It’s National Readathon Day! Choose your books and get your read on

logo of National Readathon Day 24 Jan 2015Ready!

Today is National Readathon Day – your choice of your books, reading bliss from 12noon to 4 pm local time.

Sponsored by the National Book Foundation and Penguin Random House, National Readathon Day is designed as a fundraiser (you can donate to this tax-exempt organization here) and as an opportunity for readers to share what they love as they take #timetoread.

So tweet out your #timetoread titles during the afternoon today (or any time – we all love a good book list, right?), and please support the National Book Foundation as it strives to create, promote, and sustain a lifelong love of reading in America.

with my stack of to-be-read books at hand for #timetoread

Diverse Books – we ALL need them!

clip art of mostly empty bookshelf (c) Machovka on

bookcase by Machovka @

Imagine going to the grocery store and finding absolutely nothing that fits your nutritional needs or suits your tastebuds…

That’s what faces kids and young people who aren’t white, straight, and middle class when they search the shelves of their library, classroom, and bookstore.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center studied diversity in US children’s books recently, noting that fewer than 225 books of the 3,200 children’s books received by the CCBC in 2013 were written or illustrated by persons who were African/African-American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American, or Latino; just over 200 of these 3,200 books contained important characters from any of these four heritage groups. (Note: the US population is not 93% white).

And while stories based on non-traditional families and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transexual/questioning teens are becoming more common, just try finding the titles on The Rainbow Project Book List in a conservative community. (Note: people of all orientations and families of all types live everywhere)

When I was growing up, I never found books reflecting our Air Force family’s many moves; most military brats and other third culture kids will tell you the same. And how could “lived here my whole life” folks understand what our “make friends quick and be ready to leave any moment” lifestyle was like in those days before cheap long-distance calls and email?

Even if you are white or straight or middle class, ask yourself – does anyone want to read the same story in a different binding, over and over again? Isn’t exploring “being someone else” a big reason that we read anyway? Would people travel across the nation or around the world if they just wanted to see themselves duplicated in those surrounding them?

Diverse books open all of the world to us – other neighborhoods, other traditions, other worries and joys and everyday everything. I hope you’ve seen #weneeddiversebooks trending on Twitter lately and can tweet more reasons, adding to this important conversation.

This weekend, I’m doing the 48 Hour Book Challenge, reading diverse books and writing about them for 48 hours – you’ll see many of these books in future BooksYALove recommendations.

What books featuring diverse characters, families, and cultures have you enjoyed lately? Share in the comments, please!


Crossing the finish line! April AtoZ & TBR2014 Challenge wrap-up

Hooray and three cheers!

cartoon of chocolate cake with 4 birthday candles

Celebrate! (c)OCAL

1. It’s BooksYALove’s fourth birthday!

2. I successfully completed all 26 days of the AtoZ April Blog Challenge (as entry #785). I didn’t have time to visit many AtoZ bloggers, didn’t get many comments or new followers (all the reasons we usually do blog challenges), but I did post on-time every day according to the alphabet and recommended 25 books, which is why I forced myself to do AtoZ during such a busy time for me.

3. For the TBR2014 Challenge (I’m #30 on list), I’m now up to 30 titles toward my goal of recommending 50+ books with 2013 (or older) copyright dates during this year!

Here are April’s 20 additions to my TBR2013 list – just click on the title to get my no-spoiler review in a new window:

All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens – India’s independence fight and a young British lady’s heart

Americus – graphic novel about freedom to read, book-banning, and bullies

The Apprentices (Apothecary, book 2) – friends battle Cold War peril to save the world

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – beautiful boy, terrible talent, death by the shore

Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself

The Butterfly Sister – literary mystery as college tragedy repeats itself?

Control – in 2051 un-United States, genetic diversity is illegal and profitable

Dead Ends – missing dads, finding friends as unlikely allies

Forget Me Not – dead to classmates through social media; paranormal limbo

Hypnotize Me (book 1 of The Hypnotists) – a powerful gift, wrong hands grasping for him

Little Fish: a Memoir From a Different Kind of Year – graphic novel of small town graduate moving to big city college

Mountain Dog – novel-in-verse of lonely boy, rescue dog in training, hope for safety

Riese: Kingdom Falling – princess faces war and treachery

Screwed – pregnant, disowned, rescued, redeemed

When You Were Here – searching in Tokyo to answer California questions

Where Stars Still Shine – kidnapped by mom as tot, returned to family as teen

The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots

Will in Scarlet – young Robin Hood legend begins

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope – first of trilogy, forsooth!

A Wounded Name: A Tragedy – Hamlet at boarding school, from Ophelia’s perspective

If a blog challenge sounds like fun to you, join me in the WordCount Blogathon in June – a very supportive community of bloggers, lots of suggestions for posts, connections to find/become a guest blogger, and a chance to “build up your blogging muscles” by posting all 30 days of June. Registration opens in mid-May.

Taking a breather from daily postings in May, but still planning to recommend a few books every week,

(clipart of birthday cake with 4 candles courtesy of OCAL on

Headed for KidLitCon!

photo of Congress Street, Austin Texas by Mister-E Chris Eason

(c) Chris Eason

Austin, here we come!

Yes, the Kidlitosphere is descending on the capital of Texas to talk blogging, kids’ books, middle grade books, young adult books, and reading as KidLitCon begins tonight with a meet-and-greet (plus ARC swap), followed by a full day of breakout sessions on Saturday, including keynote by Cynthia Leitich Smith!

Charlotte, Melissa, and I will start the conversation about Blogging Middle Grade Books during the last breakout session. Can’t wait to hear what the bloggers, authors, illustrators, and librarians there to have to say about its challenges and joys.

“On the road again…”


Photo of the State Capitol (c) Chris Eason (Mister-E), used under Creative Commons license.

Talking about #MGLit and blogging at KidLitCon!

logo for KidLitosphere CentralYippee!

Charlotte’s proposal for a KidLitCon session on Middle Grade Books and Blogging was accepted, so she (Charlotte’s Library), Melissa Fox (BookNut), and I will be leading the discussion on Saturday, Nov. 9th in Austin.

Notice that I did NOT say that we’d be presenting the session – we want it to be a big discussion among the book bloggers, parents, authors, librarians, and publishers attending (of course, some of us wear more than one hat).

Middle grade books aren’t just YA books with younger characters, and middle grade readers span a wide range of emotional and social development, so figuring out which MGLit books are “great” or even “good” seems to be even more complex than making those decisions about books for teen readers.

We have a list of topics and questions for this session already started on Charlotte’s blog here, so please visit and add to it, even if you won’t be at KidLitCon. We’re hoping to record our discussion (fingers crossed on technology cooperating) so we can post a transcript at some point.

AND we’ll have a whole slew of MG books and ARCs to give away to session attendees = more books to read, review, and recommend!!

p.s. registration for KidLitCon 2013 ends tomorrow, Oct. 24th, so hop to it! See y’all in Austin!



Ravens of Solemano, by Eden Unger Bowditch (book review) – journey of secrets, families lost?

book cover of Ravens of Solemano by Eden Unger Bowditch published by Bancroft PressBelongings vanish, then reappear.
Mysterious coins and curious murals.
Fabulous food, but no parents to share it with.

The remote village hides the five Young Inventors and their teacher well, but it also hides many secrets, perhaps even the origins of the Mysterious Men in Black who guard, guide, and confuse them! Hopefully, its ravens can hide the children from evil Komar Romak long enough for them to solve a baffling problem which endangers the world.

Just published on Sept. 24th, The Ravens of Solemano  surprises with clever puzzles, endearing characters (except for Romak),and links to historical figures famous and obscure. Ask for it today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore – if they don’t have it, use the Book Info below to request it.

Of course, you’ll enjoy these further adventures of the Young Inventors Guild even more  if you’ve already read The Atomic Weight of Secrets (my no-spoiler recommendation here) , so check it out, too.

If the expectations of the world are on your shoulders, can you ever put family first?

Book info: The Ravens of Solemano: The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild, book 2) / Eden Unger Bowditch. Bancroft Press, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A daring escape, a too-brief family reunion, then the five Young Inventors must solve cryptic puzzles in a puzzling village before their dreadful enemy strikes again – now the world itself is in danger!

Fortunately, their schoolteacher Miss Brett is with Jasper and little sister Lucy, Wallace, Noah, and Faye as they must travel across the sea from the explosion site where they spent such a short time with their parents, on the run from evil Komar Romak. The Men in Black hustled the children and Miss Brett to safety aboard the strangest ship, crewed by more like them. Such wonders in its library and labs!

But a murdered man’s message sends danger their way, even before the Young Inventors reach the Italian village of Solemano with its ever-present ravens, mysterious garden labyrinth, and many puzzles to solve. Miss Brett helps the children settle in and resume their experiments – their inventive minds find much to ponder here.

Underground passageways with possible clues, garden statues that are not what they appear to be, friendly villagers with secrets of their own. How long will the children stay in Solemano? The Men in Black who guard/protect them cannot (or will not) say.

Has Komar Romak discovered their hiding place yet?
Can the Young Inventors discover enough of Solemano’s secrets to protect themselves?
Will they ever see their parents again?

This second tale in the Young Inventors Guild series takes readers far away, into an imaginatively peopled land of puzzles and parallels as the brilliant children who first met in The Atomic Weight of Secrets  must work together to save themselves and the world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on


Funny you should ask – humorous fiction favorites

Searching for some light-hearted summer reading at your local library or independent bookstore?

Take along this BooksYALove list of favorite funny books, and cool off with a good laugh! Click any title to see my full recommendation of the book. Review copies and cover images courtesy of their respective publishers.

book cover of Pantalones TX Don't Chicken Out by Yehudi Mercado published by Archaia book cover of Who's on First? by Abbott & Costello published by Quirk BooksClassic baseball comedy routine teammates are just wild in Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello.

Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out! – can Chico Bustamante stay ahead of the chicken-shack-driving sheriff and conquer the giant bucking chicken?

book cover of Astronaut Academy Zero Gravity by Dave Roman published by First Second book cover of Astronaut Academy Reentry by Dave Roman published by First Second BooksEnjoy Hakata Soy’s first middle school term in space as he enrolls in Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity – time for dinosaur riding lessons and fireball tournaments!

Then return to Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry for another semester of fireball tournaments and missing extra hearts – and mystery to solve.


book cover of Teen Boat by Dave Roman and John Greenbook cover of Year Zero by Rob Reid published by Del Rey Books

More Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy) as he teams up with John Green (the artist one) to create TeenBoat!  Imagine “the angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!” – yes, it’s that funny.

When music-loving aliens realize they’re violating Earth copyright laws and have run up a bill bigger than the universe, things get a bit out of hand in Year Zero.


book cover of Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal published by Simon Schusterbook cover of Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes published by Merit PressAn orbiting maternity home for unwed mothers is attacked by aliens (really cute aliens!) and things aboard the Mothership  get all kinds of crazy.

Set Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest  in a modern shopping mall during a blizzard, add some memorable characters and a robbery, and you have a most Tempestuous  and wacky tale.


book cover of The Candymakers by Wendy Mass published by Little Brownbook cover of Also Known As by Robin Benway published by Walker Books Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to create a new candy for the world’s sweetest contest? But The Candymakers   must solve a mystery before everything goes sour.

As a teen spy goes undercover in a ritzy private school to keep the organization’s cover from being blown, she doesn’t anticipate love among the complications in Also Known As.


book cover of Lias Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David published by Frances Lincoln Booksbook cover of Cat Girls Day Off by Kimberly Pauley published by Tu BooksYes, you can enter the lottery at 16 in Great Britain, but Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery  is more of a how-not-to than a financial guide!

Being able to hear cats talk seems like such a boring talent until Nat uses it to capture a kidnapper and snag a movie part after all in Cat Girl’s Day Off.


Ghost Knight, by Cornelia Funke (book review) – murder long-passed, a knight long-dead, danger now!

book cover of Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke translated by Oliver Latsch published by Little BrownGhostly rider with blood on his sword,
evil sidekicks with murder on their minds,
how many centuries can a death vow stay alive?

Every ancient cathedral and old castle has unexplained deaths in its history, many have ghosts who appear with a bit of regularity, but most don’t feature bloodthirsty murderers’ specters threatening schoolkids in their beds!

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook version here and be sure to view the book trailer of the author visiting Salisbury Cathedral and reading aloud the section where Jon meets the Ghost Knight  for the very first time.

The paperback version was published in May 2013, so you should be able to find it in several formats at your local library or independent bookstore.

Would you call on a ghost to help you solve a dangerous mystery?

Book info:  Ghost Knight / Cornelia Funke.; translated by Oliver Latsch. Little Brown, hardback 2012, paperback 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My book talk: Boarding school, rain, Mum in love with a dentist – Jon thought life couldn’t get worse…until he’s threatened by ghosts who can injure him, meets a girl with an adventurous streak, and invokes a dead knight to right the wrongs!

It definitely wasn’t Jon’s idea to attend the same boarding school as his late father, but after his many attempts to make his mother fall out of love with The Beard (as Jon called the dentist who tricked his little sisters and dog into liking him) all backfired, the 11-year-old found himself on the train to Salisbury. He doesn’t care about the ancient city’s history that his houseparents love and doesn’t care that he wasn’t selected for the cathedral school’s famous choir.

But the ghosts whispering threats about killing him, trying to ride him down on ghostly horses – those are another matter! Ella at school takes Jon to visit her grandmother who gives ghost tours. They discover that Lord Stourton and his henchmen were hanged for the death of Jon’s relatives centuries ago, vowing revenge. Zelda says Jon is in danger if he stays here, but he doesn’t want to go home to Mum and The Beard.

So Jon calls on the knight Longspee who originally captured Stourton, asking the ghost knight to help him rid the school of these wicked specters and save him from their vengeance.

Can Jon and Ella trust Longspee who wants to stay away from this world?
Can the trio truly send Stourton and crew back to their graves forever?
Can Jon find any way to keep The Beard from becoming his stepfather?

Through Latsch’s flowing translation, the noted German fantasy author of the Inkspell trilogy brings readers into the echoing aisles of Salisbury Cathedral and the windswept ruins of old castles as Jon and Ella fight enemies they cannot touch with mortal hands. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Who’s On First? art by John Martz (book review) – fresh look at Abbott & Costello baseball routine

book cover of Who's on First? by Abbott & Costello published by Quirk Books“I’ll warn you – baseball players have some funny names these days.
Now let’s see…
Who’s on first.
What’s on second.
I Don’t Know’s on third.”

Yes, it’s the classic Abbott and Costello baseball routine – word for word – gone picture-book-style!
Fun Friday, Children’s Book Week, and baseball season – all rolled into one.

With every attempt by coach Abbott to teach the unusual player names to new catcher Costello, the incoming team member’s frustration grows and grows.

Whether you love comedy, baseball, the ability of just a few bits of paint to convey intense emotion, or all of the above, put this Everybody book on your list. You can share it with a younger reader, give it to your dad (hint, hint – Father’s Day is June 16 this year), or keep it for yourself to enjoy again and again.

What other spoken-word classics would translate well to visual format?

Book info: Who’s On First? / Bud Abbott and Lou Costello; illustrated by John Martz. Quirk Books, 2013.   [authors’ site]  [illustrator site]  [publisher site]   (Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher)

My book talk: A baseball player asks his coach for the names of his new teammates. Despite Coach’s warning about funny names, the new catcher becomes more and more confused as the explanation goes on and on in this home run picture book presentation of Abbott and Costello’s classic comedy routine.

The infield is easy: “Who’s on first. What’s on second. I Don’t Know’s on third” says Coach, a tall bear with a calm expression. The chubby bunny catcher’s puzzled face fills a whole page, as he tries to process this information.

By the time they get to the outfield – “And the left fielder’s name?” asks the catcher. “Why” answers Coach – the bunny’s exasperation is extreme, and the procession of varied animals in pinstriped baseball shirts grows.

Fans of baseball or funny stories or wacky humor will enjoy reading “Who’s On First?” again and again, enjoying illustrator Martz’s skill at making the players indeed look like teammates while keeping their own animal characteristics intact.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

Hoop Genius, by John Coy (book review) – basketball invented, injuries prevented

book cover of Hoop Genius by John Coy illustrated by John Morse published by Carolrhoda BooksBig kids, small gym.
Lots of energy, lots of injuries.
Time for a new game!

Picture books aren’t just for the toddler set anymore! This E for Everyone book chronicles the invention of Basket Ball by teacher James Naismith over 120 years ago, trying to keep gangly, over-energetic teen boys from turning their indoor winter PE class into a free-for-all.

The illustrations by Canadian Joe Morse are as jostling and boards-thumping as any modern-day photo of NBA playoff action. You’ve seen his artwork anchoring sports writing and advertisements, as well as recent sports picture books, like  Stephen Krenksy’s 2011 hit Play Ball, Jackie.

Children’s Book Week gives all of us a reason to share our favorites, old and new, as we fan the spark of child-like wonder in each of us.

What other children’s books about sports would you recommend?

Book info: Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball / John Coy; illustrated by Joe Morse. Carolrhoda Books, 2013. [author site]  [artist site]   [publisher site]

My book talk:  Indoor gym class, big guys getting bored, their new teacher reluctantly faces them with one last game to try – a new game that takes skill instead of hitting, a game with a ball and a basket.

Yes, basketball was invented in late 1891 by James Naismith in desperation, an indoor variation of the Duck on a Rock game he enjoyed growing up in Canada. His class threw a soccer ball into wooden peach baskets for goals, since no boxes available for the first game.

His young men took the game from Springfield, Massachusetts to their hometowns and beyond. Women began playing basketball in 1892, and Naismith met his future wife while refereeing a local women’s game.

Morse’s illustrations vividly show Naismith’s young men who longed to be moving and competing, all big feet and big hands, as well as their teacher’s many attempts to find them an active indoor sport that wouldn’t injure too many!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.