocam to search things out…and then email the clips for Ryan to see. In a new, groundbreaking format, Patrick Carman’s story is broken into two parts --- Ryan's text in the book, and Sarah's videos on a special website (, with links and passwords given throughout the book. Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt of SKELETON CREEK.

SCAT by Carl Hiaasen
Mrs. Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, was last seen during a field trip to Black Vine Swamp. The school’s headmaster and the police seem to have accepted the sketchy, unsigned note explaining that her absence is due to a “family emergency.” There’s no real evidence of foul play. But still, Nick and Marta don’t buy it. Something weird is definitely going on. Reviewed by Norah Piehl and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from SCAT.

THE EYE OF THE FOREST: Children of the Lamp, Book 5 by P. B. Kerr
In their latest adventure, John and Philippa Gaunt find themselves tangled up in a spellbinding mystery that takes them deep into the heart of the Amazon jungle. When a collection of Incan artifacts goes missing, the Blue Djinn of Babylon dispatches the twins and Uncle Nimrod to recover them. Along the way, though, John and Philippa encounter their friend Dybbuk, who was drained of his djinn powers but is determined to get them back. Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts.

HEROES OF THE VALLEY by Jonathan Stroud
Fourteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson longs for adventure. However, thanks to his ancestors, the Valley lands are now peaceful and safe, and the horrid monsters called Trows are forbidden to enter. But when Halli pulls a prank that leads to the digging up of old grudges, war returns to the Valley. Does Halli have it in him to be a hero, like the ancestor he so admires? Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

BLOOD TIDE: A Never Land Book, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
An earthquake that strikes Neverland Island floods the Lost Boys' underground hideaway, forcing them to leave. Meanwhile, a mysterious barrel washes ashore and falls into the hands of the pirates. When their leader, Captain Hook, finds out what's in the barrel, he hatches an evil plan. But worst of all is the change in the mermaids. When these once-peaceful friends of the natives injure some members of the native Mollusk tribe, the Mollusk leader, Fighting Prawn, feels he has no choice but to fight back. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

Through a series of fascinating events, Homer P. Figg's older brother has been illegally sold to the Union army. It is up to the young orphan to find him and save him. Along the way, he encounters many strange but real people of that era who will engage and educate young readers about our nation's past --- in one of the most decisive moments of American history. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

RETURN TO SENDER by Julia Alvarez
After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Oldest daughter Mari and her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences? Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

Twelve-year-old Oliver Finch misses his friends back home in New York City. Living halfway around the world in the Middle Eastern country of Balabad with his journalist father and art historian mother, Oliver is homesick and bored --- until he gets involved in a centuries-old mystery that involves a sacred carpet, hidden keys and buried treasure. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

The last thing Harry “Dit” Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Proper-talking, brainy Emma doesn’t play baseball or fish too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white. But soon Dit is thinking about a whole lot more when the town barber, who is black, is put on trial for a terrible crime. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

I, LORELEI by Yeardley Smith
Lorelei Connelly decides to start keeping a diary after her beloved cat, Mud, dies. It’s a good thing she does, because sixth grade turns out to be a year full of changes --- from school plays to cute boys to family fights. Luckily, Lorelei is smart and resourceful, and ready to deal with anything sent her way. Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez.

THE GOODBYE TIME by Celeste Conway
Anna and Katy have been best friends since kindergarten. Now that they are about to graduate from fifth grade and enter middle school, their lives are changing and their friendship is on the verge of collapse. Reviewed by Donna Volkennant.

Series Books
When Abby and her brother Peter go to visit their Uncle Jonathan, creepy things start happening immediately. A village woman warns them to stay away. Jonathan's big old house is crammed full of weird Egyptian artifacts --- including a mummy. Abby sees bats circling Jonathan's roof in broad daylight. Will Abby survive long enough to get an invitation to HorrorLand Theme Park? Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Michael "Monster" Munroe is having a difficult time with his extremely weird teacher, Mrs. Hardesty. To get back at her, he and his friends pull a little prank on her --- and it backfires like you cannot believe, in yet another horrorfest by the master of gore. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Julie has a goal. She wants to be the major photographer for her school's yearbook. If she gets the job, her dad will give her a new camera. But Julie hasn't taken into consideration the fact that her new-to-her camera may have a terrifying goal of its own. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Idris lives in Lyonesse, the noble island where King Arthur once resided with Merlin and his Knights of the Round Table. Yet thousands of years after the great king walked this country, it has become a place of shadows, where men hunt and capture the monsters that dwell in the dark depths of the sea. Under the reign of a corrupt ruler, Lyonesse is slowly drowning --- and now the fate of the land and all its citizens depends on Idris. But can one boy stop the wickedness that's been growing for centuries?
- Click here to read an excerpt from LYONESSE: THE WELL BETWEEN THE WORLDS.
- Click here to read Sam Llewellyn’s bio.

PAINT THE WIND by Pam Munoz Ryan
In Grandmother's house in California, Maya's every word and action are strictly monitored, and even Maya's memories of her mother have been erased.

In the rugged Wyoming wilderness, a Tobiano Paint horse called Artemisia runs free. She embodies the spirit of the wild --- and she holds the key to Maya's memories.
- Click here to read an excerpt from PAINT THE WIND.
- Click here to read Pam Munoz Ryan’s bio

Interviews and Author Talks
Patrick Carman
Children’s author Patrick Carman’s latest work, SKELETON CREEK, is the first installment of an innovative new series that tells its tale in two parts: Ryan, one of the main characters, shares his journals within the text of the book, while his friend Sarah --- an amateur filmmaker --- tells her side of the story through videos that readers can watch by visiting her website. In this interview, Carman and his editor, David Levithan, discuss what inspired this multimedia project and reveal the initial insecurities about taking on this new method of storytelling. Carman also shares some behind-the-scenes information about shooting the videos, explains why it’s so important to think outside the box as a way to encourage young readers, and talks about why he chose to end the book with a cliffhanger.

Sam Llewellyn
Sam Llewellyn's most recent book for young readers, LYONESSE: THE WELL BETWEEN THE WORLDS, is the first installment of a series that reworks the folklore of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. In this interview with's Sarah Wood, Llewellyn describes what inspired his twist on the centuries-old legends and recalls some of his own experiences growing up on an island that helped shape elements of the narrative. He also discusses the novel's underlying themes about nature and environmentalism, raises questions he hopes readers will explore when they finish the story, and shares details about the series's next book due out in 2010.

Pam Muñoz Ryan
In this interview with's Chris Shanley-Dillman, award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan explains how both her childhood love of horses and a suggestion from an editor prompted her to write her 2007 novel PAINT THE WIND (now available in paperback) and describes learning how to horseback ride as part of her research. She also reveals the inspirations behind her characters' unique names and shares details about a future book set to be released next year.

Cool New Books Roundup
February’s roundup of Cool New Books includes SKELETON CREEK, a groundbreaking interactive ghost story courtesy of bestselling author Patrick Carman that plays out on both the written page and in special videos that can be viewed online at; THE DEMIGOD FILES, a must-have guide to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series that will build even more anticipation for the fifth and final book, THE LAST OLYMPIAN, releasing in May; THE YGGYSSEY, a sequel to THE NEDDIAD that reunites readers
with Iggy, Neddie, Seamus and the usual apparitional entourage for another weird and wonderful adventure by Daniel Pinkwater; and SASSY: LITTLE SISTER IS NOT MY NAME!, Sharon Draper’s middle-grade girl book debut that features an unforgettable heroine, a loving family, a diverse cast of teachers, friends and neighbors --- and a little magic.

New in Paperback Roundup
February’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes MOVING DAY, the first installment in Meg Cabot’s debut middle-grade series, Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls; THE BIG FIELD by Mike Lupica, the story of a star shortstop who is replaced by a better player with a questionable attitude; THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, the third book in Deborah Wiles’s trilogy set in Aurora County, Mississippi, this time featuring a 12-year-old boy as the main character; EDWARD’S EYES, Patricia MacLachlan’s deeply stirring, delicately lyrical portrait of a child, a son, a family and a brother; and THE NEDDIAD, a rollicking and totally bizarre adventure from Daniel Pinkwater in which circus beasts, ghostly bellboys, ancient mythology and 1940s Los Angeles collide.

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