Monthly Archives: January 2010

Half-Minute Horrors

By now I’m hoping all of you have learned that there are stories to read at bedtime and then there are stories to


Apparently, I am still learning this important life lesson because last night, as I settled into my bed in my cosy flannel pjs, I pulled out Half-Minute Horrors for a little bit of pre-snooze browsing. Um. Bad idea.

Very, very bad.

Doesn’t the cover look a little bit funny? Kinda cute even? Those tiny little toothy-grinned monsters dressed up like people aren’t really scary. Well, let me tell you, don’t be fooled folks. The stories inside are truly horrible. Yes indeed, most deservingly labelled as “horrors.”

Inside this short but dangerous book, you will find 30-second tales to curdle your blood by such luminaries as Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Kennth Oppel, Jack Gantos, John Scieszka, Joyce Carol Oates, Gregory Maguire and so many more impressive names.

That is, if you can make it past Mr. Lemony Snicket’s story, which opens the collection. So, so spooky. If you want to (if you dare),  you can read that story at the Half-Minute Horrors website, by selecting “Get a Glimpse.” If you are a teacher of students who are not easily terrified, then I’m sure many of them would love to write their own half-minute horrors and submit them to be included on this website.

I think this is a really impressive and super fun little book for fans of all-things freaky. The quality of the tales is consistently high. I wouldn’t say that there are any duds. You’ll certainly think about how it is possible to create intense mood in even a very short piece of writing. My top contributions are: Jon Klassen’s “The Legend of Alexandra & Rose,” Margaret Atwood’s Coraline-esque “The Creeping Hand,” and Angela Johnson’s “Nanny.” The book is one of The Horn Book’s starred titles in January / February.

Half-Minute Horrors is edited by Susan Rich and published by Harper Collins.


ALA Youth Media Awards Tomorrow

For sure I’ll be watching the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements tomorrow at 7:45am EST. There is a webcast happening, though it suggests here that not everyone will be able to access it. I watched last year. Fun.

Everyone is in prediction mode. I’ll only make two. In my view, When You Reach Me (Stead) is the clear front-runner for the Newbery. I think Marcelo in the Read World (Stork) is likely to get the Printz.

One of the awards I’ll be most interested to see named is the William C. Morris YA Debut Award (because I’ve read one (Hold Still) and there are two on that list that are high up in my TBR pile (Beautiful Creatures, Ash) )

So here are links to reviews of those titles.

Hold Still – Nina La Cour (review by moi)

Ash – Malinda Lo (review by A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cosy)

The Everafter – Amy Huntley (review by Presenting Lenore)

Beautiful Creatures – by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (review

Flash Burnout – L.K. Madigan (review by Read This Book)

What are your predictions?

Poetry Friday: Hope

This is a week for hope. May many find it and keep it aloft.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

(…read the rest here).


You can’t get away from the truth. That can be scary. Sometimes, you have no idea what the truth is. That is even scarier. In Borderline, Printz-Honor winning author Allan Stratton spotlights a story that reads like it might have sprung straight from today’s news. It’s scary, but not in the ways you might expect – and that’s what makes it worth reading.

Sami Sabiri is pretty much used to being the only Muslim kid at his school. It hasn’t ever been easy, and there are still kids who bully and abuse him for his different faith, but he copes with it, trying to fly low on the radar. Attention is exactly what Sami gets when out of the blue, the FBI raids his home, taking his father into custody under suspicion of involvement in an international terror plot. To make things even worse, Sami has been feeling suspicious about his dad’s behaviour for a while. Suddenly all that Sami once believed in is shaken. Truth seems completely unreachable.

Borderline is a thought-provoking book that will make you consider the human story behind those headlines we’ve all read about terrorism and terror plots and wrongful accusation. It will make you wonder to what degree your thinking and your perspectives have been skewed or influenced by stories in the news, even if you try to stay open and not stereotype or jump to conclusions. I thought it was a clever angle for Stratton to have Sami questioning his knowledge of his father, just as the larger community in the story (and readers) wonder about his guilt or innocence and form ideas right from the moment he is accused. The public has doubts. We aren’t sure. Sami is uncertain. It’s not just the people on the outside who are suspicious. I like how Stratton introduces readers to complex and current issues, in a subtle and accessible way, without making it seem didactic or like he’s just trying to grab onto something of the moment. Borderline is a tightly written, suspenseful family drama, about identity, prejudice, and the media’s influence on the way we perceive and judge others. Perfect for news junkies, and social justice activists in training.

Borderline is published by Harper Trophy Canada. It is set to be released in early 2010. (February / March-ish… looks like!)

This review is cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

What do you do when a book is taunting you?

This book is taunting me:

It is calling to me from way down in my giant box o’ ARCs. Calling out words that sound something like, “Hello? I know you are out there! I know you’ve been longing for me! I know you have about 500 pages worth of books to read in three days for one of the book award committees you’re on, but I’m not very long! Just take me out of this dark place and I promise I will make you very, very happy! That book you’ve got in your hand? It is nothing, NOTHING next to what I’ve got in store for you! Hello? Remember moi?”


Must not listen.

Must not.

(but look who likes it).

Can Enola Holmes get any better? Maybe…

Oh Enola. Oh Nancy Springer. I hope even more readers discover you because of the current trendiness of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Why? Because you are both brilliant. This series is an instant ticket to my happy place. Partly because it reminds me of my childhood, when I read many of the original Holmes tales. Partly because the writing is just so darn good. (Read my previous Enola reviews here and here).

So I would have said it was impossible to make Enola any better. Impossible. Every book is just as good as the one before. Well, after listening to Katherine Kellgren read The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, I am not sure. Perhaps Enola Holmes can get better? Kellgren’s reading takes the audiobook experience to an entirely new level. She does all sorts of voices and accents – effortlessly. You picture each character – their appearance, their costumes, their movements, just through her voices. Every aspect of the drama is enhanced through the reading. An already outstanding book becomes even more outstanding. This audiobook would make it onto my Top 5 Audiobooks for Kids List (along with Sir Ian McKellen reading Wolf Brother, Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book, Stephen Fry reading HP, and hmm… not sure what else). Can’t wait to hear what Kellgren does with this.

Three cheers for Enola! And Nancy! And Katherine! A trio united in perfection.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano

Things I love about Moxy Maxwell:

1) She makes lists.

2) She knows what matters to her.

3) She is not shy about wearing a crown when crown-wearing is called for.

4) She likes parties more than practicing the piano.

5) She is crafty.

6) She is good at excuses, and is confident in her excuses even when they stretch way beyond the realm of believable. (Good life skill).

Those readers who have already met Moxy, in Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little or in Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, very likely have their own lists of reasons to love this irrepressible, sassy young lady. Peggy Gifford’s series is difficult to resist, because who doesn’t like watching a kid with a talent for trouble try to get out of the fixes she gets herself into? And the books are funny – from the concepts, to the photographs, to the outstanding chapter titles.

In this, the third book in the series, Moxy is preparing for her piano recital, in which she and her sister are slated to play “Heart and Soul.” She is very concerned about getting her cape and crown just so. Her mother (and her piano teacher) are very concerned about getting Moxy to stop playing the song when it is actually over, since she has yet to prove that she can finish the piece rather than playing it on and on and on endlessly. As with the other two titles, the story takes place over the period of one day and Moxy’s brother Mark takes plenty of photographs of events as they unfold.

I think Moxy Maxwell is a hoot. But it’s a series where I wonder if kids find the books funny to the same degree, and in the same places, as I do. I’m pretty confident that kids will find lots of laughs here, I just wonder if they’ll think it’s as funny as I do, and end up as charmed by the whole package as I am. Is the humour more of the, “Gosh, kids can be a riot” variety, thus making it more amusing for someone who is no longer a kid? I don’t know. I have read quite a few reviews by reviewer/parents, who say that this series has been a hit with their kids. From the bookselling perspective, it sure is an easy sale, especially for those girls who’ve read and loved Clementine (or Judy Moody or Just Grace) and want something in the same vein. Moxy fits that bill to perfection.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano is published by Schwartz & Wade.

Here’s an interview with the author at Becky’s Book Reviews.

More reviews: Book Nut, Kids Lit, emilyreads,