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.

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Author Interview: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Up today, Tenner interview #6, with Christina Gonzalez, author of The Red Umbrella, to be released May 11.

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

CDG: Secret plan, revolution, family, friendship, betrayal, separation, Cuba, Nebraska, red umbrella

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

CDG: It was a bright clear day outside. Not a cloud in the sky. I stared through the plane’s window at the palm trees in the distance. It didn’t seem real. Like a painting was hung inside the plane showing us a last glimpse of Cuba. I pushed my nose against the glass. Mamá and Papá were out there…somewhere.

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?

CDG: I guess some are obvious choices: nails on a chalkboard, early morning alarms, stinky garbage, stinky soccer cleats, cleaning dog poo, babies crying hysterically, my children crying because they got hurt. Others are a little more peculiar: old water from a flower vase, lilies and high pitched whistles.

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

CDG: I’ll take Katniss from the Hunger Games/Catching Fire. She seems like a girl who can handle just about anything that is thrown at her.

CBR: Who are some authors that have inspired you?

CDG: Madeleine L’Engle and the writers who wrote under the pseudonym of Carolyne Keene

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

CDG: Too many to name

CBR: When you were ten years old, what did you plan to be when you grew up?

CDG: Probably a writer or a lawyer

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

CDG: Roberto Innocenti. I’ve seen some of his work and love it.

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

CDG: I have a playlist with the actual songs on my website, but I think my mc’s favorites would be Celia Cruz’s “Guantanamera” and Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up”.

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

CDG: It’s a story about the Bermuda Triangle, Bahamian folklore, parallel universes and powerful talismans.

CBR: Thank you so much, Christina! Best wishes on your upcoming release and all the fun and stress that go along with it!

To learn more  about Christina and her novel, you can visit her website: http://www.christinagonzalez.com/
And watch her book trailer on YouTube!