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Check out my guest blog post over on Youth Literature Reviews, a blog worth reading.


Dan Yaccarino’s new picture book, Doug, Unplugged tells the story of Doug, a robot, who learns his daily lessons by downloading data and information (Knopf, $16.99). When he finally notices a pigeon on his windowsill, he knows all sorts of facts, but those facts haven’t told him that pigeons make a funny cooing sound. What else could Doug learn about the city, were he to unplug? Doug ventures outside (!) to find out. His adventures augment his factual understanding with sound, smells, and experiences that he can’t download. He plays with friends, admires the views, but most of all learns to appreciate his family. Doug, Unplugged, contains bright, vibrant illustrations, that convey Doug’s delightful facial expressions as he explores his environment. Technology isn’t absent in Doug’s adventures and the book conveys a balance between the information that Doug has access to via computers and the experiences he acquires when he steps away.

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9780544022089The Candy Smash is Jacqueline Davies most recent addition to the Lemonade War series (HMH, $15.99). Like Davies’s previous books (The Lemonade War, The Lemonade Crime, and The Bell Bandit), The Candy Smash contains a central theme around which the plot and chapters are organized. This time it’s writing. As usual, Davies does an excellent job showcasing different perspectives about the theme. Jessie, always pragmatic, is working on writing a newspaper. She approaches her self-assigned editorial job with structured design, following the rules of journalism to the letter. Evan, on the other hand, enjoys the emotions that envelop him during the class’s morning poetry reading. He plays with words, letting them swirl and play freely. This story takes place in February so the looming prospect of Valentine’s Day is wrecking a bit of havoc on their fourth grade classroom. When Jessie decides to investigate class crushes, she dances dangerously close to exposing too much and unwittingly embarrassing her classmates. Evan does intercede — thankfully because I was really starting to get worried. Although he protects his classmates, his own dabbling in poetry teaches him to take a few emotional risks of his own. Another incredibly satisfying book by Davies. Kids and 4th grade teachers will eat this one up.

Hooray! I get to spend the next four days surrounded by books, booksellers, publishers, and authors! As much as I’d like to think that I’ll continue to work, I might as well admit now that I probably won’t. And I didn’t manage to pre-write any posts. So I’ll be taking a break here at Coastline Books until early next week. I’m looking forward to returning with a stack of stacks of books!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite literary relationships. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important ones, but here they are in no particular order.

Elizabeth and Darcy. Yes, yes. I’m one of those people. Every time I reread Pride & Prejudice I enjoy watching how their relationship slowly develops and how they influence each other’s perspectives. I like that they are both thoughtful even when it comes to their own errors and mistakes.

Nick and Norah. One of the things I love about Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is that the two characters from the book are quite different from the two characters in the movie, but I like both of them equally, although for different reasons.

Annie and Liza from Annie on My Mind. I didn’t read this novel until my first year out of college. I was living in New York and had was in the middle of the end (things never seem to just end) of my first serious relationship. This book is so lovely it broke my heart all over again.

Morgan and Arthur in The Mists of Avalon epitomize the experience of unfulfilled love. Bradley is genius at making you desperately want them to be together even though you know it can’t possibly be.

Vicky and Adam from A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star. I’m not sure if Vicky and Adam ever really get together, but when I was in high school, I thought the scenes of them swimming with dolphins were unbelievably romantic.

Lola and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. I really thought this book would be a guilty pleasure and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and appreciated watching Lola and Cricket’s friendship develop.

Celie and Shug from The Color Purple. I love it when you read a book that is really hyped and then discover that it’s better than the hype suggested.

Hazel and August from The Fault in Our Stars. See comments for The Color Purple. Also, Hazel and August know how to make life count.

Other contenders include Paul and Noah (Boy Meets Boy), Chester and Wilson (Chester’s Way), and Rosalind and Orlando (As You Like It). I’m sure I’ll think of others that I wish I had included as the day goes on, but who are your favorite literary couples?

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “Check it out, my friend started a blog.” Yeah, yeah. Whose friend hasn’t? But I’m going to say it anyway. Hey, a friend of mine just started a blog and you should definitely check it out. Read the first post and you’ll see why. She’s knowledgeable, thoughtful, and has some really provocative things to say about children’s publishing. I think this will be a blog to watch. So for all of you who are interested in the children’s publishing industry, hop over and check out my friend’s new blog!

http://inkandpenners.blogspot.com

I loved studying the Salem witch trials when I was in high school. I was so fascinated by the sheer lack of critical thinking that surrounded the trials and hangings. I don’t mean to suggest that people weren’t as intelligent in 1693; they most certainly were. Individuals in the community had to have recognized the horror for what it was and known that their neighbors were being killed for no reason. So why didn’t anyone say anything? Studying the trials always forces me to ask myself whether I would have spoken up — or stayed silent. In terms of scholarly research, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England, by Carol Karlson, is extremely informative and approaches the topic from a really interesting perspective. But this is a children’s book blog. So here are two recommendations for books about witches that don’t resort to stereotypes and manage to treat the historical actuality of neighborly fear and the ramifications of that fear with a certain amount of respect.

Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.95) contains Van Allsburg’s signature illustrations. They are sparse drawings that capture unexpected moments of the narrative. The story is about a broom that loses its magic mid-flight. A widow tends to the fallen witch, who has fallen into her garden. When the witch departs, she leaves the broom behind. The broom hasn’t completely lost its magic and it learns from the widow how to perform household chores, with an obvious preference for sweeping. Afraid of the broom’s powers, the widow’s neighbors want to destroy something that they think is so obviously evil. In this story, the unjustified fears are used against the neighbors and they, not the widow or the broom, are ultimately undone by their own intolerance.

For teen readers, Celia Reese’s Witch Child (Candlewick, $8.99) also explores themes of religious tension and power dynamics. In 1659, Mary Newbery’s grandmother is accused of witchcraft. Because of their association, Mary’s own life is now in danger and she flees to the New World — only to discover that intolerance and fear exist there as well. Crossing between historical fiction and the supernatural, this novel is a testament to the hundreds of women who lost their lives across colonial New England. Women who were different, unique, defiant; women who for whatever reason did not fulfill the roles their neighbors prescribed for them, and who were persecuted because of it.

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