We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the winner is...

Okapi! You'll be hearing from me soon so we can talk about how to get your new, super cool bookmark to you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Win a lovely glass slipper bookmark in honor of Kay Cassidy's THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY

As if doing an interview here wasn't cool enough, Kay Cassidy has offered to up her awesomeness by letting me host a giveaway as part of the (drum roll, please) Official Cinderella Society Blog Tour Giveaway!

So, here's the treasure:
 A beautiful glass slipper bookmark, to keep your place in your favorite fairy tales and inspire you to live your own!

Keeping it simple:
Leave a comment to enter. If you've read the book, I'm sure we'd all love to hear what you loved about it, but if not, no worries. 
If you don't have a Blogger profile with your contact info, make sure you leave your email address in the comment--or be sure to check back next Monday to see if you won and you can email me.
The giveaway will end next Sunday, May 23.
Good luck!

(Note: this contest is open internationally.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reporter's Review: The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar

Delacorte; May 11, 2010
Overall Grade: A+

Alton Richards (not Richard Alton like some of his teachers call him) has always known that wealthy Lester Trapp is his favorite uncle. He loves him. At least, that's what his mother tells him to say every time Trapp and Alton talk on the phone. But when Trapp's health problems lead to his blindness and Alton is roped into being the old man's “cardturner” at his bridge club...Alton has to decide his feelings for himself—along with his feelings for Toni Castaneda, Trapp's niece by marriage and former cardturner according to most, contender for the fortune according to Alton's mom. But he soon learns that Toni might not be as crazy as his mom says, that bridge may not be as boring as he thought, and that not all coincidences are mere coincidences.
Ok, this time I'm skipping all the educated, literary-sounding praise. Getting straight to the point: I loved The Cardturner. Like Sachar's previous masterpiece, Holes, The Cardturner hides layer upon layer of meaning with the utmost subtlety...yet is so straightforward about it all that you will trust the narrator implicitly. I know my summary is slightly convoluted; a more simple way to put it is that this book is all about bridges. Yeah, the game bridge of course, which you will find delightfully, surprisingly exciting, but so much more... The bridges we build from one person to another...one idea to another... to friends, strangers, God, our own subconscious minds.
Ok, and if anyone suddenly has a strong desire to start up a bridge club after reading this (it wouldn't surprise me), I so want to be in on it.

Literary Quality: A
Plot: A+
Voice: A+
Originality: A+ (Can't get much more original than a book about bridge!)
Descriptive Ability: A-
Humor: A+
Illustrations: n/a
Believability of Characters: A+
Believability of Situations: A
Overall Reading Enjoyment: A

*Possibly objectionable topics: mild language, stories of physical abuse in a marriage, brief discussion/thought of mature topics such as adultery.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Author Kay Cassidy visits on her blog tour for THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY!

Here's what Kay's bio says:

Kay Cassidy is the author of teen fiction she wishes was based on her real life. She is the founder of the national Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM reading program for kids and teens and the host of the inspirational Living Your FiveTM web project. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, movies, music, and reading. Lots and lots of reading. She hopes her debut YA novel, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY (April 13, 2010 - Egmont), will help girls embrace their inner Cindy.

Here's what she says about her book:

What a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?
Sixteen year old Jess Parker has always been an outsider. So when she receives an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret society of the most popular girls in school, it's like something out of a fairy tale. Swept up by the Cindys' magical world of makeovers, and catching the eye of her Prince Charming, Jess feels like she's finally found her chance to fit in.
Then the Wickeds--led by Jess's arch-enemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers there's more to being a Cindy than reinventing yourself on the outside. She has unknowingly become part of a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and now the Cindys in charge need Jess for a mission that could change everything.
Overwhelmed, Jess wonders if The Cinderella Society made a mistake in choosing her. Is it a coincidence her new boyfriend doesn't want to be seen with her in public? And is this glamorous, secret life even what she wants, or will she risk her own happy ending to live up to the expectations of her new sisters?

And I will add that she is also another lovely, generous Tenner who volunteered her time for an interview here! Welcome!
CBR: If you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, what fictional character would you take with you?

KC: Can I choose MacGyver? Seriously, that would be my number one choice. He'd have a lodge built with running water and TV in nothing flat.

CBR: Who are some authors that have inspired you?

KC: When I was first considering writing YA, I stopped into my local library at the time and asked the teen librarian what she would recommend. Based on my adult reading preferences, she suggested THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares, and HOW MY PRIVATE, PERSONAL JOURNAL BECAME A BESTSELLER by Julia DeVillers. I devoured all three in a week and fell in love with YA. So without Meg, Ann and Julia, I might not be a YA author today!

CBR: What book of the past ten years did you enjoy the most?

KC: I absolutely loved LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I swore I wasn't going to read it because it sounded so despondent, but my friend Tera Lynn Childs insisted I would love it and I finally caved. It made me fret for weeks afterward that we didn't have enough canned goods stored in the pantry, but it was so compelling and human.

CBR: What would be your main character's theme song/some songs on the soundtrack for your book?

KC: I create a playlist for my books because it really helps me make the transition from the real world of laundry, phones ringing and domestic crises to the world of the story. The theme song of the book is SOAR by Christina Aguilera. Jess's theme song is WHO I AM by Jessica Andrews and Ryan's theme song is SAVIN' ME by Nickelback.

CBR: Could you give us any hints/teasers as to what your next project might be?

KC: Right now, I'm working on the sequel to THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, titled Cindy on a Mission. It follows the further adventures of Jess and the Sisters as the Wickeds launch an offensive that threatens everything the Cindys hold dear. Cindy on a Mission will be on shelves in Spring 2011.

CBR: Thank you, Kay! Best of luck with your book and many projects!
To learn more about THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, first of all, read the following blurb...and visit Kay at her website: http://www.kaycassidy.com/!

I opened the card, my hands trembling in dread and the faint remnants of what I used to call hope, as a tiny silver high-heel pin bounced into my hand.
I juggled the pin for a second, barely managing to keep it from falling, and flipped open the note with my other hand. The words inside were not a message but an invitation that sent shivers down my spine:
Your presence is requested at The Grind.
Tonight, 7 p.m.
Wear the pin.
Discretion MANDATORY.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers' Day Writer Mama Guest Post: Lindsey Leavitt

(Lindsay is the author of the delicious 2010 debut novel Princess for Hire.)

Last week was my oldest daughter's birthday. Since my husband was out of town, we saved the party business for another day and opted to have some girl time instead. We spent the day at Chuck E Cheese, playing with friends, watching movies and eating cupcakes. 
That night, my little-six-year-old cuddled up to me and said, "Mom? It's night time. Why aren't you on your computer?"
I kissed her head and answered, "I'm not working today. I'm hanging out with you."
And her eyes got super wide and she said, "Wow! That's the first time you've EVER done that! Thank you for not working, Mommy!"
Yeah, I listened to Cat's Cradle on repeat that night and drowned my Mommy Guilt in the leftover cupcakes, comforted in the fact that this same daughter also said she NEVER goes to the bookstore. Hello, if I buy another book, they're going to name a wing after us. If bookstores had wings.
The truth is, I am on my computer a lot. Or hiding in the closet so I can talk to my agent. Or I'm reading a friend's book at the park. Two years ago, when I sold my first book, I went from a full-time mom with a dream to a full-time mom with a career. Sometimes, I feel like I'm straddling some invisible line between the two, wanting so desperately to succeed in both, never feeling like I'm doing my best in either.
But. The beauty of my job is that I CAN be a full-time mom. I can put my kids to bed and stay up until 1 to get that dang character description right. There are weeks where cereal is on the menu every night, and others where I don't write at all. And I teach my kids the importance of perseverance and going after a dream simply by booting up that computer every day.
It's a crazy, wonderful balancing act, filled with play-do and "quick email checks". And a day NEVER EVER goes by that I'm not grateful for it.

You can visit Lindsey at http://www.lindseyleavitt.com


HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY, TO ALL YOU MOTHERS OUT THERE! (And especially to Lindsey, Rosanne, and Lindsay! Thanks for inspiring us!)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers' Day Writer Mama Guest Post: Lindsay Eland

(Guest writer-mama # 2, Lindsay Eland, is the author of Scones and Sensibility. I believe this is one of the times where less of an intro is more, so I'll be quiet now and get to her lovely words...)

To all the mothers buried under mounds of laundry and dishes and homework

To all the mothers that kiss their kids good-bye…sending them off to school, to college, to their own families, to war

To all the mothers whose hearts have ached at every scraped knee, every broken heart, every good-bye

To all the mothers who have worried and prayed and stayed up until the car pulls into the driveway…no matter how late the clock struck

To all the mothers who aren’t the same in the mirror as they were before…but who are so much more beautiful and full of life and wonder and love because of having a child
To all the mothers who have a hidden lion underneath their soft skin and gentle touch…a ferocious love that doesn’t go away or diminish as time goes on

To all the mothers who do it all alone—the cooking and cleaning and crying and loving

To all the mothers who have taken children who aren’t their own and sewn them into their hearts forever

To all the mothers who loved their child enough to give them a better chance

To all the mothers that have cried over the babies that left them too early but were loved a lifetime over

To all the mothers still dreaming dreams

To all the mothers reawakening old dreams

To all the mothers laughing or crying, singing or skipping, reading or sleeping, old or young or in-between…

Happy Mother’s Day!

(You can visit Lindsay at http://lindsayeland.com/)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mothers' Day Writer Mama Guest Post: Rosanne Parry

You're in for a special Mothers' Day Weekend treat (not of the chocolate variety, though I hope you mothers will get plenty of that at home)... For each day this weekend, I will be posting a guest post by a writer/mother who has inspired me; I am sure their posts will give you much inspiration as well!
Today we have Rosanne Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, discuss her own mother's influence on her writing...and I know it has already had influence on mine as well. Thanks, Rosanne!

I could say any number of things about my mother and my writing. I could tell you how she taught me to read when I was four, had the chicken pox, and was bored out of my mind. I could tell about her love of poetry, how she always had a table just my size with paper, pens, paint, scissors, and glue. How she almost never interrupted me when I was working. But when I think about what she did that made the most difference in my life as a writer, it’s this: my mother never said a negative thing about herself in my hearing.

She had plenty of negative things to say to me which is why I had oatmeal for breakfast instead of brownies, and I wrote a thank you note this morning, and I am not picking my nose as I write this. But she never had a critical word for herself. I’m sure it’s not that she’s never had regrets or felt dissatisfied. But in a world that expects a woman to be self-effacing, she chose to remain uncritical of her appearance, her work, her relationships and her life choices. It is, in its silence, as bold a feminist statement as any I’ve heard.

And it has had an important impact on my own writing process. We all have our inner critic. The difference is that mine has never been one that says: “You have no talent. You are never going to finish this. You will never be good enough.”

I get my share of doubts and self-criticism, but they sound more like this: “This character is too much like this other one and needs his own voice. This scene needs more specific and detailed action. This work needs more time to develop.”

It’s a subtle difference but an important one. One that helps me stick with a story until it’s done, look at the story dispassionately when I revise, and receive the critique of my writers group and editor in the spirit it is intended.

I’d like to say that I’ve done the same for my own daughters. I’ve certainly tried but it takes a measure of self-discipline to swim against a cultural expectation so ingrained most of us never think about it. So my Mother’s Day wish, beyond a lifetime of thanks to my mom, is that my own girls will learn to speak of their bodies, their choices and their work with respect and without excuses.

So how about you moms out there? Chime in on the comments with one thing about your work that makes you proud. Or maybe lay to rest for good a self-defeating phrase you hear yourself using. It’s the Mother’s Day gift that only you can give yourself—a gift that endures in the lives of your daughters. Happy Mother’s Day!

You can visit Rosanne at her website: http://www.rosanneparry.com/

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Author Interview: Kristina McBride

Up today is the next lovely Tenner, Kristina McBride. (Seriously, aren't they all so good-looking?) She very graciously joined us to discuss her upcoming book, The Tension of Opposites ( on sale May 25, 2010 from Egmont USA).

CBR: What are ten words that best describe your book?

KM: Psychological thriller, kidnapped and returned, friendship, love, romance, photography, nature.

CBR: What is one of your favorite sentences or paragraphs from your book?

KM: The following comes from the scene where my main character sees her best friend for the first time since she went missing two years earlier. The reunion goes nothing like Tessa had expected, as her old friend Noelle seems to be a completely different person:

Noelle sighed. “This just isn’t my life anymore, Tess. I’m not that girl you knew all those years ago.”

“Noelle, I’ll always be - ”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.” Her hand shot out at the darkness, aiming to hit something that wasn’t there. “I’m not Noelle anymore.” She breathed heavily through her nose and clenched her jaw.

“Of course you’re Noelle. Who else would you be?”

The girl who was not Noelle looked directly into my eyes. Her stare was hard and cold. “Noelle is gone. And she’s not coming back.” She blinked. “My name is Elle.”

CBR: Michelangelo once said, "What do you despise? By this you are truly known." What are ten things (smells, sounds, situations, etc.) you just can't stand?

KM; Noise, coffee, people not being reliable, people not wearing their seatbelts, itty-bitty children drinking soda, when people are disrespectful to books, cold weather (too bad I live in Ohio!). Does it say something about me that I can only come up with seven things for this list?

CBR: If you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, what fictional character would you take with you?

KM: Margo Roth Spiegelman from Paper Towns by John Green. She’s mischievous and brilliant with all of her pranks and I think she’d be great fun to hang out with!

CBR: Who are some authors that have inspired you?

KM: This is so hard to answer! Every book I have read has inspired me in some way. To name a few off the top of my head: Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Les Edgerton (the author of Hooked, an incredible book on writing!).

CBR: What book of the past ten years did you enjoy the most?

KM: Are you kidding me? I mean, there is absolutely NO WAY I can answer this one. When I’m reading a book, I slip into this alternate reality where I believe the characters are real. They’re like friends to me. I could never choose just one. Or even ten! If people are interested in seeing the types of books I read, they can check me out on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3084178.Kristina_McBride).

(I know, I know, it's such a mean question. I could never answer either!)
CBR: When you were ten years old, what did you plan to be when you grew up?

KM: A librarian, teacher, author, or hair stylist.

CBR: If you could choose anyone, living or dead, what illustrator would you choose to illustrate your book?

KM: Maxfield Parrish – not that his style would match my book so much, but that I think he is an incredible artist. My favorite of his pieces is titled Ecstasy.

CBR: What would be your main character's theme song/some songs on the soundtrack for your book?

KM: Don’t Follow by Alice & Chains is the first song that comes to mind. It portrays the journey of Elle, the character who was kidnapped and returned after two years of captivity.

CBR: Could you give us any hints/teasers as to what your next project might be?

KM: It’s the second book in my two-book deal. The only thing I can say right now is that it has nothing to do with The Tension of Opposites.

CBR: Many thanks for the interview, Kristina, and best of luck on your upcoming release!

To learn more about Kristina and The Tension of Opposites, there's lots of places you can find her:
Website: http://www.kristinamcbride.com/
Blog: http://kristinamcbride.livejournal.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/McBrideKristina
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6889070-the-tension-of-opposites

And you can pre-order her book from Amazon (though it would be even better to get it from your local indie bookstore)!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reporter's Review: Crunch, by Leslie Connor

Harper Collins (Katherine Tegen Books), March 30, 2010
Overall Grade: A+

When his parents get stuck miles away from home due to a worldwide gas shortage, it's up to Dewey Marriss to run the family's bike shop. But with the sudden demand for bicycle repairs, this proves to be no easy task... Between the heavy workload, the fear of a thief, sibling conflicts, Dewey has a lot working against him--but luckily he has the love of family, the support of friends, and even the unexpected help of a stranger working for him.
Crunch is amazing. It's that simple. Rarely do you find a story with such great family interaction--and the ones that come to mind are already greats: the stories of Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes, Jeanne Birdsall... Despite some mentions of technology, Crunch is sure to join them on the classic shelf, because it feels timeless. Dewey's voice is marvelous and believable, and his predicament is well developed through a character-driven plot.
I'm expecting to see this story come up on a lot of Newbery discussions.

Literary Quality: A
Plot: A- (It is simple, but very well-ordered)
Voice: A+
Originality: A+
Descriptive Ability: A
Humor: A
Illustrations: n/a
Believability of Characters: A+
Believability of Situations: A
Overall Reading Enjoyment: A+

Possibly objectionable topics*: some mild language

Reporter's Review: Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt

Disney, Hyperion, March 2010
Overall Grade: A

Desi makes a wish: she wants to make an impact. An Audrey-Hepburn-in-a-movie kind of impact. And being as gorgeous as Audrey wouldn't hurt either. But she didn't expect her wish to be answered by a sort of technologically advanced fairy godmother with crazy-colored hair who offers her a chance to be a stand-in princess. Basically, when Desi applies a magical rouge to her cheeks, she takes on the appearance of any princess who has applied for her help. No problem, right? Oh, come on, you're intelligent readers: of course there's a problem. But I'm not going to tell you.
What I will tell you is that Princess for Hire was funny, cute, wonderfully readable and enjoyable, and that I can't wait for it to be made into a movie. More specifically, the main character was exceptionally well-created and believable, every scene was very visual, and the structure was excellent. I know it seems weird to make a point of the structure, but seriously, it stood out as well done. My one complaint--or perhaps just a pet peeve--is the openness of the ending. I'm kinda picky in that I like everything wrapped up, tied with a bow, with a gift tag on the side...you get the idea. That said, this is the first in a series...and it's a series that I will definitely be following.

Literary Quality: B
Plot: A+ (Extremely well-structured)
Voice: A
Originality: A
Descriptive Ability: B+
Humor: A
Illustrations: n/a
Believability of Characters: A+
Believability of Situations: A
Overall Reading Enjoyment: A+

Possibly objectionable topics*: a little kissing