Archive for March, 2013

National Poetry Month starts tomorrow. Recs from Mr. Schu …

Click here to read the blog entry from Mr. Schu Reads.

Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg, Book 1: “Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean”

“This is a rip-roaring debut. It is Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer for good measure.”

— Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

imagesDeadweather and Sunrise was one of the best books of 2012.

It’s tough to be thirteen, especially when somebody’s trying to kill you.

Not that Egg’s life was ever easy, growing up on sweaty, pirate-infested Deadweather Island with no company except an incompetent tutor and a pair of unusually violent siblings who hate his guts.

But when Egg’s father hustles their family off on a mysterious errand to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island, then disappears with the siblings in a freak accident, Egg finds himself a long-term guest at the mansion of the glamorous Pembroke family and their beautiful, sharp-tongued daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.

Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.

Suddenly, Egg’s running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he’s been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

Come along for the ride. You’ll be glad you did.

Deadweather and Sunrise is an action-packed debut novel of adventure, friendship, and self-discovery–oh, and did I mention there are pirates? Thirteen year old Egbert Masterson–Egg–is a book loving, intelligent 13-year-old with a big heart and a nose for hidden treasure. While Egg’s life has a lot of reason for despair, he takes his lumps in stride and discovers that “…not everyone who lives on a pretty street is a good person, and that in even the rottenest places you might find someone you can trust with your life.” With suitably gruesome pirate bits, endearing characters, surprising twists, and a delightful quirkiness, Deadweather and Sunrise has all the makings of a breakout new middle grade series.

This adventure has elements of classic children’s literature, but with a humor and quirk all its own. It stands out for many reasons, but most of all for the voice.  Brilliantly running through the narrative is the voice of Egg, the often beat up youngest child of a citrus fruit farmer on the Island of Deadweather, otherwise inhabited solely by pirates. Rodkey’s tale reminds me of The 21 Balloons and of  Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle . The similarities lie  in that it has an exotic, ridiculous island setting with twinkles of oddity and mischief throughout. The characters are rich, especially the lively and disgusting and ever-surprising pirates. My favorite character is Guts, a scrapping, one armed cabin boy who is supposed to fight Egg to the death but instead becomes his most loyal friend. This is a wonderfully fun adventure that is perfect for readers of Rick Riordan (who recommends it on his blog).geoff_rodkey9780399257865L

Geoff Rodkey grew up in Freeport, Illinois and began his writing career on his high school newspaper, the oddly named Pretz News. During college, he wrote for both the Harvard Lampoon and the Let’s Go travel guide series. After graduation, he wrote for magazines, a video game, a newspaper, a standup comedian, a syndicated columnist, a government-funded economic think tank, several popular television shows, and hit films Daddy Day Care, RV, and the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas. He’s currently at work on Blue Sea Burning, the final book in the Chronicles of Egg adventure-comedy series that began with Deadweather and Sunrise now in paperback and continues with New Lands, to be released in May 2013.

Geoff lives in New York City with his wife and three sons. They have no pets, mostly because the whole experience with the goldfish was just too upsetting.

You can learn more about the book series at

“This promising new series starts out strong with a story filled to the brim with pirates, treasure, intrigue and swashbuckling suspense.”

-Kirkus Reviews

An Abundance of Katherines: “Challengingly complex and entirely entertaining”

“Imagine an operating room at the start of a daring but well-rehearsed procedure and you will have something of the atmosphere of ”An Abundance of Katherines”: every detail considered, the action unrolling with grace and inevitability.”

-New York Times Book Review

“Green follows his Printz winning Looking for Alaska (2005) with another sharp, intelligent story. The laugh-out-loud humor ranges from delightfully sophomoric to subtly intellectual.”
-Booklist, Starred Review

“Fully fun, challengingly complex, and entirely entertaining.”
-Kirkus, Starred Review

“Laugh-out-loud funny, this second novel by the author of the Printz winner Looking for Alaska charts a singular coming-of-age American road trip that is at once a satire of and a tribute to its many celebrated predecessors.”
-Horn Book, Starred Review

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy–loving best friend riding shotgun—but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

John Green does and amazing job creating a unique storyline that is well written and creating characters that are well thought out and likeable. It’s a fantastic book that thoroughly deserves that pretty silver award on the cover. Even though we know which way Colin’s character is going to develop, we don’t know how it’s going to happen, making this book predictable in unpredictable ways.

If you are fully prepared to be inundated with spoilers, you can learn much, much more about Katherines at the book’s Questions page.
If you would like to read this book in another language, go to the Translations page.

John Green is a New York Times bestselling author who has received numerous awards, including both the Printz Medal and a Printz Honor. John is also the cocreator (with his brother, Hank) of the popular video blog Brotherhood 2.0, which has been watched more than 30 million times by Nerdfighter fans all over the globe. John Green lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Berenstain Bears offer a great way to share the story of Easter

In The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights), 9780310720874the Bear cubs and Papa are candy-crazy this Easter! But Mama, with help from Papa, tells the cubs about Jesus’ resurrection and shows them that salvation is much sweeter than candy.  The book includes a colorful sticker set.

Stan and Jan Berenstain introduced the first Berenstain Bear books in 1962. Mike Berenstain grew up watching his parents work together to write about and draw these lovable bears. Eventually he started drawing and writing about them too. Though Stan died in 2005, and Jan in 2012, Mike continues to create the delightful Bear adventures from the family home and studio in Pennsylvania, in an area that looks much like the sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.

The books feature a family of anthropomorphic bears who generally learn a moral or safety-related lesson in the course of each story. Since the debut of the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt, the series has grown to over 300 titles, which have sold approximately 260 million copies in 23 languages.

Following Jan Berenstain’s death in 2012, acclaimed children’s author Jerry Spinelli said that “the Berenstains made a wonderful and lasting contribution to children’s literature.” Author and professor Donna Jo Napoli said, “Those bears have helped so many children through so many kinds of challenges that kids face, in such a cheerful and kind of energetic way.” The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri wrote that the books were “timeless, timely, and kind-hearted, like all the best literature,” and acknowledged the Post’s 1989 piece by saying, “This is one of the times the kids have the right idea …”.

Alan Katz Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of I’m Still Here in the Bathtub: Silly Dilly Songs

“I’m Still Here in the Bathtub turns 10 years old on Aprilbathtub 1st! Thanks to all who’ve sung along and laughed along for the past decade!” writes Alan Katz on his Facebook page.

“If you fear you might go on a rampage if you hear the lyrics to “Wheels on the Bus” even one more time, take heart: These reimagined, “silly dilly” lyrics can breathe new life into kid favorites like “Wheels,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and even “Bingo,” reads an review.

Just as they did with Take Me Out of the Bathtub, Alan Katz and David Catrow lampoon the classics with rowdy humor and fun-to-sing rhymes. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”? Nope. Try “He’s Got the Whole Beach in His Pants.” “Frere Jacques” becomes “I’m a menace” and you can forget about old McDonald and his farm–that tune now tells the story of “My friend Donald’s catfish parm.”

Katz wisely keeps the lyrics from straying too far into bathroom territory, keeping the fun both palatable and genuinely funny, and illustrator Catrow (Plantzilla, Santa Claustrophobia) again proves an indispensable member of the team, with wry details and memorable characters,” said reviewer Paul Hughes.

 Alan Katz has written many books for children and adults, including the award-winning songbooks Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs and I’m Still Here in the Bathtub, Where Did They Hide My Presents?, Are You Quite Polite?, Elfis, and Stinky Thinking. He has also written family humor and puzzles for publications including Rosie Magazine, The New York Times and the New York Daily News. He will have a whole bunch of new titles released in 2007, including Don’t Say That Word!, Hairy Henry, and the trivia series That’s Right, That’s Wrong!Alan is also a writer-producer with extensive television credits. He was recently a producer on The Tony Danza Show, and created and executive produced a reality show pilot (‘Til Monday Do Us Part) for Oxygen Network He also co-executive produced Apparently Speaking and wrote Oh Baby, You’re on TV! for Oh!Baby, Oxygen’s video-on-demand network. In 2006, Alan created and wrote a series of Dove webisodes starring Felicity Huffman and directed by Penny Marshall.Alan was also a five-time Emmy nominee for his writing for The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and he contributed songs and comedy material to shows and specials such as The 1999 and 2000 Grammy Awards, The 1998 and 2000 Tony Awards, ABC’s A Rosie Christmas special, HBO’s Kids Are Punny, Fergie, and ABC’s Kids Are People Too. Alan has also created shows, developed concepts and produced pilots for TNN, VH1, and King World.

Alan also scripted episodes for animated shows including Taz-Mania, Goof Troop and Disney’s Raw Toonage (Emmy nominee for Best Writing). Alan also created and wrote long running stage shows including Glued to the Tube and The Wheel of Fortune Live Tour, and he developed and wrote the Nickelodeon Studios Live Tour at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Alan has written print, television and radio advertising and promotional campaigns for a wide array of consumer products and entertainment properties, including Pepsi, McDonald’s, Disney World, The Weather Channel, HBO, Showtime, and many of the Rainbow Media networks.

As a follow-up to Take Me Out of the Bathtub (McElderry, 2001), Katz packs the same child-appealing humor into sadly sloppy lyrics that don’t scan with the well-known tunes he has tried to fit them to, and which go on far too long. “I Always Lose” (to the tune of “Skip to My Lou”) starts with the loss of a parka, backpack, and tuba, and continues, “Turned around, lunch box was gone/Could’ve sworn I had a hat on/There’s no sign of baby bro Ron/He’s a pain, but he’s darling.” “No Medication” (to the tune of “Down by the Station”) does what most kids dream of doing: “No medication/Don’t care what the doc says/Won’t put that stuff in my belly/Tastes bad, you know/Mom sticks it in ice cream/Thinks that she can fool me/I flick it out the window/Look out below!” Unfortunately, the lyrics are even more awkward and less funny when read aloud instead of sung. Catrow’s over-the-top, zany, mixed-media cartoons may pull readers into this collection that promises fun, but only delivers frustration. – School Library Journal

Fairly Fairy Tales: a Techo-modern Version of the Three Little Pigs

fairly fairy talesWhat would a techo-modern version of the Three Little Pigs look like? Little Red Riding Hood? Cinderella? Solar panels, discos, and salons meet fairy tales when a child and mom read together at bedtime.

There are scores of children’s books, both picture and chapter, that revamp traditional fairy tales. What makes Fairly Fairy Tales different? The illustrations by Chavarri put the traditional story in a modern setting with technology.

Parents and children love to play “question” games: Would you eat spaghetti made with gummy worms? Would you wear your clothes backwards all day? Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it’s “no”–but the fun is in the asking. Gifted writer and educator Esme Raji Codell has writtten a book that incorporates fractured fairy tales with this kind of parent-child interplay to create a pitch-perfect combination of bedtime read-aloud and fairytales that will delight children and parents! The pictures by Elisa Chavarri  are bright and cartoony.

Booklist said:

Kids current on their fairy tales will appreciate the whimsical way Codell spins the basics by adding one oddball element to each story told by a mother to her recalcitrant boy at bedtime. In the tale of the Three Little Pigs, for instance, solar panels make an appearance along with the straw and bricks. After the boy checks off the tried-and-true elements of Little Red Riding Hood, red hood, wolf, and grandma, he has to pause to consider if shampoo can figure into the plot: NOOOOO! Well, maybe. Chavarri’s colorful, almost wordless two-page spreads imagine how the twists impact each story and are packed with details delighted readers will pore over. At Grandma’s Beauty Salon, for instance, several wolves, one wearing a Big ‘N’ Bad T-shirt, are getting their fur pampered. Baskets of goodies are for sale, and Grandma is painting the heroine’s nails with Lil’ Red polish. This fun outing will be a surefire winner whenever it’s read bedtime or not.

Codell’s text is simple, but actually very smart. She presents three elements that readers who are familiar with fairy tales will recognize, then throws in a fourth element that does not traditionally belong with the fairy tale at all. On the page this is show as pictures on a white background with the words above them.

This collection of mixed-up fairy tales begins with a mother reading to a child at bedtime. “Kiss? Yes./Water? Yes./Bedtime? NOOOO!” The retro illustrations, reminiscent of the 60’s carry the story forward. They artfully create zany and fun juxtapositions. For example, in the story of the Three Little Pigs, sticks, straw and bricks are followed by, “Solar panels? NOOOOO!” and the next page concedes, “Well, maybe,” as readers are treated to a double-page spread depicting hippie pigs hanging solar panels on their brick townhouse. They work next to a community garden where a folk music concert is taking place. Sharp-eyed readers will spot the first of many visual jokes, including a wolf strolling by, handing out flyers promoting wind power.

By adding shampoo to Little Red Riding Hood’s story, the grandmother becomes a manicurist at a beauty salon.  Red gets her nails done as the woodsman expertly shampoos the wolf’s mane.  An abundance of the little details filled with sly humor make this book really  fun to read. The salon contains baskets of sale items, including “Den Head” fur wax, and a copy of “WQ” magazine (Wolf’s Quarterly, no doubt) for waiting patrons to read. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling and  readers find Cinderella shimmying in a silver jumpsuit and platform heels. She dances with a suspiciously John-Travolta-esque Prince Charming. Meanwhile, a bellbottomed Fairy Godmother looks on and giggles.

The recurring refrain of, “Well, maybe,” finally comes in to play at the end of the book as the mother and child say, “Kiss? Yes./Water? Yes./Bedtime? Well, maybe,” leaving the child snuggled soundly into bed.

Fairly Fairy Tales is a nice, fun addition to the pile, great for sharing one-on-one.

Red Robin will donate 10 percent of sales to “Beat Coach Pete” Scholarship Run/Walk

In anticipation of the Beat Coach Pete Scholarship Run/Walk2011-4, Red Robin and Boise State Recreation Services will host a Red Robin Fun’Raiser on Tuesday, April 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. Participants need only show a coupon, available to print here:

Beat Coach Pete – Red Robin coupon – Idaho Press-Tribune.

Red Robin will donate 10 percent of the sales ticket to the Boise State University General Scholarship Fund. Coupon may be presented in hand or on a cell phone. Valid only at the Red Robin on Parkcenter Boulevard in Boise.

YOUNG PEOPLE’S PAVILION will be the official Liveblog of Beat Coach Pete.

We will be updating you with facts, opportunities to give, restaurant promotions and donations, and other colorful commentary before, during, and after the race.

Racers are challenged to beat Boise State University head football coach Chris Petersen to the finish line while benefiting deserving students.

The race helps raise money for Boise State’s need-based scholarship fund. To date, the Beat Coach Pete Scholarship  Run/Walk has raised more than $138,000 in emergency funding.

Last year, there were 2,515 participants with 1,062 beating Coach Pete. The race started in front of the recreation center and ended inside Bronco Stadium. Coach Pete donated $5,310 to the general scholarship fund for Boise State students.

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