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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


December 2009

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

Nate Brodie wins the chance to throw a pass through a target at a New England Patriots game for one million dollars. Nate, who’s the biggest Tom Brady fan, should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad is now unemployed and his family is losing their home. It’s no secret that the money would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure --- and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

THE GIANT-SLAYER by Iain Lawrence
When Laurie Valentine's only friend, Dickie Espinosa, contracts polio, she is devastated. As she spins an ongoing fantasy adventure for his and his fellow patients' entertainment, Laurie's fable and real life interweave --- in an original and emotionally powerful read. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Those pesky Faceless Ones just won’t go away. Detective Skullduggery Pleasant and his 14-year-old assistant, Valkyrie Cain, are on the case to stop the destruction of the world --- again. The usual (or unusual) cast of characters lends a hand, but you won’t see this ending coming! Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

Oggie Cooder returns! This time he has received an invitation to Donnica Perfecto's swimming party, but while Oggie yearns to go swim in her pool, she's scheming to keep him from actually attending. Can there be a happy ending? Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.


In his award-winning debut novel, WHITTINGTON, Alan Armstrong told the historical story of London mayor Dick Whittington and his cat through the voice of one of that cat’s descendants. In LOOKING FOR MARCO POLO, Armstrong again integrates history, fantasy and fiction, this time in the more exotic and evocative setting of Venice. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book One written by R. L. LaFevers and illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Ten-year-old Nathaniel Fludd comes from a long line of Beastologists --- except he doesn’t know it yet. When his parents go missing, Nate hooks up with his Aunt Phil and immediately discovers that mythological beasts actually exist. However, he isn’t sure he’s ready to tackle such a dangerous profession. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

A PEARL AMONG PRINCES by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Gracepearl has lived her entire life on the small but beautiful island of Miramore, which has the honor of hosting the annual training program for young princes. While Gracepearl loves her home and her family and friends, deep down she feels a strong yearning to travel beyond the treacherous seas. The only way to leave the island is to marry one of the princes in training. But that would mean turning her back on her heart’s true love. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

Vincent Shadow’s unusually creative mind truly separates him from other kids his age. His top-secret attic lab is crammed with toy prototypes, and he has a sketchbook filled with drawings of toys he still wants to build. So when a chance encounter with an eccentric toy inventor offers him the opportunity to become a toy inventor extraordinaire, Vincent realizes it’s time to get serious about toys. Reviewed by Joy Held.

RAIDERS’ RANSOM by Emily Diamand
It’s the 23rd century, and much of what used to be the United Kingdom is now underwater. Lilly helps her grandmother, and the rest of her village, by venturing out into her fishing boat with her best mate, Cat. But then one day, Lilly and Cat return to find that raiders have attacked the village and kidnapped the Prime Minister’s daughter. They set out to rescue her, armed with an ancient artifact for ransom --- a valuable computer with a sarcastic attitude. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

Graphic Novel Review
Casper the Friendly Ghost first flunked out of ghost finishing school 60 years ago. This new collection presents two of his earliest comic books, full of short stories that are all kid-friendly. Reviewed by John Hogan.

Manga Review
VERMONIA #1: QUEST FOR THE SILVER TIGER written and illustrated by YOYO
Best friends Mel, Doug, Naomi and Jim are about to have their simple world turned upside down. When the evil General Uro from Vermonia kidnaps Mel, it is up to her friends to travel to another world to rescue her. It is there, in the Turtle Realm, they discover that they are the reincarnations of Queen Frasinella’s four most trusted ministries. Only they can restore the balance between Earth, the Turtle Realm and Vermonia. Reviewed by Courtney Kraft.

Author Interview
Matthew Cody
Part comic-book adventure and part Sherlock Holmes-inspired mystery, Matthew Cody's debut novel POWERLESS introduces readers to 12-year-old Daniel, an ordinary boy who recently moved to a town full of young superheroes in danger of losing their abilities when they reach their 13th birthdays. In this interview with's Norah Piehl, Cody talks about what inspired the book's unique plot and explains why he chose to balance the story's fun and exciting aspects with a more solemn subplot. He also discusses how he thought up some of the characters' unusual superpowers, gives advice to aspiring young writers, and shares details about his next work-in-progress.

Series Books
CROCODILE TEARS: An Alex Rider Novel, by Anthony Horowitz
Nearing his 15th birthday, Alex Rider may finally be leaving behind the role of secret agent. That is, until he manages to find himself tangled in a genetic engineering plot that threatens millions of lives. Once Alex gets involved, you know you can expect thrills, chills and bloodthirsty crocodiles. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.
- Click here to play the updated Alex Rider trivia game.
- Click here to read our Alex Rider series feature.

Special Features
A wolf mother has given birth, but the warm bundle snuffling next to her brings only anguish. The pup, otherwise healthy, has a twisted leg, and the mother knows what the harsh code of the pack demands. Her pup will be taken from her and abandoned on a desolate hill. The pack cannot have weakness --- the wolf mother knows that her pup is condemned to die.

But alone in the wilderness, the pup, Faolan, does not perish. This is his story --- a story of survival, of courage, and of love triumphant. This is Faolan's story, the wolf pup who rose up to change forever the Wolves of the Beyond.
- Click here to read an excerpt from WOLVES OF THE BEYOND #1: LONE WOLF.
- Click here to read Kathryn Lasky’s bio.

POWERLESS by Matthew Cody
Superheroes soar in this promising debut --- and they’re kids!

Twelve-year-old Daniel, the new kid in town, soon learns the truth about his nice --- but odd --- new friends: one can fly, another can turn invisible, yet another controls electricity. Incredible. The superkids use their powers to secretly do good in the town, but they’re haunted by the fact that the moment they turn 13, their abilities will disappear --- along with any memory that they ever had them. Is a memory-stealing supervillain sapping their powers?

The answers lie in a long-ago meteor strike, a World War II–era comic book (Fantastic Futures, starring the first superhero, Johnny Noble), the green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and --- possibly, unbelievably --- “powerless” regular-kid Daniel himself.

Superhero kids meet comic book mystery in this action-filled debut about the true meaning of a hero.
- Click here to read more about POWERLESS.
- Click here to read an excerpt from POWERLESS.
- Click here to read Matthew Cody’s bio. Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2009
Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2009. Though it was difficult to narrow down, each reviewer chose up to 10 books that he or she enjoyed the most this year. Take a look and see if any of their selections match yours --- and which titles you may want to consider reading in the future. Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.

Author Interviews of 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, we invite you to take a look at the author interviews that were featured throughout the year on This is a great way to catch up on the discussions you may have missed --- and to re-read what some of your favorite authors had to say about their books.

We’ve created a special What to Give, What to Get Guide with you in mind --- it’s just for kids! We have books that we know you’ll love to unwrap this season, so check it out. We’re sure you’ll end up spotting a title or two that you can add to YOUR holiday list.

Celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year” with! In our annual roundup of outstanding winter reads, we’ve compiled a number of titles that promise to put a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your heart. The holidays are a great time to reconnect with the ones we love. And what better way to do so than through the pages of a book? Fill this season with adventure, mystery, laughs and kind lessons that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Cool New Books
November and December’s roundup of Cool New Books includes CROCODILE TEARS, the highly anticipated eighth installment in Anthony Horowitz’s action-packed series starring teenage superspy Alex Rider; MILLION-DOLLAR THROW, Mike Lupica’s newest sports novel about a 13-year-old who wins the chance to throw a pass through a target at a New England Patriots game for one million dollars; IN TOO DEEP by Jude Watson, book six in The 39 Clues series that finds Amy and Dan on the trail of secrets their grandmother Grace never would have wanted them to know; LONE WOLF, Kathryn Lasky’s story of a courageous wolf pup who rises up to change the Wolves of the Beyond forever; the latest additions to the Fancy Nancy and Amelia Bedelia series of picture books; and THE EVER BREATH, a fast-paced tale from Julianna Baggot in which two young siblings are involved in an epic battle to save not just one world, but two.

New in Paperback
November and December’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes LONG SHADOWS, Erin Hunter’s fifth Warriors: Power of Three book that finds three young cats having to put their powers to the ultimate test to save the Clans from destruction; MERCY WATSON TO THE RESCUE and MERCY WATSON GOES FOR A RIDE, the first two installments in Kate DiCamillo’s series starring the porcine wonder whose favorite food is hot buttered toast; THE SÉANCE by Iain Lawrence, a murder mystery set during the Roaring Twenties in which a boy discovers a dead man in Harry Houdini's Burmese Torture Tank; IGNATIUS MACFARLAND: FREQUENAUT!, the first book in a series by Paul Feig that features a seventh grader who decides to build a rocket after being teased one too many times at school; and THIS IS THE DREAM, a picture book that sweeps readers along on a compelling journey through American history to show how far we have come in attaining freedom and justice for all.

Click here to read the full newsletter.

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