Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Roundup of Kids' Books from Gordon Korman, Kathi Appelt, John and Carole E. Barrowman, Natasha Farrant, and Amy Christine Parker.

For this week's Boswell's Best wrap up, the focus is on kids' books. Let me start with the second book in the Hollow Earth series by John and Carole E. Barrowman, Bone Quill (Aladdin). As you may already know, Matt and Em Clare are Animares, with the ability to draw themselves into paintings, as well as drawing items that come to life. And of course their powers can help unlock the demons of Hollow Earth and yes, their are villainous forces that want to make this happen. Yikes. Here's a nice review from Rogue Z on the ASM website, but warning, beware of spoilers!

There's still talk of an event with the Barrowman siblings later in the fall, but it all depends on John's scheduling. He's a busy guy, you know. If you want to catch up on what he's been doing (and find out about what he's been doing in the past--who knew he was on "Central Park West"?), Roger Newcomb gets us all up to date on his We Love Soaps web magazine.

A teacher recently came in and told us what a wonderful time they had at a Gordon Korman event last year. Did you know this guy has been published since he was 14? His new book, The Hypnotists (Scholastic Press), follows Jackson (Jax) a kid with color-changing eyes, who can make people do things they don't want to do. The publisher tells me that soon Jax finds himself meeting with Dr. Elias Mako, who wants him to join a special institution that will teach him how to use his powers. But for what? Shelf Awareness says that Korman's newest is "gently suspenseful and funny romp that will satisfy his many fans."

Darker thrills await in Gated (Random House), from Amy Christine Parker. Life in the Community seems perfect, and Lyla Hamilton thinks she's one of the chosen. Created after 9/11, the family followed Pioneer to escape the evil in the world, but it is clear to us readers this is not a protective society, but a cult, particularly when Pioneer starts predicting the end of the world. It's a contemporary thriller crossed with dystopian elements. Publishers Weekly calls Gated "a complex, intriguing tale rooted in real-world events."

This last book is 14+ in age range, but most of the other books I'm talking about are 8-12 or 10-14. We panic so much about making sure that our events have the right age range for kids' books, but honestly, most publishers seem to care less, and leave it to their retailers to tell potential readers where the reading and content level stands.

There are clues. A cartoonish cover usually indicates a younger reader. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum), by Kathi Appelt, had middle grade written all over it, such as having 3/8 of an inch between lines. I find that these 8-12 books often cross over well to adults, such as last year's Three Times Lucky. I told Hannah that she has to read this one, because everything else she's been picking up is too apocalyptic.

The reviews are, in fact, great. Booklist gave it a star, proclaiming " Appelt's omniscient third-person narration exudes folksy, homespun warmth while also feeling fresh and funny. A satisfying romp with plenty of memorable characters to root for and some to boo."

And finally we have Hannah's pick, After Iris (Dial), by Natasha Farrant. She writes "Blue records her family's crazy and chaotic ife with a video camera and written diary full of witty observations that will make you laugh out loud. Readers also get a feel for her life; she misses her dead twin sister, dislikes middle school, and loves her siblings." And speaking of Three Times Lucky, Hannah thinks this is a perfect what to read next. Kirkus Reviews writes "The situations are a mix of hilariously funny and poignantly touching. Ultimately, loyalty, forgiveness and love reunite them, and the closing scene is lovely: The camera is turned on Blue, and readers see her laughing. An uplifting, memorable read."

I keep sending our Dial kids' recs to our Random House rep, confusing the long-ago sale of the imprint to Penguin. Now of course they are once again under the same corporate ownership. I somehow feel guilty about the whole thing.

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