Lives of the Writers

Did you ever know what Charles Dickens ate? Or how Frances Hodgson Burnett dressed? This is a good book that enables you to find out. Lives of the Writers is not merely a collection of short biographies of different authors-it is a very interesting and absorbing book as well, written by Kathleen Krull. Seriously, I couldn’t put it down. Some of its stories include the lives of the Brontë sisters, Hans Christian Anderson, and E.B. White. It has a lot of cool facts, like did you know the Brontës made up a whole different world called Glass Town? There’s that and more. I actually convinced a friend to read it, and when she returned the copy to me, she said that she’d expected it to be boring, but it was really awesome. Are you convinced yet? This would be an excellent gift for any young (or adult) reader so that they can learn more about their favorites. So get in your car, and go to the nearest good bookstore or library. I don’t care which one.

P.S. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy Kathleen Krull’s other books in the series, such as Lives of the Artists.

The Candymakers

Written by Wendy Mass, The Candymakers is a truly delectable read, with interesting and mysterious characters and a unique plot. A number of children across the nation have written essays on one thing: Candy. And 32 children’s essays have stood out and paved the road to the chance of being professional candymakers. They are given three days to attempt to create a brand-new, original treat which will be presented to three judges. Logan has the pressure. He’s the son of the owner of the Life is Sweet candy factory. He’ll be expected to come up with something wonderful. Daisy has the cheeriness. Or is there something else beneath the neon-yellow sundress? Miles…well, he’s a little strange. I mean, what kid is allergic to the color pink and rowboats? And Phillip is the suit-wearing, insulting, annoying kid who owns a mysterious notebook. Quite the crowd, eh? Throughout the course of the story, new things are brought to light and amazing discoveries are made. Boys, girls, even adults would enjoy this book. Go get it from your library now!

Clara and the Bookwagon

This book, written by Nancy Levinson, was the frst chapter book I read as a little girl. Therefore, I read it many times over. Meaning, at least thirty. It’s a good read for any starting reader. Especially if they already enjoy books a lot. Clara spends her time on her family’s farm in Maryland doing chores and looking after her little siblings. No time for reading. Papa says that farm people don’t read. Clara doesn’t agree, especially when opportunity comes knocking in the form of Miss Mary and her bookwagon, which is specifically for farm people. Clara’s enraptured! Books, books, and more books! What could be better? Clara’s exactly like me. I feel a sort of hunger when I see tons of books all in one place. If your child is having trouble growing enthused with literature, believe me, this could be a colossal help. So look it up on Powell’s, or something. Seriously.

The Lost Hero

For everyone who is crazy about the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, this is another mythological book by the very same author: Rick Riordan. When Jason finds himself on a school bus holding a weird girl’s hand with no memory at all, his world turns upside down. For Piper, the same girl who’s clutching his hand, she can’t believe her own boyfriend doesn’t know her face. And Leo is Jason’s best bud, not understanding why this happened. All three have their problems, all three are special…all three are demigods. And they are very soon carried to Camp Half-Blood. There, things are in turmoil. Where has the great hero Percy Jackson disappeared to? One by one, the kids are claimed, some with shocking results. And, all of a sudden, a new prophecy is given, and as always, it comes with a new quest. Jason and his friends are swept off into another world, one where they must confront the worst parts of themselves, dark things come out into the light, and a great enemy looms in the background. This book, like Rick Riordan’s other work, is action-packed, well-written, and adds up to something everyone will like. My only problem is that it is not quite as funny as Percy Jackson. But you can’t have everything.

Shakespeare’s Secret

I, personally, am a mystery fan. Especially of the type written by people like Elise Broach, which frequently have a plot revolving around some artist or other and their history. That’s just fine with me. In this novel, the main character is a young girl by the name of Hero. I know what you’re thinking. A girl? Is she sure? I know. I thought that, too. Hero and her sister Beatrice are named after characters in one of William Shakespeare’s plays: Much Ado About Nothing. So what? They aren’t Shakespeare-obsessed like their folks. But it would seem that Hero has a change of heart when she learns of a diamond that could quite possibly be hidden in her new house. One that may open the eyes of the world to something important about the writer. And things get even more interesting when Danny Cordova (super cute, super popular, and super confusing) makes it apparent that he intends to help solve the puzzle. Hero learns many things, like the questions that surround Shakespeare’s life, the secrets of her neighbor, and there’s more to the creator of her name than she ever imagined. This is a great book with good writing and good plot. I’m sure lots of kids, both male and female, would enjoy it. (Oh, and to all frustrated English teachers, this could really draw your kids a bit more into your lessons. Just sayin’.)

Penny Dreadful

Laurel Snyder is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. (Don’t worry, Gail Carson Levine, you still rock!) In her newest book, the author has created another lovable and real character. Penelope Grey. Most people would probably give just about anything to have her life. But Penelope wouldn’t. She’d give anything to have something interesting happen! And (after a little wish) she gets it. Her dad quits his job. WHAT??!! Things do change, and they’re interesting. If you can manage to get past her father’s listlessness, her mother’s depression, and the fact that money is dwindling, sure. But Penelope can’t. Then, all of a sudden, the Greys up and move to the country, a place called Thrush Junction. And things change again. For the better. Penelope gives herself a new name, meets new and awesome friends, and even her parents are happier. Until something happens to spoil it all. Hmmm, sound familiar? I thought so. Laurel Snyder uses absorbing language, and the characters are original and amazing. The cute, occasional illustrations add to the fun. Let’s go, Laurel!

P.S. By the way, she’s got a new book coming out later this year!

Love That Dog

Author Sharon Creech delivers a book of most original poetry, in a most original form. Jack doesn’t like poems. So how can he write them? His teacher really expects him to write them? C’mon. But over the course of the year, and as Jack encounters different types of poems, he starts to yield to the words. And the reader will gradually become acquainted with his dog. That yellow dog. Gosh, he loved that dog. When Jack reads a poem by Walter Dean Myers, titled Love That Boy, he starts to open up about that dog, Sky. Sky’s not there anymore. But Jack doesn’t forget about him. This book was very unusual and touched my heart. As a plus, I am wild about dogs. I recommend this book for people who don’t even like poetry, because it will change your mind. And watch out for the sequel, Hate That Cat.

Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance

Definitely a good read. Just so you know. The author of Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance is Eleanora E. Tate, and at the center of her story is Celeste Lassiter Massey. Celeste lives a fairly happy life in Raleigh, North Carolina, if you subtract her Aunt Society from the mix. Aunt Society has a tongue like a sword, and finds fault with everything Celeste says or does. But things get really bad when Celeste’s father starts coughing. A lot. Everyone says it’s consumption. Finally, her dad agrees to go see a doctor. And is told he has to be sent to a sanitarium. Aunt Society doesn’t want to take care of Celeste any more than Celeste wants her to, and Aunt Society’s idea is to send her niece to work for a pair of sisters out past Roxboro. Not a chance! So, as a desperate hope, Celeste writes to her Aunt Valentina up in Harlem, New York, begging her to come down and take care of her. Instead, she’s shipped up to Harlem itself! And though things may not be as glamorous as Celeste first expected, she doesn’t have quite a bad time. But an unexpected event sends more change wheeling her way, and bringing with it new decisions. The writing was awesome, and I loved the plot and characters. Which there are scores of. So, please, check this out!

The Hunger Games

So. The Hunger Games. As a friend of mine said, “You either love it, or you hate it.” She was right. Suzanne Collins is a good writer, and I’m not saying otherwise. When I read this book, I was perfectly happy until I got towards the end. The writing was fantastic, the plot original, the characters interesting. It really is a one-of-a-kind book. But the violence. It kept me up at night. Katniss is a tough girl, a hunter and survivor. She’s living in a futuristic setting, in which the Capital controls everything. The world is made up of twelve districts, Katniss and her family live in the last. And every year, the most dreadful event the Capitol could think up takes place: The Hunger Games. Two youths are taken from every district, and forced to fight to the death. When Katniss’s sister is chosen, she selflessly volunteers herself in her place. And she is shipped off to the Capitol, along with the other competitor. If you do not get bothered by violent and bloody books, you may very well like The Hunger Games. And if you do, it’s the first in a trilogy.

A Little Princess

Yes, she’s a little princess, alright. Sara Crewe is the most princess-like girl you could be, without actually being royal. She’s kind, pretty, polite, and just…princessy! Frances Hodgson Burnett, noted author of The Secret Garden, is the creator of A Little Princess, and I must say, she knows her fantasy. Sara is the pampered daughter of Captain Crewe, and she is left at a boarding school in England while he returns to India. There, she is just as spoiled by Miss Minchin as she was by her father. But, on her eleventh birthday, news arrives: Terrible misfortune befell Captain Crewe,and he is unable to provide for Sara any longer. Enraged, Miss Minchin immediately sets Sara to work as a poor servant, in the very household where she had been treated like royalty. Somehow, Sara manages to keep a hold on herself and the rules she lives by. And maybe is rewarded by a miracle or two along the way. I very much liked the fantastic plot and lovable characters of this story, which was written in good language. I especially suggest people purchase this book for little girls who are big fans of fairy tales, because this is just such a book.