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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


September 2009

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

Reviews and Excerpts
THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
Welcome to the city of Baltese --- where an old magician gets one last chance to prove himself, where elephants fall from ceilings onto the laps of rich ladies, where a fortuneteller changes the life of an orphan boy soldier, and where magic shows that it is indeed possible, if only the world would just believe. Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT.

ALLIE FINKLE’S RULES FOR GIRLS: Book Four – Stage Fright, by Meg Cabot

Mrs. Hunter's fourth grade class is putting on a play. But Allie's theatrical hopes are crushed when she doesn't get cast as the princess --- the part that she wanted. Instead, Allie is cast as the evil queen. But as opening night approaches, Allie learns it’s not the size of the part, it's the size of the heart that really matters. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano and excerpted.
- Click here to read an an excerpt from STAGE FRIGHT.

ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Brett Helquist
Odd has had some terrible luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition, a tree shattered his leg, the freezing winter might never end, and his neighbors are growing dangerously grumpy. But Odd’s luck may be about to change when he rescues a bear who is more than what he seems to be. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE WYRM KING: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 3 by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Are you ready? Well…ready or not, here it is: the final book in Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles series, in which Nick and the others must battle a terrible force with the power to end the world. The worst part? They are the ones who set the force free. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

ZOOBREAK by Gordon Korman

In this long-awaited sequel to SWINDLE, Griffin Bing’s pal, Savannah, loses her beloved pet monkey. After searching everywhere, they finally find the monkey --- held captive on a horrible, filthy floating zoo. Griffin and his friends join together to execute their best plan yet: Operation Zoobreak. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

In the 1960s, seventh grader Abby Lovitt lives on a small California horse ranch with her strict but kind parents. Normally, Abby loves helping to train the horses and rarely does she encounter a problem that she can’t handle --- until she meets Ornery George. The two of them just can’t seem to speak the same language. But then an unusual man drops by and shows Abby another way to communicate with the horses. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

WILD GIRL by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lidie lives in Jales, Brazil, where she’s free to ride, to be a wild girl, and to dream of going to live with her father and older brother, Rafael, in New York City. Finally Lidie is 12 and ready to leave Brazil for New York. Meanwhile, a filly is born and begins her journey to a new home. As Lidie’s story unfolds, so does the filly’s. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE LOST CONSPIRACY by Frances Hardinge
Hathin feels that her only purpose in life is to care for her older sister, Arilou. And part of caring for Arilou is hiding a secret --- that Arilou may not be who everyone thinks she is. But then the girls get caught up in a mysterious conspiracy and are accused of murder. As they run for their lives, trying to prove their innocence, Hathin begins to discover the importance of herself apart from her legendary sister. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THE MAGIC THIEF: LOST by Sarah Prineas
Young wizard-in-training Conn's dire search for a way to communicate with "the magic" that is necessary to his city's survival leads him to the dangerous desert city of Desh and a showdown with its sorcerer king, En Sindaval. Has Conn learned enough to outwit such a powerful opponent without the help of his master wizard, Nevery? Reviewed by Usha Reynolds.Link

When Birdie goes to visit her grandmother for the first time, she learns that her grandmother is a fairy godmother --- which means Birdie is a fairy godmother too! Birdie’s family talisman, a singing stone, has been broken, and now only Birdie can use the stone to travel to a magical land called Aventurine to repair it. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE BOOK OF GHOSTS written and illustrated by Michael Hague and Devon Hague
Looking for a collection of stories that will send chills down your spine? THE BOOK OF GHOSTS contains classic ghost stories from Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving and others that are sure to keep you reading late into the night --- if you can stand the dark. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

Graphic Novel Reviews
BONE PREQUEL: ROSE written by Jeff Smith and illustrated by Charles Vess
Princess Rose faces both a treacherous sister and a possessed dragon in this new tale from Jeff Smith. BONE: ROSE is a prequel to his long-running series and introduces readers to Gran'ma Ben in her glorious youth. Reviewed by John Hogan.

STAR WARS ADVENTURES, Volume 1: HAN SOLO AND THE HOLLOW MOON OF KHORYA written by Jeremy Barlow, illustrated by Rick Lacy, Matthew Loux and Michael Atiyeh
Han Solo and Chewbacca find themselves in deep water when a scam goes bad. Now, while Chewie fights for his life in a deadly battle arena, Han must pair up with an old “friend” to try to steal…from the Empire! Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith.

BINKY THE SPACE CAT written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Binky has all the materials he needs to blast off into space (or the backyard, as we might call it). His attempts to become a cat astronaut are a fun new addition to kids’ libraries. Reviewed by John Hogan.

BILLY & BUDDY, Volume 1: REMEMBER THIS, BILLY? written and illstrated by Jean Roba
Together, Billy and Buddy get up to all sorts of mischief, gently tormenting those around them. The family setting overflows with love and tenderness, and the duo's pranks are guaranteed to give reaers of all ages a good chuckle. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

Don’t Miss
THE LION AND THE MOUSE illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes. Reviewed by Nicole Bruce.

Author Interviews
Patrick Carman
The bestselling interactive series The 39 Clues is a collaborative effort among seven acclaimed YA authors --- including Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson --- that chronicles the adventures of Dan and Amy Cahill, who travel the world in search of clues said to reveal secrets about their family's history. Patrick Carman --- the author of the series' newly released fifth book, THE BLACK CIRCLE --- recently spoke with's Chris Shanley-Dillman about how he became involved in the project and how he prepared for contributing to an already-established story arc. He also names his favorite character, hints at what future installments might hold for the Cahill kids, and shares details about some of his own projects in the works.

Gennifer Choldenko
Gennifer Choldenko is the author of seven books for young readers, including MOONSTRUCK, IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and its newly released sequel, AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES. In this interview with's Norah Piehl, Choldenko explains why she chose to write Moose's story on Alcatraz as a trilogy and discusses the difficulties she experienced in finding the voice of her main character --- a 12-year-old boy in 1935. She also sheds light on how mental illness was viewed in that era, shares surprising facts about the real Al Capone, and gives advice to aspiring writers.

Berkeley Breathed
Berkeley Breathed is the creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip “Bloom County”as well as the author of eight books for children, including MARS NEEDS MOMS!, GOODNIGHT OPUS and his first illustrated novel, FLAWED DOGS: The Shocking Raid on Westminster. In this interview with's Alexis Burling, Breathed discusses his inspiration for main character Sam the Lion and describes a surprising letter he received from a fan. He also shares his thoughts on the real Westminster Dog Show as well as the classic canine film Old Yeller, reveals his favorite music to listen to while working, and explains how his children have influenced his work.

Lisa Yee
In this interview with's Donna Volkenannt, Lisa Yee --- author of six novels for middle-grade and YA readers --- discusses what led her to write her latest book, BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY), for a slightly younger audience than her usual fare, and explains who and what inspired her colorful characters. She also shares some of the positive feedback she has received from the Asian-American community, reveals what she finds most satisfying about her work, and gives details on her upcoming projects due out in the next few years.

Special Feature
SYREN: Septimus Heap, Book Five by Angie Sage
In this fifth book in the Magykal series, Septimus ends up on a captivatingly beautiful island --- one of seven set in a sparkling sea. He’s stranded there with his badly injured dragon, Spit Fyre, along with Jenna and Beetle. There are some strange things about the island, including a Magykal girl named Syrah, a cat-shaped lighthouse that has lost its Light, and an eerie presence that sings to Septimus --- can he escape the persistent call? Trouble is also brewing for Lucy and Wolf Boy, who have become entangled with nefarious sailors at sea, and for Milo Banda, Jenna’s father, who is harboring a mysterious treasure chest in his ship’s hold…

Charismatic storyteller Angie Sage continues Septimus Heap’s Magykal journey with more laugh-out-loud adventures, more enchanting charms and spells, and an ever-deepening understanding of the rich interior life of a young hero.

To celebrate the release of this latest installment in the series, is giving 15 readers the chance to win a copy of the book.
- Click here for all the contest details.
- Click here to browse inside SYREN.
- Click here to read Ange Sage’s bio.
- Click here to read our Septimus Heap series feature.
- Click here to play the updated Septimus Heap trivia game.

AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES by Gennifer Choldenko
Moose and the cons are about to get a lot closer in this much-anticipated sequel to AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS.

It’s 1935. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz with his family, the other families of the guards, and a few hundred no-name hit men, con men, mad dog murderers and a handful of bank robbers too. And one of those cons has just done him a big favor.

You see, Moose has never Linkmet Al Capone, but a few weeks ago Moose wrote a letter to him asking him to use his influence to get his sister, Natalie, into a school she desperately needs in San Francisco. After Natalie got accepted, a note appeared in Moose’s freshly laundered shirt that said: Done.

As this book begins, Moose discovers a new note. This one says: Your turn. Is it really from Capone? What does it mean? Moose can’t risk anything that might get his dad fired. But how can he ignore Al Capone?
- Click here to read an excerpt from AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES.
- Click here to read Gennifer Choldenko’s bio.
- Click here to see the winners of our AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES Giveaway.

FLAWED DOGS: THE NOVEL: The Shocking Raid on Westminster, by Berkeley Breathed
Sam the Lion is actually a priceless dachshund, bred to be a show dog. More important, he is Heidy's best friend --- and she needs one like never before. Living with her reclusive uncle is hard, but Sam has a way of making her feel soft and whole. Until the day Sam is framed by the jealous poodle Cassius, and is cast out by Heidy's uncle, alone on the wild streets, where he is roughed up by a world he was not bred for. Sporting a soup ladle for a leg, Sam befriends other abandoned dogs and journeys all the way to the Westminster Dog Show, where his plan for revenge on Cassius takes an unexpected turn when he and Heidy spot each other after years of being apart.

Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Berkeley Breathed's first illustrated novel is a heartwarming and humorous ode to the unconditional and lasting love we and our pets share.
- Click here to read more about FLAWED DOGS: THE NOVEL.
- Click here to read an excerpt from FLAWED DOGS: THE NOVEL.
- Click here to read Berkeley Breathed’s bio.

THE 39 CLUES, Book Five: THE BLACK CIRCLE by Patrick Carman
The hunt for the 39 Clues leads Amy and Dan to their most treacherous destination yet --- a frozen land of Cahill secrets and betrayals. With danger chasing close behind, the siblings must track down one of history’s greatest lost treasures. Governments were toppled and rulers were killed during the last attempt to find it. Do Amy and Dan even stand a chance? is giving 25 readers the chance to win a copy of THE BLACK CIRCLE. Enter the giveaway today and join the international clue hunt!
- Click here for all the contest details.
- Click here to read an excerpt from THE BLACK CIRCLE.
- Click here to read Patrick Carman’s bio.

BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) written by Lisa Yee and illustrated by Dan Santat

Meet Robert Carver Ellis-Chan --- a perfectly normal fourth grader who gets into perfectly crazy situations! Like when he was running for class president and discovered his big sister's panties (static-) clinging to the back of his sweater. Or when he got stuck to the rare, sticky (and stinky) Koloff tree on a field trip…. Then there's his family --- busy mom, ex-pro football player dad, a bossy older sister, and an adoring younger one --- and best friends (one of whom is a secret, because she's a *girl*). Life may be complicated for Bobby, but it's going to turn out just fine.
- Click here to read an excerpt from BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY).
- Click here to read Lisa Yee’s bio.

Halloween Roundup
The leaves are beginning to change colors, pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps, and a cool breeze now fills the air. But don’t be fooled by the peaceful signs of Halloween. Grab a flashlight and check for ghosts in the closet and monsters under the bed, as’s 2009 Halloween Roundup is now on the loose. Watch out! There are wandering ghost brides, runaway mummys, phantom text messengers and games of hide-and-shriek around every dark corner. You may want to hold on to your night light for another year --- this is our spookiest Halloween collection yet. Enter…if you dare!

Books into Movies
One of the most beloved children’s books of all time comes to life on the big screen October 16th in a heartwarming and wildly imaginative, albeit slightly creepy, retelling of Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Join Max, who --- after being sent to his room for his mischievous behavior --- escapes into a magical forest and sets sail to an island populated by make-believe monsters who crown him as their ruler. Let the wild rumpus start!

Already in theaters, and sure to whet your appetite, is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. This modernized adaptation of the classic children’s book by Ron and Judy Barrett follows an ambitious but misguided budding inventor whose latest project goes awry, leading to disastrous --- but tasty! --- consequences.

Cool New Books
September’s roundup of Cool New Books includes THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by Kate DiCamillo, a haunting fable about trusting the unexpected --- and making the extraordinary come true; Neil Gaiman’s ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS, a novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology that takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back; STAGE FRIGHT, book four in Meg Cabot’s tween series that finds Allie Finkle’s theatrical hopes crushed when she doesn't get cast as the princess in the school play; THE WYRM KING, the final installment of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, in which the Grace kids come back to inform Nick and Laurie that more trouble may be coming their way; and THE LION & THE MOUSE, award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, featuring an unlikely pair who learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted.

New in Paperback
September’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes IF YOU’RE READING THIS, IT’S TOO LATE, a sequel to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET, which marks the return of mysterious narrator Pseudonymous Bosch; WELL WITCHED, a contemporary fantasy from Frances Hardinge, whose main characters steal some tarnished coins from a wishing well --- and the witch who lives at the bottom of the well demands a sinister form of payback; EVERY SOUL A STAR by Wendy Mass, a powerful yet humorous novel about three young strangers who are brought together by the total eclipse of the sun; and THE GATE OF DAYS, the second installment in Guillaume Prėvost’s The Book of Time trilogy, which finds Sam Faulkner on a desperate journey through the ages to collect the coins that will allow him to locate his father, who is trapped in a dungeon in Transylvania.

Click here to read the full newsletter.

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