Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Hogwash by Karma Wilson

Hogwash! (Wilson, Karma)

Hogwash! published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers June 2011
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jim McMullan

Every once in a while, a picture book comes along where everything just works perfectly. This is one that is destined to be a classic. The sense of humor is enhanced by clever rhymes and fabulous illustrations. I had to share this with my wife, who has taught younger kids and has an early childhood education background, and she couldn't stop raving about it. With most books sent to us by the publisher for review, I pass them on to local schools or libraries, but we're hanging on to this to share with our (not yet born) grandkids.

The story is a wonderful, boisterous tale of a farmer determined to clean up his animals, and a bunch of pigs determined to stay muddy. It has a sense of fun and engagement similar to Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, another great book, although I think Hogwash! is even more perfect for reading over and over. I particularly love that the language is rich and beautiful while remaining accessible to young children. The text rhymes, but it is done cleverly and never dumbed down, so that a child would love the rhythmic sound without necessarily even realizing that it rhymed. My wife also noted that the signs the pigs post for the farmer are of a size and style that would encourage beginning readers to pick out the meaning, but still introduce new words.

At the risk of gushing, if you have a young child or grandchild, especially one who loves rhymes and fun and reading aloud, please order a copy of this. You could get it from a library first if you don't believe me, but trust me, you'll buy it eventually.

Five Stars!

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Digital Debuts: Wren Emerson's I Wish...

I Wish... (The Witches of Desire)

I Wish... (The Witches of Desire) published by Lakehouse Press May 2011
Author: Wren Emerson

This is my second review in a series called Digital Debuts in which I review debut books for young adults (or younger) by authors who have chosen to publish in eBook format only, at least to start. Usually, these will be self-published, or as good as self-published, and thus usually under $5. They are also great books that will entertain and provoke, but not disappoint.

Product description:
Thistle Nettlebottom knows her life isn't exactly normal. She travels the country with her secretive mother and bestselling author grandmother in a pink RV going from book signings to crazy research trips. She's never been to public school or had a boyfriend, but she can pick a lock and hotwire a car. One day the phone rings and they set a course to a tiny town that's not on any maps. Suddenly, Thistle finds her whole life changing.
From this rather odd beginning, we launch quickly into an almost dystopian world where Thistle, whose real name turns out to be something else, must cope with the Witches of Desire. That is to say, witches in the town of Desire, and a more competitive, nasty lot you will have trouble finding anywhere.

Desire is a matriarchal society, and Thistle faces a constant struggle to stay safe, and even alive, due to powers she never knew she had. If only her powers would let her know who was truly a friend and who was not. Or let her know whether to pursue the enticing-but-verboten Ben or the handsome-but-too-compliant Evan.

In her debut novel, Wren Emerson weaves an exciting and different world, and you will quickly find yourself lost in the intrigue and danger. Meant for older teens and young adults, this is only the first in a planned series, and I am sure that readers will be lining up to buy the sequel when it comes out.

In fact, my biggest objection to the novel was the somewhat abrupt ending, a common objection with YA books in series these days. If this were a traditionally published print book and we had to wait six months to a year for the sequel, I would hold that against the author, but since this is published as an ebook, I may let it slide... if she will hurry up and get the sequel out.

I Wish... is $2.99, and well worth the price. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I believe this is a series, and an author, you will want to follow.

Four stars out of five.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Me . . . Jane

Me...Jane published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in Apr 2011
Author/Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell

I received a review copy of this picture book from the publisher a while ago, and originally intended to feature it on Earth Day, but something stopped me. The book is beautiful, hardly a surprise given Patrick McDonnell's skill and experience. It shows Jane Goodall as a child and how her way of viewing the world led to her eventual inspirational work with chimpanzees.

Great stuff, and I have read a number of great reviews by people who are either huge fans of Dr. Goodall, or of Mr. McDonnell. The problem that I have with the book is that the audience it is aimed at doesn't know Ms. Goodall is or what she did, and the book really doesn't explain. In many ways, the best part of the book is the afterword which actually describes Dr. Goodall's passion and work.

All of the work is left to the parent or other adult reading to the child. Even the big reveal which shows the photograph of Dr. Jane Goodall does so without explanation or identification. I love to read picture books to kids, and love science and picture books which show science. I just wouldn't choose this one without preparing a clear explanation of who Jane Goodall is, a job which the author neglected to do in any form accessible to the audience.

Three stars out of five.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Digital Debuts: Leanne Beattie's Cage of Bone

Cage of Bone

Cage of Bone, Amazon Digital Services in May 2011
Author: Leanne Beattie

This is my first review in a series called Digital Debuts in which I review debut books for young adults (or younger) by authors who have chosen to publish in eBook format only, at least to start. Usually, these will be self-published, or as good as self-published, and thus usually under $5. They are also great books that will entertain and provoke, but not disappoint.

Veronica Campbell, known as Ronnie to the few friends she has, finds her life crashing around her after her popular older sister, Katherine, commits suicide. Ronnie's mother is a mess, her father who had left them a year before has a new girlfriend, and Ronnie has trouble dealing with the kids in school. Not that she wants to deal with them. She doesn't want anything but to get her sister back, or at least to understand why Katherine would kill herself.

That might sound depressing, but through all the pain and anger, Ronnie shows signs of the strength and intelligence that will help her survive. She finds a cool guy at the record store, and though all the girls drool over him, there are signs that perhaps he has noticed her, past the combat boots and spiked hair and leave-me-alone attitutde.

This is a book for older teens and young adults. There's some drinking, some drug references and sexual activity that would not be right for younger teens. For those old enough and mature enough to handle it, the story is compelling and important, dealing with both the loss of loved ones and the loss of innocence. It is also a story of hope, although not a campy, easy hope. My only complaint might be that the story wound up quickly, but that is only a complaint because I wanted to know more about Ronnie, more about Griffin, more about how they all turn out.

Mostly, it is a book you should read. This is Leanne Beattie's first novel, but she has a deft and knowing touch when it comes to teenagers. I certainly hope to see more from Ms. Beattie, which is where you come in. Cage of Bone is $2.99, and worth much more. Buy her book. Share it with your friends. They'll thank you.

Five stars!

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Published my first book, but one aimed at teens-YA is coming

I last posted on My Comfy Chair a month ago, even though I have many reviews partly written and books read that I want to share with you. As many of you may know through Twitter, Facebook and my author blog,, I have just released my first collection of stories titled Savage Fire.

The reason I haven't said much here is that the book is not appropriate for children and younger adults. It is aimed at 18 years and older. If you happen to be 18 or older and like horror, humor and bizarro, you can find Savage Fire on Amazon for the Kindle or on Smashwords for all digital formats.

But what about the teens and young adults? I haven't forgotten you. Sometime in the next six weeks, I plan to release another collection of stories called Rock the Monkey House, which is aimed at teens/young adult.

Stay tuned for more details!