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Friday, April 30, 2010


April 2010

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

Reviews and Excerpts
THE BIRTHDAY BALL written by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her royal life and the excitement surrounding her 16th birthday ball. Doomed to endure courtship by three grotesquely unappealing noblemen, she escapes her fate --- for a week. Disguised as a peasant, she attends the village school as the smart new girl, "Pat," and attracts friends and the attention of the handsome schoolmaster.Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE 39 CLUES, Book Eight: THE EMPEROR'S CODE by Gordon Korman
As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them --- find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THIS MEANS WAR! by Ellen Wittlinger
Critically acclaimed author Ellen Wittlinger offers readers much to consider about bravery and conflicts big and small in THIS MEANS WAR!, a neighborhood “boys vs. girls” drama that plays out against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

BARNABY GRIMES: LEGION OF THE DEAD by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Barnaby Grimes is a tick-tock lad, delivering messages and running errands all over the city, day and night. Gangland funerals and diving expeditions are hazardous enough, but when the graveyards begin to give up their dead, this tick-tock lad is faced with his deadliest challenge yet. Will Barnaby be defeated by the Legion of the Dead? Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

FALLING IN by Frances O’Roark Dowell
The themes of otherworldliness and belonging underpin Frances O’Roark Dowell’s latest novel. A unique twist on some fairy tale conventions, FALLING IN follows Isabelle Bean as she “falls in” to another world and discovers some truths about herself and her family --- and has a mighty adventure along the way. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

When he was born, it was proclaimed that Pepper Roux would not live past his 14th birthday. On the day of his 14th birthday, he hopes he will not disappoint everyone. Instead of death lurking around every corner, Pepper is surrounded by the opportunity to live --- with some unexpected results. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

KNIGHTLEY ACADEMY by Violet Haberdasher
Orphan Henry Grimm is the first commoner ever to be admitted to the prestigious Knightley Academy, home to modern-day knights-in-training. Along with learning diplomacy and the art of fencing, Henry must also stop a sinister plot that threatens peace. In a world of titles and status, will anyone believe a mere orphan boy? Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

Eleven-year-old David Greenberg dreams of becoming a TV superstar like his idol, Jon Stewart. But in real life, David is just another kid terrified of starting his first year at Harman Middle School. With a wacky sense of humor and hilarious Top 6½ Lists, David spends his free time making Talk Time videos, which he posts on YouTube. But before he can get famous, he has to figure out a way to deal with some unfortunate realities. Reviewed by Danica Davidson.

FLIGHT OF THE OUTCAST: The Academy, Year 1 by Brad Strickland
Asteria Locke has never left her father's farm on the remote planet of Theron. But in one terrible moment, a surprise attack by space raiders destroys everything she's ever known. Orphaned and alone, Asteria vows to avenge her father's death by joining the Royal Spacefleet Academy --- even if she has to lie to get in. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THE TIGHTY WHITEY SPIDER: And More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up, written by Kenn Nesbitt and illustrated by Ethan Long
It's official: Kids want more of Kenn Nesbitt's sidesplitting poetry. They can't get enough of his clever wordplay, wonderful imagery and zany rhymes. In this brand-new collection, Nesbitt has totally made up over 50 poems involving Acrobatic Cats, Kung Fu Pets, and Chickens on Computers. Reviewed by Christine M. Irivin.

Graphic Novels and Manga
AMELIA RULES! THE TWEENAGE GUIDE TO NOT BEING UNPOPULAR written and illustrated by Jimmy Gownley
Amelia McBride returns in a new adventure that sees her trying to gain popularity but only managing to alienate herself from, well, just about everyone. Reviewed by John Hogan.

ZIG AND WIKKI: SOMETHING ATE MY HOMEWORK written by Nadja Spiegelman and illustrated by Trade Loeffler
Can Zig and Wikki catch a pet before they become a snack? Zig and Wikki land on a planet full of strange creatures like flies, frogs and raccoons. They have to capture one for a school assignment, but the animals aren't ready for class --- on this new planet, it seems to be lunchtime! Reviewed by Merideth Jenson-Benjamin.

CITY OF SPIES written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan and illustrated by Pascal Dizin
Evelyn typically satisfies her longing for adventure with the help of a pencil and a sheet of paper. But when she makes a new friend, Tony, she’s happy to abandon her art for a real-life search for spies. When the two accidentally uncover a genuine mystery, it looks like Evelyn might end up in the kind of adventure she writes in her comics! Reviewed by Merideth Jenson-Benjamin.

BO OBAMA: The White House Tails, written by Paul Salamof and illustrated by Keith Tucker
In this colorful comic, First Dog Bo Obama takes readers on a guided tour of the White House and treats them to little-known facts about presidential pets and the history of the First Family’s home. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

GUINEA PIG, PET SHOP PRIVATE EYE, Volume 1: HAMSTER AND CHEESE written by Colleen A.F. Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue
A pet shop filled with cranky, quirky, mislabeled animals is the setting for this goofy detective story that gets its humor from the pets’ strong personalities and the dim-witted owner’s silly mistakes. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

Author Interviews
Lara Bergen
Lara Bergen’s latest book for middle-grade readers, SOPHIE THE AWESOME, chronicles a day in the life of a typical third grader who decides one morning to transform herself into anything but. In this interview with’s Usha Reynolds, Bergen discusses what prompted her to create this lovably confused character and explains how she realistically captures the mindset of her eight-year-old protagonist. She also reflects on the dynamics of childhood friendships, reveals what she hopes readers will take away from Sophie’s story, and shares details on what’s in store for her in future installments.

Author Talk
Beverly Cleary
Throughout her 60-year writing career, legendary award-winning and bestselling author Beverly Cleary has written over 40 books for young readers, including DEAR MR. HENSHAW, THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE and HENRY HUGGINS. In this interview with her publisher, HarperCollins, Cleary explains how the creation of her most beloved character, Ramona Quimby, was actually the result of happenstance, and describes the real-life inspiration behind many of her misadventures. She also shares details about her less-than-straightforward approach to penning novels, discusses her involvement with various stage and screen adaptations of her series, and talks a bit about a sculpture garden erected in her honor in her hometown of Portland, OR.

Before there was the Baby-Sitters Club, there were four very different girls experiencing some major changes in their lives the summer before seventh grade in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. To celebrate the newly released prequel to Ann M. Martin’s beloved Baby-Sitters Club series, THE SUMMER BEFORE, is giving 20 readers the chance to win a copy of the book. The deadline for entries is Monday, June 28, 2010 at noon ET.

Before there was The Baby-sitters Club there were four girls named Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi and Stacey McGill. As they start the summer before seventh grade (also the summer before they start the BSC), each of them is on the cusp of a big change.
- Click here to read more about THE SUMMER BEFORE.
- Click here to read an excerpt from THE SUMMER BEFORE.
- Click here to read Ann M. Martin’s bio.

Win a Copy of THE DREAMER by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís is giving away 10 copies of THE DREAMER by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís, which takes readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination. Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction and whimsical illustrations, this enchanting tale about a young Chilean boy named Neftalí, who later becomes the famous poet and politician Pablo Neruda, is a captivating story for readers of all ages. The deadline for entries is Monday, June 28, 2010 at noon ET.

THE DREAMER by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís
From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí hears the call of a mysterious voice. Even when the neighborhood children taunt him, and when his harsh, authoritarian father ridicules him, and when he doubts himself, Neftalí knows he cannot ignore the call. Under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain, he listens and he follows....
- Click here to read more about THE DREAMER.
- Click here to read an excerpt from THE DREAMER.
- Click here to read Pam Muñoz Ryan’s bio.
- Click here to read Peter Sís’s bio.

Win a Paperback Copy of THE CALDER GAME by Blue Balliett

When Calder and a mysterious sculpture disappear, it's up to his father and friends Petra and Tommy to rescue the missing pair. To celebrate another installment in Blue Balliett's series of art concepts, mystery, philosophy and storytelling, is giving away 10 paperback copies of THE CALDER GAME.

THE CALDER GAME written by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist
Two Calders are missing. One is a sculpture. One is a boy. When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery --- including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while others in the village have less-than-friendly feelings toward it.
- Click here to read more about THE CALDER GAME.
Win a Copy of SAVVY by Ingrid Law
SAVVY is an imaginative coming-of-age story about a gifted family whose members are given a supernatural power when they turn 13. To celebrate the long-awaited paperback release of Ingrid Law's award-winning debut novel, is giving away 15 copies of this charmingly magical tale.

SAVVY by Ingrid Law
For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy" --- a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn 13. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity... and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.
- Click here to read more about SAVVY.
- Click here to read an excerpt from SAVVY.
- Click here to read our interview with Ingrid Law.

Series Features
The World of Beverly Cleary
Visit the new World of Beverly Cleary website,, and get to know Ramona Quimby and friends in their exciting adventures on Klickitat Street. Read RAMONA AND BEEZUS for free online before you see the movie, in theaters July 23rd, and enter the Read It Before You See It! Sweepstakes for a chance to win prizes from HarperCollins Children’s Books, including an iPod touch and a library of Ramona books by bestselling author Beverly Cleary!

Awesome Adventure Books -- Get in on the Action!

Play free online games, win weekly prizes, and read new adventures from HarperCollins Children's Books, including A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner, COSMIC by Frank Cottrell Boyce, THE SHADOW PROJECT by Herbie Brennan, THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE by Maryrose Wood, and more!

Special Features
Sophie Miller’s life is boring. Average. Blah. She's not the oldest or the youngest, the tallest or the shortest. She’s not even the only Sophie in her third-grade class!

Sophie knows she’s special. And she’s come up with the perfect name to show it: Sophie the Awesome! But living up to her new name won’t be easy --- especially if super-annoying Toby Myers has anything to say about it.

Can Sophie prove her awesomeness…and prove everyone wrong?
- Click here to read an excerpt from SOPHIE THE AWESOME.
- Click here to read Lara Bergen’s bio.

Amazing photos accompany a fun search-and-find game by Walter Wick, the creator of award-winning picture books and photographer of the bestselling I Spy series.

A pirate ship and a chest of gold take readers on a journey through time that leads to the location of purloined treasures. Beginning with a zoom of a gold coin, photographs pull back to reveal the story of the coin’s travels from the hull of a pirate ship in the 1700s to the shore of a beach town today. Wick has built a series of sets that tell a story and create a game that will delight and challenge readers of all ages.
- Click here to look inside TREASURE SHIP.
- Click here to read Walter Wick’s bio.

Series Books

Outrageous daredevil Bruce Hyena is back, and he has convinced Geronimo to accompany him on another totally extreme adventure --- a climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa! Will Geronimo discover the secret to making it to the summit? Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.
- Click here to read our Geronimo Stilton series feature --- with updated trivia and characters.

Cool New Books
April’s roundup of Cool New Books includes THE SUMMER BEFORE, a prequel to Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitters Club series that finds Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey each on the cusp of a big change as they start the summer before seventh grade (and the summer before they start the BSC); THE BIRTHDAY BALL, Lois Lowry and Jules Feiffer’s first collaborative effort, about a bored teen princess who escapes her fate and disguises herself as a peasant; THE EMPEROR’S CODE by Gordon Korman, book eight in The 39 Clues series, in which Amy and Dan must steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world’s best-trained soldiers; KINGDOM KEEPERS III: DISNEY IN SHADOW, which marks the return of our heroes from Ridley Pearson’s DISNEY AFTER DARK and DISNEY AT DAWN as they search for their mentor and head Imagineer who has mysteriously gone missing; and INSTRUCTIONS, Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s enchanting picture book that offers instructions for traveling through lands unknown and yet strangely familiar.

New in Paperback
April’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes SCAT by Carl Hiaasen, an environmental thriller involving the disappearance of a fearsome biology teacher while on a field trip to Black Vine Swamp; THE CALDER GAME, Blue Balliett’s third art-centered mystery with University of Chicago Lab School students Calder, Petra and Tommy; Megan McDonald’s THE MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD TREASURE HUNT, a swashbuckling adventure of puzzles and pirates featuring Judy Moody and Stink, who are racing in search of gold; FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE by Bruce Hale, the 14th case for top lizard detective Chet Gecko, who must investigate strange goings-on at Emerson Hicky Elementary; and THE DRAGON DIARY, a continuation of Dugald A. Steer’s Dragonology Chronicles, in which apprentice dragonologists Daniel and Beatrice Cook receive a tip that the secret to curing dragons may lie in an age-old Dragon Diary --- if only they could decipher it.

Click here to read the full newsletter.

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